Maundy Thursday – Thursday, April 18, 2019

April 18, 2019  

John 13:1-17

It “is not about the water” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 9, p. 724).
It is not about the feet.

As I just read, after washing the feet of other disciples, Jesus was about to wash his disciple Peter’s feet. Peter was resistant, saying “You will never wash my feet” (John 13:8). If we are like Peter in the way we see and hear what Jesus said and did, Jesus’ response to Peter sounds like something my mom might have said to me when I told her “no” to something she wanted to do to me: “Oh yes I will. If you want (fill in the blank), you are going to let me do this.”

Actually, Jesus said “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me” John 13:8).
Which Peter mistook for “you better let me wash you” when really Jesus was saying “you need to open yourself to the relationship I want to have with you on my terms, not on yours.”

For Jesus, the foot washing was not about the water and it was not about the feet. For Jesus, washing his disciples’ feet was an act of love, an intimate touching and cleansing intended to show (on a micro level) the disciples’ how much Jesus loved them, and (on a macro level) how much God loved and loves the world.

God’s love is something we talk about all the time. I preach about God’s love for us and for the world all the time. God’s love for us is central to everything we believe about God and about our need for God.

How often do we think about God’s love for us in an intimate way?
Do we think about Jesus touching us, touching our hearts, touching our lives just as he touched his disciples’ feet?

The act of touching is much discussed these days.
People are asking what level of touch is appropriate between people. Who has a right to touch who? And where. And when. And how.

The discussion is important. No one should touch any other person in any way unless the person about to be touched has given the person about to do the touching permission to do so. That is a simple matter of respect that every person ought to be able to understand.

Which complicates this image we have of Jesus. Jesus was the teacher. Jesus was the rabbi. Jesus was the leader of the group, the person with all the power. And he was insisting on washing, on touching his disciples’ feet.
Which is why it is important to say “It’s not about the water. It’s not about the feet.” And add to that “It’s not about the touching, at least not LITERALLY.” Think of the story as a revelation.

Our gospel story reveals that God wants our relationship with God to be intimate. Our gospel story reveals that God wants our relationship with God to touch our hearts. Our gospel story reveals that God wants our relationship with God to touch our lives. Our gospel story reveals that God wants us to feel God’s love. Our gospel story reveals that God wants no distance between God and us.

God loves us.
With all humility, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Humbling himself, Jesus died on a cross. We remember his love. We receive his love. Thanks be to God for the love God so generously and intimately provides.

Amen.