April 6, 2012

April 6: The power of clean feet


By Ben Sutter, a senior history and communication double major from South Bend, Ind.
SCRIPTURE: John 13:1-17, 31b-35 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

Jesus does something incredibly curious as he’s sitting with his friends the night he’s arrested. He acts, as Jesus often does, in a way that causes us to pause. In John’s highly narrated account of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, we read an explanation of Jesus’ thought process.

In verse 3, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands,” does what any of us would do when given ultimate understanding of life … he takes off his robe and begins to wash feet. Wait. What?

Everything has been put into his hands; he’s come from God and he’s going back to God. And his response to this understanding is to kneel and become like a servant to his disciples? Does that make any sense at all?

Growing up, a constant part of my family’s Holy Week traditions included attending our church’s Maundy Thursday service. At this service, we often re-enacted Jesus washing the feet of his disciples by washing the feet of those gathered with us. There’s something captivating about foot washing. It’s abnormal for us; it’s outside of the ordinary. Frankly, it’s humbling and uncomfortable. Yet Jesus sets this as an example before us all.

So, how do we respond to Jesus’ offer to wash our feet? What about his call to wash the feet of others?

If you stretch this to apply to serving daily, it gets hard. Do you need to wash someone’s feet today? Or maybe there’s someone who you haven’t let wash your feet?

SCRIPTURE: John 13:1-17, 31b-35 (NRSV)
1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
31 Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.



Comments (6)

  1. Jesus call to us was always to be servants in His name. Thank you for this important reminder, and blessings to you on this Good Friday.

    DeeDee Barnes Bruns April 6, 2012 |
  2. Ben, What a challenge for us. The God of the Universe stoops down to wash mankinds feet. Can I do less??? Thank you for this reminder to get rid of pride and have a true servants heart.

    Betty April 6, 2012 |
  3. Thanks Ben, Can’t you just hear Simon Peter dig into his pseudo independence. As a social worker I face this attitude every day especially among seniors at first, where I specialize in geriatrics. Who me-wash my feet? no way! Then melting into the other extreme of total dependence-ok then, now you’ve got me, now take care of me. The need it to strike a balance with all of us. That happens in and creates a caring dignified commmunity.

    John Hackman April 6, 2012 |
  4. I, too, join in the thanks to you, Ben, so very thought-provoking.

    Wilma Shank April 6, 2012 |
  5. Thank you Ben. Your last line especially hit home, “Or maybe there’s someone who you haven’t let wash your feet?”

    marjorie April 6, 2012 |
  6. “… what any of us would do when given ultimate understanding of life…?” Ben, this is a profoundly searching question that goes to the heart of the matter. Taking a cue from Jesus, I think the answer is self-sacrificing love even unto death, which explains why Jesus laid aside his garments. This is profound, indeed. Thank you, Ben, and a Happy Easter.
    Mervyn Carapiet

    Mervyn Carapiet April 8, 2012 |