By Ronnie McBrayer
In the coming days the world’s two billion Christians will begin celebrating Holy Week. Not to be missed in this week of activity is Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment.” On Jesus’ last night before his crucifixion, he gathered his disciples and gave them the commandment to love and serve one another. Then he showed them how.
Jesus rolled up his sleeves, threw a towel over his shoulder, and with a basin of water, squatted down to wash the filthy feet of his disciples. Yes, God stooped. The Christ crawled. The Master became the servant. Jesus took the position of a slave and honored those who had not the slightest indication of how holy his act was.
Walter Brueggemann describes this scene: “To kneel in the presence of another is to be totally vulnerable, because you are in an excellent posture to have your face or your groin kicked in. Our Lord made himself vulnerable precisely in that way! He knelt, not in humility or in fear, but in strength and confidence, opening himself to others.”
In the midst of this week of festivities, I wonder if we Christians might pause to consider vulnerability as a holy exercise. See, Jesus never maintained feelings of superiority over others; he eagerly gave up his rights and privileges. Jesus didn’t defend himself with angry tirades or theological manifestos; he taught – and manifested – vulnerable love.
Jesus’ instruction on Maundy Thursday was not a how-to lecture on proving how “right” his followers were; it was a demonstration course for how to live. Thus, the Christian means and method of confrontation is not condemnation, but naked service.
A follower of Jesus testifies to and celebrates the truth he has come to know, but knows in equal measure that the truth has been washed through and through with a foot wash basin. The power of the disciple of Christ is a power wielded, not by force or fist, but by a holy hand towel.
He who would be like Jesus does not lord over others. He gets down on the ground, down on his face, down in the dust, the mire, and the mud. He makes himself completely and totally exposed. Even if those whom he serves kick him in the face; even if they stone him to death; even if they crucify him on a cross: There is no other way.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.