It seems that we forget that Jesus was not a Christian; he was a Jew. The book of Acts tells us that it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. It was a very derogatory name used by unbelievers to identify the group who believed in Christ.
As a Jew, Jesus was raised by his parents to observe his Jewish faith. Joseph and Mary taught Jesus and he learned from the Rabbi and leaders. As a boy Jesus attended classes and practiced his faith just as our youth do today. He was twelve when Joseph and Mary and Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover as was their custom.
Here it is thirty years later, and Jesus is going to Jerusalem to observe the Passover as he has done since he was child. But it is different this time. Jesus is going to Jerusalem not as a child being obedient to his parents but as a man completely responsible for his actions. During the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah discussed with Jesus how he would suffer and die. He is going to Jerusalem knowing his Passion and Death. Yet, he still goes to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. John states “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.”
In those days, practically everybody walked to get where they were going. People wore sandals and a person’s feet would get dirty from the dusty roads. It was custom for a servant to wash visitor’s feet when they arrived. The servant had to kneel down and wash the visitor’s feet. This task was relegated to the newest or worst of the servants.
Today’s Gospel starts when Jesus and the disciples arrived in the Upper Room. Jesus takes off his outer garments to assume the role of the servant to wash the disciple’s feet. When Jesus comes to Peter, Peter asks Jesus if he is going to wash his feet. Peter is trying to preserve the Master – Disciple relationship. But Jesus is teaching a different way, a life of service to others. And Jesus starts by being an example of what he is teaching.
After Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, he asks them “Do you realize what I have done for you?” Jesus gives his disciples a mandate when he said, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Jesus was telling them more than literally washing each other’s feet. He was telling them to serve and help each other, to love others more that themselves.
Tonight, we will literally follow Jesus’ mandate and symbolically wash one another’s foot. While this is a great symbol of showing how we humble ourselves to serve others, it is more important that we follow the real mission that Jesus mandated. We must serve others who are in need.
Holy Cross Parish truly serves the community around us. The Out Reach Program is unlike any other around the area. Being known as the Potato Parish is gratitude for what you bring to the Food Banks for miles around.
While we are an example of service to others as a community, which is important, we also need to serve others in our daily lives. It’s easy to dislike the neighbor whose children play loud music, play ball in our yard or whose dog comes into our lawn and digs or makes a mess. Sometimes we even tell our neighbor about the things they do that irritate us. Will others view us as Christians when we act that way?
Jesus asks us to accept our neighbors without harsh feelings just the way they are, just the way that Jesus accepts us as we are – with all our faults and sinfulness.
As we wash each other’s foot this evening, let us remember to take this love that Jesus has for us into our lives and share his love through service to others – even those we may dislike.