This thursday is the thursday before the Good Friday where Jesus was arrested and put on trial. It is a day where we commemorate the last supper and Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. According to John 13: 1 -17, this act of maundy ( washing of the feet ) took place in the upper room during the Last Supper where He taught His disciples to serves others in the name of the Lord. Maundy refers to the latin word for mandatum which means “command” which is to signify Jesus’s commandment to love one another.
“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet“, “I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you“. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them“. (John 3: 14 – 15)
Jesus was no ordinary man to his disciples, He was their teacher, their leader, and they know him to be the Messiah especially when we look at Peter’s confession of who Christ is in Matthew 16: 16-18
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it
Hence, His disciples know who Jesus is and thus they were so flabbergasted when Jesus tied a waist cloth around himself and started washing the feet of His disciples especially at that time when the roads were dusty and full of grim.
So He got up from the supper, laid aside His outer garments, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel that was around Him (John 13 : 4-5)
Right before this episode of the last supper and the washing of feet, the disciples were having a row with each other discussing among themselves who is the greatest among themselves and Jesus quietened them down when he asked them what they were talking on their way.
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:33-38 ESV)
Now, Jesus says my sheeps hears my voice, and thus He is our shepherd and so we must follow in His example. God’s word is the standard for our life and since in John 1:1 ESV , “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” , Jesus is the Word in Flesh. Jesus is the standard for our lives and He is not one to preach and not practice. He is the example. Washing the feet remains a humble endeavor, one that is still perceive as such today as it was in the past in 1 Samuel 25:41 ESV “And she rose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.”
By washing their feet Jesus was teaching His disciples humility , and empathy. Let’s think about it , I am sure we all have heard the phrase “until you have walked in my shoes”, well, when we remove those shoes we can have a better look at those feet. If the feet has endured some rough terrains or rocky paths and maybe the feet hadn’t had proper shoes/protection, we are for sure able to notice the condition of such a feet. Perhaps they would be torn in some places, maybe there would be blisters, a broken nail or something when it hits a rock on the way. Symbolically, when we wash others feet, we are up close to their conditions ( maybe they may be going through a rough patch in life e.g.) and thus we can develop empathy and comfort them. The act of washing is also one of nursing and nourishment. Washing removes the dirt, get rid of any grim , sand keep the condition of the feet fresh and clean. It is why we wash ourselves isn’t it to keep ourselves well-taken care of and to nurse anything that isn’t well. Likewise, we are to do the same to others. It could be extending a hug , a kind word, or even checking up and asking if they might need help with anything of course with a cheerful heart.