Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
Holy Week is drama. The week is to be experienced.
Midweek, the liturgy draws us to the upper room and the Last Supper. But John’s gospel doesn’t bother with the meal, he is more interested in what happens afterwards.
Then Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. John 13:5
We readily participate in the Last Supper. Drinking the blood of Christ and eating his body doesn’t seem to faze us. But the foot washing is personal. Though flip-flops and sandals are regular foot ware, there’s something about baring our feet at the altar that exposes our humanity.
In my previous congregation I thought one of our matriarchs would easily agree to having her feet washed in the service. She was as faithful as the day is long and would say yes to any request, but her laugh upon my request to wash her feet in the Maundy Thursday service has stood out as one of those lessons learned in ministry.
When it comes to our feet, even the most faithful seek to cover up.
Of course she was in good company. Remember Peter? “You will never wash my feet!” Though common in the ancient world, foot washing still was personal, and certainly not to be done by anyone of honor. Maybe Peter would expose his toes to the servant of the household, but never to Jesus.
But Jesus simply names the reason Peter needs to do it. “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”
In the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2, Christ empties himself to become a slave. The foot washing, therefore, becomes the act of divine self service that will culminate on the cross. Jesus will go all the way to death to empty himself for our sake.
I invite all who desire to come forward for the foot washing on Maundy Thursday during the reading of John 13. It is drama, and it is personal, but the act reveals the depth of Christ’s for all of humanity.
And remember the command.
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another’s feet. John 13:14