|Photo by peterskim|
In the biblical era, washing guests’ feet was the debasing task of a servant. If you’ve been around the Christian church much, you’ve heard the story about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet:
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet…
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:2-5, 12-14, emphasis mine)
You’ve probably heard this a million times, right? So have I.
But when I read this passage recently a detail leaped out at me that I’d never appreciated before: Jesus washed Judas’ feet, too. And he did so just hours before Judas delivered him to the Pharisees, who sent Jesus to an agonizing, humiliating, and public execution on a cross.
Jesus knew betrayal and death were coming, and he knew through whom they were coming.
But the King of Creation washed Judas’ feet.
I get pretty steamed when I do something for someone and they fail to provide me what I consider the appropriate amount of appreciation. I recently gave someone a pricey gift of something I bought for myself, but found I couldn’t use after all. Instead of returning it to the store and getting my money back, I felt prompted by God to give it to someone I knew who could use it. This person expressed delight, but never actually said the words “Thank you”, which I considered a requisite response.
So you know what I did? I already had another gift intended for that person, but I gave it to someone else instead.
I’m not Jesus and it shows, doesn’t it?
Jesus exhibited a perfect and profound humility throughout his life on earth. He was God, yet he washed dirty feet. He was omnipotent, yet he clothed himself with fragile mortality. He possessed complete and unimpeachable wisdom and knowledge of all things in both the spiritual and the physical worlds, yet he stood silent in front of those who accused him.
He never sinned once, yet he submitted to the consequence of sin so that I—who sins daily (okay, hourly)— wouldn’t have to.
Therefore it is not justifiable for me to withhold honor or mercy from anyone else. Anyone. Anywhere. For any reason.
Oh my God—and I do mean “Oh, my God”—that is hard.
But how much thoroughly warranted pride, wrath, and recognition of injustice did Jesus refuse to entertain when he got on his knees before Judas and graciously washed the filth off of his own betrayer?
“Do you understand what I have done for you?”
No, I’m not sure I really do.
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