What would it have been like to participate in the Last Supper with Jesus and the disciples in the Upper Room? To share bread and wine with Him in the hours before His death? Even to have Him wash your feet? Imagine the scene from John 13…
The meal is about to begin. The Passover lamb is on the table, and the bread and wine are in place. The disciples are all stretched out around the table. But suddenly Jesus rises and without a word strips off His formal clothes, takes a long towel from a rack near the door, tosses half of it over His shoulder, and ties the rest around His waist so it hangs down loosely in front. The disciples are confused until He picks up the bowl which is also standing near the door, ready but unused, and fills it with water. They know exactly what He’s doing. It’s a ritual they know well. He’s preparing Himself for the slave’s job of washing their feet.
It’s an incredible moment, but what makes the story so powerful is not the footwashing itself. These men would have been accustomed to having someone bend before them and clean their dirty feet. What makes the story so powerful is the Person performing it. The Holy Spirit wants us to be perfectly clear about who this Person is, wrapped in a towel, bending before these proud men and cleaning their feet before dinner: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper, laid aside His garments, and took a towel…” (John 13:3-4).
Three powerful statements about His identity. 1. His sovereign authority: “the Father had given all things into His hands.” 2. His heavenly origin: “He had come from God.” 3. His heavenly destiny: “He was going back to God.”
The Holy Spirit is carefully highlighting the incongruity of Jesus’ actions—a Person with this level of cosmic authority and origin should not be washing feet! And notice how John says it: “Jesus, knowing…” All of this was on His mind. He was well aware of His own divine power and personal dignity. They should be worshiping and serving Him, not being served by Him. And yet there He is, showing His love in the most humble way possible. This is the kind of God we have. He bends down before those He loves and washes their feet. This is what it means to be loved by Jesus.