Jesus, with the full knowledge that the Father had put everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from the supper-table, took off his outer clothes, picked up a towel and fastened it round his waist. Which was strange and inexplicable enough. I imagine the disciples watching Him do these things in silence, wondering to themselves, exchanging side-of-the-eye glances with each other. And then comes this:
Then he poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel around his waist... It’s the silence of His actions that always gets me. The slow rise from the table, the taking-off and the hanging-up of His cloak and tunic, His eyes searching the room and then, spotting a towel, picking it up, wrapping it around His waist and tying it off at the back. By the door, he takes up a large clay basin, fills it up with water and walks over toward John. He gets down on the ground before him. Unstraps John’s dusty sandals. Then, in silence, lifting John’s foot with a tender hold on the back of his heel and Achilles, he starts to scrub and soak the crusted dirt and grime. Even the servants of the rich never gave such a thorough washing to the feet of the rulers; Jesus spends His time on every inch, between every toe. And when He’s finished with John, it’s on to James next…
Can you imagine looking down at the top of Jesus’ head, His hair a bit unkempt, as He’s bending over to carefully, lovingly wash your dirty feet? In that moment, all the disciples, utterly shocked and ashamed, must have so wondered what could be the motivation for such inexplicable, disgustingly servile behavior from their Master.
Well, we are told His motivation: “the full knowledge that the Father had put everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God…” In essence, the mid-section of Colossians 1: “[That] Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation.”
And it is for that reason, with all things placed in His hands by the Father, that He now stoops to wash the nasty feet of His friends. God had once chosen to walk with Adam in his perfection. Now God has chosen to wash the feet upon which walk the imperfect sons of Adam. This is the most intimate moment in the Scriptures; this is the precise heart of the God who made it all. And us all.