Today’s reading is drawn from John 13:1-17.
Dirty feet—you can’t escape them in first-century Jerusalem. Everyone wears sandals and walks on dusty roads. Prior to the evening meal, it is customary for the lowliest of the household servants to wash the feet of the guests. But Jesus, the Master, turns that custom upside down when he grabs a bowl and towel and proceeds to wash the sweaty feet of all 12 of his disciples.
Jesus calls us to wash the dirty feet of others—just as he did. But what exactly does that mean?
Ryan’s bus was stuck in traffic, which meant he would be late for work—again. He knew his boss wouldn’t be happy. “You are twenty years old, Ryan. Show some responsibility.” He could just hear it now.
Ryan got off at his stop and began striding toward the office. As he hurried through the crowded streets, a panhandler approached him and asked for a few bucks so he could buy a new pair of shoes. Though already running late, Ryan stopped for a moment and looked the homeless man in the eyes. He didn’t know how the man had gotten to this point or his prospects for getting off the streets, but he did realize that he couldn’t ignore the situation.
Ryan glanced down at the man’s shoes, which were so worn that he could see his grimy toes peeking through the canvas. Ryan then looked down at his own feet, which were resting comfortably in a pair of brand-new tennis shoes. He recognized with a start that the two wore a similar shoe size. The thought of this man walking all day through the city streets this way pained Ryan. What would Jesus do in this situation? he asked himself.
When Ryan walked into work a little while later, his boss noticed not only that he was late but that he was also sporting the ugliest shoes he had ever seen.
- How do you think Ryan’s highly personal, tangible gesture might have affected the homeless man? How might his response have been different if Ryan had instead handed him cash for new shoes?
- What opportunities have you takenâ€”or avoidedâ€”to wash someone else’s feet? How did you feel afterward?