Exodus 12:1-14; Ps. 116:12-19; 1 Cor.: 11:23-32; John 13:1-17, 31b-35.
Clean, Jesus said to [Peter], “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean...” (v. 10)
This evening the church begins her unitive three-day Triduum, culminating with the Resurrection of our Lord through whom God imparts the HS, the blessings of Christ’s light, sight, and wisdom; wedding gifts, if you will, for his church.
On Palm Sunday OT saints, on Jesus’ entry into the Holy City, received him with shouts of “Hosanna-save us we pray” (Ps. 118:25); but we, the Baptized, sing Easter’s acclamation of our salvation, “Alleluia”.
Samuel Coleridge penned, “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” From Ash Wednesday ‘til now, our journey with Jesus to the cross is much as the Mariner’s Rhyme, a dry and dusty slog.
Jordan’s water at Jesus’ Baptism was not potable; rather it was wash-water to repentance and laying-on of sins to Christ. Jesus was then driven by the Spirit to thirst in the desert, trusting in God.
Jesus would teach God’s new begetting in water and Spirit to Nicodemus, a Baptism for opening ears to the voice of Jesus. At Jacob’s well, Jesus sought to slake his thirst from a Samaritan woman, who ran off leaving him thirsting. Jesus’ voice raised Lazarus, delivering the Spirit’s moist breath to dead, dry bones, portent of new Life in Jesus’ Resurrection (Jn. 20:22).
Last Sunday we beheld Jesus’ Passion, by the parable of the Fallen Seed, death’s bodily dissection reminiscent of the Psalm’s “pouring out” (Ps. 22:14). From the cross Jesus said a final time, “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28) to conclude his Baptism in a lake of fire; freely and fully giving himself for our living water in the HS (Jn. 7:37, 38).
Before instituting the Holy Supper, Jesus interrupted the meal to wash his Apostles’ feet; most hardly know what to make of this. St. John assumes Christian knowledge of Jewish seders; that in coming to table, feet having been on the road required washing on being seated.
In crossing out of Pharaoh’s servitude, Israel ate her Pascha in haste (Ex. 12:39), passed through the Sea for baptismal cleansing while God destroyed devilish pursuers. Israel’s journey continued onto Sinai preparing, by three days of pre-wedding washings for union with YHWH (19:10, 14) and preparatory to attending heaven’s banquet (24:9-11)
Jesus’ Supper, like other Passover seders, consisted of three cups interspersed with a preliminary and a main food course. Peter and John failed to provide for the pre-meal foot washing, a function of servants, but not required of a Rabbi’s disciples (cf. Lk. 7:44-48).
Jesus spoke a blessing over the first cup; the Apostles ceremonially washed their right hands for taking food; at which point Jesus interrupted the first course. He stripped his outer garments as a servant, and to their dismay and likely Judas’s disgust, washed their feet.
Thus, Israel’s OT wedding ablutions at Sinai was prophesy of Jesus’ upper room foot-washing, saying to Peter “[except for your feet] you are clean all over [but not the betrayer]” (Jn. 13:10). When the meal continued Judas departed to summon Jesus’ enemies to Gethsemane’s garden.
At Cana’s wedding Jesus changed water to wine, his chief of signs (Jn. 2:11) manifesting “his glory”, signifying his destiny as his church’s “bridegroom of blood” (cf. Ex. 4:25). By this sign Jesus began to transform JB’s OT water baptism to gospel wine in water, blood, and Spirit that would issue from his crucified body (Jn. 19:34).
Christian Baptism is a gracious washing in Jesus’ shed blood and HS’s living water for a new Exodus in these last days of our pass-over to God. In this way our holiness is exclusively the work of God, not even of mutual promises; but solely by reception of Christ alone, who first loved us (1 Jn. 4:10).
Jesus’ foot washing was a sign for his Apostles, directing them to fidelity in their eucharistic office of gospel delivery in the Resurrection. The two-mile walk from Bethany into Jerusalem dusted up the feet.
Through the Apostles preaching and teaching of the cross, Jesus would institute Israel’s new marriage by gospel grace alone; the high point, is the church’s invitation to heaven’s foretaste, the marriage feast of the Lamb.
Jesus’ bride must match her Lord’s holiness, being “without blemish” (Ex. 12:5). Allegorical washings and sprinkled animal blood no longer sufficed for our pass-over to the Father.
Jesus’ foot washing was preparatory to his institution of the bride’s Supper, an Absolution for his apostolic servants; even as they washed fishing nets, a sign that their preaching made them “fishers of men” without fear (Lk. 5:8-11).
Again, it was to Peter, on behalf of all, that Jesus announced their Absolution, “Do not be afraid” (v. 10), and “You are clean” (Jn. 13:10) for faithful delivery of word and Sacrament.
Pray therefore, for pastoral fidelity to preaching that everywhere leads the Baptized to the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
On Quasimodo-geniti Sunday in the Resurrection we will revisit Jesus’ expectation of apostolic and our fidelity to the Holy Sacrament, instituted in advance yet part and parcel of the cross. Amen.