Not My Feet?
“No, said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8).
Oh, Peter: you got it partly right. It is of course inappropriate that the one you call “Lord” should be washing your feet!
(We note that Peter is happy to advise Jesus, but not leap to his feet and switch places with him.)
(And, noting how this story unfolds, Jesus would not have let Peter switch places.)
It’s an awkward scene. Jesus washing, Peter protesting, Jesus gently correcting: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
And Peter, overreacting, “Then, Lord, not just my feet, but my hands and head as well!”
And Jesus’ enigmatic reply (see verses 10-11).
If you’re like me, you latch on to the “example” aspect of this passage: “I have left you an example,” Jesus says, “that you should do to one another as I have done to you.” I like having an example to follow. And that’s certainly there, as both example and command. Several of our writers this week have done a wonderful job of unpacking this for us.
But this time reading it, I was stopped earlier, stopped by Peter’s “No, you shall never wash my feet.” And Jesus’ reply, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
Am I willing to allow Jesus get that close to me, close enough to wash my feet? Am I willing to be made that uncomfortable, to allow that level of intimate contact and connection? Or do I really want to keep Jesus at arm’s length, at a safe distance … a manageable distance, him setting examples, me dutifully trying to obey, but me never letting him get close enough to touch my feet, to touch me, to handle my life, especially that life’s lowest and dirtiest places?
In these days of social distancing Jesus is near; he is approaching us in humility and servanthood, willing to touch and to wash us, even our lowest and dirtiest places.
And not just once: every time he knows we need it. That we, too, may have our part with him.
Put yourself in the scene: “you are there” as Jesus moves around the table, washing. He comes to you, it’s your turn! What are you feeling? Thinking? What will you say?