A towel and a basin – servants’ tools. Perhaps like the housekeeper’s cart in the hotel hallway or the polish and cloth in the hands of the man who shines shoes at the airport. Would Jesus step behind the bin of towels and soap, toilet paper and tiny shampoos? Would he tap on the shoulder of the person bent in half, whisking away at brown loafers and say, “Go take a break. I’ll finish this job”? No one volunteers to take the place of those who clean up after others or spend every day working eye level with shoes and feet. No one says, “Let me pick this row of tomatoes.” Or, “I will do the dry wall while you sit in the airconditioned office for a while.” Do they?
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus did. He picked up the servants’ tools and bent himself in half to wash feet – his disciples’ feet, our feet, the feet of those weary from walking, working, planting, harvesting, cleaning, cooking, caring, helping, carrying heavy burdens. “You sit,” he says. “I will wash your feet.”
Cleansed with and by the living water by none other than our Lord who takes the place of the servant and takes the place of the sinner and takes the place of suffering. He vacuums and scrubs, pulls the linens off the bed, soon to be wrapped in a purple robe of shame. He stoops low to plant the strawberries and reaches high to pick the peaches, soon to stretch out his arms on the cross to save the world.
“Let me take your place,” he says, behind the broom, in front of the hot stove, beside the assembly line, underneath the crushing weight of sin.
Jesus kneels to wash our feet, the Savior who serves, and tells us: “Do likewise.”
Jesus stands to take up the cross, the Savior who suffers, and shows us: “I am on the side of the marginalized, demonized, victimized, those crucified, all but dead and buried.”
Jesus, the Savior who dies, utters, “It is finished.” Complete. The end of the reign of death and sorrow, sin and terror, evil and exploitation.
Jesus, the Savior who sends, says, “Remember what I told you.”
Go to Galilee and take up our servant tools.