And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table,took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13: 3-7)
Simon Peter and the rest of the disciples are baffled. Why would Jesus, son of God incarnate, teacher of the kingdom of heaven, soon-to-be savior of all our sins, perform a task so dirty and undesirable it is only reserved for servants of the day? As we have encountered many times before, God’s plan often exceeds our feeble human minds. What Simon Peter and the disciples didn’t understand was that Jesus wasn’t washing their feet because they were coated with the grime of Jerusalem’s roads or because the servant of the house was nowhere to be found. He was washing their feet as a symbol of washing away sin on earth.
The significance of this seemingly trivial act is a precursor to another that will take place three days later upon a hill for the whole world to see. The disciples’ perspective of achieving the kingdom of heaven is a tangible, physical one. By washing their feet, Jesus connotes that salvation is a spiritual journey and is not of this earth, not of human understanding. So when Simon Peter inquires as to what Jesus is doing, Jesus openly communicates that his confusion is justified and that in due time “[he] will understand.”
Then how are we, in our 21st century lives, to approach Jesus’ message of sacrifice and salvation? Unlike the disciples, we have, through the luxury of time and reflection, more of a comprehensive understanding of how this act fulfills Jesus’ mission. So whenever you find yourself caught in a rainstorm or wash your feet in the shower or bath, remember the sacrifice the disciples weren’t able to fully discern and recognize the path to salvation cleared by Jesus.
God of deliverance, lead our lives with growth and understanding so that we ma,y to the best of our earthly abilities, appreciate your wonders. Amen.