Listen to Justine read this story - Get the RealAudio Player here if you need it.


The sun above the dust-filled street was hot and the tender green of new leaves was shrouded in that dust as the twelve of Yours and You came from the ritual bath to supper on that Thursday evening.

Two brought up the rear, hands clasped behind their backs, heads bowed in earnest contemplation. Then, a sudden jerking of their heads, they would pounce together on some fragment of a story to make sense of all You had said since You stood outside the tomb at Bethany. Of all the twelve, these were Your scholars and their foreheads wrinkled to explain the unexplainable.

The two youngest - and they were young and had been wild - jostled each other, shadow boxing along the shadows of the red dust street. Their movements were quick but deliberate, for they and their fists were trying to cover up the silence that lay beneath the afternoon like some weeping, winding cloth.

For they had all been listening and each of them, alone at night, arms beneath his head, had lain awake - eyes wide into the night, trying to understand the meaning of the moments since the Jordan.

Under all that joy of sharing meals, all the meals this week since the noisy parade and palms, under the water sounds of the ritual bathing, all along the red dust road the silence had been moving toward them and the animated speculations and the animated bodies only made the silence grow.

When You reached the house, the younger ones raced You up the stairs in their feverish attempt to fill some gap of understanding of that silence.

You moved more slowly up the stairs and saw, as You had always seen, their feet. Despite the bath, despite their age, some calluses and dirt, an unhealed cut and the vulnerability of a sandaled foot. You might have wept, knowing the roads that lay ahead for those young feet - or for Your own, but You simply walked up those stairs and to the silent table.

They watched You as You removed the outer garment and placed a towel around Your waist, knowing exactly what You planned to do and denying all of it. The shallow bowl of water brought some anxious protests, for they could not bear to witness such an outpouring of Your love.

After the first, all pulled off their sandals in haste and shyness, but the first, the first sat mute as You knelt to unfasten his dusty thongs and then with Your own hands, placed one young foot into the silence of the shallow bowl in that shadowed room.

Some one - along the table in that room, let out one long sigh for he knew his feet would be so bathed and he cold not bear the burden of Your love.

So, with Your wondrous fingers, You bathed one foot and then the other as the silence grew within that room.

Warm water poured from Your hands over dusty anklebone, between the shamed and curling toes and then, when he felt his heart would break with love for You, You lifted one foot to dry it with the towel You carried around Your waist.

To dry a foot. What man of these had had a foot dried with love since infancy and now You, kneeling to dry John's feet.

The silence must have hurt, caught in throats and lungs, silencing the words after Simon Peter's protests - twelve of them in that silence, waiting to be touched by Love.

And so You washed the feet. Found the darkened calluses, fresh cuts, insect bites, a few ugly scars on the soles of these men who walked with You. Was there finally, some awful sigh from each of them after all had been washed? Then, other servants brought in the food.

This was the Passover - and Yahweh was there within that room in food and wine and blessing. Yahweh was there within that room with You.

After You had eaten, You said of the bread You broke:
      Take and eat. This is My body.

They must have watched You carefully then, trusting, not trusting; knowing, not knowing.

But, they ate the bread.

Then You said:
      Drink all of You from this.

And watching You carefully, You who had washed their feet with Love, watching You carefully then, trusting, not trusting; knowing, not knowing they drank from the cup.

You even promised to them Judas, but they could not believe betrayal for You had washed his feet too, so when he hurried out into his night, which was Your night too, they contrived within their hearts, some errand for the poor.

For twelve men, action and words stilled in that upper room on Thursday night, the washing of their feet must have been more wondrously strange than Your injunction about the Bread and Wine.

On Thursday night, they only knew within the winding silence that You loved them so much You would kneel to wash their weary feet.


Back to Stories Menu
Back to Main Menu