Maundy Thursday, April 18
Lower: to diminish; to move down; to let descend; humble
John 13:3-5, 12-15 (NRSV)
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 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 disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross…
On this Maundy Thursday, we remember that Jesus gathered with his disciples to share his last Passover meal. It was during this meal that Jesus instructed his friends to remember him when they shared the bread and wine, turning the meal into a new sacrament of his body and blood, broken and shed for us all. But after the meal, Jesus began to wash the disciples feet in an act of utmost humility and servanthood. He then instructed the disciples to do for one another as he had done.
In her book The Humility of God, Ilia Delio describes how God “humbly bends down” to come into full humanity through Jesus. God loves us so much as to come low to live among us. And we know that Jesus chose to humble himself as a servant for all. Jesus was the Son of God and yet never considered himself greater than any of us. In fact, he told us that we will do greater things than he did! This hierarchy has now been passed onto us. As Jesus’ disciples, we are also called to humility, to lower ourselves in obedient service to God and for others.
In my ministry vocation I have had opportunities to serve others through mission trips and service projects. In my personal life I try to help and serve others with humble kindness when I can. I try to live as Jesus would want me to live- loving and serving, following his example. But I have a confession…
When I “humbly serve” my spirit isn’t truly humble. It is my nature to feel a sense of pride when I do such things. I catch myself serving as if I am the one “with” while the ones I serve are the ones “without.” I am still serving with an advantage- I am pleased that I can do this for you, instead of serving in humility- God has given us everything to share, we are in this together, and I have much to learn from you.
True humility is when we recognize that the gifts that we have received- whether our possessions, income, health, intelligence, or abilities- all come from God. They are ALL meant to be shared. And when we gather at the Table or when we gather to serve one another, we are to gather as equals, as peers… as community.
My handsome son Kevin stands tall at 6’4″. The other day he shared that, as he began to grow taller, he became mindful of sitting lower in his seat at movie theaters so that the people behind him could see better. This serves as a perfect example of the humility that Jesus exemplified. He lowered himself so that others could see beyond him.
We are to lower ourselves to give others an unobstructed view of Jesus…
Jesus, who lowered himself to give us an unobstructed view of God.
All definitions are excerpted from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/
Cross photo credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash