Holy Monday - Jesus Washes His Disciple's Feet
by Leanne Donly
Take a few minutes and read John 13:1-35.
For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
I hate feet. In fact, I would go as far as to say I am horrified by them. My mum, crippled with arthritis and chronic hip pain used to get me to wash her feet and paint her toenails because she couldn’t reach them. I hated doing it then as a kid, and I can’t say I would be all that comfortable with doing it now. I haven’t done it years, maybe I should start again, because washing her feet was nothing about me, but an act of necessity that she couldn’t carry out herself.
Now, I don’t know how Jesus feels about feet, but I do know that it is irrelevant. Here in John 13, we get to witness a selfless and time-consuming act of servitude by Jesus. His only objective is to serve his disciples and show them love - even the one he knows is going to betray him. And for me, most strikingly of all, this takes place on the eve of his crucifixion, knowing the suffering he is about to endure - and yet he still continues to act as he always has, glorifying God.
Jesus entire ministry serves as an example of how we should conduct our lives for God’s glory. In this passage is Jesus telling us to literally wash each others feet? No, not necessarily. However, following Jesus example involves much more than that. To figuratively wash each other’s feet means putting aside our pride and our comfort to meet one another’s needs. Are you willing to serve someone you know would betray your friendship? Are you willing to serve a person who would pretend in public that they don’t even know you? Jesus did. And we are told in verse 17 that we are no greater than our master. Sometimes I am the Peter of this story, wanting Jesus to wash all of me and other times I am the Judas when I betray Jesus’ faithfulness and love.
Too often, I want to serve in the most convenient way to me. Cook a meal? No problem. Pray with a friend in need? Sure! Speak to a stranger? Eh, maybe later. Step outside of my comfort zone? Not. A. Chance. My husband has described how the two of us enter a room - he walks straight into the middle and looks for someone to talk to. I stick to the wall, keeping an emergency exit in view at all times, like a rat. For being relatively loud, I’m a closet introvert. Socially awkward to the core, I easily use it as my excuse for not serving where I know I am being called. But Jesus has called me to more than laying down excuses.
This Holy Week, I am challenged not only to assess my own heart and attitude towards serving others, but also the challenge that this ‘foot-washing’ represents.
While I can get on board with washing others (please form an orderly queue), I don’t want to have my own feet washed. Letting someone else wash my feet means letting them see the worst of myself; the parts of my life that are still covered in muck and dust. It means taking my socks and shoes off and exposing the parts of myself that I can’t even bare to look at. But that’s the thing - Jesus doesn’t command us to scrub up our own feet in private so that we are presentable to one another. We are called to share God’s word in humility and love. The ‘foot washing’ here should be conducted without judgement or accusation.
Foot washing is more than a simple act - figuratively or literally. It is the giving of ourselves to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, both as the washer and receiver.
May we follow Christ’s example.