Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
As you entered church today the deacons offered to wash and dry your hands.
How many of you were a little like Peter and did not want to let someone wash your hands?
If you did, how did it feel to be served by another?
If you were the one washing and drying the hands of others, how did it feel to serve?
Are you more comfortable being served or serving?
For thirty-one years and 865 episodes, Mr. Rogers used his Neighborhood to show the world as it should be—a place of kindness where neighbors love and support each other through difficult times of death, divorce, and danger.
It was also a space where Rogers helped viewers confront their own fear and prejudices, leading them past them in his own very non-threatening way.
From the beginning in 1968, Rogers specifically challenged the nation’s understanding of race through his friendship—both on and off-screen—with Francois Clemmons, the Neighborhood police officer who just happened to be an African-American.
Talk about Clemmons….
In the episode that first aired on May 9, 1969, Mr Rogers opens the show singing his iconic, “won’t you be my neighbor” song but instead of putting on his cardigan he tells us how hot it is outside and goes to the front yard and fills a kiddie pool with water from a hose
Then he takes off his shoes and rolls up his pants and puts his feet in the pool while sitting in a chair
Soon Officer Clemmons drops by for a visit and Mr. Rogers invites him to share the pool with him.
Clemmons quickly accepts, rolls up his pant legs of his uniform, and places his very brown feet in the same water as Rogers’ very white feet. this small gesture may not seem like a big deal today, but in the 1960s, it was.
Like public fountains, public transportation, and public schools, the public pool had become a battleground of racial segregation.
As Clemmons slipped his feet into the pool, the camera held the shot for several seconds, as if to make the point clear: a pair of brown feet and a pair of white feet can share a swimming pool.
There was no lecture, commentary or explanation… it was an act that spoke volumes
Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is an extravagant demonstration of love
the passage tells us that Jesus knew what was going to happen… that his time was coming to an end, that he would be betrayed and denied
Knowing all this… he got up from the table and assumed the role of a servant
I am told that at the time of Christ, it was common for a host to provide water for guests to wash their own feet or to have their slave, usually a female slave, wash their dirty feet.
No free person washed the feet of another free person except as a show of utter devotion
Jesus was voluntarily taking on the role of a slave…in a humble and loving act of service
It is remarkable to find someone knowing that these are their last moments with their closest friends to use it as a time to give adulation and love to those friends rather than to be focused on receiving their adulation and love.
But foot washing is more than an act of humility and service.
In many ways, it is also an act of cleansing and repentance. Throughout the Scripture, washing and water symbolize the purification from sin and disease—from the ceremonial washing of the Old Testament to Naaman’s washing in the Jordan to the rite of baptism.
Jesus was washing his disciples’ feet of the grime that had accumulated from walking the dusty roads of Jerusalem.
And when Peter objected to Jesus’ act of humility, Jesus warns him that “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
he is also cleansing them of certain attitudes and preconceptions on social norms
Jesus’ act of washing the feet of the disciples is an action parable, which he makes clear in verse 15: “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
And this active parable points to the future, to Jesus’ death, as he patiently explains to his friends, “you do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (13:7)
What is he pointing towards?
He is pointing towards God’s kingdom, which is all about radical equality, where hierarchies and power structures are meaningless
This is the world where the first shall be last and the last shall be first, a world in which the King of kings bends low to dampen the soiled feet of fishermen, tax collectors and zealots.
Those who would betray him and deny him
It’s no surprise, then, that when Mr. Rogers, a Presbyterian minister, wanted to heal the divide between blacks and whites, to show us how to serve each other, it looked very much like Jesus’ own servanthood.
When Rogers shared his pool and wiped his friend’s feet with a towel, he was repenting through servanthood—the same servanthood that motivated Jesus to take up the towel before his death.
With no lecture or commentary or explanation
with just an act of simple friendship, of offering a friend the chance to cool off on a hot day
Rogers relinquished his privilege to kneel down and dry Clemmons feet, setting an example
following the example he’d learned from John’s gospel, from Jesus
Church, there are still divides to be healed, still hands and feet to be washed. Amen
Spill the Beans Vol 26