“2 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants[d] are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread[e] has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he.[f] 20 Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” John 12:13-20
“Go to dark Gethsemane,
ye that feel the tempter’s power;
your Redeemer’s conflict see,
watch with him one bitter hour.
Turn not from his griefs away;
learn of Jesus Christ to pray.
“See him at the judgment hall,
beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall!
O the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
learn of Christ to bear the cross.”
Go to Dark Gethsemane, vs. 1, 2, by James Montgomery
I often try to imagine this night with all the intensity, emotions, and thoughts that must have been running through everyone’s mind. I have sat in the darkness of the Tenebrae service of my home church year after year wondering the same thing. As the night and its unfolding grew darker and darker, what was it like? Now, I have a better understanding of what the scene might have looked like, between the Garden and the Gates of Jerusalem. My imagination is ignited, picturing these events more clearly.
With so much packed into one day, it is easy to forget all that happened on that Thursday night, especially given the different Gospel accounts – the Last Supper, the washing of feet, Christ’s desperate prayers in the garden while the disciples slept, the arrest, the trial. I wonder, later in the night, if the disciples remembered the events at the supper. Did they think on Christ washing their feet at all? Did it strike them as strange? Did they wrestle with the meaning of his words in the context of everything else that had happened?
As Christians, we live our lives in that space and time between the Garden and Jerusalem, between darkness, despair and redemption, the Kingdom of God. Living here has not only enabled me to picture the events of that night, but living amongst the oppressed has also led me to feel the darkness of that evening much more deeply than I had before. In this liminal space, we are also called to live out the invitation presented by Christ’s actions and words as he washed the disciples’ feet. Christ makes his invitation clear – “to wash one another’s feet.” This invitation is one of service and cleansing. It is through lives of services to others that we may cleanse our world of greed and injustice.
O Lord, be with us as we enter these holy days. Remind us daily to live a life of service to others that cleanses our world of injustice. As we remember and accept your invitation, be with us when that journey leads us through darkness and despair. Amen.
-Grace Killian, GBGM Global Mission Fellow to Palestine and Israel