You do not realize…


The Pas                              Maundy Thursday
Year B
29 March 2018

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 116:10-17 pg 864
1 Corinthians 11:23-16
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

O God,
on the night he was betrayed
Jesus washed the feet of his disciples
and gave himself in a meal of bread and wine.
May we who celebrate these signs of his love,
serve and give ourselves to others
in his name and to your glory;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The gospel we read, tonight has a great deal of meaning for me. This was the gospel text that I chose for my ordination service 10 years ago, tomorrow.

This gospel points out to us that the pedestals we want to put Christ on, that we want to put God on, or even our respected leaders on, are just not going to get the work done that Christ pleads with us to do, until he comes again.

We continue to create a hierarchical society, a hierarchical faith structure instead of getting down on our knees and serving those who live on the edges of faith, not sure if they’re welcome in our lives of faith, or not, because they may come from over there, or they may not look like we do.

“6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”” (Jn 13:6-8a)

Which brings us to the question of how often do we try to tell God what we’re willing, and not willing to participate in, or how?

How often do we try to tell God what we perceive to be God’s place in our lives, in God’s creation?

Tonight, we see Simon Peter, quite frankly in shock!

He’s horrified by Jesus actions, tonight, in the upper room.

He sees his Lord, his mentor, the Messiah, on his knees before him, before the rest of the disciples, and he’s washing their feet!

Here is his mentor, our Lord and Saviour, the one who has promised that Simon Peter will be the one upon whom the church will be built. Yet, Jesus wants to wash Simon Peter’s feet!

Tonight, we see Jesus once more turn our expectations on their ear by donning the towel, by pouring the water, taking up the cloth, and washing the feet of those whom he loves, those whom he has gathered around him on this, the last night before Jesus passion and crucifixion.

We see Jesus putting God’s priorities ahead of our own perceptions of what it means to be God’s people, of what it means to be Christians, of what it means to serve God by serving our neighbours.

And if we think about it, if we in our imaginations enter into this passage, see ourselves sitting around the table with the disciples, this image, this passage touches us on so many levels.

When we see Jesus on his knees, at our bare feet, the towel wrapped around him, the bowl and the ewer in his hands, how does it make us feel?

How uncomfortable are we, knowing that Jesus intends to wash each of our feet to teach us, to demonstrate to each one of us how to serve our neighbours?

Do we, like Peter, want to keep Jesus on a pedestal, where we can admire him and look up to him, and seek his wisdom, when and how it suits us?

Or will we be included in Jesus teaching, tonight?

Will we learn from our Lord and Saviour, will we learn from our sovereign that its through our service to one another, to those who continue to want to see Jesus on a pedestal to be turned to when we see fit?

Or are we able to grow in our lives in Christ, and fit our lives to Jesus teachings, as he’s hoping we are doing, as he reaches for our each of our feet in turn, as he gently washes the dirt, the dust, the grime of the day from our feet, and from our lives.

“3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”” (Jn 13:3-6)

Once more, we see that Jesus knows his time with us is limited. That he has so much he needs us to learn, to emulate, to do in his name.

Once again we see Jesus get down off of that pedestal that we continue to try to put him on, and give us examples, teachings, wisdom of how to live lives filled with God’s love, lives filled with the love that Jesus has been teaching all of his life, all of our lives.

Yet, for all of Jesus teaching, for all of Jesus examples, seeing him on his knees, at our feet, with the towel, the basin and the ewer, we’d rather emulate Peter who says “8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”” (Jn 13:8)

We are a stubborn and often hard-hearted people. We are continually attempting to reinterpret Jesus teachings for our own situations, for our own time and place. Yet, Jesus teachings don’t change.

We are told to love others as we love ourselves. We are told to love each other as we are loved by God. We are told to love God with everything that we have, everything that we are, everything that we are capable of being, when we live into the promises that Jesus teaches us to seek for in our lives.

At the same time, we often fail to understand both the simplicity and at the same time the complexity of God’s love, of Jesus teachings.

Today, Jesus washes our feet to teach us to love each other, to serve each other with the same willingness that he dons the towel. He desires us to love those who fail to recognize Jesus love, God’s love for all of creation, for all who fill God’s creation. To live Jesus love as our example of what a life lived in God’s love, in faith is truly like – serving each other in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives.

Jesus wants to wash our feet. He wants to show us how to serve each other. He wants us to love each other as we are loved by God, and all of this is found in the ewer, the basin, and the towel.

Jesus wants us to care for the widow and the orphan, the one who the victim of injustice and oppression.

At the same time, it begins by being willing to follow his example.

It begins by not looking for pedestals, but instead reaching for the towel, the basin and the ewer, and being willing to wash the feet of those who we don’t even know so that they can feel the love of God in our actions.

So that they can learn that they, too, are loved by God, by Jesus, by those of us who follow Jesus and live by his teachings.

“6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”” (Jn 13:6-8)

Jesus examples are not meant to be idolized, rather they’re meant to be lived. Being compassionate toward all of humanity.

“12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (Jn 13:12-15)

Jesus, knowing that time is short before the passion and the crucifixion, has climbed down off of the pedestal that we strive to put him on, to try to teach us one last time that we are all equal to each other. That we’re all part of the same family, a family rooted in faith, and in living that faith in and to the world.

“16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (Jn 13:16-17)

We may still not fully understand what Jesus means when he tells us that he must wash us to include us in his actions, in his teaching, in his family. But we do know that this is where he wants, this is where we, in our hearts want to be.

Through our actions in and to the world around us, embodying Jesus teachings, including washing the feet of those around us, and those who have yet to feel the love of God in their lives, we spread the love of God, the glory of the Son of Man,

In my life the last decade of learning to serve God and serve my neighbour has been the most adventurous years, so far. And in all of that time I have deepened my love for God, my appreciation for Christ’s efforts, as I continue to strive to emulate his teachings in and for my life, every day.

In my life I continue to strive to take Christ down from that pedestal, and, as uncomfortable as it may seem, to allow him to wash my feet, so that I may wash yours, so that you may wash another’s.

Tonight, Jesus sets the example for each one of us, and prays that we will follow it, not just once a year, but every day, treating others as we wish to be treated, and serving our brothers and sisters as if we were serving God.

And it all begins with being willing to emulate Christ in all things. It all begins by donning the towel, picking up the basin and ewer, and kneeling at the feet of another to wash the dust of the day from their feet, from their lives.


About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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