The Vulnerability of Being a Servant
Jesus’ example of servanthood makes most of us as uncomfortable today as it made Peter so many long years ago. In fact, many of us would be hard pressed to decide which aspect of that foot washing would pose the greater threat: to be the washer or the washee.
To be the washer of feet certainly is to place oneself vulnerable to the ministrations of another. It might make us wish we’d freshened our feet—or at least worn better socks—before leaving home. But this dual openness, of course, is the point. Followers of Jesus on the one hand must be open to serving others even at the point of their greatest vulnerability.
On the other hand, they must be open to being that vulnerable person, whose whole dirty story becomes known to the servant, bunions and all. Jesus’ tender care for his disciples’ feet points us to a great paradox, which is the Servant Lord. The one who will be the greatest will serve the least. It is in such actions of servanthood that God will be glorified.
- Have you every participated in a service which included foot washing? Reflect on your experience.
- What is your understanding of Jesus’ action?
- When has someone served you in such a way that you were made to feel vulnerable?
- Why do you think it is as hard to be served as it is to serve sometimes?
- Seventh Day Adventists have preserved the ancient Christian tradition of foot washing. Invite a member of that church to speak to a group at your church about the significance of this act as it is currently practiced in their church.
- Ask your pastor to speak to your church about ways persons might serve—or be served by—others in a manner that requires openness and vulnerability.
- If your church would be open to it, have a foot washing service as a part of Lent or another special time in the Church Year. You need not use water, but provide an empty basin and a towel to imitate the action. Each person can serve the person on their left. Let this lead into a discussion about the action. What insights does this give into the scripture?