Foot Washing Day

By Alice Young

April 20, 2019

Maundy Thursday (where did that name come from??) was the day we decided Rosie needed a thorough cleaning.  It is also the day before Good Friday.  Maundy comes from the Latin word, ‘mandatum’, for command, (think mandate) but that was never explained to me.  As a child I always thought Easter was a really special week because we had two days at the same time, as in ‘Monday Thursday.’   It was only recently that I connected the ‘mandatum’ with Jesus’ command to love one another after he had washed his disciples’ feet.  (John 13:34) You’ll have to forgive me for being a bit slow – I must have missed that catechism class.

Rosie is my Roomba – as in a robot vacuum cleaner.  My husband gave her to me two Christmases ago because I always complained about the dust bunnies and fur balls that hid like undiscovered Easter eggs under the furniture.  Following the instructions to name your vacuum (because tech companies want you to bond with their gadgets) we decided to call her Rosie, after the Jetsons’ robot from the Saturday morning cartoon of my childhood.  Lately Rosie has been missing spots and stopping in the middle of room.  When we picked her up, we discovered that a couple of years’ worth of dog hair had accumulated in her wheel wells and extractors.  She could no longer obey our command to suck up the dirt and dust every evening.  Poor Rosie needed purgation.

Blowing out the dust and dirt from Rosie’s parts made me think about Peter’s demand to Jesus to wash not only his feet but also his hands and head.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”

–John 13:3-10 (NIV)

What was he thinking?? Peter is so literal sometimes; I just love him.  Ok Jesus, I want the whole thing – feet, hands, head – cause I’m all in!  I wonder if Jesus gently smiled at Peter’s misguided enthusiasm.  Oh Peter, I can imagine him thinking, you’re so anxious to be blameless. At least, that’s how I would think about Peter if I were being Jesus.  But even if I judge Peter’s response as being, well, slightly gaga, I have to admit that I too am often afraid of not being good enough.  Like I have to make sure that Jesus gets ALL my dirt out!  Jesus, don’t forget that grime under my big toe nail, it’s been there a long time, and it’s starting to bother me, and well, won’t you just wash it away?  I get impatient with what sometimes seems like the slow work of sanctification in my life.  I just want all my garbage gone right now so I can get on with doing my best work for Jesus.  Sigh. When will I get it?  In my heart I can hear Jesus tell me, like he told Peter:  You are already clean– my grace has washed you, it is sufficient, all your sin is forgiven.  Walk in your new self, and be transformed as you accept and embrace your new self, which is actually modeled after the very likeness of God. Then you can obey my command to love from a clean heart.

Rosie is working fine again.  And as I sat down at the table on Maundy Thursday evening, content in the knowledge that I am accepted and renewed in Christ, my big old dog, (who sheds prolifically!) came over and started licking my ankles.  Look, he’s washing your feet, my husband observed.  His warm and affectionate gesture affirmed that all my guilt is washed away. I think I’m ready for Easter.

Therefore, since we have these [great and wonderful] promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, completing holiness [living a consecrated life—a life set apart for God’s purpose] in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 (Amp)

…take a fresh breath and... let God renew your attitude and spirit. Then you are ready to put on your new self, modeled after the very likeness of God: truthful, righteous, and holy.

–Ephesians 4:23-24 (Voice)


Alice is a Spiritual Director who lives in southern Maryland. After serving as a Vineyard pastor for nineteen years she now leads Healing Care groups, a Rooted cohort and offers Spiritual Direction for three church communities. She has Certificates in Formational Prayer and in Spiritual Direction from HCM International. Alice has also been an Associate working with HCMI’s Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction program since 2017. Born in Canada she received her M.A. in International Affairs before moving to the Washington D.C. area where she resides with her husband and her son’s giant dog. 

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