Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ and greetings from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My first week here was a continuation of relationships already established with multiple missionaries and an opportunity to provide a continuation of care. You may remember from last year that there is a short term mission trip every year to Ethiopia so my 2nd week here was spent with the team, many of whom are from my home church. This update is from that week.
I had the chance to continue to serve at Compassion Family International with the primary role of fitting shoes for the kids there. We ended up passing out around 95 pairs shoes. There are a few highlights of the week, one of which was the chance to be involved in foot washing. The lesson from the week was about the life of Moses. The connection was made with the CFI staff between foot washing and Moses taking off his sandals as he was on Holy ground. Foot washing was also tied in to Jesus washing His disciples feet, which is the portion of Scripture I would like to focus on. Some of the team washed the parents and guardians feet and then on staff appreciation day, the rest of us had the opportunity to wash the feet of the CFI staff. As I have reflected on that experience and what it meant to me and re-read the passage where Jesus washed His disciples feet, here are a few thoughts I will share.
For me, it was a chance to take a look at how Jesus was able to love His disciples. Take a moment to read John 13:1-17. Yes what happened with the disciples was many years ago and it was a different place but our story is still the same as the disciples. We were not in Jerusalem and we were not alive that night. But what Jesus did for them He has done for us. He has cleansed us. He has cleansed our hearts from sin. Our Savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives and from the basin of His grace He scoops a palm full of mercy and washes away our sin. But that is not all He does. Because He lives in us, you and I can do the same. Because He has forgiven us, we can forgive others. Because He has a forgiving heart, we can have a forgiving heart.
Max Lucado has written about this passage and he suggests there are 2 reasons why Jesus washes our feet. The first is to give us mercy. The second is to give us a message. That message is simply this: 1. Jesus offers unconditional grace; we are to offer unconditional grace. 2. The mercy of Christ preceded our mistakes; our mercy must precede the mistakes of others. 3. Those in the circle of Christ had no doubt about His love; those in our circles, whether it is family or friends, should have no doubt about our love.
Jesus was able to love His disciples with a towel and basin. Of all the times we see the bowing knees of Jesus none is as precious as when He kneels before His disciples and washes their feet. It was just before the Passover feast and Jesus knew the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to His Father. He now showed his disciples the full extent of His love.
Remember the task to wash feet was for the lowest of servants. But in this case the one with the towel and basin is the King of the universe. Hands that shaped the stars now wash away filth. Fingers that formed mountains now massage toes. And the one before whom all nations will one day kneel now kneels before His disciples. Hours before His own death, Jesus’ concern is singular. He wants His disciples to know how much He loves them. More than removing dirt, Jesus is removing doubt. Jesus knows what will happen to His hands at the crucifixion. Within 24 hours, they will be pierced and lifeless. Of all the times we would expect Him to ask for the disciples’ attention, this would be one of them. But He does not. You can be sure Jesus knows the future of the feet He is washing. These 24 feet will not spend the next day following their master, defending His cause. These feet will dash for cover at the flash of the Roman sword. Only one pair of feet will not abandon Him in the garden. One disciple will not desert Him at Gethsemane-Judas won’t even make it that far! He will abandon Jesus that very night at the table. Jesus knows what these men are about to do. In the morning they will bury their heads in shame and when they do He wants them to remember how he knelt before them and washed their feet. He wants them to realize those feet are still clean. In John 13:7 Jesus says “you do not understand what I am doing now but you will later”. Remarkable! He forgave their sins even before they committed them. He offered mercy before they even sought it.
All this to say that the moment I knelt before Fikadu to wash his feet, this passage became more alive and real to me. It was humbling. It was an act of worship. It was an act of service I never will forget. And based on Fikadu's reaction, I believe he will not forget either. Of all the glimpses of God that occurred this week with CFI and the team, this is the most powerful reminder for me of His love, mercy, forgiveness and grace poured out on each of us; His light shining into the darkest recesses of my heart. I was honored to be able to play a part in washing someone's feet and reflecting on what Jesus did for His disciples when He was their feet.
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Misty Bodkins has a Master's degree in clinical psychology. She has worked both stateside and internationally doing counseling, training, teaching, and research. Her passion is working with people who are in crisis.