Maundy Thursday Devotion

Maundy Thursday Devotion

Text: John 13:1–17; 31-35

John sets the scene for the Last Supper by giving us all the background details up front (vv. 1–3). He puts these in our minds, so we can know the context of all that comes in the next chapters, especially this story of footwashing. Peter, in his usual role as spokesperson of the disciples, has his usual response to something Jesus is doing: first, rejection of Jesus’s humble actions (v. 8), and then going beyond what Jesus wanted to do in the first place (v. 9). Peter is not very good at finding the place where Jesus is. 

Jesus declares to his disciples,“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (v. 15). “The example is in the principle, not in the specific act; it is not ‘that which I have done to you,’ but ‘according as I have done to you.’ The imitation is to be worked out in applying the same principle of love and self-sacrifice in all the varying circumstances of life in which we are placed” (H. W. Watkins, “John,” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers [London: Cassell and Company], 1906, John 13:15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-13.html).

How is John 13:34 a new commandment? Many of the older commandments of the Law were predicated on love for neighbor. “The Gospel, properly speaking, is a great sermon on the grace of God, which justifies without the deeds of the law; it furthermore teaches what those who are justified shall do; namely, love, as also Paul teaches in his Epistles, that they should prove their faith by love. Therefore it is a new commandment and given to the new men, who have been justified without works. For those who are disciples of Christ need not do anything to atone for their sins and save their souls, but the blood of Christ has already wrought out and finished all in their stead; and he has loved them, so that they need no longer love themselves, and seek and wish for any good for themselves; but whatever they would wish or do for themselves, they should devote to their neighbor. But love does not consist merely in this, that one should wish goods to another, but we must exercise toward him gentleness, patience, benevolence, instruction, give them help and counsel, both spiritual and bodily, freely and cheerfully; bearing each other’s burdens; that is, burdens, which are annoying to you, and which you find hard to bear” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Explanatory Notes on the Gospels [P. Anstadt, 1899], 343).

The idea of one providing an example for another is very common in media.One of the greatest instances is Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid. Using his unorthodox methods, Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel karate, but also shows the depth of Mr. Miyagi’s ability while taking on other challengers. In the servanthood of the cross, Jesus fights sin, death, and the devil, showing that he has the ability to do what needs to be done; in the footwashing of John 13, he is giving that example to his disciples.

We have a difficult time realizing what Jesus is doing, or has done, for us.His work on the cross has given us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. His actions in this world, and at the Last Supper, have given us a new commandment as new creations: the ability to recognize when his love is working through us in this world, through love of fellow Christians and love of neighbor.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How does it feel to be served? Do you like it or dislike it? Does it depend on the situation?
  1. How does it feel to serve others? Do you like it or dislike it? Does it depend on the situation?
  1. Have you ever seen someone with a higher “status” serving? How did it make you feel?
  1. Are there brothers and sisters in Christ you have a difficult time serving? Is there a way that you can serve them this week?

Big Idea: Serve your neighbor and strengthen that service by relying on the promises of God.


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