Read: John 13:1-11
Sitting down together as a family to have a meal is a special treat in my house. We are very much a family that doesn’t sit still well. We are often on the move between this or that and so instead of spending the time that it takes to sit down and enjoy a meal is often used for other things. When we are able to sit and enjoy a meal together, we attempt to savor it as long as possible.
I feel like this was the case for this meal in the passage from John. Time was drawing near to the end of Jesus’ time in his current role to teach the disciples. He knows what happens after the meal. During the evening meal: the Passover, the “Do this in remembrance of me” meal. The meal we celebrate weekly when we gather together on Sunday mornings is underway. One of the most important meals to ever exist, and Jesus stops mid meal to do something bizarre.
He grabs a towel and begins to wash his disciple’s feet. This would normally be done before the meal, not during the meal. I mean. Are you going to stop eating your delicious meal, to get your hands dirty, only to need to wash them again? I know I wouldn’t, not without a good reason.
And I think we see this insight in Luke’s gospel. The disciples were after the meal arguing about who was the greatest and the least among them. (Luke 22:24-27) Jesus calls them out and points out that in the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God, what people consider the best and the worst look like opposites. The disciples didn’t understand this much what was happening in the moment at any point during this night. So Jesus first demonstrates it. He gets up mid meal and grabs the towel.
Jesus takes on the role of a servant. He recognizes what is going to happen, and he goes through and washes each of the disciples feet: All twelve. That includes Judas.
Jesus teaches a great deal about service in this act. Service isn’t only for those who are kind to us. Service isn’t only for those who will pay it back. Our role as a servant is to all without any expectation of anything in return.
It will be humbling; taking the lower position is often spoke about by Jesus and demonstrated in love here. Status and influence don’t prevent us from taking the lower position. If anyone had a right to deny it, that was Jesus. Yet, he initiated the act of service.
Our service to God may be messy. We may need to go grab a towel. It may mean going beyond anything we would ever think to do. We must choose to serve.