Mainline Protestant Channel
Clean Feet: A Maundy Thursday Meditation on John 13:1-7
And then our feet are refreshed to do what feet in scripture, in both the Old and the New Testaments, were meant to do. Follow God.
In the Exodus story, that is the back story for this Maundy Thursday meal, God says:
- "This is how you shall eat the Passover lamb: with your loins girded, your staff in your hand, and your sandals on your feet" (Ex. 12:11). In others words, be ready to move out to follow Moses out of this place of bondage and into the Promised Land. Be ready to use your feet!
- "Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet and a light to my path" (Ps. 119:105).
- "You have delivered my soul from death, my feet from stumbling; I walk before the Lord in the land of the living" (Ps. 116: 8-9).
- "The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life" (Mt. 7:13). You're going to need to use your feet.
- "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6). We're going to need our feet to follow that way.
Our text tonight is our chance to allow Jesus to cleanse our feet so we can follow him from this place.
If we don't allow him to cleanse our feet, our story with him stops now. The week goes on, but we have chosen darkness rather than light. Jesus' words to Peter are also addressed to us: "Unless I wash you, you have no share in me" (Jn. 13:8).
Not everybody in this story wants Jesus' hands on their feet. Peter didn't. Pilate didn't. Caiaphas didn't. Pilate chose to use his feet to pace about his palace, back and forth in front of his medicine cabinet, searching for some salve for his sore conscience. Peter chose to use his feet to stand by a fire warming himself while denying his Lord.
Just before this foot-washing scene, Jesus says to his disciples, "Whoever sees me sees the one who sent me."
It is the Son of God who takes off his outer robe, ties a towel around himself, and now kneels before you requesting the honor of washing your feet in the hopes that, this year, he will not have to walk the hard, uphill road that lies before him all by himself.
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.