In addition to being Half-Nekkid Thursday, today is also Holy Thursday (Μεγάλη Πέμπτη)—the Thursday of Eastern Orthodox Holy Week, as the week preceding Easter is called. I guess that makes it Holy Half-Nekkid Thursday. Among the events that are commemorated today is Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet:
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside his garments; and taking a towel, he girded Himself. Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded (John 13:3-5).
I once had a very frank discussion with the former dean of the Boston University School of Theology about the feet-washing episode in John’s Gospel. I think I had just finished Theodore Jennings’ The Man Jesus Loved, and I told the dean that I thought that the feet-washing had very erotic overtones. I pointed to how the Gospel writer goes out of his way to mention that Jesus stripped down. Moreover, Jesus dries the disciples’ feet using the same towel that he wrapped around his waist. I guess it was Half-Nekkid Thursday for Jesus too.
The dean did not disagree. On the contrary, he acknowledged that he had often thought the very same thing. We then went on to discuss how the feet-washing episode is an example of how Jesus in the Gospels turns gender upside-down. In the Greco-Roman world of the first century CE, feet-washing was performed by women and/or servants or slaves, all of whom possessed an inferior social status. Scholars have traditionally drawn attention to the fact that Jesus was taking on the role of a servant/slave in order to demonstrate the meaning of discipleship. What is often overlooked is that Jesus was also taking on the role of a woman and in so doing makes a powerful statement about gender.
Therefore, I thought it appropriate to show a picture of my freshly washed feet for this week’s HNT.