John 13:1-17 CEB
Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.
Jesus and his disciples were sharing the evening meal. The devil had already provoked Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.”
“No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.”
Simon Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus responded, “Those who have bathed need only to have their feet washed, because they are completely clean. You disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” He knew who would betray him. That’s why he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”
After he washed the disciples’ feet, he put on his robes and returned to his place at the table. He said to them, “Do you know what I’ve done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, because I am. If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do. 16 I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.
I have worked, volunteered, led, followed, counseled, directed and attended Summer Church Camp. I gave most of my young adult life to it. I have discovered there are a few reoccurring things that happens no matter what the camp. (Early Elementary through High School, over four different camping facilities, three states.)
Traditionally, in biblical times, when a guest would enter a house their feet would first be washed. The people wore sandals during the time, the roads were dusty, covered with dung and trash. Naturally their feet would become dirty. In comparison, if you wear shoes your feet would probably be considered clean. Because of how nasty the task of cleaning feet would be, usually it was the lowliest servant who was chosen to do it. It was no wonder Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet. To him, and I am assuming us, Jesus isn't below us, but above. We would rather waste 40K in expensive perfume to wash Jesus' feet than allow a Savior to wash ours.
Jesus, in an act of humility, is living out his own words, "The last shall be first and the first shall be last." In all my years of camp, watching the kids humbled before a kiddie pool as their fellow youth wiped their feet, I learned what Jesus was doing. We are terrified of allowing Jesus to push us up because it puts the Christ below us. The foot washing becomes the first real move to the cross: Christ below us. Christ the servant. Christ who understands when we don't want to be real with others; we worry about exposing ourselves. A true leader takes the lowliest job by raising those around him or her. This is a type of humility many of us don't talk about: humility in accepting praise and focus. It is a humility we are not good at because, it either doesn't work and we look arrogant, or we push it away and become Peter. "Not me Jesus. I'm not worthy Jesus." Today, this Maundy Thursday, we are humbled by being raised up. Tomorrow is Good Friday, when death comes. For now, we must accept it at that. Christ will die for us. Christ below us. I am humbled.