A reflection on John 13:1-15.
We were all given baths when were babies. As we grew, we were eventually taught how to bath ourselves. If you have had children, you did the same for them. My mom always asked me, did you wash behind your ears? Did you use soap?
Peter of course doesn’t need Jesus to give him a bath. We know that when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he was showing, by way of example, how to love. Jesus said love God and love one another as he has loved us. What does that mean, what does that look like? Well, here is a perfect example from Jesus himself.
Jesus will show even more intense love by dying on the cross. Jesus said, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, which this Holy Week we remember in a special way that Jesus did just that for all of humanity.
But laying down one’s life is the extreme, the top of the line for love. The reality is that most love is expressed in simple, every day practices, not in the superhero sacrifices of giving one’s life, dying for others, though that does happen on occasion.
The washing of feet of dinner guests was not heroic, not life-saving, not earth shattering. It was a demonstration of simple, every day, practices of love.
In the time and culture of Jesus, people wore sandals and walked on dusty roads. Their feet would become dusty, dirty. For the average host of a dinner party, they would provide a towel and basin of water so that guests could wash their own feet after they came into the house. Providing the towel and basin of water was a sign of hospitality to the guests. For wealthy hosts who owned slaves, the slaves would do the foot washing of the guests.
Jesus was acting like a slave to his own followers; hence the reason Peter was so much against it. He didn’t mind his feet being washed, but he didn’t want Jesus doing it. Jesus was the master, the teacher, the Messiah, not their slave.
And notice that Jesus washed the feet of Peter, who will later deny knowing him, and Judas who will betray him. Sometimes we may love someone who will not reciprocate.
At Community Church, we don’t normally wash other people’s feet; but we often do simple acts of love in so many other ways.