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Washing Feet

A bank of pedicure booths lines the back of a nearby manicure shop where I go on rare occasions. Oriental girls busily scrub feet. They clip and file toenails, soak and scrub calluses, anoint and massage legs and paint toenails. Pedicure spas are the new way to spend an afternoon. "I never have a manicure," my friend told me,"but a pedicure is so relaxing."

My mother remembered the foot-washing ceremonies in her childhood church. Parishoners would weep as they washed each others' feet, asked forgiveness, and encouraged one another in the Lord. Burdens lightened as they were shared. Bonds of friendship and loyalty strengthened as forgiveness was requested and given. An air of peace and inner rest pervaded the small group.

In the New Testament, John tells about Jesus washing His disciples' feet (John 13:2-12 NIV). In His day, people usually traveled on foot, wearing rough sandals. Even those fortunate enough to travel by carriage, or by riding a horse or donkey, lived very close to the ground, and were easily soiled by the winds blowing dust during their journeys.

The story is preceded by the words, "Jesus knew." Jesus knew three things about Himself:
1) He knew "that the Father had put all things under his power,"
2) He knew "that he had come from God,"
3) He knew He "would return to God."

He recognized His Own divinity, His omniscience and His omnipresence, His home and His destination. Even so, He humbled Himself to do the work usually assigned to the lowest servant in a household.

The conjunction "so" in this story is significant. It means "consequently," "therefore" or "knowing all this." Expressing love, concern and humility to one another is a trait that pleases God -- a trait that emulates God's character.

Another phrase used in this story to show the importance Jesus assigned to this task -- "he got up from his meal," (vs. 4a). Jesus interrupted His meal. He separated Himself from even essential activities to show humility and love to His friends.

"He took off his outer clothing," (vs. 4b) -- removed any garment that would make Him handsome in their eyes, or give a sense of awe. He knew that serving and pride are antipathetic -- they fight against each other.

"He wrapped a towel around his waist," (vs. 4c). In Jesus' day this was the sign of a servant, just as, today, a waiter in a fine restaurant carries a towel over his arm. He had told ten of His indignant disciples, when two of them tried to claim the most honorable places in what they thought would be his new earthly Kingdom, ". . . High officials exercise authority . . . Not so with you. Whosoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many," (Matthew 20:25-28).

How can I wash feet? I can:
# offer to do a job no one else wants to do,
# initiate renewed relationships when there's been a rift,
# accept an assignment, even though I know it will be fraught with difficulties,
# forgive -- yes, again.

It is called humility. Jesus said, "You must now wash each others' feet," (John 13:14 The Message).


Cecilia Marie Pulliam said...

So beautifully put, Sylvia. And followed with concrete, applicable suggestions. Wonderful, and so timely.

Sylvia said...

Thank you, Ceci. God is good to bring things to our minds and hearts when we need them.

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