Dirty feet, and other messy-ness

Why foot washing? The illustration in which Jesus involves his closest friends at their Seder meal is one of messy servitude. You’re likely aware that sandal-shod folk of Jerusalem in that day would have dusty, dirty feet. They wouldn’t have been the kind of dirty those of us living in the US, wearing shoes, walking on pavement would experience; though our barefoot, summertime childhood feet might offer some insight.

Foot washing was a menial task often performed by house servants, slaves. They would have been unable to refuse the work. For a gathering such as the Passover meal the foot washer would have been stationed near the door as guests entered, assisting them with the shedding of their footwear and the grime of the walk there. Clean feet would carry the guests into the home, to recline at the table and participate in the ceremonies of recounting what God did for Israel.

According to the bible, Jesus rose from the table when dinner was ended and washed the feet of his friends. They may have been more confused than anything else; their feet were already washed as they came in. This was an object illustration of servanthood; a counter-intuitive display pointing his followers to the balance of their role until his return. As Jesus shed his garment and knelt at their feet, he had one message: Serve people at their most basic, messy point of need – like it’s your job.

After all, that’s what Jesus was about to do for us, right? He was about to serve each and every one of us by taking the dirty, grimy mess of our sin and washing it away with his life. But that, friends, is tomorrow’s story.

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