Have you ever thought of counting the ways in which God showed us his love through Jesus? There were the healings and exorcisms, the patient conversations with the disciples and enquirers, the controversies with the Pharisees and teachers of the law (examples of tough love?), the teachings and stories, the feeding of the 5,000.
Towards the end of his earthly life, John tells us ‘…he now showed them the full extent of his love…’. And what follows is not another healing or spectacular sign, but the Son of God kneeling on the floor to wash his disciples’ feet.
We know that the only people who were expected to wash another person’s feet were slaves (and wives, for different reasons). It is a strange action – very lowly and very intimate at the same time. How does it show ‘the full extent of his love’? It shows a love that is completely willing to serve the other, and it presages Jesus’ death on the cross, where he became the lowest of the low and yet drew us all to himself. Malcolm Guite puts it like this:
“And here he shows the full extent of love
To us whose love is always incomplete,
In vain we search the heavens high above,
The God of love is kneeling at our feet.
Though we betray him, though it is the night,
He meets us here and loves us into light.”
(Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press 2012)