The Apostle John relays a magnificent story about something Jesus did for His disciples in his last hours of life:
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. John 13:3-5
In a world of paved streets, socks, shoes, and Odor Eaters, sometimes the significance of footwashing evades us. Bible commentator, Gary Burge, helps fill in the gaps of our thinking.
The task of foot washing was so menial that according to some Jewish sources, Jewish slaves were exempt and the job was kept for Gentiles…
All our ancient sources show that foot washing was a degrading and lowly task. When done by a wife (for her husband), a child (for his/her parents), or a pupil (for his teacher), it was always an act of extreme devotion. But since it was an act with social implications, in no way do we find those with a “higher” status washing the feet of those beneath them.
When Jesus takes off his outer clothing and wraps a towel around himself (13:4), he is adopting the posture of a slave. (Taken from NIVAC, 369)
Jesus, the Eternal Son of God whom all Creation will one day bow in humble submission, bows in humble service to wash the grimy feet of His disciples. The Man of greatest glory assumes the job of greatest humility. The Exalted One deserving of service lowers Himself to serve.
Recalling a recent experience, Pastor Mark Altrogge illustrates this well:
A few weeks ago, I spoke at a small group leaders retreat in a beautiful Christian retreat center built and run by Christians in the military. Most of the staff were former military personnel. Some had served our nation recently. But all were serving the two groups having retreats that weekend. I noticed in particular an old man with white hair who looked to be in his 80’s or older going around the room every meal pouring coffee, in one hand a pot of regular and the other a pot of decaf. With a big smile and shaking hands, he poured cup after cup, meal after meal. There was also an elderly lady serving her heart out as well.
Before every meal in the cafeteria, one of the military men would lead us all in a short hymn or praise chorus, then pray before the meal. On the last morning after the prayer before breakfast the host said, “I’d like the General to come up please.” As everyone looked around, the old man with white hair who’d been pouring coffee slowly made his way to the front. The General! This was the guy who’d been pouring coffee. Serving everyone there. A General!
From the mouth of Jesus Himself:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
Hallelujah, what a General. Not One who poured coffee, but One who poured out His life for those He loved.