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. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.’
We who are Christians worship a Servant in a culture that worships self. Self-expression, self-identification, self-gratification. And the poisonous root under all that 2017 selfie soil is the same one that was buried underneath Adam’s sin: Self-salvation. We sinful humans want to stand in the place of God. We want to be at the center. We are, to borrow from C.S. Lewis, adjectives who want to be nouns.
And yet here, in Jerusalem on Passover, is Jesus.
Here stands the One through whom all things, visible and invisible, were created. Except, wait, He’s not standing. No, He’s starting to kneel. Wait, what? What is He doing? He can’t be… The towel, the bowl of water… No. No way. Like a slave? He’s putting the towel around his waste and washing their feet like a slave?
God. The Lord. Rinsing off feet as though he were a bondservant.
We worship a God who was made, for a little while, lower than the angels to rescue us from our own filth. A God who died that the dead might live. A God who knelt to raise others up. We who trust in Jesus live differently from the world because the One we love and praise is Himself different from the world. The heartbeat of this darkened place, and of Hell itself, is self-worship leading to self-destruction. But our rhythm is better, freer. We lose ourselves as we kneel at His Cross, His feet, and in service to others, and as we do we find who we were always meant to be.
We have a beaitiful story to share as Christians this Maundy Thursday. We are free to do the jobs no one else wants to do, pray the prayers no one else has time for, love the outcasts everyone else snickers about. We can love because we are the beloved. We can serve because we have been served. We are free to look foolish because we know the God of all wisdom.
We are free to stoop like slaves because we have been made sons and daughters.
Today is a day for kneeling.