John 13:3-5

Thursday, April 6
Gwen Gotsch

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 supper, 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.

You can’t get much closer to the ground than dirty feet. When Jesus kneels to wash his disciples’ feet, I see him right down there in the dirt and the grit. The water in the basin grows murky, the towel around Jesus’ waist becomes damp and streaked with mud. It’s an earthbound task, gracious and humbling service. 

Yet the story begins in a headier, more heavenly place, telling us that Jesus was conscious of “all things” being given into his hands, of how he himself “had come from God and was going to God.” In the chapters that follow this story in John’s gospel, Jesus describes his relationship to God in words that the disciples will remember after his death: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” “I am the vine, you are the branches.” “Because I live you shall live also.”

But first—before the teaching, before the preaching, before the prayers—Jesus gets up from his meal, gets down on the floor, and works his way around the table caring for his followers’ feet, their very human feet, with his very human hands.  “I have set you an example,” he says (John 13:15), “that you should do as I have done for you.” 

He does this not in spite of his close relationship with all things heavenly, but because of it. The same hands that held the power of almighty God were nailed to a cross. After Jesus’ resurrection the wounded hands remind us that living a life grounded in God means sharing in human aches and pains and suffering.

Dearest Jesus, you came to the world to show me the way to God. Help me to follow where you lead, as I love and serve the people around me. Amen.

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