No one wants to do a dirty or lowly work. We prefer what is easy and comfortable to what is lowly and unglamorous. At the celebration of the Jewish Passover on the night before he died, we witness a powerful and unusual scene: Jesus, the Master, gets his hands dirty and washes the feet of his disciples.
In the time of Jesus people walked to where they were going, wearing sandals on dusty and rough paths and roads. At houses jars of water were provided to wash the feet before entering the house. Slaves were tasked to wash the feet of the family and of guests. Thus Jesus washing the feet of his disciples was very unusual, even disturbing.
Jesus, the Master, teacher and miracle worker, leaves his seat at table and does the work of a slave. Peter reacts very strongly, “Why, Lord, you want to wash my feet! . . You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus washing the feet of his disciples was doing much more than doing the work of a slave; he was delivering a parting challenge and message to his disciples: “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it. . . Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”
His washing of the disciples’ feet was a supreme gesture of humble, loving and total service. He challenges us to leave our places of comfort, to be ready to humbly and lovingly serve others, to think of others and their needs even before we think of ourselves, all without counting the cost. The roads of our world are walked by feet dirty and weary, calloused and aching, wandering and stumbling. That includes our own feet. We could imagine ourselves at the Last Supper. Who are those whose feet we would wash? Who in our lives need to have their feet washed? Lord, help us to follow you and wash one another’s feet.