Holy ThursdayThe Word:
"So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, 'Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another's feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.'"
(John 13:12-15, NAB)
Another 'deviation', if you will, has taken place at the Passover Seder. Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles, an event found only in John's Gospel.
Theologians and scholars much more learned than I have indicated that this 'unplanned' ritual in the script of the Seder meal is a link to Baptism. It's not a great stretch since water is a key element and it's clearly used here. Once again, though, it would seem the participants are baffled by what is taking place. Peter (and I don't know why, but at the moment for some reason I want to call him "The Mouth That Roared") speaks for all of us when he declares (v.8), "You will never wash my feet!"
Unshod feet might possibly be the dirtiest appendages of the exterior human body. Even with footwear, the feet can endure problems with trapped fungi due to any number of things. So there's a natural reaction not to let anyone - not even a trained medical professional, nor God Himself - get even remotely close to our feet. Most of us would rather wear lace-less shoes than have to endure the embarrassment of having to ask someone else to tie them. I can't say this is worse than digging ditches or shoveling manure, but it sure seems to rank up there with those tasks.What's more, this directly invades that invisible shield we all seem to have; the instinctive mechanism to keep anything even slightly questionable no closer than arms' length.
To be sure, the record by John of this extra ritual act leaves the Apostles even more bewildered. Jesus' dialogue over the next four chapters of the Fourth Gospel might have left all of them as if they were deer staring at the headlights of an oncoming bus. To us, the action is multi-symbolic. It is a link to Baptism; a reminder that a leader must serve those s/he leads; and that, in order to grow spiritually and physically, we must lower our shields and step out of our personal comfort zones. Each change, even slight ones, bears with it the prospect of a mini-death. However, each change offers a great deal of possibility for the life that is to come.
I can't help but think that John's Gospel encourages us to detach ourselves from time and place for just a moment and see the travesty of how Jesus died amid the cacophony of the confused crowds - but also the glory of revelation of just who Jesus is. It's not something that is as easily caught while focused on our regimented lives.
Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, touch our hearts and make them like your own.