Today is Maundy Thursday, the day of Holy Week when Jesus and his disciples celebrated their last supper.
On this day, we read that they rented a room in which to eat the traditional Passover meal, full of symbolism, of which Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment.
Being that people wore open sandals and that the roads were dirt, it meant that if they had been walking around outside, people’s feet were dirty. Not only were they dirty from dusty roads, but without modern sewage systems, a lot of waste would end up in the streets, adding to the level of grime and filth on a person’s feet after simply going about a day’s business outside. Especially, considering that dinner was eaten sitting on pads on the floor, this foot washing was important because of the close proximity people would be in to each other’s feet – smelly feet ruin appetites.
For this reason, the custom was for people who entered a house to remove their sandals and wash their feet. If you were a guest at someone’s house, usually that foot washing would be taken care of by the host, or if the host could afford it, by a servant.
However, Jesus and his disciples were using a borrowed room, so there was no host to welcome them, and no servant assigned to wash people’s feet.
Luke’s Gospel tells us that as they sat at this dinner table, eating the passover – the disciples began to argue over which of them was the greatest. Presumably, part of this discussion was also to determine which one of them was the least – which one of them should become the servant of all and wash everyone’s feet.
And then something happened which no one expected: Jesus stood up and wrapped a towel around his waist and one by one, he washed the feet of his disciples.
Peter, seeing this, protested! How could he let Jesus serve him?! He should be serving Jesus! But Jesus told Peter: If you don’t let me serve you, you can have no part in me.
And Jesus explained to them – that if anyone would be the greatest in His Kingdom, he must become the servant of all. In His Kingdom, those who humble themselves are the greatest, and those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Jesus explained: “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But it will not be so amongst you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the least, and the leader as one who serves.”
At another point Jesus had said: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
How are you doing as a servant? Pursue true greatness and be like Jesus: a servant.