Imagine if you will that your doctor has just told you that you have a week to live. How would you live your final days? Think about that for a minute. Would you go bungee jumping or skydiving? Maybe you would go buy that beautiful new car that you have always wanted. Maybe you would take that long-awaited trip to Hawaii or the Pacific Cruise.
We all have lots of dreams that have gone unfulfilled that we might try harder than ever to fulfil during those last few precious hours. How many of us would rush out, pull together the people that are closest to us, and wash their filthy feet?
Well that’s what we find Jesus doing in His final hours before the Crucifixion. As John writes, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God.” (John 13:3). How odd that Jesus, knowing how little time He had left, would spend His few remaining moments, washing the disciples’ feet! That’s what he did.
The setting is the night before Jesus is executed on a Roman cross. In fact, it appears from the other gospel accounts that the time is coming for Jesus to remind the disciples of His impending death when He says the words, “This is My body, broken for you…” At this point, though, the disciples have just sat down to eat the Passover meal.
Maybe they were all excited about the upcoming Celebration that takes place among the Jews. This is the time to remember the great Exodus from Egypt. All of Jerusalem was buzzing. Excitement filled the air. But no one noticed that their feet were yet to be washed. It was customary for the lowliest of servants to wash the feet of guests. In fact, the Jews considered it so low, that they wouldn’t even allow another Jew to wash their feet.
Imagine their surprise when Jesus, the guest of honour, got up from the table, took off His outer garments and wrapped a towel around His waist. Then, filling a basin with water, He bent low and did the unthinkable. He washed their feet. Jesus saw fit to teach the disciples a very important lesson about life, through this action.
John is the only gospel writer to actually record this incident. Even John saw that something important happened here. What is it that Christ is trying to teach us in this wonderfully confusing passage of Scripture? I believe that Christ, through this amazing event was trying to teach us the essence of Christian love. When Jesus said He came to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many, this is a powerful snapshot of what that service looks like. The next snapshot was to be of Him dying on a cross in order to save us from an eternity without Him.