Imagine this. You are sitting at a table with your friends and colleagues on a feast holiday, and then one of them stands up.
He is the leader of your crew, who constantly talks about how things are going to be better for the world.
He takes his robe off, and wraps it around his waist.
He grabs a tub of water, and then gets on his knees.
He grabs your nasty feet that are covered in dirt, mud, waste, and anything else disgusting that just happens to be on the streets.
He then washes your feet.
You try to kick him away, but he is holding pretty tight, and says to you: “I am not here to be served, but to serve you.”
He then washes all of your friends feet.
After this you all eat your meal, enjoy each other’s company and drink wine.
Laughing and carrying on. After all this is a feast of celebration.
The meal is about over and he stands up again.
As he stands after the meal he reaches over the table and grabs a loaf of bread.
And as he grabs it he looks at all of you. He waves it in front of you making some weird gestures.
Then he does something really weird, he says: “You see this bread? Anytime you eat bread remember me. Remember what I have taught you. Remember what I have done. Remember this bread as a symbol of my body.”
You are confused. Why is he telling us to remember him every time that we eat?
While you are trying to figure out what all of this means, he grabs the bottle of wine, which at this point is almost empty, because you and your friends have been celebrating.
As he holds the wine in front of you, he pours into a cup and says: “This cup will be a reminder of the blood that is going to come from me. Every time you drink wine, remember my blood.”
You sit stunned. Not knowing what in the world just happened.
You go back to your meal, awkwardly looking at your friends who are all confused.
When all of a sudden the door is kicked in, and one of your friends give a kiss to your leader, and then he is arrested.
He tells you not to worry as he is carried out of the house.
We know what happens on Friday. But Jesus’ friends and disciples did not know what would happen the next day.
Maybe they thought he was just going to be released. Maybe they knew that he would be killed in the traditional Roman way.
But they would not understand what his message at the feast was really about.
They would soon find out, that the bread would be a physical symbol of a man who would no longer be on this earth. That the wine was going to be a symbol of a man’s blood who was going to killed in an inhumane way.
They would find out the man who had washed their feet the way a slave would was showing them that the world is not their servant, but they are to serve the world.
For the disciples, the meal would be a real reminder of the friend and leader that they had.
But 2000 years later, what do the events at that meal represent?
Every time we eat bread we are called to remember Jesus. Remembering what it is that he taught his followers and the actions he took in his ministry.
Every time we take a bite of food we should be reminded that Jesus called us to heal the sick. Jesus called us to clothe the naked. To visit the imprisoned (Matthew 25: 34-46). When we eat we are reminded to do micro-level, kind works of charity.
Every time we drink we are reminded of Jesus’ death. No matter common it was in his time it was. We are reminded that injustice is far too common. We are reminded of the blood of all people who are killed unjustly. We are reminded of the death of children who cannot feed themselves. We are reminded of women everywhere who are abused and raped. We are reminded that over a billion people in this world do not have access to clean drinking water. We are reminded that the cost to export food leaves those who cultivate that food too impoverished to buy that food for themselves, and are left starving with plenty of food right in front of them. When we drink we are reminded to do works of greater justice, to end hunger, to end thirst, to end disease, to end violence. We are reminded to do justice in the world.
Whenever we hear the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet we are reminded that we are to be humble, and to understand that we are not to be served by the world. But rather to serve the world. That no one is below us. Rather we are below the world, always looking up and looking for the next inequity in our broken world.
On Maundy Thursday, we are reminded of Micah 6:8:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
This Maundy Thursday, my hope is that you realize that Jesus was not here for us to serve him. But for us to learn from him, through his example, through his death, through his resurrection, that we are called to do justice, do acts of kindness, and to be humble.
The church needs to remember this call. For far too long the church thought the world is to serve the church, however the church is the servant to the world.
The next time you eat, you drink, and someone serves you, remember that the one who served you is not your servant, but you are their’s. The food you are eating is a reminder to feed the world. The drink you are drinking is a reminder to end injustice in the world.