Washing Feet ——– Maundy Thursday ——– April 1, 2021 ——– 6:30 PM
Psalm 116: 1-4, 12-29———John 13: 1-17, 31b-35
Those of you who are teachers understand the challenges of trying to convey a body of knowledge or a principle. Parents face this challenge with their children; customer service representatives have the same challenge when trying to inform a customer; anyone hoping to convey information to another person understands the limits of our language.
Jesus is perhaps the best-known teacher the world has ever seen. His teaching is full of a variety of methods employed to help his listeners understand.
You’ll notice that the most memorable teachings of Jesus come in the form of parables—stories that illustrate a point and stick with the listener! When Jesus told parables, he was leaving a legacy of understanding that reaches to us in the modern era.
But there were other times when Jesus went beyond telling a story—he enacted a parable. Last Sunday we celebrated his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, a way of showing people by his actions that he was the kind of King that was predicted by Zechariah centuries before: “Behold, your King comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey.” We say that a picture is worth a thousand words. When Jesus entered on a humble donkey, this enacted parable reached thousands with his message.
In our reading from John, Jesus employs another enacted parable to communicate a deep truth to his disciples: He washes their feet and dries them with a towel.
Those of us enjoying the cleanliness of life in the 21st Century might be tempted to say, “Yeah? So what? Big deal.” But just imagine yourself living in those days, wearing open sandals and walking on dusty roadways. Your feet would get pretty gross! That’s why, when someone received a guest, it was tradition to have their feet washed.
However, the task was so disgusting that it was delegated to a slave—a non-Jewish slave, if you owned one. So you understand why, when Jesus came to Peter, he protested, “You will never wash my feet!” He really didn’t want to see Jesus humble himself to this level! He finally relented.
When he was finished, Jesus changed the enacted parable into a teaching session. He asked, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Did you hear that? Jesus said that those who follow Him should wash the feet of others. This doesn’t mean going up to a stranger on the street and saying, “Sorry, ma’am, you’re gonna have to take off them shoes, ‘cause I’m gonna wash your feet!” No. But what is the general principle that Jesus is trying to convey to his disciples—and to us? I think it goes like this:
Let go of your pride, let go of your busy-ness, let go of anything that prevents you from humbly serving others. With small acts of loving service, you and I can start an avalanche that sweeps the whole world! We have seen some of the results from people doing “random acts of kindness” like paying for the person in line behind them, or mowing someone’s lawn, or praying for the thoughtless driver that just cut you off in traffic! Imagine the impact of thousands, millions of Christians choosing to humble themselves and serve the needs of others!
Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” And his promise is this: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, IF you have love for one another.”
Prayer: God, we need your help. We ask for your power to enable us to love, to humbly serve. Fill us so full of your love that it just spills over to the rest of humanity. We ask in the name of the one who loved us so much that he gave his life for us. Amen.