As a Servant

Maundy Thursday, April 5, 2012

Today’s readings

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 1
Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Psalm 116:1, 10-17

For a reflection on the lectionary readings, read Brother James at 


Then Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. —John 13:5

by the Rev. Mary Earle

The Thursday of Holy Week is known as “Maundy Thursday,” referring to the Latin word for commandment, mandatum. As we saw yesterday, in these last days of his life, Jesus both states and enacts his new commandment—that we love one another as he has loved us. To show the disciples what he means, he washes their feet. These feet would have been dusty, cracked, lined. A servant would normally have taken a basin and washed the feet of guests arriving for a meal.

Jesus, whom the disciples know as teacher and friend, healer and leader, abandons all of those roles and kneels before each disciple, washing feet. It is scandalous. Peter, for one, cannot bear it. He says to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet” (John 13:9). Jesus leads him to see that this washing of one another is a way of revealing divine tenderness in common, human need. All of us need to have our feet washed. All of us need to wash another.

On this night in which he is betrayed by Judas, Jesus also has a last meal with his disciples. He shares bread and wine with them, saying “Do this in remembrance of me.” A washing and a meal—both shared in common, both offered by Jesus as signs of the love that will not let us go, of the divine life embodied in him.

There is a kind of familial, maternal care in these last actions—washing, feeding, teaching. Jesus knows that his time is short, and so he desires to give the disciples the essence of his life and his work: Love one another. Wash one another’s feet. Feed one another. In those actions you will discover the very life of God, dwelling there with you, waiting to be discovered and celebrated. You will discover, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta often said, Jesus the Christ in “his many different disguises.”

Holy Friend and Savior, may we know you in the washing, and in the breaking of the bread. Amen.

The Rev. Mary C. Earle is an author, spiritual director, retreat leader, and writer-in-residence at The Work+Shop in San Antonio TX. Reach her at

This reflection is taken from Holy Week Devotions,


The Maundy Thursday Liturgy
(The Book of Common Prayer, pg 274)

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The readings:
Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-14a
Psalm:78:14-20, 23-25
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (27-32)
Gospel: John 13:1-15,   or Luke 22:14-30

During the ceremony of foot washing, the following or other suitable anthems may be sung or said

The Lord Jesus, after he had supped with his disciples and had washed their feet, said to them, “Do you know what I, your Lord and Master, have done to you?  I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done.”

Peace is my last gift to you, my own peace I now leave with you; peace which the world cannot give, I give to you.

I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.

Peace is my last gift to you, my own peace I now leave with you; peace which the world cannot give, I give to you.

By this shall the world know that you are my disciples: That you have love for one another.


Most Episcopal Churches have Maundy Thursday services in the evening. To find a church near you, go to the website of The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and click on the “churches and schools” tab.

To find specific locations for the Maundy Thursday service and other Holy Week resources, click here.