You Shall Not Wash My Feet

From John 13:
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end...

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, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Why does Peter resist? It must be that Peter still doesn't understand the Way of Jesus. In Peter's eyes Jesus is Lord, Messiah, and King. Consequently, it makes no sense for Jesus to wash Peter's feet. It's humiliating. That's not the behavior of lords and kings.

Peter doesn't want a Lord or King who washes feet. The same way he doesn't want a Lord or King who goes to the cross.
Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
And I wonder, has anything changed? Are Christians still rejecting a Lord and King who washes feet?

Jesus is washing feet in the world. Jesus is serving the least of these in humiliating, ignominious ways.

And still his followers look on and say,

"No. That's not my Jesus."

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9 thoughts on “You Shall Not Wash My Feet”

  1. A Christian artist once caused controversy by depicting Jesus washing the feet of Bush, Blair and Osama Bin Laden, some people also not comfortable with "love your enemies"

  2. I just had to go look that up - here's the painting:

  3. My take:

    I think you really have to internalize just how crazy Jesus is before you adopt the label "Christian" for yourself.

  4. Love this. In this scene everything breaks down for the disciples. I imagine Peter's remark about "well then why don't you wash all of me?" to reek of sarcasm. Akin to "why don't you go ahead and wipe my butt while you're at it?"

    This is also how I make sense of 14:6. Jesus' way isn't to thrust a sword into the Romans, but that's precisely what the disciples were thinking. Thomas question in verse 5 is akin to "We thought we knew what you were doing, we thought you were going to take some retribution out on our enemies, but this whole food washing thing really throws us off." And Jesus' response is "look, this way of footwashing is the only true life giving way there is to the Father."

    Not quite the way 14:6 is usually quote bombed, but that's how I see it anyway.

  5. I tend to think there are two versions of Jesus in America, one of which is a very American Jesus. He's a "real" man, a strong leader, and a symbol of success. He wants us to be healthy, and to succeed. He wants us to do well enough that he pays someone to wash the feet of his disciples. This Jesus rises on Easter, and he takes away our sins, but I'm not sure he ever really dies on the cross, at least not in the way depicted in Mark's Gospel.

    In my previous Sunday school classroom their was a banner that said "Our God Reigns" which is theologically accurate and all, but personally I'd prefer a banner that said "Our God Washes Feet" or "Our God Loves so Much that He Was killed."

    I'm wrestling with this stuff a lot these days. A friend of mine says that if I'm a Christian I should wear a cross around my neck (and maybe not my Tibetan, eternal knot). But symbols mean things and I'm torn between conveying what I believe vs. how I believe. The knot says "we're all in this together." In America, I'm not sure the cross always says that.

    I am strongly considering this thought:

  6. I switched from wearing a cross to a crucifix for similar concerns about the triumphalism of American Christianity.

  7. As a Catholic, I think I'm entitled to say that Peter is still like that a lot of the time.

  8. The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”

    “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”

    But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.

    Peter was very perplexed.
    -Acts 10

    Pete still didn't get the upside down Kingdom even after the ascension.

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