When [Jesus] had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed His place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than the one who sent him. . If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:12-17
Today as we celebrate Maundy Thursday we focus on how Holy Communion connects us to the death and resurrection of Christ. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Saturday Easter Vigil are usually designed to be one long service focusing on the whole of Salvation History as fulfilled by Jesus and alive in us via the Word and Sacraments.
As promised yesterday, today’s service focuses on preparation for Holy Communion as we wait for when we can receive it again. So this update will focus on a separate aspect of Maundy Thursday. You might want to read the Gospel of John, chapters 13-18 today. Amazingly, that’s 6 chapters, about a third of the whole Gospel of John, all recording the events of Maundy Thursday. Instituting Holy Communion was of primes importance, but certainly not the only amazing thing Jesus did on that night. It was Maundy Thursday when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.
As Teacher, He taught by example. He modeled for His disciples (same root as discipline—the disciple is supposed to mold himself to the master via imitation). As Lord, He demonstrated what it means to rule. It means to serve. Jesus’ followers, including us, cannot claim that any service to anyone is beneath us. Otherwise we’re saying that the servants are greater than the Master.
What it means to learn from Jesus and to have Him as our Lord is easy to forget. We talk about being baptized into His death and resurrection. We preach Christ crucified and risen. We receive the fruit of His sacrifice in Holy Communion. But we ought always remember that we’re baptized into a foot-washing Christ. We preach a Christ who gave Himself up and lived and died for others. We are given life by Him in order follow Him. He promises blessings to those who serve others as He served—in humility, meekness, and self-sacrifice.
We still have opportunities during this national time-out to think of ways of serving other. While such acts of service cannot replace the forgiveness and grace we receive in the Word and Sacraments, they can still be a source of tremendous blessing from the Lord this Maundy Thursday.
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Rev. Peter Speckhard, Senior Pastor at St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church, Munster, Indiana