Holy Thursday is one of my favorite days of the liturgical year because this is the day that Jesus makes it completely and utterly clear how important caring for others is to living a holy life.
On this very last day with his best friends, Jesus took the time to do something he had never done before. Before they gathered for their last supper together, Jesus lowered himself to his knees and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter’s shock at seeing Jesus perform this act reminds us that this role was undoubtably reserved for a servant, which Jesus most certainly was not. The disciples were justifiably confused.
They believed they were following a great and powerful teacher and leader and never before this moment had they seen a leader lower himself to the status of a servant.
Jesus knew that the definition of leader had to change if all of God’s people were to know love, and he knew he was running out of time.
So he tasked his disciples with a new idea, leading through service.
On one of his last days on earth, Jesus spent a few moments in an act of service and hospitality. He gathered his friends for a meal, he washed their feet, and he instructed them to do the same for others. He tells his friends, the people he has chosen to be his voice on earth, that if they want to be great, they must first drop to their knees and serve the people around them.
Needless to say, they were a little shocked, but Peter quickly realizes that Jesus is serious. One of my favorite things about Jesus is that he spent his few short years in ministry shocking the people around him, and then gently revealing to them the truth.
Sometimes we think we know what is right and true. We find our group, learn the rules, and then move through life together, supporting and protecting one another on our journey. God knows we need one another, but he sent Jesus to remind us that our chosen groups are not enough. There are always people who fall outside of our circle who need to be seen, need to be loved, and need to be served.
Jesus’ act of washing feet was not uncommon. Just as we would offer our guests a glass of cool water as they enter our homes to care for their well being, hosts in Jesus’ time would offer to clean feet dirtied by the journey across the desert lands. As hosts, we know that when our guests’ needs are cared for, they feel loved.
In this simple, seemingly small, act, Jesus gave all of us the power to lead through simple acts of hospitality. But he also asked us to go one step further. He reminds us that everybody deserves to be loved, not just the people we invite into our homes.
Holy Thursday is the perfect day to remember that every small act matters, and every time we choose to serve, we lead others into God’s love.