During Holy Week, Catholics around the world witness the act of the priest washing the feet of 12 different men during mass. This is in celebration and remembrance of the time when Jesus, knowing of the time He was to part Himself from the physical world, washed the feet of his disciples. This beautiful story is found in John 13: 3-17 :
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.”
When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “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, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
During those days, the host of a dinner would never be one to wash the feet of his guests. It was a task delegated to servants who would clean the dirty feet of men from all their travels. In this story, however, Jesus took the inferior role of serving his disciples with a basin filled with water and a clean towel. So you can only imagine the surprise of the disciples when He did this. Washing the feet was not a pleasant task and Jesus would have been too good for that function. Before the Passover, Jesus was very well aware that His time was coming to an end on earth when He performed this symbolic act. He treated His disciples as His equals and gave the world an example of good turn and kindness.
Jesus knew who He was, the power He had, and the burden He was to carry. He knew people followed Him and listened to His teachings. He knew He was an image to be reckoned with during His time. He knew He was God-sent to everyone, but instead of staying on the divine pedestal people built for Him, He chose to set a perfect example of serving others and keeping a humble heart by kneeling down before others and washing their feet like a true servant to a master.
The washing of the feet is a beautiful symbolic story in the Bible that should remind all of us why Jesus was sent to the world of man and sin : to openly give Himself in service to others and to humble Himself to the will of God.
My friend, serve your fellow man. Be gentle. Be humble. Be kind. The way Jesus lived His life.