It was springtime during my sophomore year in college when the afternoon ritual began. After classes were done for the day and we'd all dropped off our backpacks in our rooms, a handful of women living on the eighth floor of Larson hall would find themselves in the bathroom, lined up across wall of sinks.We'd kick off our flip flops, and, hoisting one foot at a time up to the bowl of the sink, we would wash off the dust and grass stains that had accumulated on the bottoms of our feet from a whole day of walking around campus. I imagine that we looked pretty silly, contorted around the sinks to wash off our feet. And I'm sure that it begged the question "Why not just take a shower?" Except that we all still felt plenty clean from our morning showers, so it wasn't worth donning our bathrobes and pulling our shower caddies from the closet and waiting for the water to get warm. We just needed to get the dirt off of our feet.
I promise that this is a true story! Which means that I am right there with Jesus when he says to Peter, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean." But it's harder to wrap my mind around someone washing my feet for me. After a whole day, the bottoms of my feet would be gray and dirty, and it took some scrubbing to get all the grime off. I would have been embarrassed if someone else had to deal with my yucky feet. But that's why Jesus washed his disciples feet: to give us a clear picture of his self-humbling, his self-giving, his self-emptying. He served his disciples so devoutly as to endure all of their yucky feet. When you think about it, the power of sin and death are even yuckier than our feet. The same Jesus who washed his disciples' feet also went to the cross for their - and our! - sake. And in return, Jesus gives us one simple command: love one another as he has loved us.
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.
"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."