Friday, December 7, 2018

Bathing Feet

In chapter six of John, this exchange takes place: Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peter had no doubt that Jesus was the Son of God.

The Child's Bath1893 by Mary Cassatt
A few chapters later, this takes place:
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. (John 13:3-9, KJV)
Peter at first refused to obey Jesus, the one he was sure was the Son of God.

Think about this for a moment. Suppose you were Peter, and knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who Jesus was. Would you have refused to obey him? What prompted Peter to act in this way? Was it simply because Jesus was serving him? 
Peter had no doubts, and yet he refused to obey the Messiah
And here's the thing. Jesus had already taught them many times to serve others. Being a servant would not have shocked Peter, would not have compelled him to disobey the Son of the living God.
These men had traveled with Jesus for three years, had sat at his feet, hung onto his every word, and knew his teachings. 
Why was Peter so shocked? 

During that period of time, washing feet was usually a woman's work. More than that, it was often the lowliest slave woman's work. 

Besides household servants, often wives would wash the feet of their husbands. Sometimes children would wash the feet of their fathers, and disciples were known to wash the feet of a rabbi.

Jesus shocked them by taking on the role of a lowly slave woman, or a wife, or a child, or a disciple. 

Later, in Acts, we read that Christians "have turned the world upside down." 

This is what Jesus did. He turned everything topsy-turvy. He took on the role of a slave toward his master, the role of a disciple toward his teacher, the role of a wife to her husband.

He truly turned the world upside down.

(See Foot-washing in a Historical Perspective for more information about this practice.)

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