Normally, I have a pretty settled stomach. I have been known to react poorly to eating a few things, but in general things don’t affect me too much. Food things, that is. There are other things that will indeed make my stomach twist around, things that make me feel nauseous, groggy, or unsettled.
I’ll confess to not being a fan of certain medical thingys—if I’m ever visiting you in the hospital, do not feel compelled to show me your incision. Slimy bugs, creepy-crawly sea creatures, and sappy love stories don’t do much for me either. (Ok, I lied. I like the sappy love stories).
Having my feet washed by someone else, though I have never had the experience, seems to qualify as “queasy producing”. I’m just not sure how I’d feel about that. Not that I have special feelings about feet or anything—it’s just that someone touching my feet would be so, well, demeaning, so uncomfortable! I can imagine my mind screaming: “Egads, don’t touch my feet! They are too… worldly, too earthy for you to touch; you are too good to go playing with my feet.”
Kelly grew up in a church tradition where once a year the congregation would gather for a foot washing ceremony. They would sit in a large circle, men in one area, women in another. The person next to you would remove your shoes, wash your feet, wipe them dry, then pass you the water basin and towel and you would then wash the next person’s feet. The idea of serving another this way sounds pretty cool; the idea of someone washing my feet, on the other hand, makes me feel queasy.
So, I’m kind of sympathetic to Peter. In the biblical account when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, Peter is dumbfounded. He can’t imagine that Jesus would stoop to do that. We’re not told exactly what so mystified Peter; but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was queasy at the thought that His Lord, Jesus, would be touching his feet, would so humiliate Himself and “lower” Himself to do that. Jesus is simply too, way too, good for that!
I also feel for Peter in how he responds to Jesus’ rebuke. After pulling away in queasy shock and semi-horror at the thought that Jesus would wash his feet, Jesus explains that He must do this if Peter is to be counted as one of His own. And Peter, full of enthusiasm and passion for his Lord, now wants Jesus to wash every part of him! If feet connect me to Jesus, then wash even more, wash it all so I can be even more connected! Peter’s reacting exactly like I would react! “No, never, Lord… OK, then EVERYTHING, Lord!”
Once again, Peter has misunderstood what’s happening. Jesus tries to explain: I have made you clean, and if I have made you clean, you need not keep trying to be clean; I’ve already done the job. Washing the feet is just reminding, restoring the relationship. Jesus has a goal—that we would be clean. Of course, the “clean” Jesus is talking about here is not “clean from dirt”, but a real clean, a cleanliness of spirit, of intimacy with God. We have been cleaned by the Master Washer, and we need never fear uncleanness again. When Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, He is demonstrating for them what He has come to do—to serve, to give of Himself in this amazing way. And, once clean, we are clean forever!
As you prepare for worship this week, read John 13:1-20.
1. The opening verse here seems to cover a lot more than just Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. What might “loved them to the end” imply and/or cover?
2. In this passage (and down through the next section), how is the role of Satan described? It would be easy to blame it all on him… yet, does John do that?
3. Verses 4 and 5 are wonderfully descriptive. You can really “see” it all happening, no? Why do you think each detail is included?
4. You’ve read my thoughts on Peter’s reactions above… read verses 6-10 again. What motivates Peter here?
5. In verse 12, Jesus asks: “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Well? Do we? What is the purpose of Jesus’ actions here?
6. In verse 14, one purpose is fairly clear—to provide a model we should follow. But how? Is a literal foot washing ceremony in view here? What characteristics should be reflected in one who takes this seriously?