A dramatic reflection for Maundy Thursday, inspired by Stephen Cotterell’s The Nail
He got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. And none of us knew what he was doing, or why. Then he poured water into a basin, and started to wash Thomas’ feet. I felt so uncomfortable, and I’m sure Thomas did too, from the face he made. After all, this was the work of a servant – not a teacher, and certainly not the one who we knew was soon going to be raised up in glory and honour. Certainly not the one who all the people loved. Certainly not the anointed one.
Then he turned to me, and I just couldn’t let him do the same. I mean, it wasn’t right for him to be doing that kind of dirty work. My feet aren’t something I’d want him to stoop to clean at the best of times, and as for that evening … well, let’s just say that not all of us rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Some of us had to walk behind it instead.
But he said, as he so often had to say to me, that I would understand later those things I couldn’t grasp now. And really I wondered why he even tried to teach me in this way, with questions, and riddles, and the sayings of sages. I felt on much safer ground when he was telling us about God being like a father, or a farmer, or something real like that; or when he was talking about working together, and being ready to do anything for each other. That’s when I felt like I could understand and do what he wanted. When I could be strong, and secure, to my way of thinking, and make sure he was safe too.
There were so many people who wanted to get close to him, you see, and he seemed so trusting, as if he didn’t know some of them were dangerous, and all of them wanted something out of him.
Mind you, when they got close he was canny in the way he talked with them, and calmed them, and everyone seemed to go away gentled, like, by being with him. Me too, I suppose, for I didn’t fret or feel embarrassed about not understanding the things he said.
I just knew that being with him, being on the team, was somehow right for me; even when I could hardly understand why he had brought together a group with us all in it. And so when he said ‘unless you wash me, you have no share with me’ it brought me up short. I wanted to show that I’d drown myself in the puzzle of everything he said, before I gave up him or let him down. That I was in with him all the way, with the waters coming up to my neck.
So I shouted ‘Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!’
That made him laugh, though, and I knew I’d got something wrong again. But I didn’t mind. And he washed my feet. And I didn’t mind. And made me feel as though it wasn’t wrong for him to do the work of a servant; that there was something about it that showed we were on the same team and, oh I don’t know, that it were part of something that would go on and on, beyond my own understanding again.
And now it’s time to eat, and the bread has been brought to table for him to bless it. But maybe the blessing has already happened.