To the disciples the moment must have been beyond baffling and incredibly instructive. Kneeling on the floor before them, with a towel and basin of water in hand, Jesus began to wash their feet. He was their Rabbi, their Master, their Lord. One of his stature did not wash feet. It was even beneath the status of a student and disciple. It was a task reserved for the lowliest of household slaves.
Undoubtedly expressing the feelings of the others in the room, Peter protests, "You will never wash my feet!" "You are too important, too respectable," could have been the added rejoinder. But Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."
Jesus finished his task of washing his disciples' feet and then explained his action to them. "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you" (John 13.12b-15; NRSV).
Jesus washed his disciples' feet to demonstrate the serving-love that must be a characteristic of the Christian life. We must serve one another. Service requires compassion, giving, friendship, unconditional motive, selflessness, humility, sincerity--in other words, service is a demonstration of love.
Serving others is not always pleasant, nor is it always rewarding. Washing the feet of another is not an enviable task. Peter was a fisherman after all--can you imagine what his feet must have been like? I'm certain that he did not own a pair of rubber waders! Washing feet in the 1st Century was most certainly a demonstration of unconditional, limitless, and selfless service. And, consider the presence of another man in that room as Jesus washed feet: Judas, the man who would betray Jesus. Yet, Jesus washed his feet, too.
So, this day, let us put these words to practice. Offer yourself to the service of another. Exemplify the love of our Lord Jesus.