You can read this week's passage here: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=149150756
This week’s passage begins John’s version of the story of the Last Supper. The Gospel accounts of the Last Supper and the events leading up through Jesus’ crucifixion are often called “passion narratives”, and another name for Palm Sunday is Passion Sunday, because we hear portions of the passion narratives from one of the Gospels. “Passion” is a word that derives from the Latin word for “suffering”, so when we read about Jesus’ “passion”, we’re focusing on the suffering he endured in his last hours. But, certainly as John tells the story, Jesus doesn’t seem to suffer much here. Instead, he seems very much in control and ready to accomplish his earthly mission.
Each of the four Gospels describes the Last Supper differently, and an interesting exercise might be to compare and contrast the four different accounts. Because in the Episcopal Church we rotate through Matthew, Mark, and Luke from year to year on Palm Sunday, and we hear John every year on Good Friday, over time we may tend to blend the four different accounts into one “super-passion” story. So, you might think about the details that stand out for you from your own memory of the story, and then figure out which Gospel(s) the detail came from.
Virtually all of this week’s passage is unique to John. The story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is the basis for the ritual foot washing that is at the center of our Maundy Thursday liturgy during Holy Week. In this episode, we see that pattern with which we should be very familiar by now: once again in John’s Gospel, Jesus acts, people don’t understand what he’s doing, and then there’s discussion in which people come to realize Jesus’ intent:
First, Jesus prepares to wash the disciples’ feet. This act would normally have been performed by the servant of a house, so it surely would have been startling for Jesus to do so. Peter resists, not wanting to put Jesus in such a subservient position. But Jesus prevails, and eventually explains his actions: “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” Later on in the story (John 15:8-12ff) Jesus will focus on loving one another, which could also be an interpretation of the foot washing that he has performed.
Over the next couple of months, our journey with John will move slowly through John’s account of the Last Supper. What’s the importance for you of this last meal Jesus shared with his disciples?
What is significant about the Church’s liturgy of foot-washing on Maundy Thursday? Do you regularly participate? Why or why not?