Imagine being a disciple of Jesus, having walked thus far with Him, seen miracles, seen His care for his friends, his marveling at the faith of a Centurion, his rebuff of a Canaanite woman seeking healing for her daughter–and His subsequent joyful concession to her fearless faith. You’ve seen him weeping at Lazarus’ tomb, as well as having had a woman wash his feet with her tears, which was maybe dodgy but great in the re-telling. And perhaps you were there just a few days ago watching as he drove out, with whips and imprecations, the banksters in the temple. That was gutsy.
You’ve listened to His sermons and parables and maybe you’ve understood them, or just enough of them to stick around. You heard him completely own the elite lawyers, and you secretly delighted in every bit of the testy exchange, knowing that you were useful to that crowd only as long as they thought you had an inside line on this guy, Jesus. Damnable power-mongers all. Maybe you, too, chafed a bit at the whole, “before Moses was, I AM” gambit but nevertheless, that kinda thing woulda gone viral on YouTube. And you know what you’re thinking? “This guy, this Jesus guy, everybody’s saying He’s the Messiah and maybe He is, but it’s not sitting well with my power base. I depend on these guys to be there for me, but Jesus is an unknown guy with a fuzzy background from a backwater borough in Nazareth. But the lawyers are pressuring me. They tell me He doesn’t stand a chance, that the hoi polloi cheering him the other day were just a buncha low info rabble looking for free bread.. I just don’t know what to think, but the truth is, I gotta go with the winning hand. Gotta stop this before it gets outta hand. Wait and see for now.”
So now you’re there with the others, in an upper room, having a strange interlude before your meal. Jesus, here alone with all of his disciples, seems to be acting out another parable. Only it isn’t. He really is stooping quite low and washing your feet. Like some common slave would. And He’s saying, what, exactly, about cleanliness? “Crap!” you think, “He’s onto me! Who’s set me up and tipped Him off?”
And now, bread and wine He offers you. You take it because your mind was made up before now, so eff it all to Sheol if He’s gonna call you on it in this way. Time to go.
Now, imagine you’re another disciple, sitting there in the awkward silence having watched Judas leave to go get more bread and wine, so you think. So why the big hush? Peter, James and John look pretty pale and agitated. Here we are, on the cusp of hope and change, a new Messiah ready to make Israel great, you think. It’ll be awesome, and you’ll be there to see it. The foot-washing deal means, maybe, that the disciples will all be equals in His kingdom and man, that will be a refreshing change. The little people won’t be as corrupt and tiresome as the ruling class you now have, that’s for sure. And no secrets or word-twisting or hair-splitting. You will all set a good example– as leaders of course– of nobody thinking they’re better than anyone else. And just imagine the things that’ll be set right politically when you and the others bring back the Ten Commandments. Back to basics! The Founding Documents. It’s not the Ten and Ten Thousand commandments! Really. What would Moses do? That’s what you’ll do.
And hey, speaking of Moses, you notice Jesus is talking about the commandments. “Yep. Exactly, Jesus! What? Wait. A new commandment? Don’t we have enough already?” you think. “Probably foot-washing. Makes sense in these filthy towns.”
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.“
“Huh,” you think, “I wonder what that’s gonna look like?”