Feet have a reputation, don’t they?

The Text: John 13:1-17, 31b-3520180311_103505 (1)

If you were asked to take off your shoes and socks I imagine you might be a little reluctant to do so. Feet have a reputation, don’t they? We don’t just cover them to make it easier to walk around. We tuck them away out of sight and out of smell. We can probably handle the smell of our own feet but the thought of a roomful of exposed feet is probably not what we want at the end of the day.

And it is the end of the day. Chances are some of us have been on our feet for much of it and that tends to take its toll. Look at the burden our feet have to bear. They carry our weight around from A to B and everywhere else we need to go.

In Biblical times they used their feet much more than what we do these days. Feet were the primary mode of transportation. They didn’t have cars or buses or trains and even horses and donkeys were available only to the privileged few. So if you wanted to get anywhere, from a kilometre to 100 kilometres, you had to walk.

The Romans were known for their road construction, enabling the efficient movement of their legions. But in Palestine this was the exception rather than the rule. There was the Via Maris, the coastal road, and the King’s Highway, a trade route, but that was about it for major roads in that area. The Jews were not into road construction as the Romans were. A beaten, worn out dirt path was basically considered a road to them. A goat track was sufficient to get around.

So we can understand why the washing of feet was as much a part of their culture as the washing of hands is in ours. It must have been a huge relief to wash away the grime of a day spent on your feet. Think of the relief you feel when you can kick off your shoes and socks at the end of the day and put your feet up.

With this cultural background, it shouldn’t be that surprising to find Jesus at the feet of his disciples, offering to wash them. Yes, it was a task normally reserved for a servant of the household or the wife of the host. Failing that, the host would at least provide a bowl of water and some towels for his guests to wash their own. 

But Jesus had told his disciples: ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt.20:28).

Jesus had got dirty in the past as he touched lepers, healed the demon-possessed and mixed with non-Jews. He had eaten with tax-collectors and sinners. So why should the washing of feet be so repulsive? ‘No, you shall never wash my feet’!   

Well, the symbolism happening here is more significant and deep-seated than we realise. As the lowest part of the body feet were considered inferior. This wasn’t so much in terms of the function of the feet but their position. Feet acted as the interface between the individual and the ground, the dirt, they walked upon.

That is why the ultimate rejection is to wipe the dust from your feet, indicating that the other person’s dirt doesn’t even deserve to be on your feet.

It is also why it was considered to be an act of submission, reverence and humility to be found before the feet of another person. You can’t get any lower. It was expected for some people to be at the feet of others but not the other way round.

Throughout his ministry Jesus had people at his feet and for a variety of reasons.

Some of them were there because they needed his mercy. A beggar came before the feet of a lord or master in the hope of some morsel. So it is that the woman who was suffering from severe bleeding fell at Jesus’ feet (Mark 5:33). A woman whose daughter was possessed by an evil spirit fell at his feet (Mark 7:25). Even a synagogue ruler, Jairus, whose daughter was dying fell at his feet (Mark 5:22).

Others were at his feet out of sheer gratitude for the mercy that had been shown to them. The Samaritan leper fell at Jesus’ feet when he had been cleansed (Luke 17:16). Mary was at his feet, pouring perfume on them and wiping them with her hair after Jesus had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead (John 12:1-3). 

Still others were at Jesus’ feet in submission to listen to his teaching and wisdom, as was Mary that day when Martha was busy doing all the work (Luke 10:39).

It was entirely appropriate for people to be at the feet of Jesus. After all, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords. You come before a king in all humility to seek his mercy and wisdom and to give him the praise and honour he deserves.

And let’s not forget that a conquering king would literally put his feet on the neck of his enemies (Joshua 10:24). This demonstrated the ultimate humiliation and defeat of that enemy. As Jesus taught in the Temple during holy week, he himself quoted Psalm 110 to refer to this kind of thing: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’” (Mark 12:36).

Think also of the first prophesy connected to the Messiah. In Genesis God said to the serpent: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’ (3:15).

With all of this in mind, it is truly fitting and right that ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord’ (Philippians 2:10).

And yet, here was Jesus, bowed before his disciples and at their feet!

It didn’t seem right. This wasn’t just a gracious act of service. This was a position of submission, reverence and humility. That is not where Jesus should be. This was a position of vulnerability, a place where those who are defeated get trampled on in disgrace. Surely not! ‘No, you shall never wash my feet’!

But Jesus answered: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me’. Unless Jesus can serve us in such a way where he is trodden underfoot and humiliated and rejected and despised; unless he can be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities – we can have no part with him. The full extent of his love was not shown in the washing of their feet but in the piercing of his.

‘He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:6-8).

This Easter as we come before the cross once again we will find ourselves at the feet of our Lord. But truly it is on the cross where he is at our feet. He is there in all humility to submit and to serve. He is there to show us the full extent of his love. Amen.  

Maunday Thursday

The Text: John 13

John chapter 13 is a popular reading with many people, Christian and non-Christian alike. There’s something heart-warming about a leader getting onac5 his knees and serving his followers. The love that Jesus preaches tonight, that He enacted with His disciples, and that drove Him on to the cross, is made of quite different stuff than what the world defines and knows as love. In fact the love that Jesus preaches, enacts and suffers himself is so selfless that it cost him his own life.

Jesus had just been welcomed into Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowd. Expectations were running high. The opportunity for Him to spark a popular rebellion and topple the Roman authorities was very real. The chance for Him to reclaim the throne of Israel was before Him.

But what did He do? He gathered in an upstairs room and quietly gives his disciples bread and wine and declares that it is His true body and blood given for the forgiveness of sins. And if that weren’t confusing enough, He then gets up and does the work of a slave. Humiliating Himself as He washes the feet of those who should be looking after Him.

But in this act of love, Jesus gives a clear indication as to the nature of His mission. It was not to be one of earthly glory and fame, but one of service and love. And in this lowly task of cleansing their feet, Jesus was pointing to a far greater cleansing about to be take place on the cross. The foot washing was a symbol, only a picture of Jesus’ ultimate humility, his ultimate gift. Jesus humbles himself to death on the cross for all the disciples, for us, to make us clean from all our sin.

Maundy Thursday helps us remember that Jesus overcomes the world, our sin and the Devil, not through an all-out offensive attack. But through love. A love that is actively at work. A love so deep and profound that it is unconcerned about humiliation. Unconcerned about other’s opinions. Unconcerned about expectations of power and victory and honour. This is the love that was hinted at in the humble act of washing the disciples’ feet, but was finally poured out for all to see on the cross. A love so deep and so astonishing, that it still causes offence even among Christians.

How many of us want to picture Jesus slaying the devil in a mighty battle? How many of us want to see Jesus punishing those who are the worst of sinners? How many of us want to see Jesus take control? But He doesn’t do these things. Instead He kneels down before His disciples and lovingly washes their feet – even the feet of the one who is about to betray Him.

Jesus loves you and me in the same way. It is the same love that has washed over us in holy baptism. That simple act that connects us to Jesus’ death and resurrection. That simple act that continues to cleanse us right through to the core. It is the same love that speaks tenderly to us as we hear those golden words –your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name. It is the same love that is placed in our very mouths as Jesus’ body and blood is given for our forgiveness and life. As Jesus took the place of a servant and washed the feet of His disciples, He revealed how He would continue to serve us until we are called home.

The foot washing is an example of Jesus’ humble and loving service. And Jesus makes it clear that as we have been loved and served by Him, so we are to love one another. His example is a call for us to a love that never stops, a love that doesn’t quit when it’s hard to love, a love that includes all—spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters, neighbours, friends, enemies, fellow Christians, and the lost. It’s a compassionate, giving love that gives time, effort, and money. It’s tough love when saying no is the most loving thing you can do.

What motivates us? Where do we get the strength? “We love because he first loved us”. His gift of love calls us to repentance, it forgives us – even when we’ve failed to love as we should, and it draws us to follow him and love others as he did, to the end.

Now some of you might be disappointed tonight because you figure you’ve heard it all before. But this is no small matter for those of us who call Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Jesus considered it a big enough deal to die for. And so we are called to love – especially our brothers and sisters in Christ – so that our life together may be a beacon of hope to this lost world. We are called to leave behind all attempts to have power and control and to seek the way of love and mercy and service. We are called to live out our faith in real, practical and down to earth ways – and mark my words – the unbelieving world is watching.

There is no greater scandal among God’s people than when we fight and lack love for one another. And there is nothing more powerful in bringing people to Jesus than when Christians follow His example and love as He has called us to. One of the early church fathers noted that unbelievers became fascinated with the Christian faith not because Christians appeared so holy, but because of the way they loved each other. It was written that “despite periods of harsh persecution, the witness of generations of Christians living the “new commandment” of Jesus to “love one another,” helped the church to grow and spread across the Roman empire, and led some to proclaim, perhaps with disbelief, “see how they love one another.”

People often show their faith by wearing crosses around their necks. Others post confessions of faith on social media, say grace before meals and refusing to blaspheme. Now as good as these things are in bearing witness to our faith, the only advertisement that Jesus calls us to tonight is to love one another. And in this simple act, inspired by His sin-consuming love, all people will know that we are His disciples. And His love will continue to change the world – one love drenched soul at a time. Amen.

Maundy Thursday

Gospel Reading:  John 13:1-17,31b-35  Jesus washes his disciples’ feet

13 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He now showed the disciples the full bibleextent of his love.* 2 It was time for supper, and the Devil had already enticed Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.

6 When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, why are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will.”  8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never wash my feet!”  Jesus replied, “But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.” 9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

 10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,* to be entirely clean. And you are clean, but that isn’t true of everyone here.”  11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”  12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. 14 And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. 17 You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.”

31 “The time has come for me, the Son of Man, to enter into my glory, and God will receive glory because of all that happens to me. 32 And God will bring me into my glory very soon. 33 Dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you! … 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 26:17-31  The Lord’s Supper

17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”     He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ ”      So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;          and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”   And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”        He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”     Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”        Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Special Reading:   Luke 22:39-54a  Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

39‍ Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.  ‍40‍ On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”  ‍41‍ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  ‍42‍ “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  ‍43‍ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.  ‍44‍ And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

‍45‍ When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.  ‍46‍ “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

47‍ While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him,  ‍48‍ but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

‍49‍ When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?”  ‍50‍ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

‍51‍ But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

‍52‍ Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?  ‍53‍ Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” 54‍ Then seizing him, they led him away.

Sermon for Maundy Thursday

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.    

   ‘Jesus got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.’


The Servant King, Christ Jesus, demonstrated the way of salvation, and the right relationship we have with our Saviour in this living parable. 

     ‘When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, why are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will.”  “No,” Peter protested, “you will never wash my feet!”  Jesus replied, “But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.”   In his pride, Peter resisted the simple act of love and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So many in the world today show that same pride, even among followers of Christ Jesus.  I hear words just like Peter’s.  “I don’t need to read the Bible to be a Christian.”  “I don’t need to worship to be a part of the Church.” “I don’t need to pray to be in a relationship with God.”   “I don’t need to be baptized to go to heaven.  After all, I’m a Christian and a good person.”

Yet, I say, if we do not receive the gift of salvation, renewal, and eternal life, with humility before our Saviour, we will have no part of him.  From the earliest gathering of followers, they devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching of the words of Jesus, they devoted themselves to fellowship living their faith in community, they devoted themselves to prayer strengthening their relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and they devoted themselves to the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion to receive the fullness of Christ’s presence with humility before the Lord and confidence before the world.  Even in our isolation this year, we are still a community of faith, devoting ourselves to the teaching of the Apostles, and sharing our fellowship by phone and electronic media.

But then,  Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”  To which, Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you are clean.”

In the waters of Baptism, we are washed clean from the sin we inherit from Adam.  In the faith we receive by the work of the Holy Spirit, we are given the right to be called Children of God. 

But still we gather upon us the failures and sins of our broken world around us, just as a traveler picks up the dust of the earth on his journey. 

And just as Jesus washed this dust from the Disciples’ feet, he removes the stain and guilt of our sin each time we come to him in repentance to remember the forgiveness we received at the cross of Christ.  But we must come before him in humility to receive the grace and mercy that he so eagerly wants to bestow upon us.  Just as the Disciples allowed their master and Lord to wash their feet.  

And then we are prepared to receive the fullness of Christ’s presence in his body and blood.  Not because we deserve it, not because we have earned it, but just because it is freely given by the one whom God sent out of his great love, and the whom we have received out of our simple faith.

We come to the Lord’s Supper recognising our need for Christ Jesus. We come not deserving but accepting. We come to his presence in body and blood to remember Christ’s sacrifice and celebrate Christ’s victory, and ours. We come, because we are invited by God through Christ to join together in fellowship, to eat and drink, and give thanks.

 We come as people who are reminded of the presence of Christ Jesus in our lives every day.

The Lord knows how short our memories are, so throughout the Bible we find Him reminding us of things again and again, and even doing things to help us remember.  Jesus used parables and items around Him in those parables, to help people remember what He taught; but in the whole Bible there is no reminder more important or significant than the one He established the night before His crucifixion. It is Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, our shared Meal, when we receive the real presence of our Lord’s body and blood. In verse of the passage we shared this evening, Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

As we join Jesus at the table of his grace tonight, to receive his body and blood,  and we prepare to confront the suffering and death of our Saviour, as well as His awesome resurrection, may the grace and peace of our Triune God, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   AMEN.

Rev David Thompson.

Maundy Thursday

Psalm 116:12

“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?”


            Here we are tonight, commemorating the last supper Jesus had with His friends before He died for you and for me. The night He lowered Himself to the rotten job of cleaning filthy feet that had trodden the dusty paths of Palestine. Serving His disciples, His students and followers, the ones who should’ve ordinarily speaking served Him. Then eating with them and miraculously, mysteriously giving His body and blood to them for forgiveness even before He had died for their sins. And finally giving a new command, a mandate, saying, “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). Then what follows are those dreadful events we remember in the coming days. Dreadful for Jesus, He sweat blood, but also wonderfully hopeful and joyous, for in His dying He freed many captives and in His rising He brings them with Him into new marvellous life.

            That is His story and it is yours too, who trust His words. So what shall you return to the Lord for all the goodness He’s given you? We struggle in this world, to do what is right and to not do what is wrong, we suffer through drought and even plenty. Afflicted by the devil, by sickness, by expectation, by the tyranny of time and money, even in our resting we are tempted to forget the wonder of what God has done for you. He created us and all that is, He gives us life and sustains us knowing what is best for everything’s benefit but we constantly forget what He did, that He sustains us and that all we have is given by Him. Instead we go our own ways, away from God and the source of life, into sin and death, broken relationships, betrayal and lies. We seek to make ourselves masters of our own universe, but what we think is best for us often is most harmful. It’s easy to see this when we think about eating sweets, or meat and alcohol, even that desire to just stay in bed; but also our desires to build up wealth and safety for this life and to please everyone are also ultimately harmful. This is sin, our sickness that drags us away from God.

            But even in our sin, in this slimy hole we can’t escape He sent His Son to save us, Jesus Christ (Psalm 40:1). Despite our rejection of God and His great love for us He is merciful to us, and seeks our good, salvation and freedom from sin, death and the devil. The Lord is gracious and righteous, full of compassion, He protects the unwary and when the psalmist was brought low He saved Him (Psalm 116:5-6). Jesus gave His life to save you, to bring you true and ultimate rest in God. He gave His life for His disciples, even though they all broke their promises, to stay with Him, to love as He loved, He died for them too, freeing them from sin, He forgave them. Just as He forgives you. And so as the psalmist asks, what shall we offer to the Lord for all this wonderful and merciful goodness He has freely given?

            I will life up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all people. Serving Him with thanksgiving throughout this new life He has given, listening to Him, even at this dreadful time of betrayal. Striving to love each other as He first loved us, giving His whole life, from birth to death and beyond, for you and me. Listening to the Word of God, to Jesus, trusting Him and looking to Him for the mercy and forgiveness we so often need. He has given us everything and still He gives more. Thank God for His mercy and great love for you and me, call on His name in your time of need and in your time of plenty Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!

And the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.