Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 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. John 13: 3 – 5
Whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20: 27 – 28
Just before the Passover festival Jesus was eating the Passover meal with his disciples. It was at this meal where he served them communion, signifying what was going to happen to him at the cross. He was going to be the Passover Lamb that was to be slain for the sins of the world. His body was going to be broken and his blood shed for the forgiveness of sins. A new covenant was going to be made in his blood, and reconciliation with God was going to be made possible through his brokenness. He was facing a tremendous trial of betrayal, humiliation, torture, and ultimately death.
It was at this time he rose from the meal and served his disciples by washing their feet. He was demonstrating in another way the cleansing that he was going to bring to the heart. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1: 18). He washed his disciples’ feet as they are the parts of the body that came into contact with the world. In Jewish culture a guest would wash their feet as they enter a house. In wealthy household a slave would wash the guest’s feet. It was looked upon as one of the lowliest services, and a host would never wash a guest’s feet. However, here we see Jesus demonstrating his absolute humility by washing his disciples’ feet. The master of the universe became a servant of his creation. The most holy was demonstrating that he was going to take on the sin of those who believe and follow him. Just a few days earlier he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, now he was kneeling at the feet of his disciples, not being forced to do so, but volunteering to do so. Everyone would have understood if he wanted others to serve him, to comfort him, to strengthen him at a time when was facing the biggest trial of his life. But he didn’t come to be served, but to serve. This is the reason he was on earth – to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus is our example to follow – in whose footsteps we strive to walk. When we go through, or are facing, trials we so often want others to empathise with us and to encourage and strengthen us. This is natural. However, we ought to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and see that there are many who need to be served, to be encouraged and upheld. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus is about the selfless service of others.