3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!
As Jesus is getting ready to go the cross the verse says, "Jesus had loved his own and was going back to his Father." So he chooses this occasion to show them the full extent of his love. Interestingly it says that God had put everything under his power. Jesus uses one of his last teachable moments to show his true identity, that of a servant. Part of what a servant would do was to wash the feet of the people at the dinner table. Being on the dusty road all day in the heat one can only imagine how nice it felt to have your feet washed. It was part of the hospitality offered by the host of the meal.
Jesus shows us today that he uses his power to humble himself and become a servant even unto death on a cross. When he goes to wash Peter's feet, he can't believe it and tries to prevent Jesus from doing so. Jesus rebukes him saying, "Unless I wash your feet you have no part of me." What did Jesus mean by this? I think he meant that unless Peter accepted the fact that Jesus would be a different Messiah than Peter had in mind, he could not be used by Jesus. Jesus was teaching Peter that the heart of the movement he had started was not using power to wield it over people, but to serve them. Jesus was teaching servant leadership.
We like to say in our churches, "Leadership has its privileges, we get to serve." It is tempting for those in power and authority to use it control people for their own ends. But Jesus' mission is to point people to His Father in heaven. This is why Jesus was so "counter cultural"! The Jews who were looking for a different kind of a Messiah had a hard time accepting this type of Messiah.
And if Jesus washed his disciple's feet, what did he expect them to do as his first followers? If their Lord and Master could wash their feet, they certainly could do likewise. Do you have the heart of a servant? Do you think of how can you serve others that you have influence with? Or do you think of how they can meet your needs? Do you serve God looking to get credit, or are you okay with God getting all the credit? Jesus taught this lesson by washing his disciple's feet. Whose feet can you wash this week?