Jesus washes the disciples feet. While this tradition was a sign of compassion and respect, it was a duty generally performed by house servants and slaves. For the Master to perform this duty was unheard of, thus it was shocking for the disciples to see Jesus performing this action. He did this to display the attitude and heart that His disciples must maintain. See, we should consciously maintain this servant’s attitude, and do so without grumbling or complaining. We actively strive to serve and to help, regardless of how menial or trivial a task may appear to us to be. In His command to us to love our neighbor, Jesus encompasses not merely the sharing of wealth, but performing actual service when needed, according to our individual vocation. One need not be wealthy to feed the hungry, merely being willing to put in the effort. The feeding of the poor requires not only the resources to provide the food, but also the labor of cooking, the labor of cleaning the dishes after, the labor of sweeping and mopping the feeding hall, the labor of dispensing the food to those in need. There is so much effort that goes into this task, and having the wealth to provide is only one of those many requirements. Similarly, one need not have a degree as a therapist to take the time to listen to someone in need. It’s hard to overcome the pride that our entitlement culture has imparted into our hearts, but we must remember that Jesus Himself came not to be served but to serve.
And further, we must remember that Jesus washed the feet of not only those who were loyal to Him, but also the one who would betray Him. He dined not with the wealthy religious people of His time, but with the sinners, with those who had no desire to be “saved.” This is important in our culture, because we tend to help only those with whom wee have something in common. In our “mercy ministry,” we tend to aid only those who show interest in our spiritual teaching, often committing a form of “spiritual blackmail” where we will feed those hungry only after subjecting them to a forty plus minute sermon. His command here, however, is to provide this humble service to all people. not only fellow believers, but all of humanity. I had a pastor once tell me that when Jesus said, “what you do for the least of these, my brothers, you do for Me,” that He was referring to other believers. This passage shows that teaching to be false, as he performs the same service for Judas as He does for Peter and James. We are called to serve not only our brothers and sisters in Christ; but also our enemies. Also those who have no desire to hear the spiritual lessons of the Cross; also those who would attack and persecute us. Richard Wurmbrand, imprisoned in a communist prison because of his faith, prayed not only for his fellow prisoners, but also for the very men who were torturing him. St Stephen prayed for the forgiveness of the very men who were throwing stones at him seeking to kill him. Jesus Himself prayed for the salvation of the very men who had condemned Him and were crucifying Him.
Our love, our compassion, our mercy, must not be only for those with the same political agenda and theological ideologies as ours. Our very care for others can not be limited to those whom we like and agree with. No, each human being is an icon of Christ, thus each human being must be treated with the same compassion, respect, and love; regardless of their temporal allegiances.
As followers of Christ, we have no option to judge who is or isn’t worthy to receive those things. Forgiveness is not an option. Love is not an option. Jesus commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and the lawyer asked “and who is my neighbor?” We condemn him for asking that, yet so often do the exact same thing. We feel as though we have the right to judge who is and isn’t worthy of help, and yet, when we read the teachings of Jesus, we find the answer. Who is worthy of help? The one who needs it. Who isn’t worthy of help? The one who has and won’t help others. Jesus Himself humbles Himself daily to wash the feet of those who will betray Him, to cleanse sinners of the sins that they have committed after declaring their allegiance to Him. To die on the Cross for the absolution of the sins of those who have denied Him. How can we in turn deny our service to any, based on our own personal opinions and judgments?
Christ is in our midst.