Day 27, April 9, 2020
“He threw in the towel”
Today is Maundy Thursday, the Thursday of Holy Week. Today is the day Jesus throws in the towel. John 13 begins on an ominous note. “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew the time had come for him to leave this world and go the Father.” (John 13:1) It won’t be long before Jesus breathes his last human breath and utters, “It is finished.” I guess it should not surprise that here on Maundy Thursday Jesus throws in the towel.
But as with so many things in the life of Jesus, when Jesus throws in the towel it does mean what it means when others throw in the towel. When others throw in the towel it means they quit. Listen to how Jesus throws in the towel.
The evening meal was being served…Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was around him…When Jesus had finished washing the feet of his disciples, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:2-17)
Jesus took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around himself. Then he washed the feet of his disciples. When he finished, he put back on his clothing. What did he do with that towel? He threw in the towel. He threw the towel right in the middle of those disciples. He threw in the towel and he said, “Now you pick up that towel. You pick up that towel and serve. Just like I have served you, now serve others.”
Do you know someone who has picked up that towel? Mother Teresa picked up that towel when she served among the poorest of the poor in India. Millard Fuller picked up that towel when he started Habitat for Humanity so that people could have a decent home to live in. Countless missionaries picked up that towel as they went to far off places to serve our Lord. When a beloved spouse or parent grows old and slowly loses their abilities to function or their ability to remember, how many that we know personally have picked up that towel and loved their loved one all the way to the end. How many Meals on Wheels have been delivered? How many hospital visits have been made? How many cards have been written? How many people serving today, in this terrible time of battling a disease that spreads like wildfire, how many today are serving on the frontlines, the ones in essential places of service, in hospitals and grocery stores and driving trucks and being first responders…how many, how many, how many have picked up that towel, just like Jesus said, so that they could wash the feet of another person.
Maundy Thursday is a combination of the day, Thursday, and a shortened form of the Latin word mandatum. That word mandatum means command. After Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, and after Jesus throws in the towel, he says to his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34, 35) Here on Maundy Thursday Jesus throws in the towel. Hearing the call of our Beloved Lord Jesus, may we pick up that towel and share his precious love with others. That is his command. That is the command of the one who loved us by washing our feet, and by laying down his life.
With the love of Christ,
Readings for Thursday of Holy Week: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 116; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31-35