The Very Reverend Todd Donatelli

Maundy Thursday: Human Closeness and Love

Posted By Todd Donatelli on April 13, 2017

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. And during supper Jesus 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.”

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.

“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 am taken by the humanity of this story. I am taken by the phrase “he loved them.” It may seem strange to be taken by this particular phrase - after all, this is Jesus. Yet, beyond the titles we have given him, Savior, Lord, Son of God, Prince of Peace, Master, for me the significance of this story is the actions of a human being; the actions of one friend to his friends. A significant aspect of what we see here is a human being whose life has been wrought through the daily interactions with his friends. Amid the context of Maundy Thursday, a final supper, what we see her is a gathering of friends, a gathering of friends who simply love one another.

My heart is profoundly moved by the friendship; moved by the unassuming closeness of Jesus. There is an accessibility in this story. It can be pretty heady to find relationship with someone with this many titles, images, and all else the church has attached to him. You may even find that when we hear it said God loves us it may not connect, may not be felt, the same way as when someone we know says, “I love you.”  At the heart of Jesus is a heart. At the heart of Jesus is a human being who is fed by human interaction - fed by the interaction of his friends, fed by your interaction, fed by my interaction, fed by our interaction. I am struggling to find words to communicate what this means for me as it is an experience of the heart. It is an experience of love which is always more easily felt than described. Having loved us, he loves us to the end.

Blessed Maundy Thursday,
The Very Reverend Todd M. Donatelli, Dean