Feet Showed Me Jesus

I’ve washed a lot of people’s feet. I don’t like feet. 

Usually, out of the two main “foot-washing passages” in the Bible, it’s easiest for me to grasp the Biblical account of Jesus washing John’s feet in John 13. It’s humbling, sure. The Creator and perfect Savior washed an imperfect man’s feet. That’s hard to swallow… But because we’re used to talking about the unimaginable grace of Jesus, it’s still understandable. 

But then, we get the story of Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet in Luke 7. Mary Magdalene the Prostitute. Mary Magdalene the sinner. Mary Magdalene the outcast… She washed Christ’s feet. 

She wasn’t a servant whose only job was to clean guests’ feet. She wasn’t even supposed to touch men for fear of contaminating them. But Jesus… Jesus let her wash his feet. Not only did he let her wash his feet… She used her hair. Who knows where that filthy wretch had been? 

Two accounts of service. I’d much rather put myself in the shoes of the humbled disciple than the humiliated, repentant whore. 

Usually, foot-washing is a sweet, simple reminder of Christ’s willingness to serve us. The Greater serves the lesser. He never turned down a chance to serve someone as a way to encourage unity. Usually, I wash a fellow congregant’s already-clean feet just as a symbol of that. It’s easy, it’s short and easily forgotten. I’ve been a part of a church that does feet-washing since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. 

In all honesty, though, I don’t remember any of those people I’ve “served.” 

I do, however, remember the time(s) God whispered to my heart at the stupidest of times, “Change of plans. Get on your knees. Take their shoes off and wash their feet. I asked you to serve them once and instead you served yourself. Show them what it means to serve when you let Me take over.”

It was in that moment I knew I had stopped praying for that particular person because my shame was larger than my desire to serve. Any time I started a prayer, it felt impossible to finish. Pray for him? I had hurt him! I can’t bless him by praying for him and act like my sin had never impacted him.

So, I got down on my knees and showed my own heart what it meant to serve as a gateway to reconciliation. It wasn’t humiliating, but it was indeed humbling. It wasn’t life-changing, but it was heart-changing. I have no idea if he understood why washing his feet was my only option… But I had to wash his feet. 

Often, we’re called to do crazy things in order to instigate reconciliation within the Body of Christ. I struggle to do many of those things (like washing an unsuspecting man’s feet!) if I can’t see the end result. If I can’t guarantee my act of service, humility, or courage will heal a wound, why put myself out there in the first place? What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m made an even bigger fool? 

What if God got it wrong?

Or, is it possible that’s not the issue? Could it be an act of obedience to encourage reconciliation is counted as a success because of how it changes our hearts, not the person we’re serving? 

Disappointment, Anger, or Love? 

Quiet disappointment is the epitome of what breaks my heart. I’m familiar with angry eruptions. With those reactions, my next move is quite literally to get out of the way and attempt to calm the person down at a distance. I don’t pay attention to the cause of their anger, but focus on fixing their reaction. Though my attempts to make peace can be fear-filled, it’s easy enough. 

But with quiet disappointment I’m drastically aware of my failure, and my reaction is based heavily on wanting to restore fellowship. It has very little to do with fear and everything to do with correcting a wrong. I may possess peace during those occasions of righting a wrong, but it’s dreadfully hard to claim. 

For the last day or so, I’ve had to mull over the difference between feeling the anger of God and feeling His broken fellowship and disappointment. It’s not a joyful occasion to stand before God and only have one thing to say: “I know full well I broke Your heart. I put You second in line to my attempts at control.” 

It’s so much easier to picture God as an unemotional, tyrannical Lord who deals with my sin with outbursts of anger. With that approach, my attempts to seek forgiveness become mechanical: Throw a few sacrifices of praise His way, sing peaceful songs… 1, 2, 3, thanks for forgiveness, I’m out the door. 

However, I’m fully aware that He is an emotional, fellowship-seeking creator who deals with my sin as a father dealing with a rebellious child. With that, I’m deeply reminded my sin disappoints the One I love most. My sin caused a rift in our fellowship with each other. 

My sin did not, however, erase His love toward me. Despite that glorious truth, healing still takes time. Anger screams, “You’ve done Me wrong!” Disappointment cries, “We need to fix us.” 

Christ constantly asks us to rebuild what our sin has torn down. He never promised total healing would happen overnight. But above all, He never leaves us to restore our relationship alone. 

His disappointment in our sin feels heavier because He’s weighing our character, not our deeds… But His disappointment is proof that He believes intimate fellowship is still possible. 

His overwhelming fellowship-seeking love proves He has called us to so much more.