Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"Feet Under the Table"

John 13: 1-12

Psalm 40: 1-5

It was Passover.  And it was the first Christian Holy Communion.  “Jesus, knowing that the

Father had given all things into his hands….got up from the table.”  “….all things into his hands.” 

How many of us remember a beloved spiritual from our childhood:  “He’s got the wind and the

rain in His hands….. He’s got the tiny little baby in His hands….He’s got you and me brother in His

hands….. He’s got the whole world in His hands.”  Yes indeed.  From galaxies to grains of sand;

from the blazing sun to the glowing lightning bug; from the majestic mountain to the lowly anthill..

…… Jesus emptied His hands of every glory of the universe.  And He took into His hands, of all

things, our feet.  Why?  That He might wash them.  But why?  Why is this Jesus’ job?  He is Lord. 

He is Messiah. He is King.  Peter cries out, “You will never wash my feet.”  Jesus said He must,

afterward reassuring Peter and the rest of the disciples:  “…….but later you will understand.” 

      Here we are, some 1985 years later – preparing to receive communion for the first time ever in

this place -- still trying to understand.  Maybe it will help if we reflect for a few moments on whose

feet it is that Jesus washes. Whose feet did Jesus wash on the occasion of that first last supper? 

Whose feet were under the table?  I wonder if He even looked up to see whose feet He was about

to wash next?  Maybe not.  Jesus’ love was so indiscriminate.  He played no favorites.  He would

wash all of them.  But He knew that among those feet, there were……..

      ….fishermen.  It wasn’t hard to tell.  Their feet were rough; both worn and toughened by salt

water; wearing the scars of splinters from the jagged planks of fishing vessels.  They were the feet

of the laborer; the poor; the tired; the overworked and the underpaid; the unjustly oppressed in

the workplace.  Jesus may have been reminded of his father Joseph’s feet; the feet of the lowly,

laboring carpenter.  Peter, James, John: Jesus’ three closest friends.  They all had feet like those. 

Jesus knew He was washing the feet of imperfect men, but honest men; men of integrity; like so

many working folk who put on no pretense.  They were who they were; no more, no less.  Yet one

pair of those feet gave Jesus pause.  They seemed somehow restless; indecisive; not quite as

firmly on the ground as some of the others.  They were the kind of feet that might run under pres-

sure.  They were the kind whose owner – when put on the spot – might voice denial.  Well, Simon

Peter; Petros – the Rock.  He was the one who promised during dinner that he would never run;

even if everyone else did.  Maybe not…… Still……. Jesus delayed a moment, then went to another.

      A Zealot.  Jesus sensed He was at the feet of the political resistor and activist, called Simon,

a.k.a. Jude.  Like Simon Peter, the feet were not still.  They were tapping incessantly on the floor. 

But for a different reason.  Nervous feet; eager feet; feet impatient for reform; revolution; over-

throw.  Jesus washed them thoroughly, hoping to reveal under the grit of those feet the man

hiding beneath all the pent-up anger, and bitterness, and resentment.

      A tax collector.  Refined feet.  Feet accustomed to sandals; good quality sandals; feet not

burned, and bruised, and splintered like the others.  These feet had obviously spent a lot of time

under a table where taxes had been unjustly collected; ledgers purposely and inaccurately re-

corded; the poor cheated of what little they had.  Surely these are the feet of someone not so

desirable; an exploiter of people; a hired strong man of the Roman enemy.  Not much grit on the

feet of Matthew, called Levi; but feet which were in need of a good wash.

      A simple soul.  Soft feet.  Innocent.  Without guile or malice.  Feet of one who loves peace, and

who brings alienated brothers together.  They must be Nathaniel’s.  But, will he have the endurance

and the fortitude for the hard walk just ahead?


      A traitor.  Is it possible?  One foot firmly planted in defiance; the other leading out ahead as if

ready to bolt.  Are these feet going somewhere tonight, even before this meal is over?  Who is this

son of Iscariot?  Jesus washed these feet…… with extra tenderness.

      Jesus finally finished His task and stood up straight.  “Do you know what I have done to you?”

He asks.  Not really.  They didn’t understand at the time.  And it’s still taking time for the message

to sink in.  It’s taking time to fully appreciate the love that is freely and equally given to sinner and

to saint; that the Lord and Master would repeat this washing – this act of sacrificial love – time and

time again……until time runs out.

      For there would be a modern-day Peter; one with power in the church, yet with denial in his

heart of what was around him.  But one day, Jesus washed his feet, and Archbishop Oscar Romero

died in the cause of standing on the side of the poor and downtrodden.

      There was a Zealot too.  A woman of Marxist leanings and bohemian ways with her live-in

lover, and children by many lovers.  But Jesus washed her feet and made this woman, Dorothy

Day, on fire for justice and equal rights.

      The tax collector walked the corridors of power.  He sat at the right hand of Presidential power.

He robbed his own people.  He lied to protect his power and that of his boss.  But Jesus slowly uncovered his feet

and washed them; even in the spiritual darkness of a prison cell.  And Chuck

Colson found himself a willing captive of the Lord, and a servant to those he had cheated.

      This traitor didn’t get away.  Oh, he at one time turned away from everything he was raised to

believe.  He took his spiritual journey to a faraway land.  He mocked and derided the religion of his

dear grandmother, and made light of the church in which he grew up.  That is, until his feet were

washed.  And Larry found himself a willing, albeit bumbling, apostle for Christ.

      That’s what time is teaching.  What happened on the occasion of the Last Supper was a summary

of Jesus’ entire mission on earth.  He would love without condition.  He would wash the feet of all:

Peter’s and Nathaniel’s; Jude’s and Judas’s; Dorothy Day’s and Chuck Colson’s; yours and mine; perhaps without

even looking up; that is, with regard to position, or prestige, or power, or wealth; without regard to guilt, or shame,

or sorrow, or sin.  All are being embraced.  All are being washed.  We need only allow our Lord to remove our sandals;

to get to the bottom of who we really are, and to transform us through an act of cleansing; though the foot wash of God’s amazing grace.

      In case the message was still not clear, Jesus went on to make one final statement of His desire

to cleanse us of our sins, and His desire to remain in us and among us; as a servant inspiring servants.  He took what was

meant by the washing of feet, and found a way to remind us of it.  He

washed their feet during supper.  After He had gotten up and returned to table, Jesus took the

final loaf of bread, and broke it, declaring that it was His body “given for you.”  And then He took

the final cup, and blessed it, declaring that it was His blood “shed for you.”  Different actions. 

Same message.  Jesus serves.  Jesus washes.  Jesus forgives.  Jesus’ Spirit remains in us and among

us through the ages, ready to wash feet; ready to give of Himself.  Jesus again asks the question:

“Do you know what I have done to you?”  Do we?  The answer to that brings us into the mystery

of this Holy Communion.





Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102