As we approach Easter, I’ll share with you retellings and prayers that might help you in your preparation, and might be useful for faith communities to share. Today, we’ll look at the time when Jesus knelt before his followers to wash their feet, and gave them a new commandment – to love each other.
The word Maundy derives from the word commandment.
Love and serve one another
THE SERVANT KING (John 13: 1- 17)
Evening came, and Jesus and his disciples were together in the upper room they had been given. Jesus knew the time had come to leave the world – and those he loved, and would love to the end. Jesus knew that God had given him power over all things, and so he took a towel, and tied it around his waist. He knelt down before his followers, and began washing their feet.
“No, Lord!” burst out Simon Peter when Jesus came to him. “I can’t let you do that!”
“You don’t understand yet – to be part of me, you must let me serve you.”
“Then wash my hands and my head, too” Peter replied.
Jesus came to Judas. He knew that Judas had already agreed to betray him to the high priests and the Temple guard, but still, he carried on washing his feet.
“Do you understand?” he said when he had finished. “I’m your Teacher, your Lord, and yet I take the place of the humblest slave. So you must serve each other, and you will be blessed in doing so.”
BREAD AND WINE (Matthew 26:20-29, from John13:31-17:26)
Then, they began the Passover meal. They ate flat bread with bitter leaves, and dipped greens in salt water, to remember the bitterness and the tears of slavery in Egypt. Once more, they told each other the story of how God saved the people of Israel. But then, Jesus’ face clouded with sadness.
“One of you is going to betray me!” he said.
“No!” they all answered, pale with shock.
“One who shares my bread,” Jesus said, giving a piece to Judas.
While they were eating, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, giving it to all of them saying, “Take and eat, for it is my body.” Then, after supper, he raised the cup, and gave thanks. “Drink, all of you. For this is my blood, poured out for forgiveness. It is the blood of the new covenant – the binding promise of God.”
During the meal, Judas slipped out unnoticed into the dark, dark night.
“Now the glory begins, and I give you a new command. You must love one another. Your lives will be marked by love, and all will know you are mine because of it. For I will leave you, and you cannot follow yet,” Jesus said.
“I’ll follow you anywhere!” said Simon Peter.
“Will you? Before the cock crows, you will deny you even knew me three times.”
They were all silent, stricken with sadness.
“You are troubled – don’t be. Think of it like this. I’m going ahead to my Father’s house, to get rooms ready for you. Then I’ll come back for you. You know the way!”
Thomas said “We don’t know where you’re going, and we don’t know the way!”
“I am the way,” said Jesus. And his disciples remembered the many long, dusty roads they had followed him along. Now, where would they go, what would they do? He saw their sadness, and spoke gently to them for a long time, planting hope.
“I am a vine, and from me grow branches – you. The vine gives the branches life, and they bud and blossom and fruit. So draw your life from me, and you will too.
“When I go, the Spirit will come, to guide you into all truth. In this world, you will face trouble. But take courage: I have overcome the world!”
From The Bible Retold
This reading, too, contains one of the great I AM sayings of Jesus. I have been mulling it over in my mind as I write my next book. I hope to share more on this with you another time!
Help me to love you with all my heart,
with all my soul and with all my mind.
Help me to love those around me as I love myself.
Let me learn how to love.
May I grow more patient.
May I speak more kindly.
May I act more humbly.
May I never give up learning to love.
May our lives bear the mark of love.
As we are kind, as we share, as
we are gentle, may your love be seen in us.
Help us, for this is hard for us.
From Prayers and Verses
Please feel free to use my material if it helps you, saying where it is from
And finally, a poem, imagining what it was like for Jesus to wash the feet of Judas. I used this poem on a Holy Week retreat at Otley Hall last year.
Jesus washes Judas’ feet.
That moment, when you knelt before him,
took off his sandals, readied the water,
did you look up? Search his eyes?
Find in them some love, some trace
of all that had passed between you?
As you washed his feet, holding them in your hand,
watching the cool water soak away the dirt,
feeling bones through hard skin,
you knew he would leave the lit room,
and slip out into the dark night.
And yet, with these small daily things –
with washing, with breaking and sharing bread,
you reached out your hand, touched, fed.
Look, the kingdom is like this:
as small as a mustard seed, as yeast,
a box of treasure hidden away beneath the dirt.
See how such things become charged,
mighty, when so full of love. This is the way.
In that moment, when silence ebbed between you,
and you wrapped a towel around your waist;
when you knew, and he knew, what would be,
you knelt before him, even so, and took off
his sandals, and gently washed his feet.