This Is Our Night – A Sermon On John 13:1-17, 31-35 For Maundy Thursday

© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 3.0, Basílica of Aparecida, Portugal, Wikimedia Commons

Maundy Thursday – John 13:1-17, 31-35

“You will never wash my feet,” Peter says to Jesus.

What’s that about? What’s going on with Peter? 

I don’t know but I have a guess. I think it’s about more than having his feet washed. In fact, I don’t think it’s even about his feet. I think it’s about feeling vulnerable, exposed, and uncertain about taking his share in a new life. My guess is that there are parts of Peter that he is withholding not just from Jesus, but from himself. My guess is that Peter has a secret, a past that haunts him, a brokenness that terrifies him, a memory that is too painful to deal with; and that it feels easier and less risky to just say no, push it all away, ignore it, try to forget it, and hope it will leave him alone. Besides, who knows what might happen if he opened the door to any one of those things?

Do you know why that’s my guess? Two reasons. First, because I have parts of my life that I just don’t want to face or deal with; parts of me that I have alienated and exiled; memories and experiences that do not have a seat at my life’s table. I have slammed the door and declared them to be unwelcome visitors. Second, because I have seen and heard that same thing in the lives of others, including some of you. I can’t count the number of times someone has said to me, “I want to talk to you about something but I don’t know if I can. I have never told a soul about this.” And sometimes they do, but often they don’t, they can’t. I get it. And if you have even the faintest idea, an inkling, of what I am talking about then you get it too. 

Let’s not back down this time, not on this night. This is our night. So let me ask you:

  • What is one secret you have about yourself, something you’ve done, or something that has happened to you? Something you have never uttered to another and that you never want anyone to know. It leaves you in fear of being found out. It’s the kind of thing you wish you didn’t know, the kind of thing you can ignore but can never forget.
  • What are the memories, hurts, and griefs that are too painful to talk about? The very thought of them makes your stomach churn and your eyes well up. They’re the ones that when mentioned you quickly change the subject because you’re afraid you’ll just lose it and never get yourself back together again.
  • What guilt, shame, embarrassment, or failure do you still carry? I’m talking about the kind of thing about which you fake a smile and say, “I’m over that. The past is the past and let’s just keep it that way.” But deep down you know the past is a ghost that still haunts you.
  • What are the same old arguments, feelings, and patterns that continue to repeat themselves in your life? The ones that you excuse by blaming someone else or saying, “That’s just who I am,” or “That’s just the way it is.” What’s really behind those things begging to be acknowledged and dealt with?  
  • When have you said, “You will never wash my feet?” And what’s that really about?

Let’s not back down this time, not on this night. This is our night.

This is our night to take our share with Jesus.

This is our night to bring all that we are and all that we have.

This is our night to eat and drink in remembrance.

This is our night to lay it all on the table. 

This is our night to come clean.

This is our night to strip bare the altar of our life. 

This is our night to let the healing begin. 

This is our night.

© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 3.0, Basílica of Aparecida, Portugal, Wikimedia Commons


  1. Washing feet, breaking bread, singing hymns, stone cold silence, flickering candles in the prayer chapel…why do I feel so alone amongst the people?


    1. Margaret, I think there is something lonely about Maundy Thursday – a last supper and a farewell conversation, an anticipation of what lies ahead. It’s a hard evening. I hope it along with the rest of Holy Week brought you to the joy of Easter life.

      God’s peace be with you,


  2. Thank you, Father Michael! For bringing freeing tears to my eyes for the second time tonight. The first washout was at my own church service and then coming home and reading your incredibly knowing words! How did you know I needed them tonight? God bless you, this most Holiest of weeks. Thank you for all that you bring to this world. I, for one, have benefited greatly from your words. A blessed Easter to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that you described the tears as a washout. I suspect that’s what they were, a washing. In the gospel it was feet that were washed, but this night it was your eyes. With your tears you claimed the night, and let the healing begin.

      Easter life and joy to you.


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