In some cultures it is considered poor manners to sit in such a way as the bottom of your feet show. Imagine what Jesus’ actions in the upper room must appear like to those who consider feet to be such a dirty part of the body as to be offensive. While Leonardo Da’Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper may be beautiful, it is apparently greatly inaccurate. The disciples and Jesus would have reclined around a table, and the obvious result would be someone’s feet basically at the upper body of the next person.
So it was customary when someone came into your home, water would be provided to wash their feet. After all they wore open sandals and traveled dusty roads and paths. But on this occasion where they gathered to observe the Passover meal, Jesus knelt at the feet of each of the disciples and washed them. Humble and in many ways we would see as demeaning.
Here is the creator of the universe, kneeling before sinful men, washing their feet. The significance was certainly not lost on Simon Peter, who protested, “Lord, you will not wash my feet.” Several times in my ministry I have had groups of men (often at the beginning of service as a deacon) in a time of prayerful reflection wash each other’s feet. Always we have found it more difficult to have our feet washed than to wash others. It is humbling, to say the least.
Jesus said, “Serve one another.” We live in a western culture where service is not so frequently valued. It must not have been much different than that in His day because He cautioned about leaders who “lord it over” others. “Whoever will be great among you,” He challenged, “Let him serve.”
As we enter this weekend that we remember the tremendous price Jesus paid for our sins, let’s remember how He humbled Himself to step down from His throne in heaven and clothe Himself in human flesh and dwell among us. Let us remember that He knelt humbly washing his disciples feet. Let us remember how He suffered humiliation and shame to make a way that we might receive forgiveness for our sins and eternal life. Let us remember how wonderful our Savior truly is.