Maybe Maundy Thursday is explained by April Fools Day.
Jesus must be joking, pulling his disciples' legs by washing their feet.
This must be his idea of a gag: the messiah as a lowly slave, the king playing the court jester, the great teacher pranking his students.
Maybe some of them were giggling, especially when the water tickled their toes.
Peter, however, was not amused.
He was offended for his friend, horrified at the indignity with which Jesus was debasing himself, because being God's messiah is no joke.
He puts his dry foot down to end the silliness.
You will never wash my feet.
That's when it became clear that Jesus was being dead serious.
Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.
Like so many other things Jesus said and did, this made absolutely no sense, but he meant it.
Sometimes acting like a fool isn't funny at all.
With the benefit of time and distance, Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth who wouldn't be caught dead washing anyone's feet.
They were too busy climbing the social ladder and competing for status, comparing their Insta accounts and yard landscaping against their neighbors, jockeying for power and position.
They were far too cultured, urbane, sophisticated and proud to work at the gas station, yet they claim to worship Christ, who washed his disciples' feet and then died on a cross.
Pastor Paul tries to bridge the vast disconnect.
In the first chapter of his long letter—responding already to reports of divisive squabbles
between competing factions—he admits and then rhapsodizes the foolishness of God:
The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."...
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?...
Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a
scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and
Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.
God's foolishness, God's weakness, is a galling shame that Peter cannot stomach, but he cannot stop it either.
Jesus keeps kneeling, keeps washing, keeps serving, and then explains:
You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.
So 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...
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
Paul continues trying to get this through to the proud Corinthians:
I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals.
We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ.
We are weak, but you are strong.
You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and
homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands.
When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly.
We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.
Paul also is dead serious.
Until we absorb the shocking, shameful, foot-washing foolishness of God, we cannot begin to comprehend Holy Communion.
Do this in remembrance of me can't happen if we don't have the courage to remember.
Paul brings this up because like most of us, the Corinthians have selective memory.
Listen to the verses just before the reading we heard, the situation that set it up:
When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's supper.
For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk.
Do you not have homes to eat and drink in?
Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?
What should I say to you?
The Master who commanded this meal, the Messiah who gave this gift, was the Son of Man with no place to lay his head, the teacher on his knees with a towel like a slave, the crucified criminal with no friends gasping I thirst.
That sad fool is our Teacher and our Lord.
That pathetic figure is our Host, our Hero, our Hope, our window into the heart of God.
The meal we share, the calling we claim, his commandment to love is abject nonsense to the
wise, sophisticated world.
We worship a God with smelly hands and sore knees.
We follow a Messiah who ends up shamed, rejected, condemned, and gruesomely killed.
Christianity is utter foolishness.
The only thing sillier is Christians acting like it isn't.
God remains dead serious about loving, serving, and saving the world that laughs God off
because of the ridiculous way God goes about it.
And faith is the foolhardy trust that God will have the last laugh.
Frederick Buechner writes about the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus, reaching this
The unflagging lunacy of God.
The unending seaminess of human beings.
The meeting between them that is always a matter of life and death and usually both.
The story of Zacchaeus is the Gospel in sycamore.
It is the best and oldest joke in the world.