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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Reflection for Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.


2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.


6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”


7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”


8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”


Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”


9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”


10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.


12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Jesus rose from the table, took off his clothes and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel that was around his waist. - John 13:4-5


Today we’re given the gifts of the Last Supper and the washing of feet. After sharing a final meal with his disciples, Jesus washes their feet upon bended knee, a posture he knows well. How many times has he bent down to serve or heal others? Jesus has spent his life bending toward the will of God and the way of peace. Although he knows Judas is about to betray him, he responds not with anger but with an intimate act of love.


His example reminds us that bending is an important part of Christian nonviolence. In a world seemingly bent on retaliation, we are invited to bend, like Jesus, toward reconciliation and right relationship. The image of the worldwide Christian community bending in this way gives life to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”


Washing the feet of the disciples is a christening of sorts. “Unless I wash you,” says Jesus,” you have no share with me.” (John 13:8b)


He christens the faltering feet of those who will carry on after he is gone. Jesus caresses feet that have followed him into the unknown, feet that have stumbled, wandered and been tripped up. But through it all, they’ve continued on. These feet will fail him in the hours ahead. But for one brief and beautiful moment, they are bathed in the living water of his  love.


The feet that Jesus washed sound a lot like ours, don’t they? We often don’t know where we’re going and we frequently falter. At times we fail or find ourselves tripped up. Yet we continue to put one foot in front of the other, believing that we come to know the way of nonviolence by walking it.



In what way are you invited to bend toward reconciliation and right relationship? What have you learned about the way of nonviolence by walking it?


Nancy Small

Nancy Small, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, is a former Pax Christi USA national coordinator and former member of the National Council. She is a spiritual director, retreat director, and writer. She wrote the above reflection for the 2016 Pax Christi USA Lenten reflection booklet.

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