My husband, Jerry, has told me of the fun-loving antics of his Uncle Gideon, but what his uncle did one Sunday to his mom, Jerry’s grandmother, whom everyone called Granny, is one of the most humorous and endearing stories I’ve ever heard.
Granny was a member of a primitive baptist church in Hatley, Mississippi, located right outside of Amory. Every three months, as an act of service and humility, this congregation participated in a foot washing ceremony, with everyone taking part in it.
Back in the 1890s, women did not wear nylon stockings, but thick black scratchy woolen ones. The night before this particular Sunday, after everyone had turned in, Gideon confiscated his mama’s stockings filling them with soot from the fireplace, emptying them back to remove any telltale sign of his mischief. The next morning in front of God and everyone, Granny removed her stockings revealing black sooty legs. Without a word, she turned and amidst the snickering congregants who were trying hard to hold it in, knowingly pointed her finger at her son. Taking full responsibility, he threw his head back in impish delight. Even though she wasn’t pleased with him in the moment, and probably spanked him across the county line and back again, later she might have broken into a small chuckle herself, for she was like that. And Gideon was known for his pranks.
Foot washing is one of the most humbling and loving things to happen to anyone. I know the first time I had a pedicure, I thought to myself, “This dear woman is scrubbing my horrible, ugly, dirty feet.” I know it wasn’t a foot washing in the Biblical sense, but when she was finished I wanted to say, “Okay, it’s my turn. Let me wash yours.” I know this may sound goofy, but my eyes misted with tears.
Today is the day when Jesus sharing his Last Supper with the disciples before his trial and crucifixion on Friday, also washed his disciples’ feet. Teaching us not only of being a servant, but also of the necessity that foot washing depicts—that even though we are clean because as believers in Jesus, we belong to Him—we must also often come before the Lord so that He can remove the grime, the sin, we get into just by walking through our everyday.
As Jesus said when Peter protested his feet being washed, “Unless I (Jesus) wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean.” (See John 13:8b-10a.)
Jerry and I start our day together having what we call, “Coffee Time.” Slowly waking up over a cup of joe, we share our thoughts, prayerfully laying out plans for the day. One morning earlier this week, seemingly out of the blue Jerry said, “Do you know what it must have been like for Jesus to wash Judas’s feet knowing that he was going to betray him to the Scribes and Pharisees? I bet He washed Judas’s feet with extra tenderness and care.”
So many times, we read Scripture like we casually listen to music. Washing over us, the implications of what is truly being said, is at best watered down if not lost.
I had never thought about how Jesus would wash the feet of his betrayer, but instantaneously knew my first response would not be one of goodness. I realized in a split second, not only would I scrub Judas’s feet as hard and as meanly as I could, but I would be looking for some way to sabotage his efforts as well.
For if I knew what was ahead as Jesus did—that I was going to suffer the painful death of crucifixion—I would do just about anything to prevent it. But Jesus didn’t. The opposite is true. He loved on Judas. He loved the one who was betraying Him. He loved him all the way to the cross.
We have all been hurt by a loved one. Whether family or friend, in one form or another; we’ve received the sting of rejection, unkindness, and betrayal. And many times, in retribution we want to give it back. Twice as hard. Twice the pain. But God used what Jerry said, “I bet Jesus washed Judas’s feet with tenderness, with care,” to bring to my mind a picture of Jesus’ compassionate eyes looking into the eyes of Judas. Of Jesus looking into mine. Such softness. Such compassion. Such love. Lord willing, I won’t ever be the same.
This Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. May we celebrate His forgiveness unlike we ever have before.
He is Risen!