In the thirteenth chapter of John, the closer Jesus gets to the inevitable moment of execution, the more we discover hate bubbling below and above the surface. In these hours, Jesus teaches us many things. We learn that to respond to hate with anything less than love is to live as something less than God. Jesus was prepared to love those who hated Jesus until the very end and beyond.
Judas was getting ready to betray Jesus and Jesus had inklings that such betrayal was coming. How does Jesus respond to having a potential charlatan in the room? Jesus loves him more.
Jesus did not take the safe route. Jesus loved even when Jesus knew that it was not safe. This does not mean that Jesus intentionally placed Jesus’ self in danger…in fact Jesus retreats at various points in scripture…but it does mean that Jesus took the risk to love in dangerous times. When we dare love, we are participating in the risky business of God. I do not encourage anyone to stay in dangerous or toxic relationships, but let us never forget that loving someone is always risky. We can never know how things might turn out, but we can choose how we are going to live…we can choose love.
Have you ever wondered if you had the option of viewing a roadmap of where the betrayers would be marked throughout your life, would you take a look and avoid them? I can’t speak for you, but I can speak for me. I have experienced many moments of betrayal throughout my life and I would not avoid any of them. I have had many opportunities to love people in this community over the last six months and not all of these relationships have ended well…but our love cannot be dependent on or taken hostage by the emotions or reactions of others. We must love for the sake of love. This is the business of God.
In the midst of hate and coming betrayals, Jesus washes the feet of all of the disciples present. This is the dirty God…the one that gets down in the dirt to wash people’s feet. These folks probably had not had their feet washed in some time. Their feet were probably really stinky. I would imagine that there were multiple bunions and warts present. I would even imagine that there was probably some donkey or camel shit thrown in there for good measure. Yet Jesus goes to washing or loving with no concern for the dirt, bunions, warts or even shit that might get on Jesus’ hands or person. This is the shitty God that dares to get down in the shit with us. This is the God that dares to stoop down and wash feet even when there is a possibility of getting kicked in the teeth. This is the God that pushes past caution and loves all of us dilapidated and broke down creatures.
When the time comes for Jesus to wash Peter’s feet, he says, “No, I am just too wounded and too dirty to have my feet washed by you.” Jesus takes this moment to teach that it is out of our washing that we are healed and learn how to heal others. Unless we allow ourselves to be cleaned, then we are not going to know how to clean others. I pray we will not resist the cleansing so that we might discover who we are clean.
Jesus looked at the disciples and said, “You have called me so many things and bestowed on me so many honors, but all I want to do is wash your feet.” This is the call of a God that is far queerer than our ability to grasp…to wash people’s feet. May we go through life not seeking titles, honors or anything else…but rather be willing to get down in the shit with people and wash their feet.
The passages end this morning in the juxtaposition where they began, between betrayal and love. Jesus reveals that Judas will be the vessel of betrayal. Jesus loves Judas anyways. Everyone assumes that Judas is the primary betrayal, but then Jesus reveals that Peter will betray Jesus also. So who is the primary betrayal? Perhaps the point is to understand that we will all at one time or another be betrayed and betrayers in this life. Perhaps the point of the text is to illustrate that no matter the circumstance we must humble ourselves to be love…we must humble ourselves to be feet washers.