I had my feet washed today. My friend Patti washed my feet and prayed for me. It was awkward and holy, embarrassingly intimate and sweet. I loved it; I had tears in my eyes the whole time. I then had the privilege of washing the feet of some other friends at the Lamb Center and asking God to pour out His blessings on them.
Having had this experience today, I can’t even begin to imagine what the disciples must have felt when Jesus knelt down in front of them and washed their feet. It had already been a decidedly weird week; the pageantry of their entry into town with Jesus on the back of the donkey, the withered fig tree and then that scene in the temple. I often wonder if the disciples stood back in amazement and fear while Jesus was driving out the moneychangers and turning over the tables. More likely, being young men, they joined in and upended a few tables themselves. I suspect at the very least Peter and the aptly named Sons of Thunder, James and John, were right in the middle of the melee. Finally, the opportunity to rain down some fire! This was the Messiah King for which they had been waiting!
Now it is Thursday night and they are in the upper room to celebrate the Passover. Faithful Jews, they were familiar with the Passover. This was well traveled territory. However, just like the rest of this crazy week, Jesus was turning it all upside down. Washing their feet like a common servant and then all this talk of pouring out His blood and breaking His body?
The Gospel writers have a great deal to say about that final night Jesus spent with His beloved ones in the upper room. John tells us the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, while the other 3 Gospels tell us the story of the new covenant- the new way of looking at the bread and the wine. In both cases, Jesus says “Keep doing this…remember me by doing this.” He tells them that He is doing these things with them and for them, so that they can continue to do these things with and for one another.
Jesus says “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
In her book Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker talks about Jesus’ call to action on that night. While she is speaking specifically about communion, I think it can also be applied to Jesus’ decision to wash His disciples’ feet:
Remembrance means honoring Jesus’ mercy mission with tangible, physical action since it was a tangible, physical sacrifice. In other words, ‘Constantly make this real.’
“Continuously make My sacrifice real by doing this very thing.’ Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Become a living offering, denying yourself for the salvation and restoration of humanity. Obedience to Jesus’ command is more than looking backward; it’s a present and continuous replication of His sacrifice. We don’t simply remember the meal; we become the meal.
I love that! We don’t simply remember the meal, we become the meal. Spend ourselves, pour ourselves out, break ourselves open…the privilege of washing one another’s feet and feeding each other’s spirits in whatever way we know how.
Thursday night is a call to action. Our reminder, our opportunity, to become the hands and feet of Jesus in tangible ways. Love in action. Be brave, love big.
“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
It’s so humbling to me to think that if Jesus were here in person now, he would wash my feet.