Feet aren't easily washed. They need to be soaked, scrubbed and scraped even. The washer must bend a low bow or better squat as feet aren't cleaned just with a bucket of water thrown in their general direction. Suds, perfumes and sturdy towels help. This is the kind of chore a parent performs for the health of his little one. It covers the intimacy of lovers and at times the expediency of health care professionals. For the latter, I'm not going in without a hazmat suit covering toe to top of head.
Yet Jesus washed the feet of his own men at a time of filthy, open-toed footwear in the dusty Middle East. During the Passover feast, Jesus begins the foot washing. The dramatic scenes unfold one after another. Betrayal, garden arrest, betrayal, trial, betrayal, betrayal, betrayal. He washes their feet before he lays down his life. He cleanses them on the outside as he blazes a trail to purify the inner person.
At cross purposes since the Fall, Jesus is always teaching his followers. Conversation and contemplation fill the air between them as they hike the dusty roads. A fig tree withers before their eyes for one lesson. Jesus turns water into wine and saves the best for last. No one else would think of that. He collects people as their fishing nets explode with fish. He sleeps through a storm, tells the wind and waves to be still, walks on water, feeds the five thousand, plus more. He calls a dead friend back to life, heals a blind man and restores strong legs to another. He performs so many miracles they aren't all listed in the Scriptures.
These men who follow Jesus have seen a lot. Yet he finds one more way to unnerve them with his unexpected lesson of foot washing. They are awkward watching Jesus be so humble. The lowliness of the scene echoes that of his manger birth, and foretells how lowly he will yet become. They struggle not to get in his way as he teaches them how to serve each other. “Not my feet,” Peter pleas. “Yes, if you don’t let me do this, you will have no part of me.” Jesus says. “Wash all of me then,” Peter bends. What a refreshing relief to lose the layers of grime. Peter has no idea the layers of grime Jesus is pursuing.
As the night unfolds, the risks increase. The stakes get higher. At the fever pitch of torture and death, Jesus teaches by example again. His body is broken as he dies for all sin and fulfills his earlier words about greater love. Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. His blood flows to wash us clean.
We see spring wash the earth with rain and new growth emerges. We eat the bread and drink the wine and remember Christ’s sacrifice for us. This time of new lambs and resurrection glory brings opportunities to love our neighbor as ourselves. We keep his commandments when we love each other, and the strength to do so comes when I ask Jesus to wash all of me then.