We are told to follow Jesus, to imitate Him as we live out our God-life here on earth.
We know this, and yet we find it all too easy to skim over the harder parts of His story.
Some of the hardest parts to follow, at least for me, are the foot washing and the crucifixion. Yet these are two of the pieces that most embody Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Jesus spent much of His ministry telling the people around Him that His time had not yet come. Now it is the time of Passover and Jesus knew that His time had come. His time had come to leave this world and go to the Father.
What does He do first, now that His time has come? He washes the disciples feet. All of them. Even Judas.
The Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Word who laid aside His glory in order to become a man now lays aside His clothes of fabric in order to wash feet.
He does not wash our feet despite the fact that He is God, but because He is God. This is how He shows us the Father.
This footwashing points us toward the cross, toward the moment when Jesus reveals the depths of the Father’s heart for us. This is who God is: the One who lays down His very life, first in service and then in giving it up completely through death, for His beloved creation.
These events, the footwashing and the crucifixion, are the events that lead Jesus to His time of going to the Father.
They are the events which form the ladder from this world to the Father’s world. They are the acted words the eternal Word must speak. They are the way home that the Son of God must take. ~ N. T. Wright
Why do we think that we can find a different way home to the Father?
Jesus says, after He has finished washing the feet of the disciples, that He has laid out a pattern for them to follow.
This is so hard. We are so proud and selfish. We proclaim Jesus as Lord and really mean that we have taken up His mantle of lordship within our little piece of the world. We want to rule and to push the serving bit off to the side.
This, however, is not following the pattern Jesus set for us. This is not imitating Him.
Instead, we, too, must lay aside our clothes, our clothes of pride and selfishness, and wash the feet of those given into our care, as the disciples were given into the care of Jesus.
We, too, must lay aside our lives, picking up our cross and dying to ourselves, for those the Father loves.
This is our way home to the Father.
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Art credits: The Washing of the Feet by James Tissot; Jesus Washing the Feet of Peter by Sudharkarbira; Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Francesco Vanni; Jesus Washing the Feet of His Disciples by Albert Edelfelt