Peter, the man — II

“Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

“If you’ve been married as long as I have, you know there are subjects you don’t ever talk about, at least not in public. My wife is good about pinching me whenever I am about to start on a topic SHE doesn’t think is appropriate. But on a night like this I feel that the Lord wouldn’t mind if I told you the story about the time He almost didn’t wash my feet.

So let me start by telling you straight: fishermen grow up around dirty feet. Our poor feet are either getting wet or getting dirty. On the boat, we are around fish all the time, so you can guess what our feet smell like. (Just about right now I would start to feel the pinch…). On dry ground, we put our sandals on and walk on dirt, over sharp rocks, or sometimes on muddy roads that have been drenched by rain, and the heat sometimes makes our feet steamy and sticky. By the time we get home, our feet look like the fish we just caught – dead and smelly.

No one with a right head, then, would offer to go anywhere near our feet. Only the rich had servants who would wash their feet at the door when they got home. The rest of us resorted to bribing our kids to remove our sandals before we collapsed on the floor after a hard day at work. Touching our feet, then, was a no-no, unless you wanted be the one collapsing on the floor.

So on Passover night, when Jesus rose up and started washing feet, you can imagine the shock… First of all, we were in the middle of a meal. I mean, what kind of a person washes feet just before dessert during the Passover meal? No one I knew. Just picture this, “Andrew, can you pass me the jelly donut, please, and while you are at it, can you give me your feet too?” Sounds kind of strange, doesn’t it?

But that’s not all. Remember, we’re talking about Jesus here. He was a miracle worker. Women had anointed His feet with expensive perfume and we loved to sit at His feet with abandonment. Now He was the one bending toward our feet and washing them. Something about the whole scene screamed “Awkward!” The other guys felt the same way, but they were always so scared to speak their mind. Me? I didn’t care. As soon as I saw what He was doing, I said to myself, “No way, Pedro! He ain’t touching my feet!”

So when Jesus came to me with his towel, I asked Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” What I really meant to say was, “Lord, you are NOT going to wash my feet, are you?” But instead of giving me a straight “yes” or “no” answer, he gave me the typical “get on with the program” line, preferably without asking too many questions. He said something about the fact that this would make sense later. But I didn’t care about later; I only cared about the moment and my gut feeling at the moment told me, “No way!” Look, I know I am a simple-minded fisherman, but what sort of an answer is this, “Just do it”? Some kind of first Century Nike commercial?

I wasn’t buying it, so I said, “No, you shall NEVER wash my feet.” Jesus didn’t flinch, He didn’t raise His voice, He didn’t show any sign of frustration whatsoever. He simply rose away from my feet, and I felt the love in His voice when He said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

Somehow, when He said that, I got it. And it was all because of one little word. Jesus didn’t say, “Unless I wash your FEET, you have no part with me.” He said, “Unless I wash YOU.” That word “YOU” finally sank into this old fisherman’s thick head. It hit me like the jolt of a sudden wave on the Sea of Galilee.
I realized then that Jesus was just using my feet to get to my head. The whole time, He was not really talking about the exterior dirt on my feet. He was talking about the sin inside of me. With that simple act of washing my feet, He was reminding me that my sins were not a single episode; they were a series. And His Father, who is Holy, is offended when I sin, so I need to experience His daily cleansing.

When the light came on, it was like an unexpected catch. I went from “no feet” to “head, hands and feet.” I wanted the full body treatment because I knew that sin had contaminated every area of my life. I thought of the argument I had just had with James and John about who was the greatest, the way I had treated my wife the last time I saw her, my thoughts about the Samaritan people we had just visited, who had hurled insults at us because we were headed to Jerusalem….

At that moment, I saw who I really was for the first time in my life, and I was covered with shame. The thought of not being on good terms with my Lord overwhelmed me, so I told Jesus to dump the whole bucket of water on me. Jesus graciously reminded me that I didn’t need a full bath. Once cleansed of the guilty of sin, we just need regular cleansing, which is possible through our daily communion with Him. A wave of relief came over me. I was so happy that my relationship with Him didn’t have to stay broken and His humble action that night – washing our feet – was a beautiful picture of that.

So, on this night, when we remember the work the Lord did for us, this truth rings as true today as it did the night He almost didn’t wash my feet. In a way, He is still here and He wants to wash YOUR feet. Please don’t be like me, let Him do it and embrace His cleansing.

Ivanildo C. Trindade