Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.John 13:1-15
Jesus’ voluntary abasement in washing the feet of his disciples preludes his total self-emptying on the cross at Golgotha. The New American Bible (Revised Edition) offers this insight: “The act of washing another’s feet was one that could not be required of the lowliest Jewish slave. It is an allusion to the humiliating death of the crucifixion” (footnote to John 13:5).
Peter’s “humility” follows the playbook of the world. His objection attempts to set things right: servitude does not befit the role of a venerable teacher. The rules governing their relationship demand deference and decorum on the part of the disciples.
Jesus breaks the rules of the world by transcending the power dynamics of human society. Persons made in the image of God are selfless and flow to the lowest place. The way up is down.