(During Holy Week in the Philippines, things usually grind to a halt — but sadly, not because of spiritual matters. “Holy Week” in this country is no longer synonymous with pausing, quietness, and meditation. It has become one of the most anticipated times because everyone has the time to get out of town and go to the beach. In an effort to create some space for meditation, I usually write down my thoughts during these days, and I hope it will help you move into a more meditative approach to this week.)
“Do you understand what I just did for you?”
After Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, this was the first question he asked. This was understandable since Peter showed that he was totally lost on what Jesus had done for him, for all of them. At first, he was repulsed by the idea that his teacher would do something as low as to wash his filthy feet. Then Jesus said that unless he allowed him to do this, Peter would have no part in the kingdom. As per usual, Peter answered in the emphatic: “Well then, don’t just wash my feet. Give me a full body bath!”
Jesus wanted to be sure that the disciples understood what he did, and what example he was setting (Peter’s response did not help assure him). He was going away, and his disciples would be left in charge of a fledgling community of believers. He wanted to impart to them what sort of sacrifice that would entail among the people of the early church.
Jesus was the teacher — he was in a position of respect. He wasn’t supposed to do the lowly things like wash people’s feet. This was a task reserved for slaves and not respected teachers. But Jesus did it for them.
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
If Jesus didn’t mind sacrificing his position to do the humble work of caring for his disciples, so should his disciples do to each other. This was what they were to teach to the thousands of followers that would make up the new church, the new kingdom. As Jesus did to them, so are they to do this for each other.
As the church, there can be no clearer expectation of us than to stoop low, humble ourselves, and serve our brothers and sisters in the church. There should be no clearer path for us among our brothers and sisters than serving each other, loving each other, and forgiving each other.
If all the theology you have learned does not bring you to this point of humility, care, service, and love for each other, then you have learned nothing. If we still care more for ourselves and our rights than for our brothers and sisters, then we are not obeying the example that Jesus set for us.
I personally find that what makes obeying this particular command so difficult are these — pride, entitlement, and selfishness.
Brothers and sisters, please realize that the apostles were never worthy of such care and service that Jesus gave them. If we are to truly care for those in our church, we should be ready to serve, love, and forgive those who are unworthy of such things.
As Jesus laid down his right just to serve his disciples, he was setting an example for all the disciples that would follow him. In our local church, we are expected to do the same. Anything less would be disobedience and an insult to the grace and mercy that we have received from our Lord and Savior.