Here’s the scene. Jesus is hosting a dinner party, the last one he will have on earth, and he knows it. He secured a room above someone’s home to hold the gathering with his closest disciples—the top twelve people in his following. He’s lived, worked, slept, eaten, taught, and traveled with these guys for the past three years. Now it’s time for his farewell. Jesus knows what the next day’s events will bring. In spite of this knowledge, he humbles himself in this last gathering with his friends to serve them. How?
Tradition of the time would call for a washing of one’s feet prior to entering a home as a guest. Think of it as walking into a stranger’s home where you have been invited. All you see ahead of you is light-colored carpet, so you kick your shoes off in the entryway on the linoleum-clad floor. Your shoes probably aren’t covered with dirt and animal feces (unless you’re a farmer, sorry, that’s cool) as would be the feet of Jesus’ guests.
Without paved roads and with animals and people sharing the same routes, people’s feet could get pretty nasty. So when one would go inside a residence, each person would wash his or her feet before entering. If the host had the wealth to maintain a household staff, it would be the job of one of the servants to wash the feet of each guest. When there was more than one household staff, the job would fall to the lowest servant.
It was the least desirable job of all—one rung below the servant that carried out the contents of the indoor toilet to be dumped. Jesus took on the lowest position of all. He humbled himself to serve those who dropped everything and walked away from their lives three years earlier to follow him.
He washed their feet (see John 13:1-17).
An excerpt from the book, THOSE PEOPLE – The True Character of the Homeless