Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
The story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples is only contained within the Gospel of John. It is an extremely intimate story of a rabbi who taught his students what it really means to lead.
In that day and age, having your feet washed was an important service. Anyone who has ever worn sandals on a dirt road knows what it is to have dirty feet. If animals regularly use the road, you would begin to get an approximation of what first century feet would look like in Judea.
Those with means would have a servant wash the feet of any guests entering the home. The servant on the lowest rung of the ladder would be the one stuck with this job. I’m sure servants were always happy to see someone new hired to take on this task!
So the reversal that Jesus attempts is understandably met with resistance. To wash the feet of those beneath him in status would take away from his social status. Peter protests.
Jesus does exactly what he sought out to do.
Is he diminished?
I don’t think so.
|Bishop Hayes encourages Jacki Banks in the foot washing ritual May 29, 2012,
during the Service of Ordination at Annual Conference,
held at Boston Avenue UMC in Tulsa. Photo by Holly McCray
Bishop Hayes of the Oklahoma Conference washed the feet of those he would ordain to Elder and Deacon at their ordination service. If he felt any anxiety about being an African American man washing the feet of white people, he gave no indication of it.
I believe that in this moment, he set any racial tension of service aside and took on the role of Christ as servant leader.
Was he diminished in doing so?
Not in the slightest. In fact, his stature only increased among those whom he leads in our conference.
To be on the receiving end of having your feet washed is also humbling. In the moment, you don’t imagine yourself above them but somehow thankful for what they are doing for you.
As we approach Good Friday, may we pray about how we might adopt this attitude of service for others in all the ways we think and speak and act. May we remember those in service to us in multiple ways and see ourselves not as above but rather as grateful for what they are providing.