I wanted to post this picture to pose the question ‘what reaction does this create in you?’
It’s Jesus washing the feet of world leaders like Angela Merkel, Kofi Annan, Tony Blair and, yes, even Osama Bin Laden.
Just before Jesus washes the disciples’ feet in the bible, it says that Jesus knew the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God. The next word is ‘therefore’. Therefore, he knelt down and washed feet. It’s like this is how he tries to illustrate what he does with all the power.
I guess the picture is really asking, ‘well, what do you think God’s actually like? Is God really like this, exactly like this?’ How does this image make you feel? Like it’s unfair, unjust, blasphemous? As though it can’t be right and that Bin Laden ought to be punished rather than served?
The picture was actually designed as a poster to advertise a conference in the USA about God’s character. It triggered such an outcry from Christians that the church that was going to host the event cancelled it and the organisation had to move the conference to a secular location (which, typically, had no problem with the poster!)
It’s true, it’s a hard hitting picture. For me, I find it particularly difficult to imagine Hitler there and Jesus washing his feet after all that he did. Even worse, what if Jesus was washing Hitler’s feet and Hitler wasn’t even sorry for what he’d done?! And yet, here’s the thing – Jesus washed Judas’s feet, knowing Judas was about to betray him. Then Jesus went and healed a guy who was coming at him with a sword. And later still he went the whole hog and allowed his life to be taken in the most gruesome way for every person under the sun while they were still spitting at him and not at all sorry. Now, if he did that last part for everyone then why would it be odd to think he might wash their feet for them?
Christians say they believe that Jesus was and is God, that he represents to us the image of God fully. Paul writes that Jesus was the radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact imprint of his very being and Jesus even said ‘if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the father’. The trouble is, those same Christians then go on to say that apart from just being like Jesus, God is also like this and also like that, adding on to Jesus or taking away from him. In particular, they feel an obligation to say that God is all the ‘omnis’, you know, omnipresent (all-present), omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing) and possibly also that he never changes, is free of any happiness or sadness and is so ‘holy’ that justice (punishment) must at all costs be served and he can not look upon any evil. It’s like these things are just obvious and go without saying.
But they’re not and they don’t. Where did these ideas come from? When you read the bible you find a God very different, one who cries and laughs and hurts and gets frustrated, and constantly gets his hands dirty amongst all the ugliness of the world. Imagine how differently we’d think about God (and feel about him?) if we scrapped all our preconceptions and just started again by focusing solely on Jesus? Imagine if he was our one and only guide for what God is like rather than our personal life experiences or Greek philosophy, which has shaped our culture and religion so deeply. God might just start to look like the man on his knees in the picture.