I never thought about this before.
It was tradition in the ancient cultures of the Middle East to wash guest’s feet when they entered a home. Typically this was performed by a servant. According to some, in the absence of a servant, the job fell to the lowest person present. Every organization has a pecking order, those who serve and those who are served. Usually this is established fairly quickly. One problem, Jesus didn’t have any servants (He still has trouble locating them), and He tended to turn pecking order ideas all upside-down.
So here’s the scene (and it probably wasn’t the first time):
They arrive at a place where no servants are present. Maybe an argument ensues, “your turn…I did it last time…I do it all the time…” You know how “kids” are. Wait, I’ve seen adults act that way (Christian and non-Christian alike).
And since our Lord and King was not a type A person (you know, bossy, tough), I imagine Him hearing the argument and quietly getting up, grabbing a towel and going to work. But think, they were shocked by this. He hadn’t done it before. Did He usually let them argue it out? Did He usually offer bits of wisdom to admonish them? In another scene, when he visits a leader in the community, He just doesn’t get His feet washed (an insult by the way), until Mary shows up with kisses and perfume and tears.
On this night, the night before He died, I think there might have been a sense of heaviness, a feeling of something about to change. John felt it and wanted to be so close to JESUS that he leaned on Him during the meal. No one wanted to be the one to set aside their self-concept, no one wanted to set aside their fears or concerns. They may not have even thought of arguing, consumed by their own thoughts, foot washing was not paramount. But Jesus, though He knew what was coming, though He had His own concerns and fears about what He was going to face, took off His robe, wrapped Himself in a towel and served.
I get weighed down by worries. I see only uncertainty in my future on earth. Fear can almost overwhelm me. I want to be noticed and valued. I want greater responsibility, greater dreams to dream. I don’t want pain or embarrassment, humility, obscurity.
Maybe, instead of shoving myself forward into the limelight (or wishing God would) . . .
Maybe, instead of hoping for fame and glory (yes, I still wish for these things) . . .
Maybe, instead of considering how to up my position, leverage myself into power, be a mover and shaker in this world . .
Maybe, I should just go grab a towel.