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Dirty Feet Need Washing
by Elaine Pierce
In Jesus' day, everyone wore sandals, usually made of wood with leather straps. After a long, dusty walk through the desert, these sandal-clad feet would be dirty. Usually a non-Jewish servant was assigned to wash travelers' feet before dinner. This was a task assigned to the lowest level servant.
And yet, in today's passage, we see that Jesus washed his disciples' feet. Perhaps the homeowner where they were staying didn't employ a servant, but in any event, this was not a task that a rabbi would typically perform. (Think about a household task you least likely to do, such as taking out the trash or cleaning the bathroom - that's what washing feet was like.)
Why did Jesus perform this lowly task? Certainly Peter didn't want him to: "No, you shall never wash my feet!" Jesus was modeling true servanthood for his followers. Let's look at what he says in verses 15- 17:
"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than this 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."
Jesus turned the social order on its head, and this is not the first time he does this (see Mark 9:35, Matthew 19:14 for a couple of examples). In this instance, he served his followers, including the one who would soon betray him. He knew this, and he served him anyway. The disciples didn't deserve this kind of treatment, and they knew it.
Jesus challenges them to follow his example. How can you be a servant to somebody this week? Whose feet can you wash? Jesus will show you how to serve - just ask him to open your eyes.
Dear Lord, you washed your disciples' feet, and you command them - and me - to go and do likewise. Help me to open my eyes to those who need my servant heart this week. Give me a heart to serve even when it's uncomfortable. Amen.