Feet First – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigJohn 13:1-17, 31b-35

“Love one another as I have loved you.” At the Last Supper, Jesus teaches that our life is all about love. Jesus teaches with many words in a long speech and most powerfully in two actions.

He shows love made visible, edible, and tactile in washing feet and breaking bread. Love touching deeply, feet first.

Feet are sensitive subjects. We tend to adorn and display our feet or to hide them. Feet may reveal privilege and pampering, may be a source of pride. A wound to our feet can debilitate the body, while warmth or a massage for them can soothe the whole person. Feet are often embarrassing: battered, unkempt, unsightly. They bear our weight. They get very dirty and stink.Feet are also figurative for the weakness, inner wounds and imperfection for which we fear rejection and doubt that another could fall in love with us, let alone fully love us. Feet are figurative for our fragility and complexity, the hopes and fears, heartaches and hindrances we often conceal and hide.

Like Peter we question: “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” That’s not your place, not your role. Don’t stoop so low. I’m here to serve you. We’ve got a good thing going, Lord. If you come that close, I’m afraid of what might happen. If you really knew me, you couldn’t possibly love me. If you love me, it’s only in part because you don’t fully know me. So skip me. I’ll take care of it. I’m ok. You will never wash my feet.

Jesus replies: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Unless I forgive you, unless I heal you, you can’t be with me. You must admit you need me. Admit you’re lost and trapped. Admit you need help. Then I will find you and set you free. You don’t deserve. You didn’t ask.   I am offering. I want to wash you, right now, as you are.

May I help you? That’s such a hard question, or rather so hard to not refuse. “No, I’m ok. Don’t bother. You don’t need to. I’ll manage.” There’s one good answer: Yes, thank you. It is so difficult—certainly for me—learning to say those three words. May I wash your feet? Yes, thank you. I need help, and I accept it from you.

Being washed—receiving love—and washing others—giving love—is vulnerable. Love is always vulnerable: emotionally exposing, risky and essential for living well. Most of us don’t usually have our feet washed or touched by another which may increase the discomfort and further validate the vulnerability of tonight’s invitation. Our feet are not as dirty as those at the Last Supper. We have our own hindrances.

Notice how it feels if you risk coming forward, risk being washed and risk washing another.

How does having received love then affect how you give love?

Reflect on your figurative feet, your fragility, that which you fear. What does Jesus want to touch, to wash, to heal, which you’d rather keep hidden?

Through whom is Jesus offering to touch you? Consider the people in your life. Who has been given for your healing? Who is safe to risk being vulnerable with, to risk receiving love from? Through whom is Jesus kneeling at your feet, offering love? It may family, friend, or neighbor. It may be a stranger. Who has God sent to your feet? Will you dare to say the three words?

“Love one another as I have loved you.” Whose figurative feet does Jesus want to touch through your hands? Consider the people in your life. Who will you risk being vulnerable with, risk washing with love?

“Love one another as I have loved you.” As we receive love, in body and blood, with water and towel, we also have much love to share. Show love in words and most powerfully in actions. Love touching deeply, feet first.

Support SSJE

Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.

Click here to Donate


  1. Valerie Kelly on April 13, 2017 at 10:43

    this is an outstanding sermon! provocative and challenging. thank you!

  2. Tracy on April 4, 2015 at 22:12

    Beautiful & challenging, but beautiful ….

  3. Betty Aberlin on April 2, 2015 at 10:27


  4. Barbara Cooke on March 25, 2015 at 15:39

    As I not only prepare for this year’s Maundy Thursday service, but also for walking 500 miles on the camino de Santiago this spring I smile broadly when I remember hearing you preach last year, “It’s all about feet.” Thanks for your prayerful words for that night. It will sustain me both now and when I am walking on very tired feet on the camino.

  5. Rev. Susie Phoenix on April 19, 2014 at 08:34

    It was just what I needed to hear. I wept through your beautiful sermon.

  6. Donna Platt on April 18, 2014 at 13:41

    A powerful message. Thank you.

Leave a Comment