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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Maundy Thursday, April 14, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  John 13:1–17, 31b–35
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 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. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I 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, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you 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 that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NRSV)

For all the healings and miracles and powerful lessons that he taught, this scene of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples always stood out to me—even as a child—as a perfect encapsulation of who Jesus is. The same hands that performed miracles are willingly scrubbing dirt off his disciples’ feet. Jesus is the Messiah, yet he wants none of the privilege and power that could come with it, instead accepting all the responsibility. Jesus knows that he will soon be put to death, but all he can think about is how he can lead us to a better life.

In washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus perfectly captures the empathy, the humility, and the selflessness that has defined his ministry up to this point—and will continue to define it after he is sent to the cross the following day. His subversion of norms and expectations, his witness to what it means to be a servant leader, his genuine caring for the disciples—each of these things comes through clearly in this simple, yet powerful act of ministry.

“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve,” Jesus tells the disciples in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 10:45)—and today we are challenged to accept that Jesus expects us to do the same. We have been given a new commandment: that we love one another as Christ has loved us. We must serve rather than expect to be served. We are to live lives defined by empathy, humility, and selflessness, because truly following Jesus means we cannot live any other way.

Holy God, I am continually awed and humbled by the depth of your love. I ask that you help me bear witness to the empathy, humility, and selflessness that you have shown us in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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