The Very Reverend Todd Donatelli
Posted By Todd Donatelli on April 02, 2015
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.
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.”
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
“that you love one another. Just as I have loved you…”
There are times when I let myself get past the image of Jesus being the Christ and simply take in Jesus. By that I mean no matter how much I work at being present to Jesus, Jesus the human being, there still lurks years of encountering, ‘The Son of God.’ No irreverence meant here and ‘Son of God’, well let’s admit that is pretty heady stuff which can get in the way of seeing Jesus as one of us.
Then there are the times I find myself in the graceful presence of Jesus; Jesus as one of us, as one more human being. For if on some level he is not one more human being then he has nothing to bring to us, nothing to offer us. “Tempted in every way as us…” Really, as us? For this to be true he has to be one more human being.
Seeing him wash his friend’s feet is one of those graceful times. This is simply a friend with his friends. Yes, it is where we hear of serving and yes it forms the experience of Maundy Thursday foot washing and proclamation. And at its heart it is the act of one who loved his friends ‘in the world’, ‘loved them til the end’. Loved them as they were. Loved them on a Thursday every bit as much as a Tuesday. Loved being with them. Loved telling stories together. Loved walks with them. Loved sitting by a water’s edge with nothing else to do but enjoy the sound of the water. And when it came time to tell them what they meant to him, he washes their feet.
Let’s leave aside for a moment the ‘proclamation’ of how we interpret this story. The proclamation is meet and right for us to contemplate at times. Yet, in the moment I don’t think Jesus was thinking of what Gospel writers would record. He was in the moment one more human being seeking to show his friends, his beloveds, what they meant to him and what he hoped he meant to them. “Love one another as I have loved you.” That is all he asks. It is the request of a friend. It is the request of one human being to another. Let me wash your feet.
As we gather to wash feet tonight, may we approach it an act of showing our love for one another. May we engage it simply as human beings being with one another. Any proclamation God wishes us to hear from this will, I am sure, be found as we allow the humanity, the human intimacy of it to be foremost.
Blessed Maundy Thursday, Todd