We do feet!
This is a truth in the Christian community that represents a radical love that cannot just be talked about but has to be lived.
On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, even as he knew the devil had turned the heart of Judas, Jesus rose up from reclining at the supper table. He took off his robes and put on the tools of a servant in order to wash the feet of his disciples.
As Jesus came to Peter, the rock, Peter said, “Lord, do you wash my feet.”
Jesus is the king of kings. He is the Son of Man. This is not the duty of someone with so much power or prestige.
Jesus though does not lead as the power, he leads as the servant. Jesus is the radical love of God.
Why is Jesus willing to serve others? His love has to be radical. The disciples were filling their conversations over who the greatest among them is and they have found themselves divided by their hunger for power. Judas has already determined to betray Jesus. These disciples gathered around this table have dirty feet and even more so they have souls stained but sin. Jesus knows all this and he still rises to put on the tools of a servant. Jesus has a radical love. He loved us, not because we loved him. He loved us from a gracious heart that is amazing.
How is this radical love experienced in the foot washing? In church we experience the ritual of foot washing. Many people will be embarrassed by their feet. Some will refuse to come forward because they worry their feet are too stinky. I want to understand the radical power at work in the washing of feet. Jesus and his disciples wore sandals and walked on dirt paths. Feet stink!
You would not make a request of a friend or a peer to wash your feet. You instruct a person to wash your feet. it is a command given to someone below you. There are some acts of personal sanitation that I will do for myself or if I am sick I might expect an aide to do for me, but would I ever feel comfortable asking a friend to do for me?
Washing feet would not be done as a favor, it was done as a job. Dignity and status are laughable concepts to a person who washes another persons feet. In the act of foot washing there is a dynamic of power and servility that is filled with layers of social context and meaning. When Jesus stood up and took off his robes and tied a towel around his waist, he stripped away all the importance of those layers of dignity, privilege, and greatness. He stripped away those layers of power and lived the naked love of a savior that seeks the lost and broken. There are no layers of falsehood with Jesus.
Foot washing is not a ritual, it is the experience of life lived with a radical love of servant hood.
Radical love lived in a life of servant hood transforms our life from seeking power and prestige towards discovering the fullness of life lived in service to God by serving others.
The transformation from living in the layers of social context surrounding power and ambition to the simple love of service is possible because Jesus loves our stinky feet and hearts more than we can imagine.
The Jesus I trust in poured water into a basin and washed his disciples feet. The Jesus I live in is the one who did not accept inequality or the assumptions of privilege. In Jesus the question is not who will admire me, serve me, and meet my felt needs. Jesus’ love does not assume any power or prestige.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
You are rich beyond measure as an inheritor of all the treasures of heaven so you do not need to step over others to get ahead. You are free to love, because Jesus has freely loved you beyond imagination.