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Example or Parable: What then the Mandate?

This morning I read a Maundy Thursday sermon that employed an argument that the foot washing story in John is to be understood primarily as a parable of the purpose of the incarnation, with the stooping signifying descent/kenosis and the footwashing signifying cleansing from sin.

I can buy this up to a point, but am left wondering what I then do with the words of Jesus that form the mandate.  The text is explicitly of example (John 13:15), so if I take literally the idea that the act is a parable of kenosis and atonement do I end up with disicples as either mini-Messiahs or some kind of priests who are able to atone for or absolve sins?

I need to mull this over a lot more as I'm sure I'm missing the point somewhere.  In the meantime I'll stick with my simple reading that it is an example of servant ministry, nothing more complex or less demanding.


  • Of course the great kenosis text itself, Philippians 2.5-11 is also an example text, so contra Kasemann etc. the two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

  • Hi Sean,

    I agree it need not be an either/or though maybe with a bit of Johannine dualism it ought to be?! ;-)

    I may have misread/misunderstood what I read today, but I thought it meant the writer thought that we were called not to like/same 'attitude' but 'action' (though as I type it, 'action' isn't quite what I mean!) which is not quite the same as the Philippians text which is (clearly, to me anyway) attitude. Or maybe I'm splitting metaphorical hairs. All part of the risk of 'real readers' I guess.

    More mulling to do!

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