“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’” John 13:12–14
John chapter thirteen begins by telling us that Jesus knew that “His hour had come.” Jesus knew that it was time for him to sacrifice himself and fulfill the purpose for which he’d come into the world.
One can imagine that in the days and hours approaching the Passover that the reality of the ordeal looming before him was a subject that had potential to dominate every thought he had every moment of the day. But John 3:1 tells us that “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
Jesus was with his disciples the way I imagine a parent or grandparent would be with the little children in their lives. He treasured the time he had with them and wouldn’t allow himself to be robbed of the opportunity of doing simple things for them or with them.
It was customary at the beginning of a meal for a servant to pass among those in attendance and wash their feet. Because the feet were potentially filthy with all kinds of dirt and waste they were considered the most defiled part of the body, and the one washing them was thought of as the person of lowest status. Everything had been provided to perform this task but no servant was present to wash their feet and none of the disciples wanted to say that they were the least of all the disciples by volunteering washing their fellow disciples’ feet.
All through the meal they’d sat with unwashed feet, everyone not talking about it but very aware of what had not happened. Then Jesus arose, laid aside his cloak, tied a towel around his waist, filled a basin with water, and one by one began washing the disciples feet.
No one was left out. Peter protested but was told that if he didn’t permit his feet to be washed he’d have no part in Christ’s kingdom. Judas’ feet were washed, and John makes it clear that Jesus knew that he would betray him.
When everyone’s feet had been washed, Jesus returned to his place at the table and asked his disciples, “Do you know what I have done to you?”
They just looked back at him in scandalized bewilderment.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
There’s no gift or service of love too humble for the disciple of Christ. Nothing loving is ever beneath our dignity. Our creator has demonstrated how far love is willing to go to care for another, even someone who is going to betray you. Friends, whatever we have seen Christ do for us that’s what we should be willing to do for one another.