“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14, ESV).
As the twelve disciples file into the room, they begin to look around in expectation, communicating more with their pursed lips and raised eyebrows than they ever could with the words that everyone is thinking, but no one dares to utter. James leans over to John and mumbles under his breath, “There’s no servant here.” John rolls his eyes at his brother’s obvious comment. That is the exact issue at hand.
Just when the silence is bordering on unbearable, Jesus walks in, limping as if His feet were made of solid stone. He has had a long, hard day serving the people; He needs to rest. As He walks into the circle of disciples staring at one another like molded statues, He sighs deeply, the breath releasing from his lungs in spurts like clothing being run over an old-fashioned, metal washboard. Without a word, He begins to take off His outer garments and shroud Himself with the towel that is draped on the back of the rickety wooden chair. Before the disciples can form words from their mouths, which are now hanging open wider than the caves dug for graves on the mountainsides, Jesus begins to wash their feet.
Foot-washing is a servant’s job. When a servant is not present, then the person of the lowest social standing—or with the most humility—takes the position of a servant and washes the feet of the others present. The disciples have just finished yet another argument about who is the greatest, so not a single one of them is about to admit his inferiority by bending down to wash the feet of his companions. They are each too insecure about their own importance.
When Jesus bends down on His knees and begins to wash feet, the twelve are rendered speechless. Jesus possesses a deep enough security in Who He is as the Son of God to stoop to the position of a servant and wash the feet of the disciples. During His time on Earth, He, as the Son of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Phil. 2:6).
We as believers who find our identity in Christ must do the same, both in action and in attitude. The messy jobs—the ones that smell, that do not get recognition, that are hard and seem fruitless—those are the jobs that God is calling us to do. He is calling us, after a long day of work and school, to wash the mountain-sized load of dishes in the kitchen. He is calling us to take out the trash after church on Sunday morning. He is calling us to volunteer for childcare so that parents can have a break to fellowship with other believers. The “feet-washing” jobs in our lives may not be the easiest or the most fun, but they do bring ultimate honor and glory to God.
So whose feet do you need to wash today? It does not matter your position in ministry, your level of education, or your social status. We are servants of Jesus. He deserves our commitment to the messy jobs.
Referenced: Pentecost, Dwight J. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. Zondervan Corporation. Grand Rapids, MI. 1981.