April 14, 2022……….Maundy Thursday……….Pastor Pat Mecham
On Palm Sunday, we explored what it means that “The King Is Coming!” Tonight, I want to focus on the question, “What kind of king?” To begin to answer that question, I would like you to help me out. I want you to imagine that you have a disgusting task to do, like cleaning out the cat box, or whatever it is that makes you make a face like this. Imagine that task, then make the face, okay?
Keep that image in mind as we talk about life in 1st Century Israel. The roads and paths that people walked were all dirt, and open sandals (walking on dry, dusty roads) would lead to some grimy, filthy feet. A proper welcome for guests would include the washing of their feet. This was considered such a disgusting task that the host would have a slave do it—and preferably a Gentile slave. (It would be a shame to have a Jewish slave forced to do this onerous task.)
Maundy Thursday is the time when we consider the event in which Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum, which is where we get our English word mandate. We call this Maundy Thursday because we got a new mandate from Jesus, a new commandment, one that was both spoken AND acted out.
Triumphal Entry of the King
Just days earlier, Jesus had been welcomed into Jerusalem by the crowds gathered for Passover. By coming in on a donkey, he reminded them of the prophecy, “Behold, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey.” This was not the war-horse that a warrior king would ride. No, this was a different kind of King from that which was expected!
Your Teacher and Lord
When he was alone with his disciples, Jesus had another surprise in store for them. Jesus knew WHO he was—that he was coming from God and returning to God. And in that knowledge, he showed them the full extent of his love.
He took a towel and a basin and began to wash their feet—a task that was considered extremely disgusting. (This is where you make your disgusted face!) When he came to Peter, he was unwilling to let Jesus do this humiliating service for him. Jesus assured him that he would understand later, but Peter basically said, “Never!”
Jesus was clear in his response, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Then Peter was all in.
[As an interesting side note: Jesus washed the feet of Judas, fully aware of what he would do—and he gave him the bread and the cup as well. Jesus had his own agenda, and it had nothing to do with who deserved his love. Keep that in mind.]
When he finished washing their feet, he talked with them. “You call me Teacher and Lord (and that is what I am). I have washed your feet, and you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
What we have illustrated for us is a different view of what it means to be IMPORTANT. Peter basically said, “You are too important to be washing our feet!” The response of Jesus teaches us this powerful lesson: “True understanding of one’s importance empowers one to perform humble acts of service.”
A New Kind of King
Through his words and his actions, Jesus was showing himself to be a new kind of king, and modeling a different style of behavior altogether. Then he told them, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Just a quick reminder: Godly love is not what you and I would call “the feeling of love.” It’s unrelated to feelings. It is an action that comes from a decision to love, a determination to have unconditional positive regard for others.
Jesus is saying that love, Godly love, is the hallmark that shows that we are his followers. Once we understand how important we are to God, then we are free—free to let go of our need to be important, and simply love and serve others. We have a new kind of king, and a new kind of Kingdom!