Dirty Work

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I’ve been watching the series Dirty Jobs. Mike Rowe spends time with men and women who have jobs considered to be dirty. Worm farmers, garbage collectors, and junk yard workers are just a few of the individuals Rowe follows. In one episode, he is working with a sewer inspector for the city of San Francisco. The inspector is tasked with finding weak spots in the sewer system. The work requires manually inspecting the underground tunnels carrying the sewage. It is definitely dirty; walking in raw sewage amid the rats and roaches is not the ideal place for a stroll. However, the work must be done. If the sewage system collapsed, it would cause havoc for the city. The inspector does what needs to be done even though it might be a little dirty.

Jesus too does what needs to be done even though it might be a little dirty.

Jesus’ Dirty Job

The excitement of the week was reaching its climax as Jesus and his disciples dined in the upper room. John’s Gospel tells us it was time for dinner, and Jesus got up to wash his disciples’ feet. We don’t know why one of the disciples had not already performed this ordinary act of hygiene. Perhaps they were focused on discussing the week’s events or they could have been arguing about who was the greatest. No matter the reason, this essential task was left undone. So, Jesus wraps a towel around himself and washes everyone’s feet.

This is an amazing example of Jesus’ humility. This dirty job was usually reserved for the lowest servant in the household. No one really wants to wash feet that have been in sandals all day. These feet have been on dusty roads plowing through manure and mud so it is vital they be cleaned, but who really wants to grab the pitcher and towel to clean them. It was a dirty and humiliating task, but Jesus does it. He’s not above the work or too good for it. He sees the need and does something about it. He’s not afraid to get dirty.

Don’t be afraid to get dirty.

The Bible encourages us to follow Jesus’ example of not being afraid to get dirty.

  • Mark 9:35 says, “He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
  • Mark 10:42-45 says, “42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Life can certainly be messy. Folks may have the “manure” of a messy past or the “mud” of guilt and heartache on their “feet.” Their “feet” are in need of washing, but they need someone to help them understand how to wash them. This is where Christ-followers come in sharing the Good News which can cleanse their “feet.” It may require humility; it may require patience, and it may mean a stroll through life’s messiness. As we drudge through the messiness, we can use Christ’s dirty jobs an example and encouragement.

Not only was Jesus willing to wash the disciples feet, he was willing to do the work of the cross. Scripture reminds us this was humiliating, painful, and outright torture. Yet it was essential. Jesus knew the need for the cross, and he wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work.

In what ways is the Lord calling you to help someone wash their feet?

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