We all are aware of cultures that have a hierarchy—a pecking order. The elite and the hoi polloi. The acceptable and the unacceptable. In such cultures, the hierarchy determines the role. The “hoi polloi” serve the elite, the “unacceptable” serve the acceptable. Such hierarchies irk us and we demand change. How can there be such a dehumanizing order in the 21st century? Yet, what of the plank in our own eyes? How many of us look with disdain on the jobless, homeless, addicted soul on the street corner we drive by daily? We may pity them, but would we serve them? Are there people in educational, political, professional, and societal circles—even of a race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation—whom we would rather not serve?

Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet dramatically reveals our own prejudice towards humanity.

Jesus’ way can be characterized as an upside-down way because it doesn’t conform to social stratification. The right-side-up way of doing things expects the hoi polloi to wash the feet of the elite. It keeps people in their social and relational lanes. With Jesus, all of that changes. For us to follow in his steps, we must not only allow him to serve us, but be willing to serve others. This is the new commandment (mandatum) that he gives that we must love one another in action, especially when we are uncomfortable in doing so. 


Are there people whose proverbial feet I would not wash, persons upon whom I look with disdain? Who are they and how is Jesus calling me to an upside-down way of life by serving them? Think about ways that you can wash their feet, rid yourself of your prejudice, and so fulfill Jesus’ command to love one another. 


Lord, we confess that there are individuals, groups of people, maybe even family, upon whom we look with disgust. We hold prejudices towards others that prevent us from serving them. May you reveal to us the hardness of our hearts and humble us so that we may take up the towel, kneel at their feet, and serve them as you have served us. Amen. 

The Art

The art in our title image is a detail of Christ Washing Peter’s Feet by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893). To see the entire image or download, see Wikimedia Commons.

<i>Christ Washes Peter's Feet</i> by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893)

TPW's Holy Week Meditation Series

Join us this Holy Week as Scott Bullock leads us through thoughtful meditations every day, perfect for busy pastors (and others!) seeking a moment of calm and to focus on our Lord. A new meditation will be posted on the TPW blog every day—and if you wish, you can download a copy of the whole series below.

Scott Bullock is a Board Member and Contributor with The Pastors Workshop. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served churches in Illinois, New Jersey, and California. He holds an MA in New Testament Studies from Wheaton College, an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a ThM in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. Scott is married with three teen-aged children.

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