“During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper, laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.”-John 13:2-4
The men had proceeded to sup together. There was no servant present to wash their feet. Jesus had arranged for the room, I wonder if they thought he also should have planned for a servant. But no one said anything. When the food was already set out for this most important feast, and the men were seated together, Jesus rose to perform this most menial of tasks, certainly not a job for the host. But the absence of the servant was no oversight; Jesus intended it. He was going to teach them about service, about what the Jesus-life looked like practically.
But we cannot miss two other points. No details are wasted. First, John mentioned only Judas by name here, pointing out that the devil had already planted the seed of betrayal in his heart and it was growing to full height. Jesus rose to serve not only those who were like him, but his enemy as well. His love for Judas did not fail even though Judas’s love for him did. This is the biblical notion of hesed–the steadfast level of Lord.
Second, Jesus knew who he was. He was the possessor of all good things. Soon, he would reunite with the Father. He had every right to command allegiance from these men or to demand their submission, yet he chose the way of service. God, in the flesh, stooped for sinners. He did not insist on their service to him. He taught them practically the way of mutual submission.
We often live with a “me first” mentality. Our culture encourages us to take all we can, but not Jesus. He encourages pouring ourselves out in service to others, even those who would be our enemies. Jesus, in your omnipotence you came to earth, humbling yourself by becoming a man. You gathered your friends around you, showing them the way to live life in your Kingdom, day by day. You came to serve, and to show us the way to serve, the way of love. Amen.