I did a Google search for “Maundy Thursday icons,” which resulted in some of the Last Supper and some of Jesus’ washing his disciples feet. I noticed this interesting tradition that jumped out at me. Interwoven through much of the iconography of the foot washing Peter has his hand on his forehead seemingly expressing some discomfort as depicted in these pictures:

Washing of the feet_Basilica di San Marco, Venice

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Christ washing the feet

I can identify with Peter. There seems to be something about us humans that aims to impress those we respect. It is difficult for us to receive when we want to prove ourselves. Similarly, when we see ourselves as superior to participating in a particular action it is troubling to see someone we admire do it in humility without pause.

The washing of the feet would have been the task of a humble servant (from what I have heard this act was optional for servants, not mandatory, but I cannot verify that at this time). In all likelihood Peter could not imagine himself performing the act. To see Jesus doing it must have been deeply troubling.

That this is the image Jesus provides for us as an example of “greatness” in his Kingdom is unsettling. It doesn’t fit our natural categories of thought. This Maundy Thursday I feel like Peter, hand planted on my forehead in distress, confusion abounding, wrestling with this new definition of “greatness.” Jesus is Lord. Watch him serve. Do likewise.

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