What seems odd to us was not odd whatsoever in the first century. Most people wore sandals and most people walked from here to there. The roads were extremely dusty. Even the shortest of trips meant that your feet would end up dirty. Then, when you add into the equation livestock roaming everywhere and doing their business on the roads wherever they felt the need, you can only imagine the gross and disgusting state of a walker’s feet. So, it was common in the ancient world to provide a basin of water for visitors to have their feet washed as they entered into a home. To not offer water for a guest to have his feet washed was seen as a breach of etiquette.
Foot washing was the work of the servant.
The master would never stoop so low as to wash feet. Slaves washed feet. Masters never did and yet our Master, Lord, and King … our perfect example … humbled Himself and did what only a servant was commanded to do.
Why? Because Jesus wanted to celebrate what I call basin theology.
Look with me at verses 3-5, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” Jesus set aside His status to serve. Why? Because Jesus knew that humble service builds community, trust and affection between people!
Can you see how King Jesus has turned things upside down?
I am absolutely convinced that the key to our future as a church lies in putting a towel around our waist and humbly serving each other as Jesus served. We do not need more ministry team meetings. We need to wash more smelly feet. Jesus rolled up his sleeves and got his hands dirty. Let us all do likewise.
Everyone must know that they are more important than you are. You all must know that you are more important than I.