The Basin and the Towel
. . . 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 . . . “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” . . . Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet (John 13: 4-14).
Simon was appalled! The washing of feet was a servant’s job. No way would he allow his teacher and friend to touch his rough and calloused feet, dusty and smelly from the day’s journey. But Jesus’ unexpected demonstration modeled for Peter the humbling lesson of receiving and giving service.
Once I attended a special church service commemorating the Last Supper, which included foot washing. A worshipper who wished to participate would take a basin of water and a towel. He would then kneel and wash and dry the feet of the person next to him, and that person would do the same for the next person. Like Simon Peter, I wanted to say, “No! You will never wash my feet.” I felt uncomfortable with the idea of washing someone else’s feet, but I was even more uncomfortable with having my feet washed.
I felt I understood Peter’s initial unwillingness to let Jesus wash his feet. It wouldn’t be a big deal if it were a servant, or someone he didn’t know intimately. But to have Jesus at foot level, with Peter’s dirtiness exposed, would be a humbling experience.
Once while I was recovering from surgery, a friend offered to do my laundry. My inner voice said, “I don’t need any help; I can manage on my own.” How embarrassing to have someone going through my family’s dirty clothes. But Jesus’ command to wash one another’s feet means that one washes and the other gets washed. I had to squash my pride and allow my friend to obey Jesus’ command by serving me.
I may want to do great things for Jesus. But if I want to be great in His kingdom, I must be a servant and be willing to be served.
Sharon Fraizer is a guest writer for Just Between Us magazine and ministry.