YOU ARE CLEAN!
“You are already clean because of the Word I have spoken to you”, Jesus said on the night He was abandoned, betrayed and denied by the very disciples who had heard Him say these words.
My question is: “Clean? How come? How?”
On the same night, when He was about to wash Peter’s feet as He’d already done to the other disciples in the room they had gathered, His fisherman friend said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet? No way!”
Jesus’ reply is shocking. It shocks those who think about impureness, holiness and cleanness with the categories of perfection according to religion. After all, those to whom He says they are clean are the same who appear in the Gospels as simple, childish people, with their own territory disputes, badly wanting an outstanding position… not to mention their readiness to call fire down from heaven to destroy the different, as was with John regarding the Samaritans.
"Unless I wash you, you have no part with me", said the Lord to Peter.
"Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head…” and his whole body—this was his desire now.
The answer was, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet.”
If we employ the Christian criteria for holiness and cleanness, none of these final, ultimate and definite statements of cleanness and pureness would be applicable to them. And Peter knew it. That’s why he asked for a complete bath.
“You are already clean through the Word I have spoken to you”, was what He said.
My question still holds: “How?”
Yes: How? Such cleanness hadn’t been a fact before, neither would be real a few hours later, when forsaking, denial and betrayal were going to take place.
Despite all this, He pronounces them clean through the Word. And He says that along the Way, brothers and sisters will only wash one another’s feet, removing the dust from the journey ground, since dust sticks on every walker’s feet.
Therefore, I am already clean through the Word, not because I incarnate it, but because it became The Incarnation in Jesus, for my sake.
I believe, which is my justice!
In this way I’m clean to go on, even though my feet are dirtied along the Journey.
The dust, however, is no longer in me but on my feet only, just as it was no longer in the disciples but on their feet only, as they proceeded on the journey.
That’s why He pronounces clean those who were going to get dirty at some times. The wonderful thing is that they remain clean even though they get dirty.
And there are no words when He and the dirty ones meet again…
There aren’t words, but there is The Word.
There is a stare… a question: “Do you love me?”
As for the rest, brothers and sisters are to work washing one another’s feet, not as if they were cleansing sins, but as those who share comfort, receive others at home and affirm their brother as a brother, no matter the other’s journey…
He who didn’t betray or deny either fled, or hid, or went off at a tangent, or just gave himself up to an impotent watching, or didn’t want to have to decide… without escaping a decision, how-ever…
Among the Christians, the John 13 “scene” is seen as “a lesson in humbleness”. That’s why the foot washing rite takes place in some religious meetings.
But how easy it is to wash our bishops’ and religious authorities’ feet at the time the rite turns the scene into a theatre scenario, with a huge audience watching!
The hard thing is to wash your brother’s feet quietly, not as a scene, not as a liturgical rite, but as an everyday liturgy of life and existence.
Of course Jesus isn’t worried about our feet or the dirt from the ground. What He is teaching as humbleness is the mutual and continuous service from one brother to another, not with water and towels, but just the way He did: Naked and bent down at the brothers’ feet that were dirtied along the walk, because on the Journey there’s nobody whose feet don’t get dirty.
That’s why nobody washed His feet whereas He washed everybody’s feet.
Now I’m going to bed with this Word in mind—a strong, serene, finished and challenging Word.
“You are already clean, Caio, through the Word I have spoken to you.”
“I believe, Lord” is my answer, because I believe.
“So wash your brothers’ feet”, He incites me again.
Then I realize that my soul’s question changes:
“What if they don’t wash my feet when they get dirty from the Journey?”
“There will always be someone to wash your feet as long as you wash your brothers’ even though yours are dirtied from the Journey.”
Then I ask for forgiveness, because I remember that I am already clean through the Word, and that getting dirty from the Journey only happens to and among brothers, for in His sight I am clean beforehand.
And so is every one of His disciples!
From the original “VOCÊS ESTÃO LIMPOS!”
Translated by F. R. Castelo Branco | June 2007