Today is Palm Sunday. Your pastor probably talked about it, and the kids probably sang about. In the Christian tradition writ large, the names of the days of the week are used to express different stages of the auspicious moment. Palm Sunday kicks off everything as the day that the crowds celebrate Jesus and call him their king. Monday and Tuesday don’t have special names. Wednesday is called “Spy” Wednesday, signifying the betrayal of Judas to seek a time to sell out his master. Friday we call “Good”, not in that it is a happy occasion, but in that it was a day when the goodness of God was revealed and we were able to be saved. Holy Saturday comes next and then it is Easter/Resurrection Sunday.
Today, in John 13, we read what is traditionally associated with Maundy Thursday. Jesus takes off his outer garment and gets down and washes his disciples feet. To give context, in a culture where everyone walked it was dusty, baths were not as common as they are today and soap was less aromatic – touching feet would be gross. The disciples knew that the one who washed feet would be a servant. But Jesus, the master, the rabbi, the Christ, the King who was just regaled with Palm branches and crowds shouting his praise, is now quietly washing their feet. The disciples, being with him for at least 3 years are used to his weird antics and personal teaching style.
But Peter, never one to be silent, says “No way Jesus!” And who can blame him. The king doesn’t do the slaves’ work. The king has his slaves wash his feet. That’s how the world works. But Jesus lets Peter know that his kingdom works differently. The King serves, and the King’s advisors should serve, and future rulers should serve. If you want to be like Jesus, it’s not about being a King and being served. Jesus said “I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” He expects us to do the same. “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15 HCSB)
I’ve got a challenge. Actually DO it. Jesus gave us an example in this moment. Of course this means we should make ourselves servants and try to serve people everyday. But one way to make yourself humble is to grab your stinky younger siblings, or your mom or dad or grandparents or friend, and actually wash their feet. If you can, today or this week, actually get a group together and have the oldest person wash the next oldest person’s feet and down the line. It is a humbling experience. After you wash their feet and dry them off, pray for that person, and then pass the bucket and the towel until everyone has been washed. Then talk about the experience. Was it weird? Did you think it was OK? Do you think it made sense for Peter to feel a little weird? How would you react if Jesus tried to serve you?
Once you answer these questions and any others, read John 13:1-38. Remember that Jesus served people he knew would betray him and deny him; how much more should we serve those who we know love us: our friends, grandparents, aunts and uncles, moms and dads, brothers and sisters… even when they’re stinky.