Dwelling in the Word: March 2016
John 13:1-17, 31b-35 (New Revised Standard Version)
1Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
ELCA Book of Faith Initiative Devotional Reading Questions:
What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?
What delights me in this text?
What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?
What is God up to in this text?
How do you feel about feet? It is my experience that people feel very strongly about them. Feet smell bad. They are not pretty. They are meant for walking on and forgetting about, unless, of course, something is wrong with them. Then, we hide them or treat them in secret or pay a professional to do so. It is no wonder, then that in this story, many of us will identify with Peter. Jesus, his Lord and Teacher, is kneeling at the feet of his friends, lower than the average house slave, and washing their dirty feet! Yuck! No thanks! It’s bad enough that we have to scrub them so we don’t get the bed dirty at night, but having someone we admire, look up to, want to be when we grow up, examine, hold, wash our feet? No way!
But here’s the deal. There is not a hair on our heads that Jesus finds to be unlovely. He loves every part of us, from the hair on our heads (or not!), to the mole between our shoulder blades, to the toe jam between the toes of our feet. Those parts that we want to hide, or forget about, or ignore, Jesus loves completely. He loves us for who we are, for who we were made to be, in all of our imperfections. He loves enough to get down on his knees, to act as our servants, to show us how much he loves and how to love one another. We may protest, but Jesus demands that we get with the program, surrender to his love, and show his love to a world badly in need of this particular unconditional flavor of it.
Last year at our Maundy Thursday service, my children’s sermon was about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. I was wholly surprised when, as I talked, several of our children began eagerly removing their shoes in the full expectation of having their feet washed by me. I was flabbergasted. I was amazed. And I was completely unprepared. I thought that talking about Jesus’ actions would remind them that we were called to be servants to one another, and they were ready to experience it for themselves. I remember turning to the adults of the congregation and saying, “I guess I know what I am doing next year!” What a wonderful surprise from those with the most exciting faith among us!
This year, I will offer foot washing on Maundy Thursday during the children’s message. And I will ask them to wash my feet, as well. I have washed hundreds of feet during my ministry, and I am especially looking forward to the faces of our young ones as they experience it for themselves. May their actions, and reactions, be a witness to us of Jesus’ unending love and care and compassion. Maybe, just maybe, they will change us big people’s hearts and minds towards feet! Miracles, after all, do happen…
In Christ, Pastor Breen