“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 just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:14–16 ESV)
The last thing that Jesus’ disciples expected when they reclined for supper with Jesus that day was an example that encouraged them to act like slaves. I love the clarity of Jesus’ words here, the disciples could not possibly mistake what he did because he explains it so well [even I, erstwhile Marine understand the message!].
Jesus washed their feet, put back on his outer garments, and reclined back down at the table [don’t you love the physical details here?]. “Do you get what I just did?” he asks the disciples. I gave you an example, “that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
You can imagine the disciples looking around at each other, “Is he implying that we have to wash feet?” Which of course is exactly what he was saying/demonstrating.
All of which points directly at us who follow Jesus today. What does it look like to wash feet in our culture? It means to serve others, to do the humble, dirty, despised, disgusting and necessary work. It means to lay aside our delusions of grandeur and jump willingly into the trenches with the broken, bruised, and bleeding. We do not work so that the broken will be impressed with us, nor do we expect that they will complement our incredible spirituality. We work for Jesus, for joy in him.