John 13:12-17 (ESVST)
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?
Jesus after washing their feet, put on back his original clothing and sat back with them at the table. He then asked them if they understood what he has done for them.
13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another ‘s feet.
Jesus starts by saying that his disciples call him Lord and Teacher and they are right to call him that. A teacher in this context refers to an instructor. Someone who teaches others. Lord means master. This is the same word that a slave would use to refer to his owner. Then Jesus said to them, if I as your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. Remember I explained in Part 1 of this message that the task of washing feet was such a shameful task that it was only left to the lowest of the lowest slaves. This is the reason why Peter had a problem when Jesus wanted to wash his feet. It was a task that surely a Teacher and Lord like Jesus would never ever do. It was unheard of.
So, Jesus is saying, being your Teacher and your Lord, I have washed your feet. In other words, I have humbled myself from my position as your Teacher and Lord and I became the lowest of your lowest slave or servant. I served you in a position of the lowest of the lowest servant. There was at that time, no other task lower that washing someone else’s feet. Jesus is saying, I moved from being your teacher and Lord to your servant of the lowest kind. I humbled myself infront of you all. This is what is called humility and Jesus has displayed it in this act, the best kind of humility that did not exist at that time.
Then Jesus continues and said, if I have as your lord and teacher have humbled myself infront of you by washing your feet, you also have to wash each other’s feet, in other words, you also have to be as humble as I have been.
Now some churches think that Jesus was commanding us to wash each other’s feet. This would not be in line with the context, for if it was about washing each other’s feet and not humility, Jesus would not have highlighted the fact that he was their teacher and lord but yet he has washed their feet. Certainly washing people’s feet then was a sign of humility because it was a task for the lowest servant. Secondly people had to wash thier feet because they wore sandals and walked on dusty roads. In today’s context, people wear shoes and walk on paved roads. Again washing people’s feet before eating was a health requirement because the tables were very low and sitting down meant your feet were not very far from the food. Today, we wash hands before eating, not feet. What would be the point of washing their feet? Washing someone’s feet today would not make sense and would not show any sense of humility as their feet would be clean anyway. Thirdly, Jesus washed the disciples feet at the dinner table, not in church. Verse 1-2 says it was supper just before Passover. It simply does not make sense to see this as a command. Jesus command here is that we should be able to humble ourselves infront of one another.
15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Then Jesus said that the reason I want you to be as humble as I have just been is that I have given you an example of how humble you should be for one another. Then Jesus told them that a servant is not greater than his master nor a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Jesus is simply pointing out here that I did not wash your feet because me as the master is less than you as servants. Jesus is saying, even though the servant is not greater than the master, the master can still humble himself. Jesus concludes by saying blessed is he who knows these things and does them.