Washing Feet as a Servant

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” ~ John 13:1-20

Many churches hold a foot-washing ceremony on Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday. Those whose feet are washed are often uncomfortable and embarrassed. Yet these ceremonies bear little resemblance to what Jesus did. The people who get their feet washed in church today will have taken a bath or shower, possibly put lotion or powder on their feet to make them soft and sweet-smelling, and then put on socks and shoes. Those feet, wearing shoes, stepped only on clean floors in buildings or paved streets and sidewalks. In the time of Jesus, people wore sandals and walked on dirty streets that may also have served as sewers. They didn’t ride in clean, comfortable cars but walked or rode donkeys. Their feet really needed washing, because they were dirty—dirtier and smellier than any of us are likely to ever see or smell. Washing feet was the task of a lowly servant, yet our Lord and Savior lowered Himself to wash the feet of His disciples. Then He told them that He did it as an example, so they would go and do the same thing. Today’s real-life foot-washing (not the symbolic foot-washing in a church service) may look like caring for a sick child or an elderly invalid. Perhaps it looks like filling in for a coworker who needs to take a day off to deal with a family problem. Maybe it looks like picking up groceries for a homebound neighbor. It could be something as simple as holding the door and letting others enter first. The foot-washing we are called to do is to serve God’s people in whatever ways are before us.

O Lord God, Jesus was God, yet He did the job of the lowest of servants. Give us servants’ hearts and open our eyes to see where You want us to serve. In the name of Jesus Christ, Who with You and the Holy Ghost, lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

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