Holy Week Reflection: Maundy Thursday (John 13:1-35)
Maundy Thursday brings a different perspective to our Holy Week readings. I like to think of the last supper account in John’s Gospel as being composed by someone who knew well the stories that have come to us in the three other gospels. But John’s Gospel seems to have been come later, and this is from someone who was there and who is able to add their own perspective.
None of the other accounts mentions the foot washing, and John’s account doesn’t go into detail about the last supper. Instead this account, I think, presupposes that the reader or hearer already knows those details. Those details would already be something that the intended audience might hear each week as their church met for the Eucharist. So, given that what is already understood need not be discussed, this account gives further details of what happened that evening.
This account opens with “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
It ends with “Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
And what comes between is a tender account of the last moments together of a group of friends who have spent a good deal of the previous three years or so living in community together. Jesus is, of course, the leader, and the focal point of the group. Yet he sets the example of loving service to the others.
Jesus’ action in washing his friends’ feet is symbolic, yet it also conveys a tenderness. We see some of that tenderness in the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Peter quickly goes from bravado to submission in allowing Jesus to wash his feet, when he realises that’s what Jesus wants of him.
It is interesting how, even though Jesus tells the disciples the one he gives the bread to will be the one who will betray him, still nobody suspects Judas after the bread has been given to him. This is the one they have all trusted to hold their money. Surely not Judas?! And even as he goes out into the night, still only Jesus realises what he is about to do.