John 13:1-17

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Why was it necessary for feet washing before a meal? In understanding the context of the narrative, Jesus and His disciples lived in the Middle East. Geographically filled with deserts and sandy grounds. Thus, it is unavoidable for a person who walks in this situation to avoid collecting dust on their feet. So, when Jesus and His disciples sat down to dine (the dining table was not as high as ours. The height of the table was only 1 feet from the ground.) Thus, the food that is served on the table is very much exposed to the dust that is collected on their feet.

So, in such a situation it was the role of the most menial servants to wash and clean the feet of the guests who are about to dine. Normally a servant would have been present to perform this task, but there were none present in the upper room since it was a secret meal. The disciples did not want to wash each other’s feet since they had just been arguing about which of them was the greatest. Here Jesus reversed normal roles and assumed the place of a servant rather than that of a rabbi.

When Jesus stooped to wash His disciples’ feet He showed us several important truths about serving others.
1. The Priority of Serving
What would you do if you knew you would die a violent death in about 12 hours? Would you want to be alone in prayer? Record some final thoughts? Would you spend time with those you loved? What would you want to emphasize? Jesus, the Bible says, knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and so he took off his cloak, put a towel around His waist and washed the dirty feet of His disciples. Who’s going to waste time on that when the end is so near? Jesus. Why? Because He wanted to show them how important it is to humbly serve one another.

2. Confidence in His Identity
The Scripture says that not just in spite of but because He understood who He was, that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. It takes an understanding of our identity to be able to humble ourselves. The world tells us that we need to make ourselves look good in front of others, that we need to exalt ourselves, but Jesus said that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
3. Our Need to Be Served by Him
Jesus makes it clear that being served by Him is one of the conditions of having a relationship with Him then Peter has a change of heart.
I think there is clearly some symbolism here. Jesus is saying not just that Peter must let Him wash his feet but the reference is to the more thorough washing that Jesus will perform the next day when His blood is shed for Peter’s sin and for ours. Just like Peter it is pride that often keeps us from letting Jesus cleanse us. We want to be self-sufficient. It is shameful to admit that we can’t overcome sin in our lives.
Truly unless we let Him cleanse us, we have no part with Him. Our resistance to Jesus’ intervention into our sinful ways simply shows our wrong understanding about ourselves and about Christ Himself.
We must first understand that we are totally deprived by our sinfulness. Which means we can not help ourselves by any means or efforts to come into a right standing before God.
4. Our Need to be Servants
We cannot call ourselves followers of Christ and be unwilling to serve in humble ways. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have individual gifts and places of service, sometimes very public ones, roles of leadership, but each of us should be willing to humble ourselves, to demonstrate our love for those we serve.
You see, foot washing isn’t about foot washing, it’s about serving others at personal sacrifice, humbling ourselves when we don’t have to–because we don’t have to. Our God is truly a God who honors our sacrifices. Thus as a result of obedience to God’s word, when we humble ourselves and serve others, when we consider others higher or greater than us, when we do good to those who even betray us and wash their feet, indeed we will be blessed.