Jesus 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.” - John 13:4-7 (NRSV)
I’ve never been more aware of my body or its proximity to other bodies than in this moment. Except maybe in my teenage years, when any amount of closeness would start my blood pumping like I was running the annual compulsory mile around the track, when an accidental touch of hands would be all I thought about for days.
These days, standing within five feet of anyone feels so intimate. Seeing someone’s smile unmasked? Enough to start your blood pumping. So dangerous.
Like Jesus, in his underwear, kneeling before these men to wash them. Too close. Too exposed. He knows the thought of it will consume Peter for days.
So he gives away the meaning: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”
It’s about service. As Jesus has served them, they should serve others.
Which makes it no less scary. The intimacy of choosing to do something completely for someone else. The danger of letting someone do something completely for you. No reciprocity. Not even a thank you note.
What could be more vulnerable? What could be more exposing? Letting someone enter into your life, even closer than touch.
Nearer my God, to thee. Nearer to thee.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.