1463) Washing Feet (a)

 Thaksin Shinawatra Children

Thaksin Shinawatra and children

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           The Prime  Minister of Thailand several years ago was a man named Thaksin Shinawatra (1949-).  He was an important man in Southeast Asian politics, and is still an extremely wealthy businessman.  Shinawatra made many bad choices as a politician and was ousted in a military coup, but he had a good approach to parenting.  While he was Prime Minister, his seventeen year old daughter worked at a MacDonald’s restaurant in downtown Bangkok.  She would not have had to work there.  She would not have to ever work anywhere.  Her dad was a billionaire.  She didn’t need the money, and even if she did, her dad would certainly have had the connections to get her an easier, higher paying, more high class job.  But her dad wanted her to work at MacDonald’s for a low wage, with people of a far lower social standing.  He said:  “I want her to have that kind of experience and to know about life, because she is the youngest child and when she was born, her parents were already wealthy.”

            This girl may not have liked her father’s job selection for her, but any adult can see the wisdom in that father’s decision.  He was teaching his daughter many things.  He was teaching her the value of a dollar (or whatever they use for money in Thailand); he was teaching her the worth and dignity of all labor; and, by forcing her to work with people who she might think of as ‘beneath’ her, he was teaching her about the equality of all people.  She probably learned that people on both ends of the economic spectrum can be wise or foolish, mean or nice. And he was teaching her about the value of serving other people, even if it is just serving them a hamburger and fries.  That was a wise father and a fortunate daughter.

            Today is Maundy Thursday.  In the evening of that first Maundy Thursday, Jesus had his Last Supper with his disciples.  It was at that meal that Jesus predicted Judas’s betrayal, Peter’s denial, and that all the disciples would desert him—predictions which all came true within just a few hours.  It was also at that meal that Jesus took some bread and wine from the table and began a ritual that his followers to continue to this day.

            There was one more important thing Jesus did that night.  He washed his disciple’s feet.  This part always takes some explaining.  Nowadays, people wear shoes when they go outside; and if your shoes are muddy, you take them off before you go trouncing around in someone else’s living room.  Many people like the shoes to go off at the door even if they aren’t full of mud. 

            But in Jesus’ day, people walked around barefoot, or at best, they wore sandals.  Most roads and paths were dirt, so by the end of the day everyone had dirty feet.  They couldn’t take their feet off, so someone had to wash them.  None of this had to be explained to John’s first readers, but needs and customs are different now. 

            These verses from John 13 tell us what Jesus did at the Last Supper about dirty feet:

            The evening meal was in progress, and Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

            There were unwritten rules about who washed whose feet.  Most of the time you just washed your own feet; but if you had a little money or status, you might get someone to wash them for you.  A parent might have a child do the foot washing, or a wealthy man might have a servant do that for him, or a teacher might have his students take turns washing his feet.  But you would not ever wash the feet of someone who was beneath you in status.  This was not a pleasant task, and no one would do it for another unless they had to or it was expected of them.  Yet, on the night before he was to die, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty God, who the next day was to die for the sins of all the world, washed his disciples’ feet.

            The disciple could hardly believe it.  Peter, at first was not going to even allow it.  In verse eight Peter said to Jesus, “No Lord, you shall never wash my feet.”  It was unthinkable.  But Jesus insisted and Peter finally obeyed and allowed it.

            This is far more remarkable than the Prime Minister’s daughter working at MacDonald’s.  This is even more incredible than if the Prime Minister himself would get a job at MacDonald’s.  Think of what it would be like in this country.  American ex-presidents have been known to get a quarter million dollars to make a single public appearance and give a 45 minute speech.  Do you think you will ever see any of them mopping the floor at MacDonald’s; or even driving their own car, or opening the door for someone else?  One day Winston Churchill’s servant forgot to put toothpaste on the great man’s toothbrush, and Prime Minister Churchill, who inspired a nation and helped lead the free world to victory in World War II, did not know what to do.  (continued…)

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