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Maundy Thursday - John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

He’s got the whole world in his hands

He’s got the whole world in his hands

He’s got the whole world in his hands

He’s got the whole world in his hands.

Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into his hands.

What do you get for the guy who has everything?

That’s the familiar birthday question, of course, and also the standard question of


But the question changes on death day, and with Christianity: What do you get

from the guy who has everything?

You get your feet washed.

You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand, Jesus tells Peter,

whose mind is blown and whose dearly held religion is deeply offended by the

sight of Messiah kneeling at his feet with a towel like a faceless slave.

The one to whom God gave all things, the man with the whole world in his hands, sets

them aside and lifts a pitcher of water and a friend’s foot.

It is a foot that has been walking all day on rocky, dusty roads in crude sandals.

It is weary and dirty and hairy and smelly.

It is calloused and caked with dried sweat and maybe blood.

Nasty mysteries lurk between the toes.

It is raw and tender and tired and grotesque, like the deep insides of a human heart.

Why would someone with the whole world in his hands wrap those hands around

someone else’s skanky feet?

You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

It is still hard for us to understand this 2,000 years later, and impossible to comprehend it

completely, because what we do know is still beautifully mind blowing.

One thing Jesus is doing is simply restoring weary feet.

Warm water on worn out dogs sends a tingle of hope throughout the body.

I can walk again tomorrow.

My feet have a future and a fresh start.

This is because another thing Jesus is doing is forgiving.

If this feels like baptism, it is because these feet are being cleansed, renewed, and

given new life by being stripped of yesterday’s filth.

It might smart a bit, it might be painful at moments, but forgiveness removes everything

that has accreted along the way.

It washes away the dust imposed by the world, and it washes away the sweat and stink

that we have created for ourselves.

The sins we’ve produced and the sins we’ve endured, the inevitable stew of life, the

gnarly, tangled mix of wronging and being wronged, the whole disgusting mess

that is the hidden, haunting story of every hurting heart is rinsed and massaged away.

You are forgiven.

You are made new for tomorrow.

This is both a gift and a responsibility.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

Just as I have loved you., you also should love one another.

I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

Jesus is giving us a command, and with it a lesson, an example.

He is showing us what love looks like.

It is tender and strong, forgiving and renewing, selfless and kind.

It takes nastiness in its hands and eases it away.

Love kneels and washes and touches and heals.

Love serves and gives and surprises and offends.

Love makes us uncomfortable and leads us to new life.

And that new life includes giving love and giving life to others who stink.

It is centered in generously sharing the grace we have so lavishly received.

You see, Jesus is doing more than bathing toes.

He is showcasing his story.

He is revealing the Father’s heart.

He is embodying his purpose.

He is doing tonight for his disciples what his whole life is doing for the world: he

is doing John chapter 1.

They now experience what we have already read:

The word became flesh and pitched tent among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God.

It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him


Incarnation is God descending all the way down to human skin, like a Messiah becoming

a slave, a rabbi kneeling at his students’ stinky feet, a king giving a peasant child

a bubble bath.

To all who received him ... he gave power to become children of God.

That’s something else Jesus is doing.

He is giving power.

He is promoting his disciples.

Rob Bell writes:

One of the earliest sages of the Mishnah, Yose ben Yoezer, said to disciples,

“Cover yourself with the dust of [your rabbi’s] feet.” ...

A rabbi would come to town, and right behind him would be this group of students, doing

their best to keep up with the rabbi as he went about teaching his yoke from one

place to another.

By the end of a day of walking in the dirt directly behind their rabbi, the students would

have the dust from his feet all over them.

And that was a good thing. (Velvet Elvis, p.130)

Now, the rabbi washes his students’ feet.

They are no longer disciples; they are rabbis.

They are no longer students; they are the front line leaders of God’s mission.

Very truly, I tell you, Jesus told them right after washing their feet, the one who believes

in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than


Jesus expects our handiwork to be greater than his.

So what will our hands do?

What will our hands lift, and what will they set aside?

What will our hands drop, lift, give, hold, wash, forgive, love, restore?

Because the towel has been passed.

Jesus hands over God’s mission, hands over all things, to us.

He’s got the feet of his disciples in his hands

He’s got the feet of his disciples in his hands

He’s got the feet of his disciples in his hands

He’s got the whole world in his hands.

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