“Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.”
– John 13: 4-5
Today is Maundy Thursday.
Maundy from the Latin word which means commandment.
“A new commandment I give to you,” Jesus says in John’s Gospel, “that you should love one another as I have loved you.” Tonight Christians around the world will remember those words and reenact the last meal Jesus had with his disciples before he was arrested by the Roman authorities and crucified. For some Christians, foot washing will be a part of their Maundy Thursday worship this evening. I have participated in foot washing ceremonies in the past, but it never really made sense to me. And, it still doesn’t, at least in settings with which I am most familiar and the one I will be in this evening. Well dressed, already clean feet, some of them pedicured for the occasion doesn’t capture the meaning of what Jesus did.
It took living and working in Nicaragua for me to begin to understand this story.
The days there are hot.
Dust is everywhere.
Even after you wash you are still slightly dirty.
One day, after working all morning, I watched the masons with whom we were working sit in the shade, take off their sandals, and put their feet in a bucket of water. The next day I tried it. Despite the heat and the dust, I found myself refreshingly cool. Who knew that cool, clean feet made such a difference? For the first time I understood the action of Jesus and the hospitality of washing someone’s feet when they entered your home. There are many places in the world where washing someone’s feet has meaning and makes sense, but I am not sure white, suburban America is one of those places. If we want to take the example of Jesus seriously, we need to take the meaning of the story and find our own ways to demonstrate genuine humility and hospitality and service to others, especially to those who get little respect and welcome and care from others.
A good friend wrote about this type of humility far better than I have.
Read what she wrote here.