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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Thursday, April 1

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's feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
—John 13: 3-5

Maundy Thursday

On this day in Christian Churches, we celebrate Maundy Thursday.
“Celebrate” may not be the best word to describe the observance of this day, in which we recreate the Last Supper event when Jesus commanded (thus, maundy as in mandate) his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me.”

Unlike the other three gospels, the gospel according to John describes Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at this meal. In first century Jerusalem, servants washed guests’ feet, so Jesus’ act has come to symbolize servant ministry.

In many churches, the Maundy Thursday liturgy now includes foot washing. I have noticed a variety of responses to this. Some people are moved to tears; others say firmly, “None of that for ME!”

How do you feel about this? It is one thing to wash another person's feet, but would you allow someone to wash yours?  Most of us would much prefer to act than to be acted upon. Most especially in our society, we want to be the one who gives, not the one who receives.

It is hard to put ourselves into another person’s hands, to be vulnerable. Those of us who have been ill, or out of work, or are growing older may appreciate this foot-washing scene more than those who have never had to “be served.” 

I think the point is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable BEFORE weakness overtakes us. Then we can understand how the disciples felt as Jesus knelt before them.

Lord, you gave your life so that we might live, and live more fully. Help us to learn that receiving is part of that fullness. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2005.