When I was a schoolboy somewhere back in the last millennium, there were class monitor jobs that were much sought after – cleaning the blackboard, feeding the gold fish, collecting the lunch orders. The one no-one enjoyed was emptying the rubbish. Things haven’t changed that much – I asked the school kids the other day which monitor jobs were popular and which were the least enjoyable. Some tasks have changed in this high tech era (there is an energy monitor), but someone still has to put out the rubbish! The students agreed however, that the least enjoyable jobs were important. Someone had to do them.
I guess foot-washing was on the list of least desired tasks amongst Jesus’ contemporaries. It was the task of the least influential person in the household to wash the dust and animal dung from the feet of weary travellers as they reclined at table. When Jesus gave one final demonstration to show how the economy of the Kingdom worked by washing his disciple’s feet in preparation for the last meal they were to share, the disciples were somewhat disconsolate. Not that he was calling them to serve, but that Jesus, their teacher and mentor, the honoured one, was performing this lowly task on them!
The foot-washing became an entry point for much that Jesus had to share over that meal – the total giving of himself – reinforced in bread and wine that his disciples would eventually come to understand as a way of recognising when Jesus would continue to be amongst them – in serving one another and in table fellowship.
Some of the lousy jobs ascend to the highest order!