Prepare our minds
Tonight we will be hearing an account of the night Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, shared a final supper with them, and was betrayed. We will be washing each other’s feet (or our own) and taking communion during the account. There are no spoken instructions telling you when to wash or take communion. Instead, please listen to the words of the reflection carefully as they relate the events of the Last Supper, and follow the sound cues signalling each participatory activity.
Prepare the room
You will need bread and wine for communion, bowls of warm water for washing hands or feet and towels for drying hands or feet. You will need to be able to hear the reflection clearly, but will not need to be looking at the screen. If possible, please try to sit in a room with a window and leave all lights off as darkness draws in.
Prepare our hearts
In these few minutes before the reflection starts, spend time praying and preparing your hearts to meet with Jesus, to focus on the events around his final Passover, and to take part in communion.
Of course I remember that night. Anyone who was there could never forget. The house he’d chosen. The meal arranged to his exact instructions. The room filled with voices and dust and the heady smells of wine and good food.
And there he was — Jesus. My Lord. My Teacher.
In amongst the bustle and the brotherly jesting Jesus suddenly stood and stripped to the waist. Ha! The silence that fell! I’ve only ever experienced one silence more complete.
Quietly, deliberately Jesus wrapped a towel round his waist, filled a basin with water, knelt down in front of me and began to wash my feet, drying them with the towel he wore. I can still see the faces of the others, and I’m sure my own face must have worn the same mixture of shock, incredulity — and shame. If any man was ever born to be served not to serve it was Jesus, and yet here he was, washing away the dust and the smell and the sweat of the day.
That was Jesus. My Lord. My Master.
Well, you can imagine Peter’s reaction when it was his turn! He was the one whose words always seemed to tumble out of his mouth unfiltered, and now he put a voice to the questions hanging heavy in the room.
‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
Jesus replied, ‘You don’t realise now what I am doing, but later you’ll understand.’
‘No,’ Peter refused, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’
Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’
At this, Peter had another of his ‘climbing out of the boat’ moments, ‘Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’
Jesus answered, ‘Those who’ve had a bath only need to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’
I had no idea what he meant then, but now I do — he already knew he would be betrayed, and who would do it. Mind you, not one of us was perfect; he knew it and we knew it. And yet, despite knowing us better than we knew ourselves, he loved us with a love like no other and one by one, with the greatest care, he knelt by each of us and washed our feet.
SFX: Water pouring, splashing, washing feet. Two minutes
When he’d finished, he dressed and came to sit with us again. He asked if we understood what he’d done for us, and I’ll confess here and now that I didn’t, not fully. I knew something profound and strange and wonderful had happened, but I didn’t know then what the coming days would bring. I couldn’t see the turmoil that lay beyond the new cleanness of my feet.
Washed by Jesus. My Lord. My Purifier.
Jesus spoke again, saying ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that’s what I am. So if I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, so you should also wash one another’s feet. I’ve set you an example for you. What I’ve done, you should do. No servant is greater than his master, and no messenger is greater than the one who sent him. If you understand what I’m telling you, act on them and be blessed.’
The evening deepened and Jesus began to look troubled, saying, ‘The truth is, one of you will betray me.’ And in that room, with its diminishing light and its encroaching shadows, we shifted uncomfortably and stared at each other in wordless shock. The silence broke suddenly as we tripped over each others’ words, desperate to protest, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord,’ knowing he could see us clearly, even in this half-light. He could always see us so clearly. And Jesus replied, ‘The one who’s dipped his hand into the bowl with me, will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it’s written about him.’
He would be betrayed. Jesus. My Lord. My Friend.
As our meal progressed, Jesus took bread, and gave thanks to God for it. He broke it into pieces and gave it to us, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body given for you; do this to remember me.’ And we ate and remembered.
SFX: Tearing bread, plate passed round, quiet hubbub. Ninety seconds
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks to God for it, he passed it to us, saying, ‘Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood, God’s new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. From now on, I’ll not be drinking wine again until the new day when I drink it in my Father’s kingdom.’ And so we drank.
SFX: Pouring wine, cup passed round, quiet hubbub. Ninety seconds
And even now, all these many years later, we eat the bread and drink the wine to remember Jesus. We remember that night he was betrayed. We remember his perfect, unchanging, unending love for us. We remember who he was and who he is, and that he will come again. And so we eat the bread and drink the wine and we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. We pause in the busyness of our lives, we focus our wandering minds and we remember.
SFX: Gentle life sounds. Two minutes
Remember Jesus. My Lord. My Sustainer.
Jesus spoke to us again, saying, ‘My children, I’ll only be with you a little longer. You’ll look for me, high and low, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I’m going, you cannot come.’ In the gathering gloom of the evening, confusion sat heavy on us as a cloak. Jesus, gone. We knew he must have had a plan, but our long-held hopes of him taking on the Messianic mantle, overthrowing the Romans and putting God back in charge over the nations as he’d promised, were slipping through our fingers like sand. But as I started to wonder where he was going, and how on earth I’d live without him to follow, he gave us one final lesson, saying, ‘I’m giving you a new command: love one another. As I’ve loved you, so you’ll love one another. This will be the way everyone will recognise you as my disciples, if you love one another.’
Loving Jesus. My Lord. My Ruler.
Late in the evening, when the meal had finished and we’d sung a hymn, we walked with Jesus to Gethsemane. Once there, he asked us to sit and wait while he prayed alone. He became deeply troubled and distressed, saying, ‘My soul’s overwhelmed with sorrow, it’s crushing the life out of me. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ I tried, we all did try, but the hour was late, darkness had fallen and sleep came upon us. Twice in my slumber I was aware of his anguish at finding us sleeping, but could not rouse myself. The third time Jesus returned he woke us. Sorrow clung to him like mist, but as he stood it was clear that his time of prayer had imbued inner strength and resolve, and even peace. He gazed down at us, that face we knew so well alive with purpose, and he — Jesus, our Lord, our Saviour — spoke into the darkness.
‘Rise! Let us go. The hour has come.’
SFX: Three loud hammer blows