Ep.106: Dirty Feet.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”. 

In Genesis, when Abraham had three visitors, he gave them water to wash their feet. When I saw my podiatrist, she didn’t give me water to wash my feet. She put on plastic gloves to keep a sanitary, professional and impersonal distance from my feet.

In John 13, Jesus didn’t give the disciples foot-washing water like Abraham, and he didn’t keep a professional distance like the podiatrist. Instead, he wrapped a towel around his waist, knelt before the disciples one-by-one and washed their feet–Thomas the doubter, Judas the traitor, Peter the denier, John the lover. As he studied their dirty feet and applied the water and towel, what message did he communicate?  I think he was saying three simple things:

1. First, he was demonstrating, “I love you enough to serve you in dirty, menial ways.”

2. Second, his action pointed out that the religion he was teaching is not all about morality and healing and resurrections and miracles. It’s also about doing very mundane acts of service, in very personal ways. 

3. And third, he told his disciples, that it is an option for them to do the dirty work. No need to wait for the servants and the janitors and the cleaning lady. Step right up, folks. You too can get your hands dirty. 

I am drawn to the symbolic meaning of footwashing. When Jesus stooped to wash Peter’s feet, Peter said, “This isn’t appropriate for you to do, Jesus. I don’t want you to wash my feet.” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Peter replied, “Then wash all of me–feet, hands, and head.” But Jesus said, “If you’ve had a bath, you’re clean enough. All you need is a touch up on the feet.” 

Jesus discouraged two solutions for dirty feet, and offered one solution. 

First, Jesus had no time for a religion focused on keeping feet clean. That was the Pharisees religion–rules and control that tell you how to manage your behavior to keep yourself clean. Jesus message to the Pharisees was, “Your solution doesn’t work. Your feet are as dirty as everyone else’s.”

Second, Jesus discouraged minimizing the problem of dirt. He knew that it’s dirty out there, and he knew that dirt clings to you. Kneeling in front of the disciples with bucket and towel, he invited them to believe that the dirt of the world had made you dirty again. 

The solution Jesus encouraged is to bring the dirty feet to him. He says to us, “I’m here every day to wash your feet.” Go into the world without fear, live in your human culture with all its moral muddle, walk on the dirty roads, be my followers there. And then come to me, and let me wash away the dirt, and serve you bread and wine for supper.

Let’s pray. 

Jesus, we liked it when you showed your power–healing the sick and feeding the crowd and criticizing the religion of the Pharisees and predicting who will betray you and who will deny you. But when you kneel in front of us with bucket and towel, we shrink back. Shouldn’t we hide our dirty feet, or deal with them in private, or cover them with clothes? You’re not a servant, why are you suddenly acting like one?  

But still you touch our feet and wash them with your hands and wipe them with your towel.

Jesus, we need this. We bring to you relationships where we have dirtied ourselves with envy or jealousy or gossip or fear or avoidance. We bring to you private thoughts where we have betrayed you and your law. We bring to you deep seated fears that expose our unbelief and anxiety. O Jesus, kneel before us, wash our feet again, teach us the father’s love. 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

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