B13 EASTER - Maundy
St. John 13.vv.1-15
~ 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". ~
A Collect of the Church bids us pray that we may "have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, that sharing his humility we may come to be with him in his glory".
If anyone thinks that humility is an easy virtue to exercise, let him think again! We know the creeping sliminess of Uriah Heap a 'umble man, but there are even more insidious dangers as in the following (told by a Jew). They were preparing for "Yom Kippur", the Day of Atonement. The Rabbi entered the Synagogue, beat his breast and cried, "Lord, I am nothing!". The Cantor came in and did likewise. The cleaner came in and said likewise, whereupon the Rabbi turned to the Cantor and said, "Just look who said he is nothing!" Too much "humility" may be pride!
In the masterpiece of the Old Testament which bears his name, Job the courageous, sincere, God-fearing character has been questioning the wisdom and purposes of God. The Almighty confronts Job and asks who is he to question his Creator so. Job is overwhelmed by contrition and confesses that he the creature cannot presume to understand the mind and purpose of the Creator and repents in dust and ashes.
In the New Testament we find in Philippians the "Kenosis" (Philippians 2 vv.5-11) passage which speaks of Jesus divesting himself of the divine attributes, emptying himself of all but love and coming to earth to love and serve mankind.
The Feet Washing at the Last Supper, however, is the crowning example of true humility. St. John omits the account of the institution of Holy Communion (at this point) to emphasise the humility and service of Christ. "Actions speak louder than words" and Jesus takes upon himself the duty of the household slave or servant (or the youngest, if there is no servant) to wash the dust of the road from the feet of the guests.
Apparently none of the twelve felt it consonant with his dignity to perform this menial task. We do not know how the others reacted to the sight of Jesus looking up at them as he washed their feet; but we can readily understand Peter's incredulous cry as his turn came - "You, Lord, washing my feet!" and his initial refusal to submit to the washing - and again his desire to be washed head and hands when Jesus assured him that fellowship with him depended on his acceptance of Jesus' ministry to him.
After Jesus had performed this task, he simply stated, "If I your Lord and Master have washed your feet you should wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that you should love one another as I have loved you".
The closer we are to God, the closer we come to one another in loving, caring, in tender compassion, bearing one another's burdens. No task is too menial for those who in true humility serve their fellows and the One who first loved us.
If this, as Jesus said, is an example to us, it behoves us as followers:-
To serve lovingly, secretly;
To seek out the physically, mentally, spiritually injured, the soiled,
the unloved, the rejected;
To look up at them from below as Jesus did with love, warm hearts and gentle hands.