Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’
Peter said to him,
‘You will never wash my feet.’
‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’
Simon Peter said to him,
‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’
Jesus said to him,
‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’
For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said,
‘Not all of you are clean.’
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. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfil the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’
In Catholic Churches around the world, on Maundy Thursday, priests, bishops, cardinals, even the pope, wash the feet of members of the congregation in emulation of Jesus at the Last Supper. In some American churches foot washing is an integral part of every celebration of Holy Communion. This rite is a visual reenactment of the command to love and serve each other.
I suspect that Foot Washing isn’t an integral part of normal URC communion services though I suspect some may reenact this on Maundy Thursday. Yet the command to love and serve one another is something we should follow as disciples of the Lord.
Foot Washing was a necessary task in a dusty country where open sandals are worn; what might contemporary Foot Washing consist of? Listening to those in mental pain; generously giving food to the food bank; inviting a destitute asylum seeker to share your home or any number of practical acts of love emulate our Master who washed his servants feet.
Lord Jesus, as a servant you washed the feet of your disciples, showing love, humility and grace. May we, through acts of loving kindness, so serve your people, that all may come to know you and your saving love for all. Amen
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Southside Cluster in the Synod of Scotland. He also co-ordinates the URC Daily Devotions project.