Shitty Bums & Dirty Feet


It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.


I don’t imagine it’s easy for anyone to really get their head around the idea of having Jesus wash your feet. I have heard from several sources that foot washing was considered so menial that not even the slaves of the first century Mediterranean culture were expected to perform this task. And, yet Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the Lord of all creation stripped down into what was perhaps the first century equivalent of boxers and an A-shirt, and washed the grime from each of the disciples’ feet.

This past Thursday, as I faced the mild social discomfort of having our interim pastor wash my feet as part of the Maunday Thursday celebration, I caught a glimpse of the discomfort I would have faced having Jesus wash my feet. In this, I truly identify with Peter’s response, “you shall never wash my feet.” Sure, on the surface Peter’s response seems appropriate, for how disruptive of the social order, and how unbecoming it is to have a dignitary stoop to such a low task. Moreover, what kind of egoist would willingly receive such a service from any human. And yet, I sense there is veiled pride at work in both Peter’s and my protestations.

I’m not sure how, but symbolically I liken this act of washing feet with vulnerability. The image that comes to mind is an incontinent, old invalid who lives in a nursing home and who has to have a nurse periodically wash his bum because he messes himself. Very simply, this is a damn embarrassing image, and if any of us were subject to such a situation we would no doubt feel a good measure of shame, and we would feel vulnerable to those who attended us. In similar manner, if we had the eyes to see what our little moral lapses looked like in the spiritual realm perhaps we would see a lot of shitty bums and dirty feet. Yes, I know this is a crude thought, but what we have to realize is that compared to the standard of God’s brilliant, burning, and holy love even the small ways that we are petty and egoistic is ugly.

I think that my resistance to having other people wash my feet, and particularly having Jesus wash me feet, comes from knowing that in some fashion this act which subverts social protocol, undermines decorum, and disturbs the order of things functions as a sign that points to the radical need of my soul, and quite literally, who in hell wants to own up to such a need.

2 Responses to “Shitty Bums & Dirty Feet”

  1. Simon Jones  

    And there was me thinking this was going to be a fatherhood post 🙂

  2. Anthony Velez  

    Simon – you are close, but my reflection on fatherhood is called “Shitty Bums and Dirty Faces”