This is a mistake, Thomas. We shouldn’t be in Jerusalem with the authorities on the lookout for us! The Master didn’t even try to sneak into the city unseen. That crowd of visitors from the countryside last Shabat made it impossible. Shouting “Hosanna to the Highest” and, of all things, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” The Romans, Herod, and the Sanhedrin are just looking for any excuse to arrest Jesus. I’m surprised we haven’t all be rounded up already by the authorities.
Judas, you sound like your old zealot self! Relax! The Master knows what He’s doing. The authorities wouldn’t dare try to arrest Him now. There would be a riot like none other. Besides, I’ve decided to follow Jesus even if it is to the death. He is more honorable than the whole pack of his detractors combined! Shhh! The rabbi looks like he has something to tell us.
As Jesus stands up, he removes his outer garments, secures a towel around his waist, and takes a large bowl filled with water. Before the disciples can object, Jesus begins washing each one’s feet…a task no righteous Israelite would willingly do. It is a slave’s job, too humiliating for a Jew…and Jesus is their Mentor and Teacher, they His followers.
When Jesus comes to Peter, he vehemently protests, but submits when Jesus insists that He wash Peter’s feet or forfeit his inheritance with Jesus.
As Jesus has done so many times when teaching His disciples, he explains afterwards the meaning of his actions and words. “Do you realize what I have done for you? If I, your master and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” “Be servants of one another. Do not lord it over one another as the pagans and arrogant do.”
Hearing these words of Jesus, we gratefully celebrate this Last Supper night together—Christ’s parting gift to us, that we might be one in Him and one with each other! He washes our feet! He consecrates the bread and the wine, transforming them into His Body and His Blood. Jesus invites us to take and eat! Take and drink! Promising that as often as we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we will have eternal life and as we heard in Psalm 116, “Our blessing cup is a communion (with one another) in the Blood of Christ”
Recall also Jesus’ words in John 6: 55-56. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” This is the reality the U.S. bishops want to impress on all Catholics, many of whom believe Jesus’ words were meant symbolically. But they are mistaken! Jesus is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine—Body and the Blood, soul and divinity, as present as He was that Holy Thursday night in the upper room.
So, tonight we feast! And humbly, we allow our feet to be washed as did the disciples, in acknowledgment that we are ready to serve Jesus by serving one another, forgiving one another, and bringing others to Christ.