Problem of the act of Unconditional love
For me, maundy thursday is one of the best expressions of the meaning of Christianity. It is the day commemorating two memorable acts of Jesus — washing the feet of his disciples and last supper with his disciples; and it is the feast of the new commandment of love.
One of the most important aspects to be kept in mind, for understanding this scene, is the humanity of Jesus. Jesus was a human being; his kenosis has to be taken seriously; he might have hints of his possible death; he had some hints of the acts of Judas and Peter. Surely, the situation would have been tensed. He may have doubts about the success of his mission; we can’t forget him sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane. Also his cry on the cross, “Father, father why have you abandoned me” should be in our mind. All these give us a certain context for the mental framework of Jesus; in such a state, he does two acts, which are revolutionary in their own ways. If master washing the feet of his disciples was enough for a scandal, breaking himself completely for his disciples is the climax of gift and giving.
He did it with his close friends. He had some intutions about the denial of Peter and the betrayal of Judas; this intuition makes the act more powerful. Act of love, with no expectation of any return; in some sense, I will say that Jesus is loving people who can be considered as enemies. Grasping the depth of giving completely to friends (who act like strangers and enemies) is significant to understand the mystery of Maundy thursday. It offers a tangible way to understand “the unconditional”.
There are a few feminist critiques saying that women would have been there at the last supper. I am in no way qualified to give any judgement on that critique. But one thing is sure, it might have been little easier to wash their feet than that of Peter or Judas, as some of those women had the courage to stay with him, even at the foot of the cross.
A question that troubled/troubles/will trouble the church and all followers of Jesus, for the 2000 years and in the future is ….. How to continue to practise this unconditional act ? Because Jesus told his disciples at the end of the meal, do this in memory of me. And we struggle to remove the terms and conditions, to practice unconditional love….