The Footwashing Way

The Thursday before Easter is called Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum and refers to the mandate, the new commandment Jesus gives to love one another as he loves us.

On this day we commemorate the final meal that Jesus had with his disciples before his arrest. Many congregations also offer some sort of ceremonial foot washing as part of the service because before their final meal together, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.

Foot washing was a normal, ordinary hospitality thing in first century Palestine where Jesus lived and preached and taught. Most homes would have a place at the entrance to wash your feet before entering. People walked everywhere and wore sandals or else were barefoot. Sometimes, there would be a servant at the washing station to assist and in the ranking system of servants this was the lowest position possible.

This is perhaps why Peter is so scandalized that Jesus wanted to wash his feet. Yet, this upending of societal norms is precisely what Jesus has been teaching them all along. Life in God’s Kingdom isn’t about rank or position but about being in relationship with God and letting our God relationship transform all of our relationships.

Jesus washed even Judas and Peter’s feet, knowing they’d betray and deny him. Jesus didn’t come and die for us so that we could learn how to earn favor with God. Jesus died and rose again to show us stiff-necked humans that God isn’t transactional. God is God regardless of whether we acknowledge that or not. God loves whether we learn to love as Jesus loves or not.

All that Jesus does reveals God’s love for us. All of us. Each and every human being ever born and yet to be born (yep, even that person). We have the choice to love God or not because God gave us the gift of free will knowing a lot of God’s beloved children wouldn’t choose to love. God’s love has no strings, no conditions, no exception. Regardless of our choices and behavior, God loves us. We don’t earn it. There is no score keeping. God loves us. And when we come face to face with God’s love for us what other sane response is there than to love God?

Jesus gives us the mandate to love as he loves, to love as God loves. Loving and caring for our neighbors, sharing our resources because we want everyone to have some rather than me or even a few having it all, is how we follow Jesus. Let’s not settle for less than God’s Kingdom.

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