It is helpful to know that I do not care for feet. I appreciate and am grateful to have them. I know they give me freedom and allow me to travel. I wash them before I enter people’s homes because it is customary. I work to make sure they look okay considering I spend a lot of time outside. I try very hard not to take them for granted. But, they are feet. Feet are generally just nasty. They get dusty and dirty with every step. So who would have ever thought I could actually learn something from them? It is a lesson that is forever burned in my memory. And I have to say – maybe I don’t dislike feet as much as I once did. After all, how beautiful are the feet…
It was dinner time and we were all gathered together, me included. I felt like I belonged. I had never felt this sense of being a part of something so big and yet so personal. The joy that welled up inside while in the presence of this person was simply indescribable. I couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say next. And he always offered the unexpected. I don’t think he ever did all of the customary traditions yet he always had a variation of the traditions that felt so pure. He didn’t seem to buy into all the extra rules, but gave his own spin that made you stop and consider what you were doing. Most of what he taught hit me later. I would listen intently to what he said and during the night I would awaken to what he had actually said. I know my spouse thought I had lost my mind as I would sit up and explain – REALLY?! It was like a lightbulb would go off and I began, in some small simple way, to understand his teachings.
This meal seems to be no exception. During dinner, at the least expected time, came the least expected event. Jesus gets up from his place as if he is on a mission. He has something on his mind, you can tell. He grabs a towel, the one that is used by the servants when you enter the home, and he ties it around his waist. First of all, I have never seen that done except by an actual servant. That job is one of those that no one actually signs up for. They wash the feet of the important guests as they enter. At my house, we wash our own feet but I also don’t remember any important guests entering my doorway either. For Jesus to take this place is almost embarrassing. A man of his caliber has no business even having to touch that towel, much less putting it on. But here we are. He takes the towel and puts it around his waist and begins to wash feet. All I could think was – I’m really glad I am not near the center of the table right now – I’m not sure my feet should ever be washed by him.
The first few people he washed seemed to be in shock but didn’t say anything. There were no words. He had spoken volumes without ever uttering a single vowel. They seemed dumbfounded. So was I. Had I missed something? Was this a new ritual? Was there a change in roles? I could not wrap my mind around it. Everyone just patiently watched him until he got to Peter. I don’t know Peter all that well, but I do know he says what he thinks. He seems to lack a filter. He is never mean nor rude, he just doesn’t give consideration to what he is about to say. So the only one with words is, of course, Peter. I have to give him credit, though. He said what I was thinking. He told Jesus that he wasn’t worthy for him to wash his feet. Jesus had no business taking such a menial task. He is the teacher, the guide, the prophet. This is not what he should be doing. Peter even was willing to wash Jesus’ feet if he would just stop. You could tell Peter was a bit taken back. I wanted to confirm what he was saying, but Jesus quickly stepped in. Jesus told him he could not walk alongside of him if he did not wash his feet – basically that he just wasn’t getting it right now but if he was going to follow, this was what he had to learn. So Peter told him to wash it all, every part of him – again carrying things a bit too far. Jesus, in his kind way, simply told him that it only needed to be his feet for him to get it. It was almost like – calm down Peter, you will get it if you just give it a minute and pay attention.
Jesus finished washing feet, then gets up, takes off the towel and takes his place at the table. I had no idea what just happened. All I know is that I just witnessed this loving, gifted teacher wash his follower’s feet. I can assure you that this has never happened before. He took the time to explain. But his explanation blew my mind just as much as the action. He knew what he was doing. He knew he was the teacher and that he had humbly taken on the role of the servant. He wanted them to do the same for others. And that was that. He wanted them, and us, to do what he had just done.
I went to bed that night with my head about to explode. I didn’t get it. What was the deal with washing feet? Why would Jesus, such an important leader, do such a menial, humbling task? And what did he mean by us doing the same? It seems it has something to do with being a servant, helping others realize their worth, and remembering that everyone is equal. Now, those are concepts that could change the world.
Focus Scripture: John 13:1-17
13 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table,[a] took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet,[b] but is entirely clean. And you[c] are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants[d] are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.