It was a dramatic scene. One year ago, two weeks after becoming pope, Pope Francis traveled to the Casal del Marmo prison on Rome’s outskirts and washed the feet of twelve people, including two women and two Muslims. It was the first time women had taken part in the traditional Holy Thursday service. It was also the first time that a pope had conducted the service outside of either St. Peter’s or the Basilica of St. John in Lateran. He said that he wanted to be closer to those who were suffering. His message was a simple one: Everyone, even the pope, had to be in the service of others.
Two years ago, United Methodist Bishop Bob Hayes, who serves Oklahoma, took a basin and a towel and washed the feet of those who were to be ordained clergy in that Annual Conference.
Why would they do such a thing?
Because Jesus did — and it happened at a table.
Our Lenten series, What Happens at the Table, continues Sunday with a dramatic scene in the gospel of John. Jesus gathered his disciples for a special meal as the time of his death on the cross approached. As they ate and talked, Jesus thought about what lay ahead of him and about the meaning of his ministry and his mission. John says that Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God.” According to the other gospels — the disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest. Suddenly, the room grew silent as Jesus got up from the table, took off his robe, and put a towel around his waist like a servant! The disciples watched in disbelief as Jesus took a basin and put water in it and began to wash the disciples’ feet! What is he doing? That’s a job for a servant — not our great teacher! That is a job that servants do — not Jesus!
After he washed their feet, Jesus said, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
Through his actions and words, Jesus was saying that serving others is at the heart of who we are to be and what we are to do. As we approach this Sunday, consider what it means in your own life to do as Jesus did — to follow him as your example.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday!
Grace and Peace,