I wrote the following for a portion of our youth’s Maundy Thursday worship service. We based the service off of Bonhoeffers famous quote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We tried as best we could to make the worship service feel like a funeral and tried to tie in the theme of death to the acts usually highlighted on Maundy Thursday.
The first of the acts of Maundy Thursday has an obvious connection to dying to oneself. Most of us have heard the significance of what Jesus did on that night as he washed the disciples’ feet. Peter knew–he tried to refuse to let Jesus lower himself to the status of the lowliest of servants. Only if Jesus had already died to himself, and rejected the seduction of power and status in his culture, only then would he be able to take a towel, wrap it around his waist, and wash the feet of his disciples, his followers, his friends. The act of washing another’s feet required a dying to oneself in order to be able to complete the task.
But an interesting shift has occurred since Jesus’ day. In the biblical story it is Jesus who must empty himself in order to wash the disciples’ feet. The disciples would have been comfortable letting another person touch and wash their feet. It was a common custom, not out of the ordinary.
Today this is no longer the case. The modern day practice of foot washing in our culture requires discomfort by both parties. Not only must the person washing another’s feet lower oneself to a place of servant hood, but the person whose feet are being washed must bear his or her feet to another. This is not something we tend to do. We like our shoes, our flip flops, and our distance. Oftentimes the only person who sees, nevertheless touches, our feet is a parent or a spouse. To take off one’s shoes and to allow another to touch one’s feet in today’s culture requires a stripping away of pride; it requires a dying to oneself.