John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. 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’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I’m sorry that this is a late post, particularly because Maundy Thursday might be my favorite holy day – if someone can have such a thing. There is so much to love about Maundy Thursday. We get The Last Supper which becomes the Eucharist or Holy Communion. It is connected with Passover as Jesus and his disciples were observing Passover together. Jesus also washes the disciples’ feet thus giving them an ultimate example of servanthood. He is then betrayed by one of his own and handed over to death. That’s so much to pack into one night.
Much of what connects with me most came about during college. My college chaplain shared with me the meaning behind the word “maundy.” I had assumed it was a different word for “holy.” Actually, it refers to Jesus’ words toward the end of this passage. The exact translation from Latin of John 13:34 begins “a new commandment…” which, in Latin, is “mandatum novum.” Maybe you easily see the English term “mandate” in “mandatum.” That’s exactly what it is.
The word “commandment” comes with a lot of different baggage and ways of understanding. I think most people immediately go to the Ten Commandments, which for some seem to be scary words from an angry God. I think this is a gross misunderstanding of the Ten Commandments. Nevertheless, I’ve had more than a few people describe them this way. And so, when these people hear Jesus say “a new commandment,” perhaps they believe Jesus is replacing the Ten Commandments. If they don’t go to the conclusion that this new commandment is meant to usurp the other, then they likely react with something like, “Really, one more rule?”
For some reason, “mandate” strikes me differently. It conveys a kind of urgency from Jesus, as if he is pleading with the disciples to understand and replicate what he is doing. And what is he doing but laying down his own life for them? Loving others is not unique to Jesus or even the New Testament. Again, we get the words “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” in Leviticus (19:18 to be precise). But Jesus goes further; he says love one another as I love you. In other words, lay down your lives for one another. This is our mandate.
My brother and I have been in the process of moving our parents into assisted living as they are both in rapidly declining health. Moving them meant, of course, dealing with their house. It was overwhelming in many ways. They had accumulated large amounts of stuff in their house as well as three other storage areas (one of them a barn). There was simply no way we could tackle this on our own. So we put out the call for help, and help came. Around forty people gave up one or two days to come to our rescue. At one point tears filled my eyes as I looked around and saw so many people, most of whom had never met my parents, giving their time on a weekend to clean, organize, and purge. This will always stand out to me as a time when people followed Jesus’ mandate. We give our lives for others. What else is there?