Maundy Thursday: Lessons on Authentic Love

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not 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, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” – John 13:1-18 (ESV)

The term “Maundy Thursday” – the day we remember the Last Supper – derives from the Latin word mandatum, translated to English as “mandate,” or “commandment,” as in:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35 (ESV)

This is exactly what Christ exemplified throughout His life – in His every action, every word, every deed, every step… Jesus Christ personified authentic Love (after all, God is Love and Jesus is God Incarnate).  And, as we all know, authentic love is not the stuff of poems and pop songs.  It is a verb. It is agapē, which is also translated as “charity.”  Strong’s defines it as “affection or benevolence.” 

How telling it is that Jesus chose to begin saying His earthly farewell to the disciples by performing such an act of authentic love, showing them – and us – the way to live our lives, and then teaching them the meaning behind it, as well as promising provision for their (our) eternal future!

By washing the feet of the disciples, Jesus is showing us in a very meaningful, tangible way, what love is: it is service to others, regardless of status.  Peter was aghast at the notion of Jesus – the Only Son of God Almighty – daring to stoop to wash his feet.  Peter felt himself unworthy, and also felt it was beneath Christ to perform such a lowly act.  But, Jesus set Peter straight.  Which brings us to:

Lesson #1: Authentic Love Makes Us Worthy

Sometimes we need to swallow our false humility and accept the love of God.  Christ died for our sins, which is why we celebrate the Easter season.  None of us deserves salvation.  Be grateful God does not give believers what we deserve (eternally speaking).  So often we sound like the two characters in “Wayne’s World” when some rock star has stumbled into their Aurora Illinois basement: “We’re not worthy!  We’re not worthy!”  Truth is, we’re really not worthy – in and of ourselves.  It is Jesus Christ Who makes us “worthy,” makes us clean, makes us whole, makes us alive! 

Lesson #2: Authentic Love Doesn’t Hold a Grudge.

Whose feet did Jesus wash?  Those of the disciples.  Including Peter who, within a few short hours, would fall from professing a willingness to die for Jesus (John 13:36-38) to publicly, vehemently denying any association with Him.  Also included: Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus.  And Jesus, as John 13 makes abundantly clear, was well aware of exactly what Peter and Judas were about to do.  There shameful actions were imminent.  And yet, Jesus still washed their feet.  He still exemplified love for these sinful men.  If that doesn’t give us hope…

Lesson #3: Authentic Love Knows No End

Take a look at John 13:1. Jesus “loved His own… to the end.”  Which, as John 20 shows us, was less an end and more an eternal beginning! 

Lesson #4: Authentic Love Has No Strings Attached

Jesus didn’t need the apostles to understand Him in order to love them.  He didn’t need a reason to love them.  They didn’t earn it.  They didn’t have to.  Jesus loved them – and loves us – because He is Love.  We can’t earn authentic love. 

Lesson #5: Authentic Love Shows Us We Need A Bath

My four year old son does not like bath time.  He holds a (very mistaken) belief that one bathed, always bathed.  However, try as he might, after a hard day of playing, the evidence is clear: the boy needs a bath.  He’s dirty.  He smells like a musty squirrel.  He just might leave a crud ring around the bath tub.

Oft times we, too, hold a “once bathed, always bathed” approach to our spiritual lives.  Try as we might, after a hard day, the evidence is clear: we need a bath.  We’re dirty.  Spiritually, we smell like a musty squirrel.  We just might leave a crud ring around our souls. 

We need to take time every day – every day – for God.  We need to pray.  We need to be in His Word.  We need to ask, seek, knock.  Daily.  And we need to be there for others, serving, listening, reaching out in authentic love.  Authentic Christianity requires both inward and outward components – learning, growing, and reaching out.  Let the authentic love of Jesus into your heart, but don’t just keep it there.  Let it out!  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, ESV).

Can you think of a better way to celebrate “Maundy” Thursday?

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