Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 13:1-15
If you knew you were going to die in under a week, wouldn't you prioritize and take care of the really important things? In John's Gospel, that means, for Jesus, taking time to wash his disciples' feet.
This text is not about watching Jesus put his hands on somebody else's feet. It's about letting Jesus put his hands on our feet. Not all of us want that. One reason maybe is that we're embarrassed about our feet. As we get older, we may one day look down at our feet and say to ourselves, "Whose veiny, bulbous, knobby feet are those? And how did they get on the end of my ankles?"
A deeper reason we don't want Jesus handling our feet is because to allow Jesus to touch our feet is to allow him to touch our will. We all have a mind; we all have emotions; and we all have a will—our decision making power. Our feet are how we put our decisions in motion and get places, do things. To allow Jesus to cleanse our feet is to remove all that prevents us from using our feet to follow him. To scrub away our insecurities, to wash away our weariness, to buff off our bitterness.
And then our feet are refreshed to do what feet in scripture, in both the Old and the New Testaments, were meant to do. Follow God.
In the Exodus story, that is the back story for this Thursday meal, God says:
- "This is how you shall eat the Passover lamb: with your loins girded, your staff in your hand, and your sandals on your feet" (Ex 12:11). In others words, be ready to move out to follow Moses out of this place of bondage and into the Promised Land. Be ready to use your feet!
- "Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet and a light to my path" (Ps 119:105).
- "You have delivered my soul from death, my feet from stumbling; I walk before the Lord in the land of the living" (Ps 116:8-9).
- "The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life" (Mt 7:13). You're going to need to use your feet.
- "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). We're going to need our feet to follow that way.
Our text tonight is our chance to allow Jesus to cleanse our feet so we can follow him from this place.
If we don't allow him to cleanse our feet, our story with him stops now. The week goes on, but we have chosen darkness rather than light. Jesus' words to Peter are also addressed to us: "Unless I wash you, you have no share in me" (Jn 13:8).
Not everybody in this story wants Jesus' hands on their feet. Peter didn't. Pilate didn't. Caiaphas didn't. Pilate chose to use his feet to pace about his palace, back and forth in front of his medicine cabinet, searching for some salve for his sore conscience. Peter chose to use his feet to stand by a fire warming himself while denying his Lord.
Just before this foot-washing scene, Jesus says to his disciples, "Whoever sees me sees the one who sent me."
It is the Son of God who takes off his outer robe, ties a towel around himself, and now kneels before you requesting the honor of washing your feet in the hopes that, this year, he will not have to walk the hard, uphill road that lies before him all by himself.
By A. Kenzie