One of the greatest lessons I have learned is to never underestimate the layers of wisdom in every story recorded in the scriptures. It is often true that we learn most from old ideas understood from a new perspective than we do from brand new ideas. Jesus was a very fascinating individual, He had this unparalleled ability to speak to everyone on their various levels with a single word or action; one of these displays of manifold wisdom is found in the story recorded in John 13:1-17.
An observation is that Jesus knew that everything was in His power and it was from this position that He did what He did. What He did was that He stooped down from that place and in a perfect display of humility performed what was the lowliest of jobs. How deviant this behaviour would be if placed in the context of today’s culture and corrupt understanding of leadership.
The scripture says He was aware that He had ALL power and this awareness was not one to be drunk by – He still maintained sufficient control to do the lowliest job OR was it? Peter observed what was happening and said “It is not right for a Lord to do this” and this was exactly Jesus’ point – this type of work requires ALL power and indeed what Lords should do. For a human to refuse to abuse power is such a great temptation that he requires a divine enabling that only God can give. How does a King strip down and stoop down to wash the feet of those who serve him except God enables him? Judas saw the same event and stayed put until Jesus began teaching that He was to be killed by men and this idea of a King yielding Himself to the ridicule of men to please His father was so contrary to a man hungry for money and position that he left the dinner party and later betrayed Him. On the other hand, having understood what Jesus was teaching, Peter asked that he too partook of that ministry of washing the feet of your friends.
I know few husbands that have taken time to wash their wife’s feet and this has nothing to do with the state of her feet but just something that doesn't come naturally to many. Well, Jesus was not just teaching about washing feet but showing that being a leader requires that you know where your followers have been ie get close enough to them to understand what their journey has been; only then can you minister to them effectively. The washing of the feet is the getting to know the hidden corns on the little toes; the hurts and pains, the bitterness that very often stays hidden within the shoes of pretense and "churchiness".
Yes, being a leader is not just riding on the donkey of praise but stooping down to get to know people, their journeys, their hurts, their pains AND providing healing; washing the pain away, providing a new start. It takes trust but trust takes time – Jesus stripped Himself to show leaders that we do not have to be perfect to minister healing to people, we too have corns on our toes and blemishes on our skins, being open to share these experiences and how we overcame builds trust in those we are called to lead. Trust takes time but keep at it even when Judas walks away, still press-on….keep washing!