“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
Today is Maundy Thursday. No, it’s not “Monday Thursday,” which I thought I heard as a child and which made no sense whatsoever. Rather, many Christians refer to this day as Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” comes to us from the Latin word mandatum, which means “commandment.” In the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the New Testament, it is the first word of John 13:34: “mandatum novum do vobis [A new commandment I give to you].”
Maundy Thursday is a day when millions of Christians remember the new commandment of Jesus and its context. John 13 begins with a description of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. By serving them in this way, he demonstrated how they ought to serve each other. This meant more than engaging in regular foot washing, however. The act of washing feet exemplified the kind of serving, self-giving love that Jesus modeled and his disciples were expected to imitate. Foot-washing, therefore, makes visible in a stirring way what it means to love. So when Jesus said, “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other,” he was saying, in effect, “Serve one another in the way you have just experienced. Humble yourself in your care for each other.”
I know Christians who literally imitate the foot-washing of Jesus in their religious observances. This can be a powerful symbol of self-giving love and humble service. But, whether we actually wash people’s feet or not is not the main point. What Jesus requires of us is to love and serve people in a way that makes sense in our time of history, in the cultural settings and relationships of our lives. We have the chance to do this in the workplace, in our families, in our churches, and in every situation in which we are interacting with people.
Of course, we understand the call of Jesus to love not just in light of the foot-washing on Maundy Thursday, but also in view of the events of Good Friday. His supreme act of love was giving himself on the Cross, dying for us so that we might have life. The sacrifice of Jesus shows us supremely what it means to love. And when we receive the love of God given through Jesus, we are empowered to love supernaturally. God helps us to serve people we would never think to serve, not only by telling us to do so, but also by moving in our hearts through his Spirit.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you love and serve the people in your life? How might you love and serve your colleagues? Your fellow students? Your spouse? Your children? Your parents? The person who waits on you in the restaurant? etc. etc.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, your word to us couldn’t be clearer than it is today. “Love each other.” Help us to do what you say.
You have also shown us what love is. It’s so much more than feeling a certain way or saying nice things to people. Love involves sacrifice. It is expressed in humble service. It means caring for people’s needs in a deep and self-giving way.
Help me, Lord, to love and serve the people in my life. Show me how I can better serve my colleagues, my family members, my neighbors, my friends, and even complete strangers. May I make love my aim in all that I do, so that people might know I am your disciple, and so that you might be glorified. Amen.
Devotional Reflections for Holy Week
My blog is featuring a series of devotional reflections for Holy Week, based on a biblical version of the Stations of the Cross. You can find these devotions at my blog: http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts/.