In Another's Sandals


Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this” (John 13:7).

I had never participated in a foot-washing ceremony until 2007 when I began attending a small historic church in NJ. Their custom was to do this on Maundy Thursday—the night commemorating the Last Supper.

Never since have I read the account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet without feeling the gravity of that action.

Jesus, with this one simple act, turned humanity's worldview upside down. (Or—as per our January sermon series—right-side up!) He who was preeminent in every way did something that was always relegated to the least of these—the servants.

The sandals worn in those times didn't keep feet that walked all day in dust, mud, and dung clean. Therefore when a guest arrived for a meal, a servant would wash and dry his feet. To not see that this happened would have been a dereliction of duty on the part of the host.   

At the Last Supper Jesus was the host. And the servant. The disciples were the guests.

In the quiet sanctuary of our little church, we each had the opportunity to be both guest and servant. One would sit in a chair. Another would kneel before her and gently place her feet in the basin of water, wash them, dry them. Then they would trade places and repeat.

In today's culture, having one's feet washed is outside most people's comfort zone. There is vulnerability required. Washing another's feet is also outside most comfort zones. It can feel as if we are intruding.

Jesus was teaching humanity that vulnerability is required of us. He was also teaching us that He is willing to “intrude” to do required servant-work. Since our Lord is willing to serve in this way, we too become willing.

There will be times we need to receive another's service. If we have formerly been on the serving end, we will better know how to receive the service another offers.

There will be times we will be the servers. If we have formerly been on the receiving end, we will better know how to serve another.

In my little church I experienced both of those realities in that small act of giving and receiving foot-washing. It was just a small part of what Jesus meant when He said, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this” (John 13:7).

Both serving and being served are God's plan for us.

How does knowing this affect you, especially in this time of Covid-19?

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