On this night we pause to commemorate the events that took place in the Upper Room. We are invited in to witness one of the most intimate moments between Jesus and those who have been with him for three years. We are invited to sit at the table and to hear the words of the Master. We pause, in the business of our days for just a few moments.
I have given this meditation the title “Do THIS in remembrance of me” with the word “THIS” in capital letters. This mediation asks what the “THIS” is that Jesus is referring too in these verses of Scripture. The most common answer to what is the “THIS” would be the celebration of the Lord’s Supper after all that is the central theme of the Maundy Thursday service, but, I think it goes much deeper than that, and so we must go deeper.
We begin with the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John. We find Jesus in the Upper Room with his disciple’s, and they are having a meal, the Passover meal, together. We read that during the meal Jesus rose, removed his robe, tied a towel around his waist, poured water into a pitcher and began to wash the feet of those present. What we do not realize is that this action would have taken them all by surprise and, as we will see in a moment, shock.
Washing the feet of guests in your home was not an uncommon practice in the 1st-century world. The roads were dusty, and thus one’s feet would be covered in dust from walking these streets. Upon entering a house, a servant would be ready to wash the feet of the guests. This servant was ranked lowest in the household and would carry out their task without comment or make eye contact with the guests. Jesus, in the simple act of washing their feet, has taken on the role of a servant, the lowest servant, in the household.
When Jesus comes to wash the feet of Peter, Peter rejects the idea and refuses to have his feet washed. He is refusing to allow his friend, his teacher to lower himself to the position of a servant. Peter relents, and Jesus washes his feet. After he washes their feet, he puts his robe back on and sits with them and continues to teach them. He tells them that if he, as their master, is willing to lower himself to wash their feet, they have to be willing to do the same for each other and others.
After the foot washing Jesus tells them that “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Notice Jesus uses the words “my commandments” not “the commandments of Moses” not even “God’s commandments” he says “My commandments.” What are his commandments? Jesus tells us there are only two, love God, love neighbor. Later in the conversation, he tells them, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my father will love them.” What is his word? It’s simple, love God and love neighbor.
Near the end of this portion of the story, Jesus says to them, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” How has Jesus loved them, unconditionally? Keep in mind that before this; Judas has left the room as Jesus has called him out as the one who would betray him. Jesus is about to reveal to them that Peter will deny him not once, not twice, but three times. But this does not stop Jesus from loving them; yes he loved even Judas, the Betrayer.
Jesus gives us another example of this unconditional love while he is hanging on the cross. As the soldiers nail him to that hardwood and lift him up. As those passing by mock him and spit on him. As the same soldiers that nailed him to that tree cast lots for his garments, Jesus thoughts turn to them and he asks God to forgive them. In his final moments, Jesus’ thoughts were for someone else, and he granted forgiveness to those who had just killed him.
So what is this “THIS” that Jesus is asking us to do? Very simple:
Be a servant to all
Love all, unconditionally