The writer in Man, Cote D'Ivoire, West Africa
John 13 [AMP] 5-10
5 Then He poured water into the basin and began washing the disciples’ feet and wiping them with the towel which was tied around His waist. 6 When He came to Simon Peter, he said to Him, “Lord, are You going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied to him, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but you will [fully] understand it later.” 8 Peter said to Him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me [we can have nothing to do with each other].” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, [in that case, wash] not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “Anyone who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, and is completely clean.
I was visiting the market in the city of Man, Cote D’Ivoire, West Africa. At this time in the late afternoon, I was unaccompanied. I was wearing a locally-made outfit in hope of being inconspicuous. One of the salesladies in the market eyed me and asked: Where are you from? The market was relatively empty. I felt somewhat exposed. As a traveler, you don’t really want to seem touristy. There are times when you are in a private place and there are public times when you are noticed and cause a minor stir. Especially if you’re an American. I am not fond of the latter.
I lied. “I’m a local” I replied, adopting an accent that was probably inauthentic.
She replied “Your feet are too clean for you to be from here . . “
The line is undeniable. The irony of the line is eternal.
One of the Christian sacraments is foot washing. It is a very old practice, so old that we moderns don’t think of it much. In ancient days before plumbing, the street was the waste disposal area. Garbage and raw sewage were thrown in the street. Travelers and others would relieve themselves there. In the aforementioned city of Man and other underdeveloped areas there are above-ground sewage and run off systems that still expose passersby to soil on the street. Within that context, the most lowly of servants or children would wash visitor’s feet. Water was hand carried in those days and to my knowledge, soap was not used. In that time up to this day, feet would become soiled and the means to actually clean residual soil were hard to come by.
The Sacraments are physical symbols of spiritual truth. Foot Washing symbolizes how a believer’s walk is straightened as she walks with Christ. The walk as it is symbolized, is your lifestyle, your affability , your grace and goodwill. On Maundy Thursday Jesus completed the literal picture by washing his disciples’ feet. There are many descriptions of the believer’s walk in the Bible. Here are two that I consider important.
Psalm 24:3-4 Who may ascent unto the mountain of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to what is false, nor has sworn [oaths] deceitfully.
Who will minister in the holiest and most sacred place but the one who has done his work with sincerity and without guile. And he who has kept his mind, will and emotions away from untruth and deceit [my paraphrase].
Your word is a lamp to my feet , And a light to my path.
The word of God gives the wisdom (light) to usher me through the maze of life so that I can see where I am going (being- led by you) [again my paraphrase].
My feet are only as clean as I keep myself in the word and under submission to the Holy Spirit.