Thursday, April 5, 2012

You Want Me to Do What?

In John 13, Jesus washes his disciples' feet. The Master washed the feet of  his followers! This was something that was was normally done by a household slave. When guests came to a house one of the slaves would wash the dust and dirt off their feet. It was an act of courtesy in that day. I can't think of anything we do today that would be comparable.

We can't grasp the significance of this ordinary show of hospitality. In the first century, most people walked everywhere they went. The roads on which they walked were dirt, and were either dusty or muddy, depending on the weather. There was also the good chance that they stepped in some animal droppings along the way. So, to be the foot washer meant that you would have to clean the feet of folks who had dust or mud, mixed with sweat, mixed with who knows what on them. It was not at all like taking someone's hat and coat as they come into your house. It was a dirty job. Peter knew this. He possibly felt shame and humiliation at his Lord taking on one of the dirtiest jobs in a household. Peter told Jesus that he was not going to wash his feet! Only after Jesus told Peter that he had no part in him if he refused did Peter submit.

In John 13:14 & 15, Jesus says that he was setting an example for us to follow. Some groups take this as a literal command and have services in which they wash each other's feet. I believe that there are a couple of layers to  this example. One is connected to Jesus teaching that those who lead in the kingdom are to be those who serve. Jesus said that if he, their Master could serve them, they were to serve each other. Paul wrote in Philippians that Jesus took on the form of a servant, and that we are to have the same mindset. Paul also wrote that we are not to think too highly of ourselves, but rather be willing to do menial work. This example of humility is one most of us think of.

I believe the example of foot washing and service also is connected to the command to love others. In Luke 7, we have the account of a sinful woman, possibly a prostitute, crashing a dinner and washing Jesus' feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, and putting expensive perfume on them. Jesus, in talking to the host about this, says that it was her great love that drove her to do this. She loved much because she had been forgiven much. In John 15, Jesus says that the greatest love is (disagreeing with Whitney Houston here) when a person lays down their life for their friends.

Jesus calls us to love others in the same way that he loves us. That means we are to be willing to lay down our lives for them. I believe that laying down our lives for our friends means that we are willing to do whatever it takes to do them good. That means we may have to do dirty jobs, jobs that no one else would even think of doing. It means that we should be the first to humble ourselves and take a lower spot on the totem pole.  It means that we put our brothers and sisters first, even when it may cause us pain. We do this because of the great love we have for Jesus. That love is to extend to all the other members of Christ's Body. We are to be like the woman in Luke 7, who loved much because she had been forgiven much, not like Simon, who loved little because he thought he had little to be forgiven.

I don't want to see something that's not there, but I wonder if Jesus statement to Peter that if he didn't let Jesus wash his feet he didn't have any part in him could be seen as saying those who refuse to humble themselves and love others enough to lay down their lives and serve others don't have any part in Jesus either. I don't know. I just know what Jesus commanded.

 

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