Foot Washing Weirdness

Jesus washes feet

The preparations have been made. The Passover Feast has begun. Jesus knew this would be his last Passover with the disciples, and this meal certainly wasn’t the only thing on his mind. The cross loomed tall and imposing in his near future, and he knew his time was short.

The disciples on the other hand were clueless as usual. Maybe they were semi-conscious of the strange things Jesus kept saying and how he’d been acting, but the one thing you could count on with the disciples was how oblivious they were. Typical males, right?

The disciples were looking forward to celebrating another Passover with Jesus. It was always a memorable time of eating and laughing, relaxing around the table, and reflecting on the goodness of God.

So here they are again, gathered together, gathered round the table, ready to begin the ceremonial meal. We are familiar with how the story begins. Jesus gets up from the table, wraps a towel around his waist, pours water into a basin, and proceeds to wash the disciples’ feet.

Now this would have caught the disciples off guard; this was out of the ordinary. It seems out of the ordinary for us, too, but for different reasons. We are not accustomed to this custom; we are used to washing our own feet, not having someone else do that.

In Bible times, when you were a guest in someone’s home, they took it upon themselves to wash your feet. The purpose was to be hospitable, to be a good host, and to honor your guests and make them feel welcome, comfortable, and at home during their stay in your house. And after a long day of walking dirt roads in sandals, having clean feet makes everything better.

This practice of being a good host to guests is one we still practice today, even if it looks different. We welcome our guests when they arrive, we take their coats, we invite them to sit down, we offer them food and drink. Things really haven’t changed that much.

While our Bible-times-host wanted to make sure his guests had clean feet and were comfortable, the actual washing of their feet was not something the host ever did. It was beneath the host; it was not proper for a free man to stoop so low.

So the job of washing feet was given to the servant or the slave, and always the lowest one on the totem pole. If a family did not have the means to have their own servants, the job fell to the lady of the household or the children. Never the man of the house.

This is why the disciples were shocked. This is why Peter resisted. The one they held as their King was stooping down to do the job of a worthless slave? Not on Peter’s watch.

But let’s look at this event from the perspective of Jesus.

More than likely, this is the first meal Jesus has hosted for his disciples. Jesus still lived at home with his mom. He didn’t have a place of his own, so he would not have had occasion to be a host.

But Jesus is hosting this meal. He ordered the preparations. He rented the space.

And as host, the responsibilities of taking care of the guests fall to him. Finding someone to wash everyone’s feet is his job.

But he doesn’t find someone. Whether this slipped his mind or was part of his plan all along, there is no servant in the room to wash feet.

I wonder if the disciples picked up on this. I wonder if they kept looking around the room nervously, trying hard not to make eye contact with Jesus, afraid he would ask them to get up and do this humiliating job?

I imagine it might have been similar to when you go out to eat with friends, and the food arrives, and everyone just stares awkwardly at their plate until someone finally offers to pray for the meal. I imagine it might have been like that.

So then Jesus gets up and does what comes naturally for him. He doesn’t think twice about it. He does not see it as something beneath him.

Of course he doesn’t. He himself once said, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

It is perfectly natural for Jesus to wash their feet. It is his very nature, his character, to humbly serve others no matter if it costs him his time, his reputation, or his life.

And he does not limit his service only to those who would call him friend. He lowers himself even before Judas, and serves and loves and hopes for the best while being aware of the worst.

Afterwards, he says to his followers, “I have given you the ultimate example of how you are to be. Serve each other just as I have served you.”

While we may or may not literally follow Jesus’ example of washing feet, we are not to just be copycats of Jesus. We are called to be like Jesus. Just as his natural response and reaction was to serve his neighbor, so we should be seeking to become more like him so that our natural responses and reactions look like his.

Where’s God?

I just got back with my students from a week at Engage, our annual youth conference. Incredible week; three days later, I am still amazed and humbled at how God worked in students’ lives.

Our theme was ‘IKON,’ unpacking what it means to be made in the image of God and what it means that we are being re-made in the image of Christ. Our speakers did a great job making the concepts understandable and applicable, and students were embracing it!

We, the church, are the image-bearers of Christ to the world. We are to live as He lived and be the place where heaven kisses earth. This is the mission He gave us; this is why the Spirit of God has been sent, that the power and presence of God goes where we go.

But last Friday, as we ended the last session and went our separate ways, was bittersweet. Early that morning, I had received a text from my wife asking if I had heard about the shooting in Aurora. The bubble we had lived in all week suddenly burst. The reality of life in this world was a cruel slap across the face.

We stopped at an Arby’s for lunch on our way back home, and there were televisions on reporting what had taken place in that movie theater in Colorado. I couldn’t take my eyes from the screen, and I couldn’t keep my mind from spinning.

A thought flashed through my mind. And not the typical, “Where’s God?” thought we have when we come face-to-face with evil and horror of this magnitude. We ask how God could allow this to happen. We wrestle with the problem of evil and a good God who is supposedly in charge of this world.

But what flashed through my mind was a different thought:

This is my fault.

This is our fault.

Where was the church? 

Back in the D.R.

Grounded. That’s what I feel here.

We’re back in the Dominican, and it’s good to be back. I will never get tired of seeing students getting a taste of serving others, seeing their arms and their hearts go out to these little ones.

I will never get tired of giving myself in this way either. We are so limited in what we can do in such a short time and with the language barrier, but what a blessing to pour ourselves out in an effort to show our love and share God’s love. It is sweet water to my thirsty soul.

We head to English church this morning, then Bombita this afternoon for home visits. Monday and Tuesday we will do VBS both mornings and visit two other neighborhoods in the afternoons. We get to pass out many of the things we brought Tuesday afternoon at Palm Village, one of the places I’m most looking forward to returning to.

And then we leave for home. It will all be over much too soon.

But we will carry these people in our hearts, and the contagious bug of serving others will come home with us, too.

I Can’t Do It

Is it too early for a heavy thought?

Here it is: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength.

This is heavy because Jesus qualified it as the most important thing for us to be sure we’re doing.

That’s right. At the top of the list is not eat your vegetables, wash behind your ears, or mind your p’s and q’s. It’s love God with the entirety of your being.

Since it’s so heavy, maybe we should give it some extra attention. So I have. And I’ve discovered there’s another reason why it’s heavy.

I can’t do it.

I fail. And I’d wager to say you fail, too.

‘Cause I Gotta Have Faith

The purpose of being a Christian is to trust God with your life.

It is not just to trust God to forgive your sins; it is to trust Him with every aspect of your life.

The first few generations of Christians were not persecuted and executed because they were trusting God to get them to heaven. It was because they were trusting God with their lives in a way that was causing societal upheaval around them.

They were insurrectionists. They were living radically different than the rest of the world. In making Jesus their Lord and King, they were rejecting the rulers and systems of the day.

October Baby and What It Says About Us

I got to meet my two-day old nephew yesterday. There’s something powerful and special about holding a brand new life in your arms. Kinda makes you value life more and the short time we have here.

We didn’t stay long at the hospital. From there, we met a group of friends at the movie theater to watch October Baby. This is a pro-life movie with a strong storyline.

To be honest, the movie was longer than it needed to be, too much of the dialogue was cheesy and over the top, and I really wanted to give Bo Duke a haircut. But aside from these things, it was a good movie with an incredibly important message.

"You're just jealous of my amazing hair."

Lord of What?

Nero did not throw Christians to the lions because they confessed that ‘Jesus is Lord of my heart.’ It was rather because they confessed that ‘Jesus is Lord of all,’ meaning that Jesus was Lord even over the realm Caesar claimed as his domain of absolute authority.

–Michael Bird

My Love/Hate Relationship with Lent

Something’s bugging me. And it has to do with me.

Today is the start of Lent, the forty-day period leading up to our celebration of Easter. It’s tradition to give something up for Lent, whether it’s chocolate, TV, Facebook, or the musical sounds of Justin Bieber. It is a wonderful, ancient practice that has been getting more attention the last few years. Its benefit is in preparing our hearts and reflecting on what our Lord Jesus went through for us. To suffer and find some solidarity with Christ’s sufferings.

Why do we need to do this?

Glad you asked. We live in a culture that is so bubble-wrapped and cushy that giving something up has become a felt need for many of us. Suffering is a rarity. It is, because when it comes our way we are always shocked. We live “blessed” here in America.

We have fully adopted this mindset in the church. We equate God’s blessing with the American dream. While we scoff at the ridiculousness of the “health and wealth/name it and claim it” gospel, we cling to a version of it. In Christ, God is ready to give us “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” Not to pick on the book with this title, but this is such a popular message and an underlying layer of Christian sub-culture.

While I do believe God wants to bless His people (so that they in turn are a blessing), this was not the central focus of Jesus’ message about the kingdom or what life would look like for kingdom people.

Quotes of Note from the King Jesus Gospel

I have resonated with the content of this book and McKnight’s call to recreate a gospel culture. And so I am providing a Cliff Notes version of the book… some Quotes of Note. May it give you an idea of the book, and possibly propel you to read the book yourself. 


The Christian faith is kaleidoscopic, and most of us are color-blind. (11)

… “the gospel” is the story of Jesus of Nazareth told as the climax of the long story of Israel, which in turn is the story of how the one true God is rescuing the world. (12)

… we all urgently need to allow this deeply biblical vision of “the gospel” to challenge the less-than-completely-biblical visions we have cherished for too long, around which we have built a good deal of church life and practice. (13)


At the root of the many problems that trouble the “church visible” today, there is one simple source: the message that is preached. (15)


At the most conservative of estimates, we lose at least 50 percent of those who make decisions. (20)