John 13:14 –(Jesus said, ) “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”
Gratitude Day 827
I love a good dinner party. Or just friends getting together and sharing food or snacks or a meal together. In my book The Mary Experiment: When DOING and BEING Collide, there is a chapter about Martha’s desire to win a hospitality badge. I was thinking of myself as I wrote that chapter and have an apron that re-enforces my desire to be a great hostess.
Tonight, we celebrate the last supper that Jesus had with the disciples. For Jewish people, it was the Passover meal. It’s a remembrance meal, of when Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt and back towards the Promised Land. After a bunch of awful and increasingly difficult plagues that affected the Egyptian people but not the Israelites, the final plague is the death of the eldest son. Jewish families protected their homes by killing a lamb and painting the lamb’s blood around the outside of the door. This way, the Angel of Death knew to “pass over” their house. The Passover Meal includes many symbols that help people remember what their ancestors went through to get back to the Promised Land.
Fast forward to the Passover Meal when Jesus was alive. The disciples thought they would be joining Jesus for a typical, regular Passover meal. Arrangements were made for it to be in a special room in Jerusalem, often called the Upper Room.
But the meal was anything but a regular Passover meal. Normally, a lowly servant washes the guest’s feet as they arrive, typical Jewish tradition. Because the people walked wherever they went in sandals, their feet were dusty and dirty. Washing feet was part of the cleansing ritual before a meal. At this Passover meal, Jesus, the host, does the washing. It’s an intentional choice which Jesus turns into an important lesson. As Jesus, their master and leader, washed their feet, they are mandated to “wash” other people’s feet. Basically, Jesus says, “Be willing to do the things no one else wants to do out of love.”
My, oh my! Our culture has forgotten this lesson! We pride ourselves in not doing the “worse” jobs. Those are for someone else.
It is difficult for us to understand just how mind-blowing Jesus’ act is. But this is only the first of many things Jesus does during the meal that simply do not make sense. Soon, Jesus re-interprets the Passover story and says he will become the lamb whose blood will “save” people.
How quickly Jesus goes from being the evening’s host to becoming a sacrificial lamb.
Fortunately, because Jesus did all of this, we have no need to sacrifice to the degree that Jesus did. And God did. We simply just have to believe.
The Holy Week stories are often difficult for people to understand. Blood. Sacrifice. Death. They aren’t very popular topics. Who wants to be part of a religion that includes these concepts?
Yet, these are also the themes that are central to Christian faith. Someone else made the sacrifice for our benefit simply because of love. There cannot be any other reason, other than love. Completely undeserving, unearned and yet graciously granted love. A love so deep and wide and unconditional that there is nothing we can do to earn this love. It’s already coming to and at us, every day of our lives.
Once we accept this love, the question then becomes, “What do we do with this love?” If we go back to the beginning of the dinner party, we have already been given the answer: wash other people’s feet, just as Jesus was the disciple’s feet. No reason, other than to give something to others with no expectations of anything in return.
This is where things get tricky. We almost ALWAYS want something in return. If not something physical, like payment, we want respect or honor. We want grace for ourselves and judgement for others. We want, we want we want.
But instead, Jesus tells us to wash and wash and wash. So many feet, to wash, he says. Don’t stop. There is always another set of feet that need a clean-up.
This day, this Holy Week – may we allow ourselves to hear this story once again. To discover what Jesus might be saying to you about whose feet need washing. How we can find joy in serving someone else and not expecting someone to serve us. Yes, it will require doing some crappy jobs. It will not always be fun. But there can be great joy in serving others, if we only allow ourselves to discover this.
We discover Jesus is a completely different kind of host. But then again, most everything in God’s kingdom is different from what is expected. Too often, we aren’t comfortable with how Jesus really wants us to live. We have our own ideas that we feel are superior to God’s. But in the end, all Jesus really wants us to do is wash each other’s feet. Not just on Maundy Thursday or during Holy Week. But regularly. Often. Get our hands dirty and find simple and yet meaningful ways to show God’s love to another person.
That’s what being a good host is really about. I pray we want to be this kind of hostess.
For a redefined understanding of hospitality in a new way in God’s kingdom, I am grateful.
Loving God – I get so caught up in making sure everything is done to my liking that I forget and fail to see the simple ways that I can share Your love with others. Challenge me to find ways to “wash” other people’s fee this Holy Week. Amen.
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