I was excited when mother asked me to help serve the Passover for the master. To be in the same room, to listen to him speak, perhaps to see a miracle. I didn’t realize, however, that the work would keep me in and out of the room so much. I was able to catch only the occasional word – Except for that one moment when the master asked me to stay.
They were finished with the meal and I was gathering the plates and platters. When I approached the master’s place he looked right at me. It is difficult to put into words what I felt at that moment. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that it felt like the times that I had sat on my father’s lap, his arms wrapped around me; a place of warmth, safety, and love. Softly he said, “Lad, bring me a basin, a pitcher of water, and a towel. Set them over there.” Without a word, I hurried downstairs to gather what he desired.
My thoughts tumbled. On the one hand, I was excited that Jesus had spoken to me. On the other I was wondering why he wanted the basin and water. Perhaps he is going to work a miracle like the one at the wedding in Cana. My excitement and expectation grew; I might just see a great wonder. Within a few minutes, I had everything Jesus wanted. The pitcher was heavier than I thought but I managed to make it without spilling a drop.
As soon as I placed the pitcher on the floor the master got up and came over. “Stay here and watch,” he told me. Then he took off his cloak and poured the water into the basin. Picking up the towel he carried them to one of his followers. Kneeling before the man he gently took each foot, washed it with the water and dried it with the towel. Then he moved to the next person.
At first, my feelings were confused. Why was the master acting as a slave? If he would have told me to, I would have washed their feet. He didn’t need to do it. But then I watched the faces of disciples as Jesus approached each one. The first couple was astonished, not quite sure how to react. Some humbly received the master’s touch, almost ashamed that the master would perform this menial job for them. One was proud, I could almost hear his thoughts; “I must be someone special.” Peter, of course, had issues with the whole procedure, first refusing the master and then wanting to take a bath. But after the master explained things Peter submitted to his will.
When Jesus was finished he brought the basin and towel over to me and set them on the floor. After putting his cloak on he placed a hand on my shoulder and whispered, “Thank you, lad. Please take these things back downstairs.”
I poured the water back into the pitcher to make it easier to carry and picked up the towel. As I was doing so I heard the master say, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 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 13:12–15, NASB95)