Jesus washing His disciples feet (John 13:1-17) is one of the most powerful, sobering and instructive events that has ever occurred.  Hours away from His crucifixion, with the weight of all mankind on Him alone, Jesus chose this lowly task to teach the apostles, and all the rest of us as well, the supreme obligation of humility and service.

The apostles, having been blessed to have been closely associated with the Lord, had not yet grasped His full nature and purpose.  Even up to that very night, they were still fighting amongst themselves about their greatness in the kingdom (Luke 22:24-27).  They needed to learn a lesson.

He got up, took off His outer garments, wrapped a towel around His waist, and with a basin of water, He began to wash the disciple’s feet.  This job, usually the responsibility of the host for his guests, was performed by a servant (slave) as an act of hospitality and hygiene.  Important people did not wash other people’s feet.  Peter’s first response when Jesus stooped before him is a clear indication of this mindset.  “You shall never wash my feet!”  The Lord responded, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.”  Then Peter pivots to the other extreme, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  He entirely missed the point Jesus was making.

Jesus was performing a lowly, servile task.  Yet He was the master.  Is it any wonder Peter, at first, was horrified at the prospect of his Lord washing the dirty feet of a man like himself?  Were the others just dumbfounded since there is no record of their reaction?  It’s easy to relate to Peter, but that is not always a good thing.  I, too, need to learn the lesson Jesus was teaching.

Most, if not all, people want to be great (at least to some degree).  We want to be important, special, at the top not the bottom of the pecking order. We want to be served, not the one serving.  But such ambition is not for the citizens of the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus’ lesson:  Greatness in the kingdom is achieved by serving.  Whoever lowers (humbles) himself, will be the one who is exalted (Matt. 23:12).

This principle seems to go against every bit of human/worldly logic.  Yet, it is the very essence of God.  “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).  The call for humble service by Paul in Phil. 2:1-11, echoes this same message: Have the mind of Christ, who made Himself nothing, took on the form of a servant, humbled Himself and died on a cross for the sins of others.

If He can serve us, we also ought to serve one another.