He got up from the supper table, and took off his garments. He purposefully laid them aside, and wrapped a large towel around himself. Then He got a basin and filled it with water. He looked like a servant! All eyes were on Him: What could He possibly be doing? Then the King of the Universe knelt in front of each sinful weak human at the table, and one by one, He washed their feet.
In the Middle East, feet and shoes have long been very symbolic. Moses was told to remove his sandals as he stood in front of the burning bush, because he was on holy ground (Exodus 3:5). In the book of Ruth, (4:7), the custom was to give one’s sandal to confirm a deal. In Jesus’ days, if a servant of a house did not wash a guest’s feet, the insult or breach of etiquette was attributed to the master of the house (Luke 7:44). John the Baptist said he was not worthy to even untie Jesus’ sandals (John 1:27). Today in the Middle East, it is considered rude to show the sole of your foot or shoe; or to sit with your feet, or even one foot, elevated.
Yet, here was Jesus washing feet (John 13). He knew who He was; doing a lowly servant’s duty did not take anything away from Him. When He finished washing and drying at least 22 feet, stood up from the hard floor, and donned his clothing; Jesus was still the glorious Lord Almighty. So, what does this have to do with love? Everything.
Jesus said, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” (John 13:14,15) He also said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) (See also John 15:17 & John 13:34.)
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
This is not the romantic, ooey, gooey emotion that our culture calls love. The real love, the kind from God, is something the world had rarely experienced before Jesus came. God showed it, but humans were scarcely looking. He told it, but mankind was barely listening.
Then Jesus came, as a bright light in a dark cavern, and spread God’s love everywhere. He taught the kind of love that doesn’t fight back; but responds to unfairness and cruelty from others with kindness, mercy, and forgiveness. He taught the kind of love that doesn’t need to be the top dog who has all the wealth, fame, and power; but gives others the opportunity to prosper, succeed, and lead. He showed the kind of love that touches the untouchable, heals diseases, and feeds the hungry. He showed the kind of love that washes another’s feet, and lays down one’s life for others. Jesus lived, and died, the unselfish love of God.
God knows that humans are not capable of this kind of love. We are naturally selfish (Romans 3:10-18). We spend thousands of dollars on one dress; while mothers watch their babies starve to death. We get angry if others don’t do exactly what we think they should do at exactly the right moment; while we want them to understand our every need, and forgive us in every way.
On the other hand, when we come to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, His love saturates our hearts. Then His love flows out of us to others. People notice the change in our actions and attitudes; and the beauty of character that this love causes (John 13:35).
This love is not natural; this love is different. This love is the supernatural love of God. And God is pleased when He sees His love in our hearts, and as a result, in our actions (Matthew 25:31-40).
Additional Verses: Genesis 8:21; John 2:24,25; John 16:27; Romans 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Hebrews 13:16; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:7-14