Slave, Scapegoat, Banquet and Savior of Sinners

Slave, Scapegoat, Banquet and Savior of Sinners April 1, 2021

The Washing of the Feet
“The Washing of the Feet,” by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.


In Holy Thursday’s Covenant we sinners bind ourselves to serve and imitate the sinless Christ who binds himself as the slave, scapegoat, banquet and savior of us sinners.


Exodus 12:1-8,11-14. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. John 13:1-15.


In the days of Christ, his countrymen would never ask any fellow Hebrew, free or slave, to wash the feet of anyone.

That job could go only to a slave from a foreign race.

The Gospel today does not tell us merely that Christ gave himself that chore.

Rather, the Gospel carefully introduces the INDIGNITY of the job of washing feet by first reciting the immeasurable DIGNITY of Christ.

… Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.

So, during supper,

fully aware that the Father had put EVERYTHING into his power

and that he had come FROM GOD and was returning TO GOD….

We echo the same dignity in our Creed every Sunday, saying that Christ is “GOD FROM GOD, LIGHT FROM LIGHT, TRUE GOD FROM TRUE GOD.”

By choosing to wash the feet of his chosen followers, HOLY-GOD-IN-THE-HIGHEST gave himself the work of a foreign slave: he volunteered to serve as an outcast without dignity, an outsider beneath his own followers.

This does not turn only the WORLD upside down.

It turns GOD upside down: the All-Holy Creator disowning himself and enslaving himself to his sinful creatures.

To sin is to trample under our feet the goodness and honor of God.

By washing the sinful feet of his apostolic church, Christ is already explaining his cross to us.

Sin rejects God.

God allows the rejection to go all the way to the cross.

He accepts betrayal at the hands of one of the first handpicked Christians.

The other eleven handpicked first Christian men abandoned God to his chosen suffering.

God to whom all sacrifice and worship are owed then accepts to be rejected by his own high priest, condemned by the elders of his nation, shoved outside the gates of his own holy city, handed over to the Roman representatives of the world who abuse, torture and crucify him.

Jews, Christians, pagans— the whole world reveals its guilt.

They know not what they do.

God knows what he is doing.

He came into the human race.

As a member of the human race, in the name of the human race, at the head of the human race, within the human race: God as a man took the lowest place.

His willing death on the cross receives meaning when Christ washes the feet of sinners.

The meaning is continued and deepened in another unbelievable sign.

the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,

took bread, and, after he had given thanks,

broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.

Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

All sacrifice and worship are owed to God.

Yet he offers his body and his blood— slaughtered and poured out— as food for sinners who deny him the love and honor that are his first of all.

As a foreign slave washing feet, as a criminal condemned to death, even as food and drink, he chooses to put himself at the disposal of the human race.

Having gone lower than the human race, while being a member of the human race, God is now in a position to personally take the human race from miserable death at the bottom to glory in the highest.

Christ rises from the dead and into heaven as a member of the human race, in the name of the human race, at the head of the human race, within the human race.

In Christ risen and ascended, the human race is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

In his Body and Blood, Christ lets us eat and drink the dignity of God himself.

What have we done to deserve this?


What can we do to deserve this?


Without deserving it, and without being able to deserve it, we are to imitate it.

We are to imitate the Divine Slave, imitate the sinless washer of sinful feet, imitate the one who slaughters himself to be our food and drink.

This night he tells us:

Do this in remembrance of me.

If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,

you ought to wash one another’s feet.

I have given you a model to follow,

so that as I have done for you, you should also do.

This night, as at every Eucharist, we renew the Covenant of Christ, choosing to say “Amen,” thereby binding ourselves to serve and imitate the Holy One who has bound himself as the slave, scapegoat, banquet and savior of sinners.


Turn. Love. Repeat.


Browse Our Archives