It was the most demeaning of tasks, performed by only the lowliest of servants – often slaves in the households of the rich.
The roads were dirty and dusty and likely covered with animal dung.
Thus, with nothing but sandals to wear, one’s feet were often coated in filth.
The hosts would, consequently, provide a bowl of water for cleansing – particularly before a meal in which the guests would lean back on the floor and prominently display their feet.
In ordinary households, guests would wash their own feet; but in wealthier households the lowly servants and slaves would crouch before the honored guests and wipe the grime off for them.
Thus an extraordinary thing happened this particular day when the I Am –
…the very law that had the power to form an entire universe with numerous galaxies billions of light years apart
…the law that had existed since before the beginning of time and would be there to the very end
…the law that was responsible for light and energy and atoms and the creation of life itself
…the most authoritative law there ever was
– rose, removed its garments, wrapped a towel around its waist, bowed down before each of its disciples and proceeded to wash their feet.
One of the followers, struggling a bit with his pride, clearly recognized the extraordinariness of this situation, and protested, “You shall never wash my feet!”
But the man at their feet, the very reflection of God himself, would have nothing of Peter’s refusal, declaring, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8).
Thus, in that remarkable moment, Jesus not only revealed to him and the world the humble and servant character of the governing law of all things but also proclaimed that one can only be in relationship with this great I Am if they allowed it to sacrificially serve and cleanse them.
This is a far cry from the idea of a self-absorbed, power-hungry God who created people for the sole purpose of being served and worshiped.
But Jesus did not stop there.
He then reminded his disciples, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher…
[the one who created the heavens and the earth…
who created protons and neutrons…
who birthed the principles of energy itself…
who designed the intricacies of humankind]…
have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you…blessed [happy] are you if you do them.” (John 13:14-15, 17b).
The act of humbling oneself and serving others is woven into the very fabric of the universe – a universe that reflects the relational, loving and gracious character of the God who made it.
People were made to be a reflection of the I Am.
People were made to be humble and to serve others with acts of kindness and with acts of grace.
We were made to help others meet their basic needs, all while lovingly and compassionately helping them to wash away the dirt they may have accumulated along their less than perfect paths.
Happy are you if you do it.
–Excerpt from the chapter “Rethinking Jesus” from Rethinking God: Because God is Bigger, Closer, and More Real Than You Think