Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jesus Washes Our Feet

We know that foot washing was something a Gentile slave could be required to do, but never a Jewish slave. Foot-washing was typically something wives did for their husbands, children for their parents, and disciples for their teachers. There is undoubtedly a level of intimacy is involved in these last scenarios. And in Jesus' case, there is an obvious reversal of roles.* Jesus calls his disciples his friends. And by washing their feet he overcomes in this act of loving intimacy the inequality that exists between them. And so he establishes an intimacy with them that signals their access to everything he had received from his Father, even the glory that is his as Beloved Son.* He does what he sees the Father doing, what love always does. It defers, lowers itself, and gives itself away.

Perhaps Jesus was inspired to wash the apostles’ feet because he had been so touched by what was done for him at Bethany six days before Passover, when Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil and anointed his feet most tenderly and dried them with her hair. Was this something that inspired his own most loving action on this night before he died? Perhaps. In any event Peter cannot bear the thought of his teacher doing this. We can imagine that probably it was something his wife had done for him many times. And doubtless he like the others is embarrassed by the intimacy of it, embarrassed by the intimacy, the touch, the loving condescension, and the unaffected tenderness, the unmanageability of the love that is so available. It is disorienting. We know it is a parable, a parallel to what he will do on the cross the next afternoon.

Photograph by Brother Brian.
* See
Sandra Schneiders.