It’s an odd thing that I didn’t find out about my husband, Dave, until after we married. There are things like that, aren’t there? We marry someone and we think we know everything there is to know about them. And then, out of nowhere, Surprise! Something pops up that we didn’t know. Something that we didn’t expect.
Dave didn’t like feet. Not the 12 inches in length type of feet that we use as a measurement, but the ones that are attached to our legs, right below our ankles. The ones that carry all our weight. The ones that help us to stand, to walk, to run, to dance. Those very hard working feet take a lot of abuse with little thanks. How many times do you hear someone say to their feet, “Thanks for all you do for me”?
They didn’t even have to be stinky feet. Dave disdained all feet equally. Feet on TV. Feet in pictures. Feet in person. He was an equal opportunity feet-disliker. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember him ever wearing sandals. He owned a pair, but they never made it onto his feet. They simply collected dust in the closet.
It’s good that Dave didn’t live in Bible times. People traveled by foot and those feet were often dusty and dirty. That’s why the custom of the day was to offer water and a towel to weary travelers upon their arrival to one’s home. If the home had a servant, it was the servant’s job to wash the traveler’s feet. It was considered the lowest job.
So imagine the surprise of the disciples in the midst of what we now call Maundy Thursday when Jesus simply gets takes a towel and wraps it around his waist, prepares a basin of water, and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. If anything, the disciples should wash their teacher’s feet.
But Jesus takes on this role of humble servant. In John 13:1:6-8, Jesus “...came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’
“‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’”
Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet. It’s understandable. He believes this is beneath his teacher. But I wonder, is there also a part of him that believes his feet aren’t dirty? He is a disciple, after all. Perhaps he thinks he doesn’t have stinky feet. Does pride enter in? Does he believe he doesn’t need Jesus’ help?
Is the same true for us? Do we think that we can pull ourselves up by our own sandal straps no matter what life throws us? Do we feel pride for our independence and self-sufficiency? Do we secretly, or not so secretly, think that we don’t need a Savior?
To Peter’s credit, when Jesus says in verse eight, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me,” Peter changes his mind immediately. He says in verse nine, “Then, Lord … not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
In our everyday lives, we have stinky feet. They will get dirty again and again. We have stinky sin. We sin again and again. What can we do about it? Ask our Lord to wash our stinky sin clean. But we can’t stop there. We have to be willing to be foot washes for others. To live out the Gospel by the way in which we walk in this world. Not as the world walks, but as our Lord taught us to walk by his own example.
Isaiah 52:7 reads, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
Jesus’ feet walked and changed lives for eternity. Those beautiful feet walked all the way to the cross, to the grave, to Easter morning’s resurrection from the dead and beyond.
Even though Dave was a feet-disliker, he’d rub my feet when they were tired and worn out. He’d take on the role of servant, out of love. That’s what we’re called to do for one another. To serve one another in love. Whether the other person’s feet are stinky or not.
In fact, I want stinky feet because I’m following in the footsteps of my Savior.
Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.