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Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:1-17, 34-35
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” – Luke 22:14-23, 39-53
The Events of
Wednesday is silent. Thursday bursts with activities. The list above testifies to that. And there are many things that capture my attention. But I will focus on two mandates of this day.
On Thursday Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper. “Do this,” he says, “in remembrance of me.” You might not immediately think of the Lord’s Supper as a command. It is a blessing. It is a wonderful gift. It is a mystery. It is a meal for the soul. It is a treasure. But it is also a command. It is something we who follow Jesus should do. He commands it.
St. Paul reminds us that “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) So our obedience to Jesus’ command to “do this in remembrance of me,” is a command both to remember and to proclaim. It means we recall that we were redeemed by God at a great price: the death of his Son on the cross. It means we remember Jesus as we receive this Lord’s Supper. It means there is a somberness to this meal. But there is also a great joy in knowing that Jesus died for us, and that he is also risen from the dead. Salvation secured. Redemption won. Obeying this command is a joyful responsibility.
While he is with the twelve in the upper room, he also teaches us about servanthood. He washed the disciples’ feet. The master rabbi is now the humble servant. He tells them that even as he washed their feet they ought to wash one another’s feet. The message is far more significant than calling for a literal foot washing. It is about humility. Willingness to serve. Learning that true greatness is not only might and power. It is a confidence from within of your true value in God’s eyes, and your place under Christ.
In that same room and recorded just a few verses later comes Jesus’ second mandate: He says, “Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” That calls for pure love. Sacrificial love. Courageous love. Forgiving love. Redeeming love. Unconditional love. Love for the sister or brother in Christ especially. But love for all people. Even to the point of death.
Of these two mandates, the second is far more challenging and difficult. It requires such a major focus away from self-interest and toward others’ true needs. It means we purify our own motives as far as it is possible. It means we care more for the good of the other than their comfort or our own. It means going the extra miles – not just the one.
But make no mistake, the first command – while it is a joyful responsibility – is also quite a challenge. It requires great humility and an honest assessment of our need for redemption. It means we do not look away from the cross of Jesus and his suffering and death. It means we take seriously the price of our redemption.
And as we do this, we will see how true it is: We love because he first loved us. For that I am thankful. I need to remember that this Maundy Thursday. I suspect you do too.
PS: There is at least one more mandate on this day. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus tells his disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” That is a command worthy for all of us to heed. This day and every day of our lives.