The scene of Jesus and his disciples on the night of his betrayal could rip your heart out if you could really grasp all that’s happening. Jesus was teaching his disciples then, and his disciples now, the very essence of what it means to follow him: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In one way, Jesus’ disciples would have understood why Jesus was washing their feet. In that culture, any good host would make sure that his guests’ feet were washed when they entered his house. It was the custom. But it wasn’t something that the host himself would ever have done. It was the job of one his servants. So, it wasn’t the foot-washing that disturbed the disciples, it was the fact that it was being done by their host, their rabbi. What Jesus is showing them is about more than hospitality or good manners. He’s putting himself in the position of a servant. And he’s willing to serve all of them, even the one who was going to have him arrested and killed. Isn’t it amazing the Jesus didn’t turn him out of the community? He got down on his knees before Judas and washed the dirt from his feet.
So, Jesus tells his friends, I’ve set an example for you here. You also should do as I’ve done. He says the same thing to each of us. And, if he could include Judas, it forces us to think very seriously about those with whose feet we’d rather not find ourselves on our hands and knees washing. Face it, it would be hard enough to do that for a member of your own family, but for some low-down, back-stabbing, pathetic excuse for a human being, come on!
Whose feet are you be willing to wash? By washing feet, I don’t mean literally, whose feet would you scrub clean, but who are you willing to humble yourself before? Who are you willing to serve as Jesus did?