Awkward. That’s the best way to describe that dinner. First there was the whole ‘one of you is going to betray me’ thing. Judas wasn’t so much a fan of that. Then there was the part where Peter told Jesus ‘I will never leave you even if everyone else does’, and Jesus said ‘actually Peter, I’m going to single you out and say that you’re going to deny me three times before the sun rises.’ And all of that was after the part where Jesus told the 12 guys who had given the last three years of their lives to follow him ‘so I’m going to die tomorrow…’ This was a Passover they’d all rather forget, and yet one that would live on forever.
So much has been made of that night and rightly so. First there was the ’last supper.’ Jesus instituted the whole act of communion in what seemed at the time like an intimate act among friends. There’s also the whole scene in the garden, ears being cut off, kisses of betrayal, and miracles to even the last moment. But I believe the most important act of the night is the one that most often gets forgotten.
God, Jesus Christ, got down on his hands and knees and washed the dirty and disgusting feet of a group of guys who had worn nothing but sandals in years. They thought it was weird. Awkward even. Peter again not getting the gesture tries to talk Jesus into letting him wash his feet. Jesus politely declines. This is not about getting their feet clean. This is about demonstrating humility. Showing them servanthood. Becoming less so they can understand more. This is was a slave would normally do for his master, and yet, here kneels God at the feet of even the one who will sentence him to death.
Friday’s sacrifice is more flashy, more public, more memorable. All of us remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins – movies are made about it, plays are written, musicals sung. But I think it’s worth remembering that Jesus also cleans the most dirty and disgusting parts of us, if we will let him. I don’t know what your ‘feet’ are. I’m not sure what you consider your most unclean part of you. But this I do know. God himself is waiting, towel and basin in hand to make even that clean – and he’ll do his best to keep the awkwardness to a minimum.