Jesus said, “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 fulfill 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.”
The Last Supper, the story of Jesus’ meal with his disciples on the night he was betrayed in which he took bread and a cup and revealed them to be his body and blood, is one of the most important stories in all of Scripture. We recall that event every time we celebrate the Eucharist. John’s gospel, however, makes no reference to this sharing of bread and cup but instead tells the story of Jesus’ washing his disciples’ feet. Many of us think about this act on Maundy Thursday, when the liturgy includes a ritual foot washing. Though it has become an important yearly practice on that day, washing feet has never been an important ritual act for Christians in the same way that the Eucharistic meal has been. We might find this curious given Jesus’ statement, ‘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’ (John 13:14-15).
At the most basic level, Jesus tells us to wash feet, so we should do so if we have such an opportunity. But I think we must also see this command as a broader invitation to follow in his way of self-emptying love, which is revealed most shockingly and beautifully in this act of washing the dirty feet of his friends. Jesus has given us an example of reaching out to others in humility and love, and he commands us to do the same in our own way and our own time.
In our regular celebration of the Eucharist we often reflect on Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, ‘do this in remembrance of me.’ What if we were to do the same with Jesus’ invitation to love and serve others just as he did? What if we saw such acts of service as ways of drawing close to Christ just as we do with the sharing of bread and cup? May we remember that in offering such love to others, we offer it to Jesus himself.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us that what we do for the least of our brothers, sisters, and siblings we do also for you: give us the will to be the servant of others as you were the servant of all, and gave up your life and died for us, but are alive and reign, now and for ever. Amen.
(adapted, from Common Worship: Times and Seasons)