Maundy Thursday 2022 Beautiful Feet
John 13:1-17; 31b-35
Has anybody ever told you that you have beautiful feet? Now, I know that some of you take very good care of your feet. You cut your toenails. You soak your feet in Epsom water. You wear socks and comfortable shoes. But even so, I do not know if someone has ever said to you that your feet are beautiful. I suspect that most of us gathered here tonight do not go out of our way to show off our feet to other people.
Well, let us pause a moment, and think about feet in Biblical times. The people back then did not have toenail clippers, and they did not have Epsom salt, and they certainly did not have socks and comfortable shoes.
Folks back then either wore sandals or went barefoot. And their neighborhoods did not have paved sidewalks or jogging paths. No, instead the people walked on dirt roads and/or on dusty streets. Can you imagine how dirty and cracked and bruised their feet must have been? Using today’s standards, their feet would not have been beautiful. And they probably did not smell very good either.
And so, it seems strange to hear tonight in our Gospel text that Jesus got up from the table, took off His outer robe, and tied a towel around Himself. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet and to wipe them with the towel.
This is strange because this was the night when Jesus would be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. And this was the night when one of His closest friends would betray Him for 30 pieces of silver. And this was the night when all His disciples would abandon Him when the soldiers, police and chief priests came looking for Him.
This is strange because Jesus knew that all that was about to happen. John tells us “Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father…” and “Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God.” In other words, Jesus knew it all.
Let me ask you this… If you knew that your life was going to be over in less than 24 hours, would you get down on your hands and knees and wash the feet of people that you love?
Probably not. Most people would either: 1. try to get a few more adventures in before the clock ran out or 2. go and console their loved ones and help prepare them for your death. And they would most likely take the time to tell people how much they loved them.
Yet knowing what He knew, Jesus “loved them to the end.” Jesus bent over and took the role of a servant and displayed His saving/servant love for His disciples. In other words, Jesus was determined to demonstrate to them that He would take care of everything. And Jesus was trying to communicate to them that God’s Redeeming Activity was about to take place.
So, when Peter objected to having his feet washed, Jesus told him “You do not understand what I am doing now, but later you will understand.” To which Peter replied: “You will never, ever, wash my feet.”
In a loving voice, Jesus responded “If I do not wash you, you have no part of me.” And in a sudden rush of enthusiasm, Peter yelled out “Lord, not just my feet, but also my hands and my head.”
Remember what the Gospel of John said right at the beginning of this chapter. The Gospel states: “Having loved those who were his own in the world, he loved them to the end.” No. Peter would not comprehend what Jesus was teaching him at that moment. But he would weep bitter tears of repentance after he denied Jesus three times.
Yes. Jesus knew what Peter was about to do. Yet He chose to love him anyways. And Jesus loves you and me too. As Jesus looked ahead to the final 24 hours of His life, Jesus was thinking of you, me, and all people of all times and all places.
Even though Jesus knew how unlovable we can be, and how selfish we can be, and how proud we can be, and how quick to doubt and deny we can be, Jesus loved us to the end.
Jesus chose to be our Savior not because we have given Him reason to save us, but because His love for each one of us moved Him to endure the pain, and the suffering, and the ridicule, and the injustice, and the cruelty, and the death that we inflict upon each other. Yes, for us, and for our salvation, Jesus loved us all to the end.
And as Jesus lived out His love for us, He gave us a new commandment to love one another just as He loves us. He explained “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And to accomplish this we must have a love that focuses solely on the best interests of the one who is the subject of our love and concern and our service.
Probably no one in the last century modeled for so many people the love Jesus spoke about on the night He was betrayed as Mother Teresa. It has been reported that one day, as Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity were tending to the poorest of the poor on the streets of Calcutta, they happened across a man lying in the gutter, who was very near death.
He was filthy, dressed in little more than a rag, and had flies flying around his body. Immediately, Mother Teresa embraced him, spoke to him softly, and began to pick out the maggots that were nesting in his flesh.
A passerby who was repulsed by the sight of the man exclaimed to Mother Teresa, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.”
Her response was immediate, “Neither would I!” And the point was clear. Earthly riches would not be enough to motivate her to care for this poor man. But her love for her fellow human who has been created in the image of God was/is more than enough.
In her writings, Mother Teresa frequently affirmed the motivating power of love. Quoting Jesus in today’s Gospel, she wrote, “Jesus said, ‘Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other.’”
And then she added: “We must grow in love, and to do this we must go on loving and loving and giving and giving until it hurts – the way Jesus did. We must do ordinary things with extraordinary love: little things, like caring for the sick and the homeless, the lonely and the unwanted, washing and tending to their needs.”
And then Mother Teresa remarked that the greatest disease in the West today is not tuberculosis, leprosy or even A.I.D.S.; it is being unwanted, uncared for, and unloved. And that is why she made it her whole life’s mission to do her part in trying to “cure” this disease.
And so, I ask again “Has anybody ever told you that you have beautiful feet?” Well, you do. Even with all the hard skin, cracks, bumps and bruises that may be on your feet, and all over your body for that matter, you look beautiful to Christ. And to show us His affection/ His concern/ His Redeeming Activity, that He has for each one of us, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and then He gave all humanity a new commandment to go and love one another as He has loved each one of us.
Let us pray: Holy God, source of all love, on the night of His betrayal Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment, to love one another as He loved them. Write this commandment in our hearts; give us the will to serve others as He was the servant of all, who gave His life and died for us, yet is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.