They were probably sitting or reclining at the table, wondering who was going to wash their feet. They looked around, wondering and waiting. None of them was going to volunteer to do it. Why should they? This was beneath them. Not that long ago they had argued about which one of them was going to be the greatest in the kingdom. They would never stoop to doing such a menial task as washing twelve pairs of dirty feet. Surely, they wouldn’t mind washing Jesus’ feet, at least? No, no one was going to volunteer.
What a shock it must have been for them when they saw their Master get up from the table, take off His outer garment, and tie a towel around His waist, fill a basin with water and then begin to wash their feet. He didn’t use a different towel to dry their feet, He used the same one that was wrapped around His waist. They probably looked at each other in astonishment, hardly able to believe that the Son of God was performing such a lowly task. Did any of them feel embarrassed?
When it came to Peter’s turn, he declared, “Never at any time will you wash my feet!” It was inconceivable to him that his Lord would do something so beneath him and he wanted no part of it. One can just imagine Jesus looking up at him as He said, “If I do not wash your feet, you will no longer be My disciple.”
That response must have shocked Peter. Then, he said, “Lord, do not wash only my feet, then! Wash my hands and head, too!” He went from not wanting his feet washed to wanting a bath.
Jesus, by washing their feet was showing them that as His disciples, they ought to be willing to serve one another. He was teaching them a lesson in humility. He had told them earlier in His ministry that He didn’t come to be served but to serve and to give His life for many. As His followers, we ought to swallow our pride and volunteer for the jobs that others don’t want to do.
After Jesus finished washing their feet, got dressed and rejoined them at the table, He explained why He had washed their feet. “Do you realise what I have just done to you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and you are quite right, for I am your teacher and your Lord. But if I, your teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, you must be ready to wash one another’s feet. I have given you this as an example so that you may do as I have done.” He was greater than they, yet He humbled Himself and took on the role of a servant.
Not many of us would volunteer for positions that involve hard work and little or no thanks or recognition but it would do us good to remember that whatever we do, we do it for the glory of God who will reward us openly.
Sources: John 13:1-17; Mark 10:45