One of the most famous couples in the world went online this week to speak with school children whose parents are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, made a video call to pupils and staff from Casterton Primary Academy in Lancashire, in northwestern England.
The students wore Easter-themed bunny ears and presented them with a virtual bouquet of paper flowers. Their parents are working in the National Health Service and social care, as well as serving in supermarkets and making deliveries.
One of them told the duke that the “first William was called William the Conqueror.” The children then wanted to know, “What do you want to be called in a thousand years’ time?” He laughed and said he didn’t think he could answer that.
Your title is your towel
On this Maundy Thursday, Jesus redefined greatness when he washed the dirty, smelly, mud-caked feet of men who would soon abandon, deny, and betray him. He then taught us, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
And he added a “new commandment”: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (v. 34). “Just as” means “in the same way” or “to the same degree.”
Here’s why obedience to his commandment is so crucial: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35). Not because we preach sermons or write Daily Articles. Not because we attend church services or work as elders or deacons. Not because we earn and donate large sums of money.
People measure the sincerity of our love for Jesus by the degree to which we wash their feet.
So does our Lord. When we stand before Jesus one day, he will say to us, “As you [served] one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). As a pastor once said, Jesus will not ask us about our title, but our towel.
I would add: That’s because, to him, the latter is the former.
A tennis racket that changed my life
Ask yourself the children’s question: “What do you want to be called in a thousand years’ time?”
Maya Angelou reportedly made famous this statement: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I can illustrate the reality of her observation personally.
Dr. A. O. Collins was my major professor in college. A brilliant Old Testament scholar and archaeologist, he turned down numerous opportunities to teach in prestigious seminaries because he believed he was called to mentor college students.
Dr. Collins befriended me when I was a freshman and became my spiritual father. He participated in my licensing and ordination, my father’s funeral and my wedding.
Some years later, the first church I pastored had a birthday party for me and asked him to come. He drove from Houston to Waco the night before, preached in Waco that Sunday morning, drove to the Ft. Worth area that afternoon, and hid in a broom closet in the back of our church’s Fellowship Hall for forty-five minutes until it was his turn to speak. He stayed with us until 10:00 that night, then drove back to Waco to get his wife, then drove to Houston so he could teach his 8:00 a.m. class the next morning.
After his death, his family gave me much of his library along with an old wooden tennis racket. Why the racket?
Because the first thing we did together, more than forty years ago, was to play tennis. Every Friday, every week. On that tennis court, and before and after, we talked together and prayed together, and he shaped and molded my soul.
It is displayed in my home today. Others might think it’s a tennis racket, but it’s not.
It’s a towel.
What Jesus is waiting to do for you
Let’s close by remembering on this Maundy Thursday not only that we are called to wash the feet of others but also that our Lord wants to wash our feet as well.
You can face no fear today that Jesus has not faced. He knows what it is to suffer (Matthew 27:27–31) and even to die (Matthew 27:50). He knows what it is to grieve for someone we love (John 11:35). He knows what it is to face temptation (Matthew 4:1–10; Hebrews 4:15) and to fear the future (Matthew 26:36–44).
Wherever you go, he goes (Matthew 28:20). Whatever you pray, he hears (Matthew 7:7–11). Whatever you’re thinking and feeling right now, he knows (John 2:24–25).
He is praying for you, right now (Romans 8:34). He loves you, right now (Mark 10:21). He is ready to calm your greatest fear, right now (Philippians 4:19).
He will wash your feet, right now.
Will you let him?