As I been reflecting lately in how our lives and rhythms have changed since last year, I have realized that there are a lot of things that I cannot control. As a response, I have been very intentional in trying to identify ways in which I can respond to uncertainty and the ongoing changes in our midst. The Gospel passage assigned for Maundy Thursday offers to us one way we can respond to the uncertainty and ambiguity of our times.
In this passage, we find Jesus not only offering a parable or a powerful speech, but he also actually shows us with a specific action how we should respond to the uncertain and ambiguous times in front of us – he offers a gesture of service to his disciples that is rooted in his deep love for all humanity.
This text also shows how in his divinity, Jesus knows that “his hour” is close. There are other texts that also shows how in his humanity, Jesus struggles and doubts about his mission in the world, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38 NIV), and he even prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me…” (Matthew 26:39 NRSV), which makes it more significant that Jesus offers this humble gesture of service.
In washing the feet of the disciples, Jesus is modeling what true discipleship looks like. Notice, that in John’s description, he states: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself” (John 13:3-4 NRSV). In other words, Jesus embraces completely the posture of a servant. I wonder if this image inspired Paul’s statement about Jesus: “…who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness… he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8 NRSV).
The washing of the feet is also a continuation of what Jesus wants to communicate with his triumphal entrance to Jerusalem. His message with the triumphal entrance is my kingdom is different to what the world offers. My kingdom is different to what you think you need from me as your Messiah. In fact, in our text, we see evidence how the disciples were not understanding and Jesus names it: “You do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7 NRSV).
It seems to me that Jesus’ response to Peter then, it is quite relevant today, we might not understand now what is going on, but Jesus’ promise is that we will understand. Jesus goes even further, and he makes sure to give them “… a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Now, as we continue walking as the Church of Christ through Holy Week, let’s not romanticize Jesus’ call to love one another, but understand that this is a revolutionary call. Remember, Jesus is about to experience betrayal, torture, and unjust condemnation, but more significantly, he is about to be murdered by a corrupt system.
Jesus’ invitation to serve and love one another is a lifelong covenant. Service and love today looks like finding those who, just like Jesus, are constantly experiencing betrayal, torture, unjust condemnation, and murdered by the corrupt systems of our world. Service and love today looks like really letting go of our individualistic ways, so that we can all work together for a better world for all. Service and love today looks like holding accountable the decision makers of our world, so that “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Let’s pray the Psalm for this week together: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
116:1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
116:2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
116:12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?
116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
116:14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.
116:16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.
116:17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.
116:18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
116:19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
If you would like to view past editions of Time with Ismael, follow this link: https://heritagedistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/