Maundy Thursday ~
A reflection on John 13:1-17, 31b-35
|“I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street; I met a man who had no feet.” Denis Waitely
I love how Jesus seems to take great pleasure in pushing Peter’s buttons urging him to step out of his comfort zone. I’m reminded of Voltaire’s quote “God is a comedian playing to an audience afraid to laugh.” Jesus is always inviting Peter, the disciples and us to step outside of our comfort zones and sometimes to not taking ourselves so seriously. Yet all too often we go dragging our feet kicking and screaming.
Peter knows that servants wash the feet of their master. Masters don’t wash the feet of their servants. Teachers do not sit at the feet of their students. Employers don’t serve employees. And certainly the Messiah does not touch the feet of disciples.
Peter’s world is structured by domination, power, and hierarchy. Foot washing revealed the societal pecking order. It was usually done by slaves, children, and women, those who had no standing in society. The lower class washed the upper class. Our world is not so different from Peter’s. Those who have power, wealth, intelligence, beauty, position are washed. Those who don’t are the washers.
But this night is different, this foot washing is different. Once again Jesus is breaking the rules and the social order is being realigned. In the middle of supper Jesus gets up from the table, removes his outer robe, ties a towel around himself, pours water into a basin, and begins to wash the disciples’ feet.
Turmoil fills the room. Peter’s world is being changed and he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t understand it. Think about the last time your world changed or threatened to change.
Even when it’s for our own good we often resist, get angry, and fight back. At a minimum, we grumble under our breath or vent to a trusted friend.
“You will never wash my feet,” Peter responds. “I am hanging on to what I know and to what I have. I don’t want you messing with my world.” Today in the church we might respond – “We’ve never done it like this before and we’re not real interested in starting now.”
Jesus is always setting before us one example after another of what God’s life in the world looks like. And for Peter it looks like nothing he has ever seen or done before. Right now for Peter, it looks like a basin of water and bare feet.
Perhaps Peter is wondering, “If this is how the Messiah acts, what will be expected of the Messiah’s disciples? Whose feet might I be asked to wash for the love of Christ?” Jesus’ answer? Everyone’s.
“You also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master.” Jesus has set before us an example of love. He has washed away the old ways of domination and hierarchy. He has replaced those with communion and love. There are no feet excluded from love. There are no feet unworthy of being washed. Even Judas’s feet were washed.
Think of all the feet that pass through our lives in a day, a month, a year, a lifetime. What have we done with those feet? What will we do with them? Maybe we ignore them. Maybe we have stepped on them. Maybe we have received them into our life.
So many feet. Young, old, tired, lost, angry, hurt. There are all sorts of feet. Feet that have walked through the muck of life. Feet that have walked long distances to refugee camps because of persecution for how they worship God. Feet that have trespassed into places they shouldn’t have gone. Feet that have crossed onto this land looking for freedom and a chance make a new life. Feet fleeing from human trafficking. Feet that have paced waiting rooms waiting for word about loved ones. Feet that have marched for rights that others take for granted. Feet that work the fields to put food on our tables. Feet that clean our homes and care for our yards. Feet that have stood on holy ground. Feet that have carried the message of good news. Feet that dance to a different beat or walk a path different from ours.
Those are the very feet Jesus washed. They are the feet of the world. They are the ones He commands us to wash. They are really no different from our own feet. We too have walked through the muck of life. Our feet have trespassed into places they shouldn’t have gone. Our feet have stood on holy ground. Our feet have carried the message of good news. Our feet have sometimes walked a unique, if not strange, path.
My friends, it’s not simply about toes, ankles, and heels. It’s about God’s life in this world. Somehow through the mystery, the sacrament, of receiving and washing the world’s feet we move from being spectators and consumers of Jesus’ life to participants in Jesus’ life. To separate ourselves from one another’s feet is to reject our share, our heritage, in Christ. The choice is yours!