Holy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

Lectionary: 39


So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.


The Gospel of Saint John is written in the form of liturgical drama. The signs, teachings and controversies have the ring of everyday plausibility. Except for the fact that we are two thousand years and several thousand miles removed from Jerusalem, we, the believing congregation, can imagine these conversations and arguments, along with the occasional wonder, happening in our world. 

But, no matter how well we understand the drama, we are still astonished when we hear that Jesus "rose from supper and took off his outer garments...."

What is he about? Saint Peter and the disciples could not fathom what was happening. Why was their Master doing slave's work? As I read this passage I think he must have been weeping loudly. If anyone shrank from his touch he grabbed their legs and would not let go until he had washed and dried both feet.

At this point of their final meal together, words cannot prepare them for what is about to happen. Jesus, "fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power," must silently move from one disciple to the next, sobbing as he goes, while they sit in astonished silence. Only Peter will resist and he will be firmly rebuked with an angry threat, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me."

What is about to happen is not an idea. It is not socially acceptable or reasonable. It is absurdity to Greeks and blasphemy to Jews. It is neither a persuasive argument nor a model to imitate. It will horrify every human sensibility.

If anyone understands the crucifixion it will be those whose feet were washed by the Lord. They will try to put their understanding into words but more often they will simply tell the story. They saw in both incidents the Father's love for Jesus and his love for the Father. They felt his intense, demanding, (even) jealous love of them when he washed their feet; they understood his horrible death was equally necessary. You will have no inheritance with me if I am not crucified.

...just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.