Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” John 13: 3-8
We went camping in Central Oregon this summer. It was beautiful, hot, dusty, slow and relaxing. I wore sandals everyday and my feet got really, really nasty. Sweaty, dried and dusty. Should I leave it to your imagination? They were about 3 to 5 steps beyond just dirty. They were the kind of dirty that couldn’t come clean in one washing.
And they were cracked, and they hurt, so I was especially conscious of them. Dirty and hurting.
There are times I think in life, when I may have felt messed up, messed with and hurt too. I couldn’t stop being aware of it because the pain was too persistent. I wanted to attend to the hurt, and wash away the mess.
I really, really love this passage, because it shows in such a poetry some qualities of Jesus’ deep love for his disciples (and us). In other cultures, feet are simply untouchable. One ought not touch another persons feet. In places, one should not show the soles of their feet in their posture, because it is offensive. Our feet are humble.
So Jesus is the kind of person who is at once a servant to his disciples as well as a teacher. He insists in this.
The purpose is not merely to have clean feet. But in washing his disciples feet, maybe Jesus was giving us the example to get face level with each others dirt and pain and help. I think of my own mess and painful circumstances and friends who have washed my feet. Have come face to face with the mess and the pain. And perhaps all they did was listen, and hug and offer hope and prayer, or maybe a practical word. But they were will to look at the mess and pain, and help to try to make it better.
I am so grateful they did, because I could not have ever taken care of it all on my own. I would just walk around with the pain of my own mess, not being able to get beyond it.
Thank you Jesus, for your example in washing your disciples feet. Thank you friends who have washed my feet, I hope I am sufficient to go and do likewise. I hope as followers of Jesus we recognize the opportunities to wash the feet of others in our smaller and larger community, and we don’t shy away from the mess and the hurt.