The old man who lives under the bridge

Published 2:31 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

By R.A. Tea Mathews

It happened one dark night. I had gone for a drive, worrying about something and trying to clear my head. That’s when I spotted him—an old, homeless man. 

It was bitterly cold. I found a drive-thru and brought him hot chili and a sandwich. 

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Don’t get me wrong. I carefully kept my distance, opening my car door and putting the food on the corner opposite him.

After that night, I saw him during the day at the same intersection. If I was stopped at the light, I would talk to him through the window, slowly lowering it more and more, eventually learning that he lived under the bridge. 

I thought of that old man when my neighbor stopped by last Saturday.

Mel works long, hard hours throughout the week, but every weekend I get a text from her, “I’m at your back door.”

I hurt my knee, and Mel is determined to help me with my to-do list.

“No,” I said. “Sit.”

“I will, but first—” And then she’ll start a project.

“No, Mel.”

“But it makes me happy.”

How is that possible, I thought, eyeing her last Saturday. Then I remembered the old man who lives under the bridge.

Christmas Day I spotted him on his corner and then searched through a gas station, the only thing open, explaining the matter to the clerk. He helped me quickly put together a Christmas dinner.

At the cash register, another shopper overheard the conversation and turned to me.

“Here,” she said, handing me money.

I could have said, “No, I’ve got this.” But I didn’t. She wanted to help, to also care for him on Christmas Day.

Mel and that shopper remind me of an important moment in Scripture. Do you recall whose feet Jesus washed?

  1. Mary Magdalene’s
  2. Lazarus’
  3. All of the disciples’ feet, except those of Judas
  4. None of the above

Lock in your answer. Here’s the passage from the 13th chapter of John.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus … got up from supper and laid His outer garments aside; and He took a towel and tied it around Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began washing the disciples’ feet and wiping them with the towel which He had tied around Himself … Then, when He had washed their feet … He said to them, ‘…if I, the Lord and the Teacher, wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’” (John 13:1-14)

The correct answer is No. 4., “None of the above.” Jesus washed all of the disciples’ feet, including Judas’.

What happened after Jesus washed their feet?

  1. Judas kissed Jesus.
  2. Jesus led them to a garden.
  3. Jesus healed a blind man. 
  4. Jesus was arrested.
  5. Lock in your answer.

If you have the red-letter version of the Bible, chapters 13 through 17 of John’s Gospel are mostly red. That’s five chapters of Jesus speaking after He washed the disciples’ feet. 

Five chapters! You can almost see John closing his eyes as he writes, listening to the Lord’s words.Do the same.

“YouVersion” is a free Bible app for your phone. It’s easy to use to listen to Jesus. 

Our Lord left the Last Supper with His disciples in chapter 18, heading toward a garden. The correct answer is No. 2, “Jesus led them to a garden.” 

But what did Jesus say immediately after He washed the disciples’ feet?

  1. “I am the Good Shepherd.”
  2. “I am about to be arrested.”
  3. “Judas will betray Me.”
  4. “I am giving you a new commandment.”

Lock in your answer. Here’s the passage:

After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus said, “I am giving you a new commandment … just as I have loved you … also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

The correct answer is No. 4, “I am giving you a new commandment.”

Can you imagine what that would look like? If a man spoke to his child, nodding toward a passerby, saying, “There goes a Christian.”

“Daddy, how do you know that?”

“You can tell by the way he loves.”

But this new commandment does more than separate you as a Christian. It will bring you joy.

If you’re worried, if darkness is discouraging you, ask God to show you someone in need. Serving another, as Melanie Ezell said on Saturday, is a great source of happiness.

The Rev. Mathews, BA, MDiv, JD, is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of “Reaching to God.” Contact her at to join her 1-Minute Bible Study.

Copyright © 2023 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.