Maundy Thursday, April 1

Find a Maundy Thursday worship service to go to tonight if your church does not have one.

Reader: “A new commandment I give you”

Response: “love one another.”

Scripture: John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”  “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”    Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”  Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.”

Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Reader: “These words were recorded by John, who was present when this happened.” 

Response: “Thank you, Lord, that we have this firsthand account.” 

Some thoughts:  

John’s gospel was the last of the four gospels to be written, roughly around 90 AD. The result was that John covered some material not found in the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), nor does he repeat some of the material unique to them. As a result, it is John who gives us unique details on the events of Jesus’ last days. For example, while John does not record the observance of the Passover meal as do the Synoptics, he includes foot washing which is found only in his gospel. Here also we discover the details of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial being predicted. Chapters thirteen through nineteen cover only a little over twenty-four hours! Chapters fourteen through sixteen give great details of Jesus’ conversation with his disciples during the meal on this Maundy Thursday. If you’ve ever wondered what Jesus prayed when he went to the mountains to pray to his Father, chapter seventeen is a marvelous opportunity to listen in on Jesus praying to his Father in heaven.  

I want to make an observation on something the rabbi, Jesus, did.  Rabbis had disciples called talmudeen, a small group of people who followed them around wherever they went and did whatever the rabbi did. They copied his every move. They left their homes, left everything and followed him in order to become like him. (Think “The Chosen”) May we become modern day talmudeen of the Scriptures as we encounter the Savior daily in the Book that is Truth. The rabbi chose the talmudeen, they didn’t choose him (Jn.15:16). 

In this setting the disciples’ rabbi, humbled himself and took the role of a slave. He knelt before them and washed their feet! Unheard of! A rabbi would never ever do such a thing. His talmudeen would be honored to wash his feet. Jesus was demonstrating personal humility and servanthood. He was once again laying aside every personal right he had. Do you realize he also washed the feet of Judas, knowing that within minutes Judas would leave to betray him?  What do you think was going on in Jesus’ mind . . . in Judas’ mind? 

Many of you know I teach at The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies ( As part of the course, we include foot washing with our students. It is an honor to wash the feet of our students from all over the world. They often are very reticent to wash the professor’s feet. And frankly, it is humbling to take off your shoes and have someone wash your feet. This “servant” thing Jesus was driving at measures your pride very quickly. Though not shared by all, it is my personal opinion and experience that the practice of foot washing has tremendous significance and impact even today for many of the same reasons that it touched the hearts of the disciples so deeply. It is very humbling to have another wash your feet, and it is a great honor to wash another’s feet.  

 The apostle John did us a further great favor by recording these final conversations of Jesus. Take some time tonight and read chapters thirteen through seventeen in one sitting putting yourself in the midst of the disciples. This is the evening those conversations took place so long ago.

Music: These pieces came from last year and are still the best settings I’ve found. This is a magnificent text for a broken and disunified church and world. Jesus Christ, is the  sole unifier of the human race.

 “Ubi Caritas”  Paul Mealor    Composer Mealor appears during the applause.

“Ubi Caritas”   Ola Gjeilo  Central Washington Chamber Choir with the composer on piano.

Lest you think no young composers are writing beautiful music!

                                   Ubi Caritas-author unknown

                        ancient text specifically written for Maundy Thursday

Where charity and love are,

God is there.

Christ’s love has gathered us

into one.

Let us rejoice and be glad in Him.

Let us fear, and love the living God.

And may we love each other

with a sincere heart.

Where charity and love are,

God is there.

As we are gathered into one body,

Beware, lest we be divided in mind.

Let evil impulses stop,

let controversy cease,

And may Christ our God

be in our midst.

Where charity and love are,

God is there.

And may we with the saints also,

See Thy face in glory,

O Christ our God:

The joy that is immense and good,

Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.


Lord Christ, our Servant and Savior, on earth you washed the feet of your disciples, and now through your cross, resurrection and ascension, you always live to make intercession for us: Give us grace to be your faithful disciples, your talmudeen, and servants to the end of our days here on earth until we join you in the glory of your everlasting kingdom. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reign one God, world without end. Amen.   

                            ―the Worship Sourcebook, p.599, adapted Daniel Sharp