5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began washing the disciples’ feet and wiping them with the towel which He had tied around Himself. 6 So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, You are washing my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not realize right now, but you will understand later.” 8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no [b]place with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet; otherwise he is completely clean. And you are clean—but [c]not all of you.” . . . 34 I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” John 13:5-10, 34, NASB
John 13 is packed with so many events that we commemorate to this day. In order to fully understand some of Jesus’ actions, we must remember that He lived His life as a Jewish man. We must also understand that there were different norms on what was socially acceptable behavior.
In John 13:1-4, the writer does something so striking that it makes what happens in the rest of this chapter so remarkable, especially the foot washing. The writer tells us what Jesus is thinking. That in itself is not what is so extraordinary, it is what He is thinking. The writer says, “knowing that His hour had come that He would depart from this world . . . Jesus, knowing that the Father had handed all things over to Him, and that He had come from God and was going back to God . . .” Jesus was thinking that about those who were with Him how He loved them and would love them to the end. In the midst of all this power, sacrifice and love that He was thinking about, He “got up from supper and laid His outer garments aside; and He took a towel and tied it around Himself.” Then Jesus did something that was totally unexpected. He went from thinking about His power to doing something that no self-respecting Jewish man would do.
Jesus begins to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter was very angry and probably recoiled from the act. Wasn’t Jesus going to restore Israel’s glory? Peter probably was thinking that King David would never perform this humiliating job. I mean wasn’t Jesus going to be greater than David? After Peter’s rejection of Jesus’ action, Jesus tells Peter, ‘”If I do not wash you, you have no , place with Me.’” Maundy Thursday is the remembrance of this event.
Unfortunately, we have taken this foot washing event that we now called Maundy Thursday and commemorate it once a year. The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means “command.” Here Jesus gives a new commandment to His disciples in John 13:34, “love one another.” But, actually Jesus takes the Mosaic law God had given the Israelites in the wilderness and breaks it down into that one commandment. It is by fulfilling this one commandment that we can fulfill them all. Jesus did not intend for His people to love one another on this one day. Jesus intended for us to do this all the time, that is how people will know that we (believers) are His disciples.
We want to take back Maundy Thursday and make it an everyday normal event. Today in the middle of the pandemic, we can do simple things by wearing our masks even though the vaccines are here. Staying socially distant to protect others. Looking out for our neighbors as we all quarantine. These simple gestures might not seem like much, but as believers we are called upon to humble ourselves and serve others even when the law or the loudest voices encourage us to do otherwise. Ask yourself, what simple gestures or service can I render to show that I am Jesus’ disciple?