John 13:1-17, 31b-35Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Jesus was a rule breaker. Washing the feet of someone considered a subordinate was unheard of in the first century. Jesus was teaching his apostles several things by washing their feet. Humility comes to my mind first. This was an honor/shame culture and Jesus, by this one act of washing his disciples feet, was telling them to let go of the artificial rules of the culture and to do what they felt deep down in their gut was right. Serve each other. Love each other. Do not worry about status.
The washing of each others feet today is a symbolic ceremony. It is a re-enactment of the event that happened two thousand years ago. I am guessing that all of you who are having his or her feet washed did a pretty thorough job of making sure your feet were reasonably clean before you came here this evening and you probably don't really need your feet washed. But, this isn't really about hygiene. It is about caring for one another. This is how you will show it tonight. Jesus is telling us, his present day disciples, that humbly showing love for one another should happen today and tomorrow and all of the tomorrows after that.
Jesus knew what was about to happen that night. He knew he would be betrayed. He knew that he would die a painful humiliating death. He did not welcome it, but he knew it was his father's will and Jesus loved the Father.
His last lesson to his disciples was this: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
This is a very simple request. Love one another. It is not so easy to carry out. Some people are hard to love. Sometimes you and I are hard to love but as Christians that is what we are told to do.
Lets make this our goal for this year. To love the hard to love and, as I have just said, we all fit into that category at one time or another.