We’ve all heard the story of the washing of the feet. In John 13:1-17, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples because “He loved his own in the world and He loved them to the end.” He postures Himself in such an intentionally low way, it makes his disciples uncomfortable. For Simon Peter, it was more than he could handle, until he came to understand why Jesus was doing it. The symbolism associated with the washing of the feet is one from which I think our society could learn a lesson.
If you asked the majority of people whether you could wash their feet, they would probably respond with timidness and discomfort. There is a sense of great intimacy in such an act; one that is looked upon as very dirty and far from glorious. But does it not suggest a huge humility on the washer’s part that they are offering? Not only that, when we can lose our own pride to let our feet be washed, it will cleanse more than just our toes!
In our society, I think that there are a lot of people who need to have their feet washed. But more than that, there are a lot of people who need to wash the feet of others. I don’t mean this literally, but the service and humility associated with this ritual is lacking in the lives of so many.
For the disciples, Jesus was acknowledging their worth and showing His love for them in such a grand way, so as to lower himself and clean their feet. (And think about it, in those days, bathing was not as normal, and they wore sandals. In the dust and sand. So feet = not pleasant.) It’s significant because in the realm of “gross” things to do, it was pretty high on the list.
How can we, as servants of Jesus, serve others in this same spirit? Yes, all works of service are good. But there are definitely options that make us more uncomfortable; situations that challenge us more than others. Perhaps you love serving dinner at the soup kitchen, but the idea of volunteering with troubled youth scares you. Washing someone’s feet means going out of your comfort zone, doing that which others neglect. Where is this for you?
This beautiful hymn was sung in Holy Thursday mass tonight, the lyrics moved my heart.
I, your Lord and Master,
now become your servant.
I who made the moon and stars will kneel to wash your feet.
This is my commandment:
to love as I have loved you.
Kneel to wash each other’s feet as I have done for you.
All the world will know you are my disciples
by the love that you offer, the kindness you show.
You have heard the voice of God
in the words that I have spoken.
You beheld heaven’s glory
and have seen the face of God.
So tonight, I challenge you to think about where you can be stretched. Who is God calling you to serve – whose feet need washing – that scare you? What makes you uncomfortable. Pray that God will work in your heart to humble yourself as a servant, a washer of feet. I will do the same.
Verse for tonight: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35