I will always remember that night, not just because of what happened in the hours after when my world shattered and I acted so shamefully, but because of what happened at that meal. Looking back, we really had no idea of the significance of what was going on. In fact, some of us were stupidly arguing which of us was the greatest! I mean can you believe that! We were like kids in the school yard- actually worse than that because we were adults and because we had been with him for 3 years and seen and heard so much. How thick and stupid we were.
But that was the reality of what happened, I can’t sugar coat it or pretend it was different. Then he got up, took off his outer clothes, wrapped a towel around his waist, and collected some water in a basin. He began to move around the group and to wash our dirty feet. He, our rabbi and our leader began to do what the slaves and servants do. This quickly put an end to our petty discussion about who was greatest and made me feel very ashamed – a feeling that would come back to me even more strongly in a few short hours.
When he came to me, perhaps out of shame or even out of pride wanting to be more “holy” than the others; I loudly declared he would never wash my feet. His reply sat me back on my pants pretty smartly – unless I wash you, you have no part in me! In my shock, I blurted out another of my “shoot from the hip” comments about him washing all of me.
His explanation of his actions stood so starkly against our discussion about greatness. He said that as our teacher and Lord, he had chosen to wash our feet and take on the role of a servant. In addition, that we were no greater than he and should serve and wash others feet, even those who were “below” us. After his death and resurrection the term “wash you” took on even more significance as we understood what he meant but declaring that his blood would be poured out for us. So God washed my feet – an act I can never really get my head around. But then he told me to go and do the same for others, and that I can get me head around!