John 13:1 (New International Version)
1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
He had used words, but the ones into whom he had poured three years of teaching were slow to understand. The Teacher used the powerful tool of story telling--he used metaphor and analogy--he used object lessons--bread and fish. Still--it was getting close to test time--and the results weren't promising.
What was it he really wanted to convey before he left? There were only hours left now and they were ticking away so fast. But there was time for one final demonstration--one final lesson. Love; it was love he wanted to show them; the full extent of his love.
The men were hot and grimy. As they entered the room were they would celebrate the Passover together, beads of perspiration trickled down their faces and laced their lips with salt. There was a rank odour of sweaty feet.
The Teacher took off his outer clothing and they watched, curiously at first, wondering what he could be doing now. He was almost naked, demonstrating through his utter humility, stripped to the basic loin cloth and towel of a slave (with not even the status of clothing to cloud it), his last object lesson.
The silence was broken only by the sound of crystal clear, cool water being poured by the Teacher into a large bowl, which he placed on the floor. He knelt down before one of his followers and took the first of twenty-four feet in his strong hands, washing away the dirt and drying them with the towel around his waist.
"I have done this for you," he told them, "Now you must do this for each other. I have set you an example. You must wash each other's feet."
Even now, they still didn't understand, but that was okay--they would--soon--after they watched in horror, fear and dismay what he allowed to be done to him. Love means serving and sacrifice. It could mean laying down your life.
John 13:4-5 (New International Version)
4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.