Simply put: barefoot contact with the ground makes your feet nasty. Period.
If you spend enough time shoeless or in flip-flops, the dirt sinks in…you get stained by direct contact with the dust. And I promise, when your feet look like that you don’t want anyone near them!
As I enter Holy Week, I’m reading the things that Jesus did and experienced His last week on earth. Some of the first words of John are the most startling: Jesus showed His disciples “the full extent of His love”.
He left it all on the field…displayed and expressed how passionately He loved these men.
But was John talking about Gethsemane or Golgotha? Was he thinking of whips and thorns and a cross? No. He was pointing to the upper room where Jesus washed the disciples filthy feet.
Where He got too close for comfort.
I mean, these were shoeless and sandals kind of guys. They spent a lot of time with their feet on dusty floors and muddy roads. And it was those feet–stained by daily exposure to the dirtier parts of living that Jesus got near.
He took off His robe, wrapped Himself in only a towel and with intrusive intimacy got His hands dirty cleaning them up. Jesus had no compunction about the dirty work, but it made the disciples incredibly uncomfortable.
It still does. Just look at the reaction Pope Francis got when one of his first pontifical acts was to wash the feet of prisoners. It was just so….well, nasty.
As Jesus made the rounds, washing the dust of the day from the tired feet of His disciples, He came to Peter. The proud fisherman wanted nothing of it.
Jesus was now getting too close to him personally for comfort.
But Jesus made it clear–to know Him, His hands have to get all up in our business. He wants to get to those hidden places in us where life has rubbed off.
He isn’t afraid of our dirt.
But we are afraid to let Him near it.
Jesus told Peter, “If I don’t get access to work on your darker places, I can’t change you.” Hearing that, Peter decided he not only wanted a foot washing, but a full-on decontamination shower.
Knowing Jesus was worth the exposure.
Living in the everyday realities of our world leaves its marks. We get dirty as we walk through daily. Sometimes it seems the stains won’t come off.
Those are the places Jesus, unveiled in vulnerable intimacy, wants to get near. His loving touch of grace is all we need to cleanse and comfort in those soiled and stained touchpoints of life.
It feels invasive, awkward and scary–but it is absolutely essential.
We have let Him get too close for comfort.