Picture: Foot Washing - Sieger Koeder
They had opened up a can of worms, these boys. They asked to be treated as ‘favourites’, with privilege; their ambition (and their mother’s!) was to be chosen as ‘the special ones’. His equals, no less! Boy, did it cause trouble with the other ten. The dispute was still simmering a week later – that final week, when they were all together for their last meal this side of the cross…
It is the way of the world – this innate desire to be treated differently from everyone else, to be served rather than to serve; to be ‘the exception’ on our ‘journey’; the first on the aircraft of Life, in the front, individual, reclining seats with leg room and privacy and special attention from staff, rather than to be herded last of all into the back like cattle with the rest… O, to be important!
There was no slave present to do the task, the lowest of all tasks – the washing of filthy, ugly feet. There was no slave present and so that necessary task wasn’t done. Nobody offered. No doubt it crossed their minds that this was a gaping omission as it was so much a part of Eastern life. But nobody offered. It was beneath them. And then something amazingly humbling happened.
The maker of the cosmos stood and undressed to what was basically his underwear. Silently, Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist and bowed before his squabbling, self-important, disgruntled disciples. He bowed with the sadness of their egos and with the heaviness of the spiritual, mental and physical torture he was to endure. He bowed low to the ground – as low as anyone possibly can – and washed the journey-dirt, tenderly, meticulously from their feet. And then he dried them carefully in his towel. He loved them, you see, and this was their lesson – our lesson too.
They needed to understand that he, the Son of God, came to serve, ‘to make himself nothing’… and he needed them to understand that being his disciples means reversing the world’s values:
‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!’ (Philippians 2)
Dear Lord, I find it so incredibly hard to subdue the ‘me’ in me. I want to serve myself, rather than others. Help me, today, to offer my smile, my encouragement, my money, my time, your love… as I bend low, stripped of my selfish desires, to focus on washing some journey dirt from the weary feet of fellow Life travellers. Amen.