I recently found out about a show called Dirty Jobs. This is a show on the Discovery Channel where the host finds the nastiest and smelliest jobs he can find. He then spends the day working with the guy (usually a male) who's doing the jobs none of us would ever dream of doing. If you thought a garbage collector—sorry, sanitation engineer—had the smelliest job in the world, apparently you were badly misinformed. Of course that’s our segue (such as it is) into today’s passage
I love John’s Gospel for many reasons, one of which is the uniqueness of his material. The reason the other Gospels are called “Synoptics” is because they have the “same view,” in other words a lot of material in common with each other. John’s narrative has by far the longest, most detailed, and most intimate rendition of the Last Supper which the Savior had with his disciples in his last hours before the Passion.
This is so momentous an occasion that we’re going to spend two days on it, focusing on one major aspect of it today and the other one tomorrow.
First off, we’re going to look at the literal foot-washing and what it means to us today as believers. I’ve actually had a figurative foot-washing. I’ve heard of some churches who do literal foot-washings, and I have nothing but respect for them. My only concern for them--and it’s a small one--is that they miss the meaning behind it by focusing on the ritual and instead of what it represents. Here are my thoughts:
I find an extremely poignant point which John makes in his commentary at the beginning of the passage: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he'd come from God and was returning to God” so he proceeded to get up, take off his outer garments, take a towel and wash basin, and wash his disciple’s feet. Please keep in mind that this is the pre-shoe era. I personally wouldn’t want to wash someone else’s feet even with shoes. But don’t just shoot over what John said. Jesus knew these things about himself and his relationship with the Father, and therefore he felt completely secure in serving others. If you’re called to serve, and you hesitate because it’s “beneath my dignity,” that shows that you don’t feel secure in your position in the Kingdom.
We’re heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. What he owns, we share in it, which is everything in the universe. We have privileges as his children that angels don’t even dream about. When all that we see in this world--the cars, the houses, the skyscrapers and castles, the money and gold—are nothing but dust and ashes, our inheritance will be secure.
And there’s something else we might miss here. The Lord of Heaven--the One who spoke creation into existence and before whom angels bow and don’t even dare to look in the face—took off his outer garments, took up a wash basin and a towel, and washed his disciples' feet. This was the job of the lowliest slave. And what does he say once he’s done? Let these words wash over you: "You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
So what rights do I have to complain about some job that’s supposedly beneath my dignity? None. I have no rights. Only privileges which come from grace, from unearned favor.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some examination to do. I think this is going to hurt.
Father, I’m so sorry for and repent from any thoughts of what I deserve. I deserve nothing from you but judgment. Please forgive, and please change me.
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