Summary: The action of Jesus washing the disciples feet is action based, rooted in concrete activity, and had to be done.
But… well… feet are dirty!
The week had been stressful. Full of tension, danger, confrontation. The small band of men had been challenged, and though they hadn’t won they also hadn’t been destroyed. Yet. The opposition was strong and gaining momentum, and on more than a few occasions this past week they had barely made it out intact.
What was worse, their leader was showing signs of cracking. He was still functioning, still engaging, but privately some of the things He was saying were starting to sound like maybe He was giving up, like maybe He’d had enough. Some stuff was characteristically brilliant, but other stuff was making some of them wonder if He’d actually lost it.
Tonight was a night off. They were eagerly looking forward to letting their guard down, sharing a good meal, relaxing in relative safety, maybe re-group and get re-focused and re-engaged. After all, a lot was at stake.
They arrived for the meal, each consumed with their own thoughts, their own agenda, their own hopes for this evening. Maybe an exit strategy – slip quietly away for a while before picking up the fight; maybe a pep-talk where their leader could once again rise and inspire them and get them fired up again and feeling great. Maybe He’d even tell them what was really going on. Each had their own ideas, but they all hoped for both a brief respite and a strong reconnection to each other and their mission. And as they wandered in and took their places, each was eager to get to the heart of the evening.
Perhaps that was why they all missed it. Too self-absorbed I guess, too focused on their own agenda and ideas, and too full of pride and self-importance. But they missed it all right…
On top of it all, this was no ordinary meal. Tonight was a special celebration, one full of tradition and symbolism. The meal was about the past, about the glory days, remembering “the good old days”, and, well, there were just certain ways it was supposed to be done if it was going to be done properly. Like turkey or ham at thanksgiving, or presents at Christmas – that is just how it is supposed to be. It’s just how it has always been. It’s how we do it around here…
But wait. Something is different here. Why is He… Doesn’t He understand? He is the leader, He is supposed to be in charge, He is supposed to take the position of honor and lead the meal, He should be above the mundane tasks and attend to the important stuff, what does He think He is doing? Where are the servants – that is their job! Maybe He has lost it, maybe He doesn’t want to lead anymore, maybe this is His way of resigning and wanting someone else to take over. But no one else could… there is just no way…
This isn’t right! This is offensive!! He’s not even properly dressed anymore, He just stripped down to His underwear, He looks like a common slave. He has a towel, and a basin of water – He should be at the head of the table reading the Scriptures, doing the prayers, reminding us of the great symbols of the past and helping us connect to them. Leave the serving to the slaves.