An old sermon I thought I would update and post as a blog entry

John 13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel round his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’

7 Jesus replied, ‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’

8 ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’

Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’

9 ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’

10 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.’ 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. 13 ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.


I was brought up a townie and so eggs came from the supermarket. So it was a bit of shock when first visiting Ann’s crofting relatives being told that if I wanted an egg I would have to go to the chicken coup and liberate one from under a hen. I returned empty handed, actually the truth is between a circling cockerel and belligerent hens I was lucky to return with any hands

That was my introduction to the concept of a Pecking order among chickens and I discovered very definitely was at the bottom of it. Apparently if you have 10 chickens they will sort and bully themselves into a pecking order of who gets first peck at the food, chicken number 1 then 2 and 3 right down to chicken 10 and then me.

Its not just chickens that have pecking orders, you probably don’t need me to tell you that we humans have a very developed pecking order.

There are pecking orders at work,
pecking orders in schools,
pecking orders in families and sadly even pecking orders in churches,
with some people trying to become number one chicken and others experience what it feels like to be numbers 9 and 10, right at the bottom.

The event we are thinking about when Jesus washed his disciples feet happened right before an incredible week in Jerusalem that would see Jesus enter the city to cheers, be crucified to jeers and burst of the grave, a week which changed history and has changed many of our lives too.

Jesus had been on a journey with his disciples for about three years. It had been a physical journey, they had travelled all over Judea and Galilee. But Jesus had also tried to take his disciples on a more difficult journey, a journey in understanding.

He had tried to lead them to understand what the Kingdom of God was like, what life would be like when they lived under God’s reign. He used parables and miracles and teaching to try and get them to understand this subversive life changing, alternative way of being human that his teaching and life, death and resurrection was calling them to and would enable them to live in.

The disciples had stuck by Jesus on his physical journey but they struggled to go with him in his journey of understanding about the kingdom of God. He had continually spoken to them about pecking orders and how in the Kingdom of God, the human pecking order, was reversed.

he told them that the first would be last.

Once he had been just about as direct as he could be, talking about the human pecking orders he said Mark 10:43-45 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

But they still didn’t get it.

In fact it seems like on this final part of the journey to Jerusalem the disciples got obsessed about where they were in the pecking order.

They sensed from the way things were going and what Jesus was saying that something decisive was going to happen in Jerusalem. They believed Jesus was finally going to do everything that need to be done to bring in the Kingdom of god fully. The problem was they still thought that was about kicking the Romans and Herod out and taking over.

They become obsessed with their status and position, they wanted to move up the pecking order so when Jesus brought in his new regime they thought the higher up the pecking order you are the more power and the better the fringe benefits will be. Not that long before this incident James and John had stirred up incredible animosity and anger when they put their mother up to going to see Jesus secretly to ask if they could be at the top of the pecking order, number 2 and 3 chickens after Jesus.

They just didn’t seem to get it.
They didn’t seem to understand even after 3 years of being with Jesus that he was committed to undermining and subverting the whole pecking order.

Jesus spent very little time with the top chickens of the Jewish world,
before his death he never Pilate or herod or any of the chief priests.

Sometimes rich and powerful people sought him out but all too often that ended badly

What Jesus did was seek out and spend time with people at the bottom of the pecking order and
tell them by what he said
and show them by what he did
that what ever their position in the human pecking order,
they were loved,
valued and important in the Kingdom of God.

So he spent time with
with samaritans
with cripples
with the demon possessed
with sinners
with roman collaborator
With lepers
with the blind

And all of those people where 9 and 10 chickens as far as most Jewish people were concerned.

yet the disciples still didn’t get it
and so Jesus understanding how vital this lesson would be for the mission of his people decided to teach them a lesson they would never forget.

When they arrived to have their meal,
and it was not just any meal.
It was a passover meal, the most important Jewish meal. A meal when it was vital to be prepared and an important part of being prepared to Jewish people was to be clean there was no one to clean their feet. and of course what you need to remember it was a hot a dusty climate and all sorts of things were left on the road, no one had pooper scoopers for dogs back then, or donkeys or horses, or sheep or cattle.

There was probably a lot of embarrassed stares when they went into the house.
They would have expected a servant or a woman,
one of those 9 and 10 chicken type people
to bend down and wash their feet.
Washing feet was the most mundane, menial and demeaning job they could think about.

Here is the interesting thing. Not one of them seems to have offered to wash the feet. Despite knowing it was important for it to have been done before the Passover,
no one was willing to step forward because they would have meant shuffling themselves to the bottom of the pack.

Washing someone else’s feet meant admitting you were below them in the pecking order and if you washed everyone’s feet … well you get the picture.

Then Jesus, as he always seemed to do, shocked them. He got up and dressed like someone at the bottom of the pecking order, a slave, and then he washed all of their feet, despite some reluctance from Peter.

It seems like Jesus washed their feet for two related reasons

He wanted to teach them about what his impending death would be all about.
He told them only retrospect would they understand that in the same way as he had lowered himself to deal with the physical filth on their feet as a servant,
as the servant predicted in Isaiah
his death would clean their lives of filth of sin
, but only if they allowed him to serve them in that.

Jesus death would have no impact on them if they didn’t admit their need for his cleansing in the same way Peter had to admit his need for Jesus to clean his feet and allow him to do it.

Jesus then turned the spot light on them, he said

Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. 13 ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

He said this foot washing, this voluntary act that was mundane and demeaning, this act that meant shuffling yourself to the bottom of the pack,
that meant assuming the number 10 chicken role in the pecking order

This was an example for his disciples, this was an example that was to be translated into their lives.

You can almost imagine the looks of horror on the disciples faces,
they thought journey with Jesus meant that when the Kingdom of God came they would automatically be at the top of the pecking order,
they would have loads of servants,
they would have power and prestige and apart from Jesus their days of serving anyone would be over

And yet here is Jesus at his radical best, saying that the Kingdom of god is revolutionary, that in the Kingdom of God the way how you rate how blessed you are by God is not how many people serve you
but by how
willing you are to serve others.

Jesus is saying that servanthood is woven into the nature of God’s Kingdom and years later Paul would understand that was because God the King is himself by very nature a servant.

I read a fascinating book last month by NT scholar who I think demonstrated that Paul was meditating on this incident, on Jesus washing of his disciples feet when he wrote these famous words

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Phil 2

Paul says reflecting on Jesus actions here that God’s business is servanthood
and that we
as his children we are called to be
employed in the family business.

What are we going to do with this call to servanthood? Well down the centuries the church has

IGNORED IT …. church has become as much about pecking orders as the rest of the world, popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, anointed evangelists, pastors above question
PAY LIP SERVICE TO IT …. Pope or bishops with silver bowls would wash already clean feet and act like they were following Jesus examples
SACRAMENTALISE IT …. i have a certain amount of sympathy for this view because like all sacraments it was
Started by Jesus
Embodies his saving work
Commanded to be repeated


WEAVE IT .… weave it into our every day lives.
Serve others in the most mundane and even deeming tasks of everyday life.
TO BECOME Christ followers who
don’t care about position and status
, who are willing to serve others,
who will do what ever needs to be done
. We serve because we serve a Servant King.

ALL TOO OFTEN WE HAVE A NAMAN COMPLEX …,, want to do something big, showy, successful.

our job isn’t to try to do big things. It’s simply to do the small things we see around us with great love, trusting that God will take our small things and all the other small things we don’t see and weave them all together into a tapestry that announces His love for humanity and calls all people to new life under God, who is making everything new.” 3DM blog

EARLY CHRISTIANS … When the Gospel went viral in the Roman Empire it wasn’t because of BIG events, getting Peter to preach at the Coliseum etc. The first generations of Christians were a despised and barely tolerated marginal group who when they took on a high profile were often persecuted, BIG wasn’t an option for them. The Gospel infected Roman culture through countless small acts of kindness, small communities incarnating the Kingdom of God and offering love and acceptance, numerous small but significant conversations and discussions

JESUS CALLS US TO “Mission in the mundane” ….. Foot washing was the most mundane of tasks. Mission to serve others in the mundane tasks of life. Tasks that are unattractive, go unnoticed and unrewarded.

Mundane acts of service done with great love in our :

Work places

WHICH CHRISTIAN MADE THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON 20 th cent. …. A very good argument could be made for a Frail wee Albanian nun. She didn’t really do big things, she embraced a mission in the mundane, she washed the dirty, comforted the dying, accepted the excluded, loved the unlovely, fed the hungry and all with love She said

“small things done with great love change the world” mother Teresa

Let’s change the world through small mundane acts of service dine with great love

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