I realized something as I read the text for Maundy Thursday. After the story of Jesus adapting their Passover meal into we call Eucharist or Communion, and after the foot washing, and then the garden, we hear nothing more about the disciples, except for Judas and Peter. Everyone disappears.
At one of the two churches that I serve, there is a Maundy Thursday service, but no Good Friday service. And in thinking about this text in that good old Ignatian style (the spiritual practice of inserting oneself as a specific character into a biblical story, and imagining with all senses what you experience), it kind of pushed me to identify with the other disciples. The ones who scattered when the soldiers showed up in the garden.
They were even more faithless than Peter. Peter may have denied the Son of God three times, but he showed up, at least.
Did they even know what was happening before Peter told them? Maybe John, once, in the Gospel named after him, had a little bit of a clue, because he accompanied Mary to the cross.
If I was a fire and brimstone preacher, I would talk about how faithless we are when Jesus calls us.
But I’m not.
What I also notice, in the text, is that there are faithful disciples. They are hardly ever mentioned, but I’d imagine that they were every place that their society would allow them.
The women. They stood under the cross. They might have been in the courtyard, they may have been in the garden. But 2000 years ago, women were not always worth mentioning. WE don’t know, therefore, where they were if they were a passive part of the crowd.
But when it came to Jesus’ crucifixion, they were standing right under Jesus, who, according to Adam Hamilton and others he attributes, was not hung high in the air, but was really only three feet or so off the ground. Close enough to be touched. To be heard. To be seen.
Jesus was NOT alone.
I would expect, since the disciples were just folks the way we are, that they respond in the varied and different ways that we would when inserted into the same scenario. Some of us would run away. Some of us would care enough to follow, but be afraid of being associated, for fear of being killed, too. And some of us would not even be noticed as they followed Jesus, because, after all, they were only property themselves, commodities to be traded for land and prestige.
Times have changed, society has changed, its two thousand years later, and we are no longer in the Bronze Age. Disciples can clearly be men or women, just as both can be pastors. There is no reason to think differently about gender, only about gifts and graces. But our responses as disciples remain as varied as they would have been then.
On this night, Jesus said to his disciples “you are no longer my disciples, but you are now my friends. This Passover meal, is not as a teacher and students, but as friends. And he changed the meal they were celebrating.
He also washed their feet. This was so shocking, because there was still an aura around him, that maybe even yet he would become the Messiah they still wanted, the military leader. And he destroyed the last vestige of that, because a general does not wash the feet of a private.
But Jesus did.
Our general, our leader, the person we are called to follow, to emulate, to do impressions of as best we can, said to them, I have come to serve you, now you must serve each other.
How do we serve each other?
How do we serve the wider world?
I’m sure we can all think of way, a way we’re not doing now. Something that humbles us.
I remember my father singing a song at a talent show once, “O Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble, When You’re Perfect in Every Way.” But we believe that we are made perfect in love THROUGH humility.
So what is that way we know we’re being called to serve, but are resistant to? Perhaps it might even be to serve ourselves, to make ourselves stronger, to not spread ourselves so thin we serve no one and damage our spirits?
How do we find a way to imitate Jesus?