Holy Week 2022: Maundy Thursday

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. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 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, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 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.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 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.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

John 13:1–11

One of the primary themes of Holy Week is the kingship of Jesus. He rides into Jerusalem to cheers, goes toe to toe with the Roman rulers, and ultimately proves his superiority by walking out of a grave. But what makes this theme of kingship so peculiar is the type of kingdom that Jesus ushers in. His “triumphal entry” is on a farm animal instead of a noble horse. And in today’s passage, the king of the universe puts on a servant’s garb and takes on one of the lowest tasks of his day. It feels backwards.

Peter feels this tension, too. “You shall never wash my feet!” he exclaims as Jesus stoops down. Peter, like the other disciples, like the religious leaders of the day, and like most of us, expect a king to act king-like. His brain just can’t compute when the king acts servant-like.

And yet, this is the kingdom Jesus came to build. A kingdom where greatness isn’t measured by the heights you reach but rather how low you’re willing to go. A kingdom where being last is best and the seat of honor is the place no one wants.

A few verses after today’s passage, Jesus tells his disciples to follow his example of serving others. To follow King Jesus is to become the servant of all. It doesn’t make sense. It runs counter to everything the world tells us. And perhaps that’s the point. Following Jesus means living distinct lives. And there’s nothing more counter-cultural than laying down your life for others.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why is serving others so unnatural for us? What makes it so difficult to do?
  2. Ask the Lord to show you clear, specific ways that you can serve someone else today. Make a plan to do it.
  3. In a world that tells us to look out for yourself, how can you cultivate a heart of service for others?