Our foot washing service on Maundy Thursday each year helps us to reflect on what it truly means to serve and love one another. Although serving one another in love should be a daily goal as believers, it is nice to have a specific day each year to revisit these truths to live by as shown by Jesus in His life and sacrifice.
What does Maundy Thursday Mean?
Did you know that the Thursday before Good Friday, at the Last Supper, is called Maundy Thursday?
The word maundy comes from the Latin word maundatum (mandare) and it means mandate.
On Maundy Thursday Jesus specifically said “…you also ought to wash one another’s feet,” It’s on the evening of the Last Supper, even though Jesus knew he was going to be betrayed by one of his disciples in the room, and that He was going to be beaten, bruised and crucified the next day, He chose to humble himself, at the lowest of lows, and wash these men’s stinky, dirty feet. One after another, the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s incarnate served humanity in love. As Jesus said, we are being shown an example of utmost love in this scene on that tumultuous evening. The command the word Maundy is referring to is to love one another – ie. wash one another’s feet.
Putting Ourselves Aside
It’s so easy to just let the words love one another just roll of our tongue and then move on with life. We say it. We think it. Do we really act on it and do it? Maybe we do but could we be more purposed in our love and make it more of a priority? Is there room for improvement? I challenge you (and me) to actually sit and ponder ways that you can truly love one another in your daily lives. It can be through words, physical actions, acts of service, sacrifice, through touch and anything that requires more of you and at the same time putting yourself aside.
Each year on Maundy Thursday we read John 13 together and then we get a water basin, some towels, essential oils and warm water and gently kneel down to cleanse off the dirt of one another’s feet. Doing this act of service is symbolic in so many ways and such a spiritual teaching tool and reminder for our boys as well as us of genuine, deep love.
What Maundy Thursday Foot Washing Reminds Us Of
Jesus is God and He did not even have to be on this earth doing anything that He did. He did not come proudly or arrogantly. He came in a lowly manner and He was not ostentatious. His example is clear that pride is not what God glorifies but rather humility. Kneeling at someone’s feet is pretty humbling not in a humiliating way but a serving way.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death -even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Before serving someone we need to be sure we are right with God. We need to ask Him to search our hearts and cleanse them. We need to make sure that we are not harboring bitterness or resentment. It is not through our strength that we can get rid of these things. It is through a surrendered, repentant heart and God’s grace and strength that we can overcome and truly love. Repentance is necessary in service to another so our heart are pure and right in the Lord’s sight. Jesus was perfect and had nothing to repent of but we, as humans, must be right with those whom we are washing their feet.
1 John 4:20
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
To put aside our wants and needs to serve others is a sacrifice. I am sure Jesus didn’t necessarily, humanly, feel like washing feet. The thought of enduring the torture of the cross the next day wasn’t anticipated with excitement but He sacrificed his time and most of all His life for us. We, who are not worthy of His death. However, through His love and sacrifice, He made a way to our God through his death and resurrection. We are reminded that kneeling and simply washing is symbolically life giving and sacrificial in time spent and the actual action.
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
There are so many things we can be busy doing for ourselves each day and each hour. There are so many distractions in this world from the things that truly matter. We actively have to choose to serve. By setting aside some time regularly to serve we can show our love to His people and honor to God. We can choose to deny our fleshly wants and serve humbly.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
That person is not loving or lovable
You may have a believing friend or family member in your life that seems unlovable and that you could never symbolically (or physically) wash their feet. You’re not alone. We all have that someone. The encouragement is to ask God for the strength to love like He does. It’s not human love. It’s supernatural love. The kind that is heart changing. The kind that Jesus had. That’s the only kind that can stoop down and wash an unlovable persons feet. Don’t allow that excuse become the reason that you do not obey the command of Maundy Thursday – to love one another. Afterall, if Jesus used that excuse then we would all have no hope from our Savior. He died for you and me and we were His enemies and were and are often times unlovable. I love what my Pastor, Greg Reider, reminded me on something Augustine said…
The power of love comes from the Holy Spirit “God gives what he demands.” Augustine
In other words, if God expects something from us, He gives us the strength and grace to obey. I am so thankful for that!
“A mark of being a Christian is the love we show to our fellow Christians.” Pastor Greg Reider
“Washing of feet is not an ordinance – just a clear example of serving one another. It is not an outward right but an inward eagerness.” Pastor Greg Reider
If you are a family of two or eighteen or even if you are single, you can still partake in the act of washing another’s feet, both in showing love through actions, words and deeds and the real act of kneeling and washing another person’s feet. It doesn’t have to be on a specific day, although Maundy Thursday is a good place to start, it can be anywhere and anytime.
Worship songs of reflection on love, service and humility
Beloved, Let us love one another 1 John 4:7-8 You’ll sing it and have it in your head the rest of the day! It’s catchy and a great way to memorize this scripture.
Enjoy the season of Easter celebration not forgetting the love, humility and service that our sweet Jesus showed us and that we are commanded to share it with one another!
My pastor was speaking on this very topic in church recently and I thought it tied in quite nicely with what I wanted to share. This blog post was inspired by a recent sermon by Pastor Greg Reider.