In those days, NikeFrees and Vibrams and Tevas weren’t on the shelves. The soles of Israeli sandals were sometimes made with three layers of leather tied together with more leather, no great distance separated feet from the dirt. After walking all over Israel with very few, if any, baths combined with dust and sweat-no stretch of the imagination is needed to picture the filth of first century feet.
And yet Jesus tenderly held such feet and washed them in love.
I ask myself: how many times have I passed by an opportunity to wash somebody’s feet because the dirt made me too squeamish? How often have I been hesitant to agree to get involved with someone I perceive as overly needy? How often am I tempted to pull back from a broken-hearted friend? Maybe I’m not the only one.
Another friend confessed not too long ago: “I always pictured myself living in a beautiful little cottage with a quaint white picket fence. But God laid a burden on my heart to join a ministry for the homeless in the inner city. I didn’t want to at first. Let’s be honest, a lot of them are kind of dirty. Now I see they’re beautiful, not because they have or haven’t showered, but because they’re loved by God.“*
As I read about Jesus’ scrubbing the disciples’ feet, I’m reminded that Christ’s soap cleanses everything. This is good news for both you and I. Christ renews all things; he heals all wounds. We don’t need to be afraid of the dirt, the muck, the crud of life. We no longer need to be afraid of the messiness that surfaces when we draw near to one another. Underneath the grime is someone beautiful, a child washed clean and beloved by God.
What’s your favorite element in this passage?
Anyone interested in diving into John’s Gospel with me may enjoy Pursuing God’s Beauty: Stories from the Gospel of John. To purchase, click here.
*To read more about this ministry click here
**Photo courtesy of here