Study Guide: He Washes Our Feet

Sunday May 19, 2013 | Jo Saxton

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In life, we try to put our best foot forward. Whether it’s interacting with others or just convincing ourselves, we hide the dirt in our lives and the shame that we feel. In this sermon, Jo Saxton shares with us the meaning behind Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and what it means for us.

Extended Summary:

Feet were disgusting during this time in history (not that they are pristine in today’s world). But in the first century, people wore sandals and the grime and dirt of the world would accumulate on their feet. And during this time when Jesus was in Jerusalem, there was a massive influx of people. So the trash would be widespread on the streets, and all the animals would be leaving their filth in the roadway. People’s feet would be covered in the dust, grime, and filth of the streets.

So, foot washing was done by the lowest of the low because it was a vile task. Even the slaves in the homes would be allowed to refuse to wash a person’s feet because it was so demeaning and disgusting. So, it was very disconcerting to the disciples that Jesus took on the role of washing their feet. Peter said what was on everyone’s heart when he exclaimed that Jesus would never wash their feet. But, Jesus was going after more than just cleaning their feet.

Foot washing was about being in covenant relationship with one another and Jesus. To be a part of Jesus, they needed to have their feet washed. And Jesus wasn’t saying that cleanliness was needed to be in the Kingdom. Jesus was saying that we need to be willing to bare the ugliest parts of our lives to each other and God. We must be willing to share our wounds, weariness, and our worries so that Jesus can make us clean.

Jesus will wash away our spiritual dust, dirt, and wounds. Jesus wants to wash away our daily grime that we pick up in our lives. We walk around in our daily lives collecting things that weigh down our soul. We collect shame, regrets, and hostility in our lives, and we don’t like to show that to one another.

On Sunday mornings, we usually put our best foot forward. We put on our nice clothes with our nice shoes, and we put on our best face as we go to worship God. We cover up our dirtiness. And we become competitive with others around us to appear clean. We try to give off the air of having it together and not having any dirt behind the scenes.

Will we let Jesus wash our feet? Peter expressed what is usually on our heart. We don’t want our dirtiness to be seen and handled by other people. But Jesus wants us to be in intimate community with him. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that Jesus is the one who can clean our dirt and grime on our souls. He can heal the wounds that have ripped our lives apart. He can calm our worries and give us energy in our weariness. We only have to let him.

Jesus wants us to wash each other’s feet. Many communities of people try to hide their dirtiness from the outside world. We don’t want to stand up and say how broken we are or how desperate we feel. We want to put on a good show, competing and contrasting with others. But Jesus wants us to wash other people’s feet, helping them to deal with their wounds and worries. Instead of competing and contrasting, we are to care for one another.

Jesus wants us to wash the feet of this broken world. We are supposed to uncover the infected areas of this world and be the hands of Jesus as they wash this world. We should seek out the broken-down in this world and help them to realize the community that they can have in the Kingdom.

Let the Lord have the last say in your life, and not your experiences. We all have shame and try to hide our woundedness from the world. But Jesus says that we don’t have to waste our energy doing that. We can be free with one another to share and receive help with the things that are on our minds. We can receive healing. The only question is will we allow Jesus to see and heal those parts of our lives?

Reflection Questions:

  1. The Anabaptist tradition takes foot washing as a literal tradition heaped with symbolism. What are your thoughts on foot washing and its practice in today’s world?
  2. What parts of this world need to be cleaned? What has God put on your heart to clean up in this world
  3. It’s difficult to help others with a sense of humility. How does Jesus’ humility in washing his disciples’ feet show us how to approach others when we want to help?
  4. Jesus is asking us to bare our dirtiness to him to be cleaned. What in your own life do you have trouble revealing to God and others? What dirt in your life causes you the most shame?
  5. A part of covenant community is being able to share with others the deepest parts of ourselves. Who in your life could you share with?