All of the disciples are sitting around arguing about who is the best and who Jesus loves the most, all the time getting ready to eat the passover with dirty feet.
Jesus alone gets up to wash the feet, and surely nobody noticed what he was doing until He started, because no one questioned or protested until His activity was already in progress.
‚ÄúHow could they have not even noticed what He was doing if He undressed and wrapped Himself in a towel!?‚Äù you may ask. All I know is we miss a lot of what Jesus is doing when we are focused on ourselves.
Then Jesus begins to wash their feet, every one of them, and tells Peter, ‚ÄúAfterward, you will understand.‚Äù Jesus had told them that the greatest among them would be the servant of all, but they still hadn’t gotten it. They were still thinking like their contemporary rabbis‚Äìserving themselves. Life, today too, is so much about prestige and position and authority levels, that they still hadn’t gotten out of thinking about others as greater than themselves. They had to be shown how to do it.
Once you’ve washed a person’s feet, I’m speaking literally here, you have pretty much degraded yourself to them as far as you can go. Even in today’s culture. It’s a pretty humiliating thing.
While the disciples were racing to the top, Jesus, their teacher and rabbi, was racing to the bottom. And not an overly pious, condescending ‘least of these’ position, but the real, tangible, scandalous low position.
The flipping irony of this whole thing, though, is that I’m sure the disciples, just like me, would then say, ‚Äúok, that means if I want to be the greatest, I need to outserve everyone else!‚Äù and then there would be a fight over the basin and towel to wash feet. Jesus was racing for the bottom, but His eyes were on the goal of loving the Father above. He wasn’t racing against others, he was just rushing to get to the Father.
The Father draws us, and attracts us to Him, but always desires to remain the goal, the destination, the end. He does not take pleasure in activity for the activity’s sake. Peter’s clean feet didn’t change anything, and Jesus’ washing activity or exact method of washing didn’t make anything magical or mysterious happen. It was Jesus, following the Father’s lead to show the disciples that they should serve each other and love each other, that taught and transformed the start of that final Passover meal.
John 13:15-17 (ESV) I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.