I invite you to join me in this Maundy Thursday meditation. It may be helpful for you to close your eyes, take a couple of slow deep breaths and relax your body to the best of your ability. We will travel back in time to an upper room in the city of Jerusalem during the Feast of the Passover.
It was early morning and the cool night air reluctantly began to give way to the warming rays of the sun. I sat in the window watching the streets below mindful of a growing hustle and bustle as shops began to open and vendors prepared for the day.
The knock at the door surprised me as I was not expecting anyone so early in the day however I looked through the small window in the door and saw that a young boy was waiting for me. After opening the door, I started to say good morning and ask his name when he said to me, “He wants you to come to dinner tonight.” The boy handed me a scroll and ran away.
I broke open the seal on a scroll and read this, “Beloved, it would be an honor if you would join me for dinner this evening.” It was signed, “Love, Jesus.”
Jesus? Jesus? The famous rabbi, the teacher who just a few days ago came into the city followed by throngs of people who were signing hosannas and praising him? Jesus, was inviting me to dinner? There were hundreds of people crowding the city streets when he came into the city. And yes I was there, and for a minute I did think he turned and smiled at me briefly before turning to look at others, still how did he know who I was, and where to find me? Maybe this invitation was meant for someone else, it must be a mistake, yes, that’s it. The boy made a mistake and delivered it to the wrong house.
I turned the scroll over to see who should have received the invitation and that is when I saw my name and address. I was speechless and for a moment I thought, “Why me? Why did he invite me?” Surely he did not need my company as so many people wanted to be with him, so many that his disciples often admonished the crowds to go home and let him be. Jesus never seemed to mind, though. He would teach for long hours and then he would feed us. Truth is I could have listened to him every day of my life and been hungry for more. “Well”, I thought “I will go.”
Later that evening I went to the house where the dinner was being held. Jesus greeted me at the door. His warm brown eyes and gentle smile told me that I was welcome and that he was glad to see me. He took my cloak and showed me to my seat. I thought my heart would burst from excitement and joy until I noticed how sad he looked. Puzzled, I decided to sit quietly and wait for him to speak as there seemed to be much on his mind.
And then a most extraordinary thing happened. He knelt at my feet and began to unlace my sandals. He bathed my feet in warm fragrant water all the while looking at me with those beautiful, sad brown eyes and just the faintest smile upon his lips. At first I had tried to pull my feet from his hands. He was a famous teacher, a holy man, it is I who should be washing his feet! I recalled that only days early I had heard that Mary, his friend had bathed him and anointed him with oil. That is what I should be doing! He would not let me pull my feet away. He just continued to look into my eyes, willing me to submit to his tender care and after gently drying my feet and placing them on clean towels, Jesus began to wash the feet of his disciples.
I do not remember much because I was so stunned by what he had done for me. It was so loving and sweet. I do not remember having ever been treated so tenderly and with such care. It touched my heart and I began to weep. Then I heard him say, “Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to others I now say to you, Where I am going, you cannot come.”
I was confused, what did he mean that he would only be with us a little longer? Was he leaving Jerusalem? Would he be coming back? Why couldn’t we go with him? I had followed him willingly throughout the countryside and would do so again. What was going on? I started to leave my seat and protest, “No, no Jesus you cannot leave me. There is so much I want to know and there is so much I need to learn. Let me go with you” I wanted to say but the words lay in my mouth like cold pebbles.
And then I heard him say, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I remembered then what he said as he finished washing our feet, “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” “Oh”, I thought, “he washed my feet so I would know what it felt like to feel cared for and to know that I am loved.” This great man had been showing me how I should treat other people a tears started to fall from my eyes. For I had not always been kind, or loving or even thoughtful to people I knew and said I loved. As for strangers, too often I did not even see them when I passed by them in the street. It was as though no one existed except me. The needy, the hungry, the tired, the poor, and the lost souls who had no one, I never looked at them, I never cared. Then I remembered a piece of scripture from Micah, “He has showed you, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” So, that was it. After all the teaching, and the healing, after all Jesus had done for us, after all he had given us, this is all he wanted in return.
I stayed lost in thought for a long time and as the evening came to a close and he encouraged us all to leave before it was too late, I realized that something profound had happened to me and I wanted to go home alone and think on this while. There was so much to ponder. So many decisions to make about what to do next. How could I respond to his request? What was I prepared to do? No, what was I willing to do? As I neared the door he came to me and kissed me gently on the cheek. “Good night my beloved,” he said and turned to say good bye to the next guest.
I smiled to myself and thought, well I will make a time to see him tomorrow and then we can talk about what he meant and what I need to do. He would explain it all to me then. Yes, I would see him tomorrow before he left.