John 13:12-17 (New International Version)
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
The tension in the room was as palpable as the rank smell of tired, sweaty feet and bodies.
The air hung, close and warm. A deep eddy of inexplicable sadness tinged the familiar preparations for Passover. A darkness moved among the friends, biding its time; a traitorous heart.
The story is told in the language of paradox, "...the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that God 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."
What? The evil in the room is momentarily confounded by the foolish act of humble service to the weak and the weakest and most vile. "He knows. I know he does," it whispers to itself, "He always knows what they are thinking. What game is he playing?"
He is kneeling before them all, even the Betrayer, taking their feet in his hands, handling them with gentleness. Gnarled and broken-nailed fisherman's feet, he pours cool water over them, cleansing them; the only sounds that of the softly slopping water and the barely perceptible rubbing of the towel. 24 feet in the room washed one by one by a King. No one stooped to serve him; who would think of it? His feet went unwashed.
And I was in that room too, so long ago. I have been the Betrayer and I have been the blind unseeing ones, the thoughtless ones who let him serve them then.
But now I am his; all of my glad self is his. I live to serve the King and my life is nothing more and nothing less than this. A life for a life. His for mine and mine given freely back to him. An unfair exchange to be sure, but he never seemed to bargain by our rules.