13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”
7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”
8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”
12 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? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. – John 13:1-17
Jesus gave a powerful, memorable picture of the attitude he wanted to see in his disciples. It was the night he was betrayed. It happened in the upper room where they also had the first Lord’s Supper. Jesus knew all that was about to happen- his arrest, his brutal treatment, his false trial, his flogging, his crucifixion on a cross. But he brushed these things aside in order to teach his disciples some final, important things. All that Jesus taught was important, but we must conclude that those things he taught in his last hours were most important. The foot washing is among them.
Often through the years the disciples had argued about who was the greatest- who was the chief among the disciples (Mark 9:33-37). Jesus explained that he who wanted to be greatest must become the least servant of all.
So Jesus gave the disciples a picture lesson of what he meant. He took off his outer clothes, wrapped a towel around himself, and washed his disciples’ feet. This was normally the task of the lowliest servant in the household. Visitors stopping by for dinner did not need an entire bath. That was done at home But they needed their dusty feet cleaned and dried from the foot journey over dusty roads.
“For I have given you an example, as I have done for you, so do for one another.” Some churches do that literally. They hold a ceremony where congregants pair off and wash one another’s feet. Or, sometimes, the ministers of the church symbolically wash select feet from the congregation. But does that really fulfill Jesus’ wish and command? You can wash someone’s feet and still walk away thinking you are better, smarter, more noble than they. But what Jesus really meant is that his disciples would inculcate the attitude that nothing was too low, too disgusting, too weird to do to help another person.
This is the example Jesus left. Not just washing feet for his neighbor, but suffering for his neighbor, bleeding for his neighbor, laying down his life for his neighbor. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is what Jesus gave as the 2nd great commandment. “Love as I have loved you.” Jesus loved you all the way to the cross and to the very terrors of hell.
You can humble yourself and wash a few feet.