Day Forty-Four of Lent
April 18, 2019
By MB Discipleship
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. – John 13:3-5
One of the most baffling, poignant moments of Holy Week comes before Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. It’s not wrong to focus on the cross, to consider the sky darkening, to reflect on the dying thief who was reassured that he would be with God in paradise. But context matters, and before Jesus ministers to a dying criminal even while he himself is dying – before that, he is observing Passover with his disciples.
It’s interesting that John writes, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal…” This cues the listener or reader to be mindful that Jesus wasn’t taking on the posture and actions of a servant as you or I might; Jesus was taking on the posture and actions of a servant fully aware that the Father had put all things under his power, fully aware that he had come from God and was returning to God. John is pointing our attention to the fact that the Divine wrapped a towel around the waist of God; that God poured water he had called into existence at the birth of the universe into a basin fashioned by the hands of mortals; that God began to wash the feet of finite, mortal humans, drying them with a towel.
Jesus washed Judas Iscariot’s feet. Sandals, Middle Eastern heat, an absence of indoor plumbing – it’s hard to picture this as a pleasant task. The most doting parent in the world doesn’t relish the prospect of a really awful dirty diaper change. But it’s amazing what someone will do for love.
The ability to serve with love doesn’t come about from annihilation of our own identity. Jesus wasn’t seeking approval; he wasn’t attempting to earn righteousness; he wasn’t even trying to teach a lesson about leadership.
He was mindfully, deliberately, revealing who God is. “For God so loved the cosmos that he sent his only Son, so that whoever believes in him won’t find themselves in destruction but will have life forever.” So much human energy has gone toward attempting to appease wrathful deities, idols on shelves, fickle gods the way we picture Loki from mythology.
But Jesus rinses dirt from hard, cracked heels; Jesus dries the feet of his followers like a parent drying off a rebellious toddler. These feet will run from him, abandon him, deny him, betray him. They will do so recently washed and dried by God.
God save us from wanting proximity to God, from wanting the experience of being served by God, and then walking out with our freshly cleaned feet back into our own selfishness, fear, and shame.
*Why would God kneel in front of humans? What would you do if Jesus came and knelt in front of you and wanted to wash your feet?