‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me’ Jesus washes the disciples’ feet
John 13. 1-17, 31-35
Often when this passage or service is read or suggested, people are likely to say they find it moving or (pardon the pun) they vote with their feet and don’t go to the service at all. And who can blame them. Way before the Coronavirus and nothing to do with that form of social distancing, which of us wants to expose their feet. They’re often characterised by tight shoes, weary journeys and smell. These are things we’re taught to keep away from other people and notice when other people don’t. Well on that score it was ever thus. The disciples’ feet will have been in a worse state than yours or mine, dusty and dirty from the road. An affront.
So why does all this matter? Well I think Jesus is trying to tell us something very important about who we are what we’re like, and the need to push through our discomfort and what is often a different kind of emotional and social distancing, namely that of keeping up appearances.
We often overlook the verses that proceed this event, Jesus’ actions as a measure of the love of God Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart. Having loved his own, he loved them to the end’. He’s about to leave them and this is his parting gift… We are awkward because the God Person revered, held in high esteem is washing YOU, your body, typically parts that we would rather keep apart and may even feel ashamed of. If this isn’t a metaphor for all that is secret, tricky and shameful about us needing God’s loving touch, I don’t know what is. What are those parts for you, what are they for me? I remember when I was preparing for a big operation a few years ago, Sheridan offered to anoint me with oil. Now I like Sheridan a LOT and generally regard myself as an appropriately affectionate person (not too much, not too little, keep it boundaried, safe and respectful..) but I remember really baulking and in the midst of it, remembering this passage. I knew that I needed and wanted God and not to resist him/her. Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.
So then this Easter, not least in the context of the coronavirus, let’s be reminded of our bodily fragility and our God’s as well, come in a human vulnerable form … a God whose body was fragile and given up for us. His example to us borne of love.