Maundy Thursday night by tradition is when we wash each other’s feet in imitation of the love of Jesus for his disciples on their last night together before his death. And I want to meditate on hands, the hands of Jesus, for it is with his hands that he washed our feet. (Maundy Thursday. John 13:1-17, 31-35.)
Hands that once threw stars into space are about to be nailed to a cross. In the beginning, according to the gospel of John, the Word was with God and the Word was God and through him all that was made was made. Into Jesus the divine spirit that created the world was poured and found expression in human life – both ordinary and extraordinary. And into this one’s hands the Divine Beloved has placed all matters. And yet to our eyes all is about to be taken out of his hands, he is about to lose control of his life, and to be given over to judgement, torture and death. How can such mayhem and uncontrolled hatred and fear be “in his hands?” And yet he surrenders himself freely, he hands himself over to the one who greets him with a kiss of betrayal, and into the hands of violent men.
Indeed he reclines at table and breaks bread with his hands and raises the cup with the ones who will betray him, who will deny him, and the ones who will abandon him. And having dipped his hand in the same bowl as the ones who will fail him, he removes his outer garment, kneels at their feet and with his own hands washes them as does a servant receiving an honoured guest.
Having taught in word and physical healing touch all his ministering life he now speaks few and urgently loving words while he teaches powerfully with gesture what love and service look and feel like. And as always his message is hard to receive. Hands which touched in healing all his life now touch in the most humble and confounding way: the master, the teacher, the longed for Messiah, kneels and serves as his last teaching. Peter recoils at first and then over reacts without constraint. And it is hard for us to receive the love of Jesus and having received it to contain ourselves and to respond in appropriate measure.
These same hands will soon be bound as he is led away and then in a little while will be pierced by nails. And even the other side of death, in life eternal, these hands will wear the scars of human experience. He most fully became truly human.
And so it is into these hands – that have created the world, that have reached out for another, that have touched in healing, that have broken bread and held the cup, that have washed us clean, that have been given up to nails and still bear the scars of humanity in eternity – it is into these hands that we commend ourselves day by day, night by night. And now we commend ourselves to the great mysterious journey from life through death to life.
Even so, come Lord Jesus Christ, come let us companion you on this journey.