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Relationships Matter: Serve

14-05-2017

Imagine…

Imagine you sense a bad smell. You can’t figure out where it is coming from at first. Then you realize it’s coming from you. Or from your shoe at least.

Have you ever stepped in dog poop? You know how it gets all over the bottom of your shoe? If you don’t notice at first and you keep walking on it for a while, it really gets pushed into the grooves. If it dries out, it gets caked into the shoe. When you start cleaning it out, it stinks again. You have to scrape it and work it out. It’s a real mess.

Have you had to scrape poop off your own shoe? What if somebody else stepped in poop. Would you clean it off somebody else’s shoe? That would be a labour of love! Would you scrape dog poop off your boss’s shoe? What about a teacher’s shoe?

Would you scrape poop of Jesus’ shoe? If Jesus came to your house and you smelled that fragrance, and Jesus checked the bottom of his shoe, would you volunteer to clean it for him?

What if the poop was on your shoe? What if Jesus offered to scrape your shoe? Would you let Jesus scrape your shoes clean of such a stinky mess?

[pic] In the ancient world, people’s feet got really dirty. Far dirtier than our feet get today! Around Jerusalem, some of the major Roman roads were paved with stones, but most roads were dirt. It was also hot. As people walked, they got sweaty. The dirt and dust on the roads would billow up in clouds around their feet. The dirt would stick to the sweat on their feet. As they continued to walk, that dirt would dry out and get caked on.

But dirt was not the only thing on the roads. Remember, they didn’t have cars or trucks. Shipping, in those days, was done by donkey power! Low on carbon emissions, donkeys and horses, however, did have a different environmental impact. Their “exhaust systems” would leave nice piles on the road, which would get stepped on, mashed into the road, and spread along the path. People walking along later would inevitably step in this addition to the dirt and it, too, would get caked onto their feet and sandals.

Imagine, then, the state of people’s feet when they arrived at somebody’s home. Here in Canada, especially in the winter, we take our boots and shoes off at the front door when we enter a home. We don’t want to track snow or ice throughout somebody’s house. Imagine living in First Century Palestine. It wasn’t snow or ice you would worry about tracking through somebody’s home!

So it became customary to wash people’s feet when they entered your home. But, as we have considered, this would be an incredibly messy, smelly, nasty job. So it was a job reserved for the lowest of servants in the house! In some Jewish circles, it was prohibited to have a Jewish slave perform such a nasty task. It was the lowest of lowest jobs, messy, smelly and humiliating. As one scholar puts it, “foot washing was virtually synonymous with slavery.” [Andrew Lincoln, cited in Frederick Dale Bruner, John, p. 762]

We need to understand that foot washing was a sign of total submission. It was a sign of humility. It was humiliating to wash another person’s feet. If a person chose to wash another’s feet, it was a sign of great love and respect. We can be assured that, if asked, the disciples would have gladly washed Jesus’ feet, but they would never have washed one another’s feet! That would be a sign of inferiority. [FF Bruce, John, p. 280]

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Filetype: MP3 - Size: 38.66MB - Duration: 42:14 m (128 kbps 48000 Hz)