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Maundy Thursday


Maundy Thursday is the day the church recognizes and observes the Last Supper of Jesus.

Defined as “the ceremony of washing the feet of the poor, esp. commemorating Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet on Maundy Thursdayby the Collins English Dictionary, Maundy Thursday calls our attention to those final moments between Christ and his disciples before his death and resurrection.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with a towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:3-5

If we believe we can carry the mantles of leadership and shepherd without walking through the acts of sacrificial service and suffering like our Lord, then we are deceiving ourselves. Christ, throughout his entire earthly ministry, spoke clearly and modeled humbly the expectation for those who chose to be called disciples. The true significance of Passion Week was not Christ’s triumphant entry and the cheers of “Hosannah” as he rode into Jerusalem nor was it in the dramatic display of Christ’s authority as he drove out the money changers from the Temple. Rather, the significance of this week was in the quiet and humble declaration that Christ was King and that all the hierarchy and position that was hoped for and expected were not the markers of his power and authority. It was found in the act of washing his disciples’ feet.

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. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

John 13:12-15

In Luke’s account of the Last Supper with Jesus, he includes an additional story that took place during this pivotal moment in history. Having shared with these men that one of them would betray him, the disciples began to murmur and discuss which of them would do such a thing. This conversation led to an argument about who would be considered the greatest. Jesus stopped them in their tracks with this statement:

“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

Luke 22:24-27

This was not the first time Jesus addressed this seemingly difficult-to-grasp concept with the disciples. In their humanness, the question of greatness came up often, as it does so today. We are sin-driven people. We hunger for power. We yearn for a seat at the table. And Jesus addressed this hunger for position over and over again. And we, now 2,000 years later, witness Christ’s example and hear his words of gentle conviction. It is not about having a seat at the table; it is about a heart humble to service.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them.”

John 13:15-17

The blessing we yearn for comes not from elevating ourselves to places and platforms of greatness. Those often look like blessings from a distance. The crowds the lights, and the influence can draw our affection towards a counterfeit kind of blessing. But from Christ’s own words, and by his authority, true blessing comes from laying down our lives, our pride, and our status, wrapping a towel around our waist and washing the feet – serving in unseen and unglorified ways – of those in our home, our marriage, our family, our workplace or ministry.

Jesus told the disciples to follow Him. The heart will constantly tug towards greatness defined by the world, but Jesus said, “Do as I have done for you.” His standard is high. It takes far more strength, maturity, and character to lower ourselves in a Christlike way than it does to climb our way up the ladder.

On Maundy Thursday, as we enter into this time of reflection and remembering, let us recall the moment we said yes to Jesus…the moment we chose to identify ourselves with Christ…when we surrendered to the One who stooped down to live among humanity, the One who knelt down to wash the dirty feet of his disciples, and the One who reaches down into our hearts and draws us to himself.

He made himself low for us.

And our act of gratitude is to do the same for others.

If we truly believe that Christ is the greatest…that he is our Teacher and Lord, then why would we seek any other form of greatness? To align with Christ is to align with serving and suffering. His grace compels us to act in love and sacrifice. His love compels us to serve.

“The strange thing is that it is the man who stoops like that–like Christ–whom men in the end honour as a king, and the memory of whom they will not willingly let die.

William Barclay

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