Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blessed Are You If You Do This.

(John 13:16-20)

When Jesus had washed the disciples' feet, he said to them:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
I am not speaking of all of you.

I know those whom I have chosen.
But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.
From now on I am telling you before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send
receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."

We have reached a turning point in the gospel of John. The public ministry of Jesus is completed, and he is about to enter the phase of his passion and death. One scholar wrote, “In the first part of the gospel, which ends here, Jesus lives in complete obedience to the Father; in this second part, He will die in the same obedience.”

The scene is at the Last Supper. Jesus has just washed the feet of his disciples. What he has done is contrary to the usual custom, where it was a courtesy for a disciple to wash the feet of the rabbi. In John’s gospel, there is no account of the institution of the Eucharist; instead, there is the account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. When Jesus sat down at table again, he said, in similar words, “Do this in memory of me.” It is the Eucharist put into practice.

The feet are both the lowest part of the human anatomy, and the lowliest. They touch things we would not touch with our hands. On the other hand, they are our most basic point of contact with the world in which we live and move and have our being. If you have experienced a foot massage, you can attest that it affects the entire body just as much as a whole body massage might – even if, at first glance, it appears to be much less intimate.

“I am doing this for you”, Jesus says, “and so you should do for one another.” Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is representative of every simple service we can perform for one another. Those who receive these services may seem – as did the disciples – insensitive and ungrateful. But, as with the feet, there can be greater sensitivity than we expect.

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