Thursday, March 28, 2013
Washing Feet: Reflections on John 13
Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet- John 13:1-20
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. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread[e] has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he.[f] 20 Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”
This week I was able to participate in a Foot Washing service at church. What an experience! As a kid growing up in the Catholic Church I participated in many Foot Washings, on Holy Thursday usually as an altar boy. I didn’t really understand it, but I was always struck by the image of Father Jim (who seemed to be “larger than life” in our small church setting) getting down on one knee, taking off the person’s shoes and socks, and washing their feet. As a child, I just always thought to myself, “Wow that is Father Jim washing those people’s feet!”
As I’ve grown in my faith and studies in the Word, I have come to appreciate the sacrament (yes, I called it a sacrament) of Foot Washing. I have seen foot washing services, but never participated in one. I remember during a class in Early Christian History, Dr. Johnson recounting of his days as a Pastor and one particular occasion when he was to do a foot washing at his first church. You see, he did not have a good experience at all at this church. Many of the church members were actively seeking to get him removed. And before he left there was an opportunity to do a foot washing. During the foot washing he had the chance to wash the feet of the person leading the charge to get him thrown out as Pastor. I recall in class him telling us how that foot washing changed the way he viewed that man from then on. He said, “It’s tough to feel anger against a person whose feet you’ve just washed.”
This week, I was the Pastor as part of the service. The Sr. Pastor and I selected 12 people whose feet we would wash; 6 adults and 6 youth. After some opening scripture and prayer, devotion and music we called the 12 forward. We sat them down, intermingled adults and youth. The Pastor and I took our bowels, pitchers and towels. We got down on our knees. And one by one, we removed the shoes, socks, and washed the feet of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let me tell you, the world looks different from your knees. As I sat there and removed the shoes, and prepared the water, I prayed over each person. As I dried their feet again I asked the Lord to bless them.
Now to be sure, washing feet in 2013 in Ohio is a lot easier that washing feet in the year 33 in Jerusalem! These weren’t dirty, muddy, sandal shod feet. These weren’t the feet of career fisherman. These weren’t the feet of men accustomed to walking barefoot miles and miles every day. But nevertheless, to wash someone’s feet has affected me. For those people whose feet I washed, and for the several others that were there present in the service, I don’t think we’ll forget the experience.
What Jesus did was wonderful. It is incomprehensible at times. Humility, love, kindness, tenderness…I don’t think even these words have the impact to grasp the magnitude of what Jesus did. He was a sacrifice, an atonement, a propitiation, and let us also not forget that he was an EXAMPLE to be followed!!
Jesus told the Apostles that just as he washed their feet, so too should they wash each other’s feet to follow his example. In fact, Jesus requires nothing of us that he did not do himself first:
• Feed the poor, Jesus did that- Mark 6
• Forgive others, Jesus did that- John 8
• Show sympathy, Jesus did that- John11
• Required obedience, Jesus did that- Matthew 26
• Spread the Good News, Jesus did that- John 4
• Resist temptation, Jesus did that- Matthew 4
• Pray, Jesus did that- Luke 11
• Suffer, Jesus did that- Mark 14
No matter what the requirement, everything Jesus requires of us, Jesus did first. Let us fix our eyes upon Him, the Author and Perfector of our Faith as it says in Hebrews 12. Let us look to Jesus as our example. And let us live everyday through the lens of being Jesus Christ to the world. And sometimes, you just have to wash some feet.