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Washing Feet May 8, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep.

I was reading John 13 the other day – the passage about Jesus washing the disciples feet before the Last Supper and a verse struck me that I don’t think I’d thought about before.  When Peter asked Jesus to wash all of him, Jesus replied “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean…”  Then later he instructs them “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

While some think Jesus was actually instituing a ceremonial practice, typically this story is seen as exhorting us to serve one another, to be willing to do even menial tasks in demonstrating our love.  That’s a good thought, but I wonder if there’s additional meaning that can be pulled out.

The disciples would have cleaned up for the feast, taken a bath, whatever. The only thing that would be dirty is their feet from having walked to the house where they were celebrating.  Let’s think of clean for a moment, not in terms of sin, but in terms of the grime picked up from travelling through life, trudging through the fields, bumping into filthy things, getting bogged down with issues (I’m hoping you can follow my metaphors here).  For the most part, especially in our Western society, we are clean. We have enough food to eat, decent jobs, relatively good relationships, etc.  But there are always things we are carrying with us, a road weariness just from living here in a fallen world.

When we come to church, we usually clean up, put on our happy face, and look like everything is great.  I’ve often bemoaned the fact that church seems to be a place of masks – no one really has a clue the battles being fought in people’s lives and homes.  But if we looked down for a moment, we might see that the person sitting beside us has dirty feet…they’ve been walking a rough path.  Are we willing to wash their feet – to inquire as to the stuff they’ve picked up on their journey that week, to pray for and minister into that, to not attribute the dirt and grime to some failure on their part but to see them as worthy of honor and to serve them?  Are we willing to go beyond the songs and the sermon to be involved in people’s lives?

A fictional example to try to make this clear.  Say I’m in church sitting beside someone and they look great…all made up, singing at the top of their lungs.  Do I just accept that and part from them at the end of the service thinking everything is fine?  Or do I stop, lay down my agenda, my impressions, and really connect with them?  Maybe they’ve actually faced a lot of insults at work that week and feel beat up and I could pray for them and minister God’s acceptance.  Maybe one of thier children has been acting up and inside they are just tired.  Do we know these things about our fellow church members?  Sure we’ll care about the crisis moments…but do we take the time to care about the little things, the things that build up as road grime on our feets just from travelling through life?  Do we step back from our business and stoop to serve…to wash their feet?

To me, this goes beyond being willing to do menial tasks for the church in the name of serving. Sure…we could usher, or take out the garbage, or clean the bathrooms…but we could do that without every having to care about people, to serve people.  I think encouraging us to be willing to do even the unglamorous jobs is a valuable interpretation of this passage, but perhaps Jesus meant even more. Just a different take on the story?  What do you think?



1. Herman - June 1, 2007

Washing feet.

A hard act to comprehend! That’s why Jesus had to probe His followers on their understanding of it. Once we grasp and live this, we are the the blessed ones.

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