Maundy Thursday, April 6, 2023

April 3, 2023 | by Allan R. Bevere

Reading 1 Reading 2 Reading 3 Reading 4 Reading 1 Alt Reading 2 Alt
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13:1-17, 31b-35


We gather with the dirt of the day on our hands, our feet, and our hearts.

We come in need of a Savior.

We gather with the disciples, preparing to come to the table, yet surprised once again by Jesus.

We come with our expectations only to be astonished by love.

We gather at the basin to be washed and at the table to be fed, in body and in spirit.

We come to receive a new commandment.

We gather in awe of the grace demonstrated in Jesus kneeling to serve.

We come seeking the grace to love one another as Christ loves us. Amen.


The Model for the Mandate

It can be annoying trying to communicate. Have you ever been frustrated because someone you’ve been talking to or working with or maybe teaching, perhaps an apprenticeship or teaching someone a craft, just doesn’t get what is familiar to you? It can also be frustrating when we don’t get it when someone is trying to speak to us

I’ve been in situations in countries where I don’t speak the native language. Talk about frustration! And the one thing that I have learned is that no matter how loud you speak in English, people who don’t know English still don’t understand it.

For three years, Jesus has communicated not only to the masses of people, but to his disciples what his ministry has been is about, what his work is about, and what it means for him to be the one to deliver the people of Israel. Everyone, including the disciples have struggled to understand. Now here they are in the upper room, as John tells us, at the end of Jesus’ ministry before his death.

John doesn’t say anything about the supper in the upper room as we get in Matthew Mark, and Luke. We are told there’s a meal and now Jesus has come to the place in his ministry where it is time to take that final road to Calvary. Now is the time for some parting words, but not only that; Jesus needs to act out one more time something to get through to the disciples concerning the character of his ministry.

The dirtiest parts of the human person in Jesus’ world were the feet because shoes were sandals and the roads are dusty and muddy. It was customary to wash the feet of guests when they entered into the host’s home. If you were wealthy enough to have a servant that would be her or his job, but if you did not have a servant you usually gave your guests the basin and towel to wash their own feet. It was considered menial labor. It would have been considered inhospitable for the host not to make a way for the guests to wash their feet coming off the roads.

Here are the disciples are with Jesus, and they’re somewhere into the meal when

Jesus wraps a towel around himself and fills a basin with water to wash the disciples feet. If this was not done at the beginning, it was a terrible slight by the host whose room Jesus and the disciples were using. Maybe Jesus is doing something that should have been done but wasn’t, or perhaps Jesus made arrangements with the host to wash his disciples feet and waited until the most opportune time to make his point.

Jesus does something that no master, no rabbi would have done for his servants. He begins to wash their feet, no doubt to the disciples great surprise. Peter is the only one that has the nerve to speak out (not a big surprise), “You’re not going to wash my feet.” Yet Jesus does what Peter finds scandalous through this symbolic act to try once again to get through to the disciples what it means for him to be King and Lord, what it means for him to be the one through whom God is going to bring salvation.

But the disciples continue to struggle to understand because they’re still thinking about having the best seats at the table even though Jesus told them the parable of the banquet instructing them not to seek the places of honor. They’re still focused on James and John asking Jesus for the  two best seats in the Kingdom. They’re still thinking in the mode and in the ways of the world. How difficult it must have been to comprehend what Jesus was doing right before their eyes, what no one of his status in that world would have thought of doing. He completes this symbolic act by giving them a new commandment to love one another. That’s where the word “Maundy” comes from in Maundy Thursday. The Latin word mandatum  is “mandate” in English. On this night, Jesus gave a new mandate, a new commandment to love one another—and here’s what makes it new—“as I have loved you.”

Love is a very slippery kind of term, isn’t it? We have one word to say “I love you” and “I love pizza.” It’s a word that cannot stand alone. It always needs a context. What does it mean to love? Jesus gives the disciples the context—“love one another as I have loved you.” The disciples have yet to see the fulness of love Jesus embodies. That comes tomorrow on Good Friday; for it is this kind of sacrificial love that sends Jesus to Calvary.

We’re not real big on foot washing anymore as a liturgical practice; and the church traditions that practice it do so only once or twice a year. But it’s important to remember that in Jesus’ day, foot washing was a regular practice. If feet in Jesus’ day were the dirtiest part of the human body, the hands probably are today. It is possible to Google photos of hands under special light after they have touched a door knob. It’s not a pretty sight.

Perhaps the washing of hands helps us to think more about what it means to be willing to sacrificially care for one another as Jesus has so cared for us. Maybe our willingness to wash the hands of someone who has just touched the door knob of a public restroom, or hands that have just handled a cell phone that was used while sitting on the toilet makes the point.

Jesus has given us a new commandment. The life and death of Jesus is the model for the mandate.


Merciful Savior,

We have traveled this long, dusty Lenten journey.

Our feet are tired, dirty, aching, and calloused.

You have shown us Your love

by becoming a humble servant.

Humble us when we try to travel without You.

As Christ has washed us,

so let us wash one another.


Humble us when we believe some work is below us.

As Christ has washed us,

so let us wash one another.

Humble us when we are too proud

to accept help, or care, or love.

As Christ has washed us,

so let us wash one another.

Humble us when we do not fully receive

the gift of Your amazing and bountiful grace.

As Christ has washed us,

so let us wash one another. Amen.

[i] Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, September 2022

[ii] Written by Karen Turner and posted on the Lifeway website, Reposted:

Allan R. Bevere is a Professional Fellow in Theology. He recently retired from full-time pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church where he served for thirty-eight years. He is the owner of the social media portal, Faith Seeking Understanding ( with links to his YouTube Channel, podcast, blog, and daily reflections. He is the author of the forthcoming booklet, Holiness of Heart and Life: Loving God and Neighbor, and has published several other books including: The Politics of Witness: The Character of the Church in the WorldColossians and Philemon: A Participatory Study Guide, and Who Is Jesus? The Puzzle and the Portraits of a Divine Savior.

Dr. Bevere received his Ph.D in Theology from the University of Durham U.K., a Th.M in Theological Ethics from Duke Divinity School, an M.Div. in Pastoral Ministry and an M.A. in Religious Studies from Ashland Theological Seminary, and a B.A. in Christian Ministries from Malone University.

Dr. Bevere has served the larger church in various capacities over the years including mission, education, and leadership. He brings his passion for teaching to pastors in Cuba at the Methodist Seminary in Havana, Zimbabwe at Africa University, and Cameroon at the local Methodist churches. He has also engaged in mission work in Haiti and Puerto Rico.

Dr. Bevere is married to Carol. They have four adult children and four granddaughters. His hobbies include reading, gardening, cooking, playing guitar, and hiking.