On Maundy Thursday, we meditate on two Passovers. The first took place in the Book of Exodus, where the firstborn of every living thing in Egypt was slain by the Angel of Death except for those who were passed over because they obeyed the Lord’s instruction to sacrifice a lamb and shield their homes with its blood. The people of Israel celebrated the Passover every year because this was such a miraculous and defining event in the history of their nation.
Many years later, Israel was once again celebrating the Feast of the Passover, and Jesus was in Jerusalem for the occasion. Jesus knew that His time had arrived, the time when He would become the Lamb who is sacrificed for the salvation of all those who would claim His blood. He was so full of love, that He was willing to make the sacrifice. Can our love go so far?
Jesus was also mindful that He was about to be betrayed by one of His closest friends. There were heavy things on His heart and mind this Feast of the Passover, but He was also fully aware that after His humbling and suffering and sacrifice, then He would be exalted to the highest place and given the Name that is above every name.
In the context of all of this, He does something very mundane. He stoops to wash His disciples’ feet. What an amazing act for the King of kings and Lord of lords! In the light of this example, is there anything that is too lowly for those of us who claim to follow Christ to do? Is there anything that is beneath us? If Christ can humble Himself, shouldn’t we as well?
There are two types of pride. The first is the type that can’t stoop down, that sees some things as being beneath them. The second type is a little more subtle, and it is the kind that Peter shows to the Lord when He wants to wash his feet. Peter says, “No, not MY feet!” This is a false humility where we wallow in our unworthiness and exempt ourselves from receiving the grace of God. When we look it in the face, this false humility is also pride. If Christ says that His sacrifice covers ALL, who are we to say that we are the only ones who aren’t good enough for it?
The word Maundy comes from the Latin “mandatum,” which means commandment. In the Passover meal with his disciples, Christ said he was giving a “novum mandatum” – a New Commandment (John 13:34) to love each other as Christ has loved us. No other religion has a New Commandment, which turns human pride on its head. Christ is exalted through service, suffering, and sacrifice, and so are His followers.
This is how the world can see that we are His disciples – by the way we pour ourselves out to love and serve others, the way He did for us.