Ask any art teacher: The most common mistake students make is to fail to look at what they’re drawing.

Observation is a fundamental drawing skill. Because we often overlook far more than what we consider, and regularly glance past things without examining them.

So it should come as no surprise that many art classes begin by drawing hands.

If you’re like most people, the number of times you have actually CONSIDERED the structure and complexity of your own metacarpus can probably be counted on one…oh, nevermind.

Today is Maundy Thursday. Called that in reference to the Latin opening of this day’s church service, Mandatum novum do vobis. It is translated as, “A new commandment I give unto you.”

Later in the evening Jesus would give the mandate that would later come to mark the night:

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:34-35, NLT

It’s worth noting that up until this point in the Gospel of John, the writer had never explicitly stated that Jesus loved his disciples. 

We know that in John 3:16 Jesus talked about God’s love for the entire world. But on this night, in this moment, things suddenly got profoundly personal. 

It’s not about the world. It’s not about Israel. It’s not about the person sitting next to you. 

This is about you.

If you had been there, you’d have realized that Jesus prepared this moment by washing your feet.

In the middle of the meal, Jesus got up from the table and took off his robe. That would have left him in his tunic, a shorter garment like an undershirt. 

Paul later wrote to the Philippians that Jesus made himself nothing by taking the very form of a servant. It’s worth noting the language Paul uses. He doesn’t simply say Jesus came and served. No, Jesus actually puts on the very nature of a servant. 

He literally changed his clothes. He literally became a servant. 

There’s a difference between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant. When I choose to serve,  at the end of the day I’m still in charge. I decide whom I will serve and when I will serve. 

Sometimes I even make that choice when the outcome will be in my favor.

Jesus became the servant. Then he wrapped a towel around his waist, and began to teach a parable without words.

In those days it was customary for the servant of a host to wash the feet of their guests. It was a sign of hospitality.

Roads were dirty. There were no paved streets, and no sewage system. Walking was the primary mode of transportation.

You could tell a lot about a person by looking at their feet.

Which is one reason the lowest servant on the totem pole was tasked with foot washing. You wouldn’t care if they touched and cleaned your feet, because you didn’t care anything about THEM.

You would never let someone you cared about wash your feet. It simply wasn’t done.

And you’d CERTAINLY not allow somebody of higher station than you wash your feet. That would be utterly degrading and embarrassing. They’d be able to tell things about you that were private: Where you’d been, things you’d done, the kind of life you walked.

That’s why Peter was so quick to argue with Jesus:

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never, ever wash my feet!”

John 13:8, NLT

Peter is just like we are. His thought certainly mirror our own:

“There are THINGS, Jesus. Messy things. Dirty things. Embarassing things. Things you don’t need to know or be involved with. Things that would taint you if you got too close.

There are layers of dust that cling to me from all those things that should be cleaned up before you ever even SEE my feet. Much less touch them.

Dust from where I’ve been. What I’ve walked in. My weary and broken parts.

Don’t touch my feet. Don’t observe them. Don’t make them part of your sketch.”

But Jesus knows better.

And he knew better when it came to the disciples. He knew the mission he was sending them on would require this night. It would demand that each of them KNOW they were loved, without question. 

Soon they would be called to go love the unlovable. And serve them.

Jesus knew their mission would only be possible if they had this moment. So Jesus began to work his way around the room washing their feet, one by one, foot after foot, cleaning their dirty, grimy feet.

After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”

John 13:12 & 15 NLT

Then Jesus gave the mandate. The new commandment we read earlier:

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:34-35, NLT

Just as I have loved you.

Jesus had just finished showing each of them how to love. As a servant.

Servants don’t get to choose. Don’t get to argue. Don’t get to pick an easier way. Don’t get to quit or walk away or implement a different plan.

Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

Today, consider who God has put in your life to love. 

The unlovely. The weird. The angry. The crazy. The obnoxious. The arrogant. The conceited. The rude. The thoughtless. The Malicious.

Those people you wouldn’t have picked. Or those people who you DID pick without knowing everything up front.

Today, love them by praying for them. Lift their name up in prayer to God. Bless them and ask God to help you be able to look past their layers of dust and discover ways to love them.

That’s worship.

–Pastor Steve.