If I then, He says, your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
And yet it is not the same thing, for He is Lord and Master, but you are fellow-servants one of another. What means then the as? With the same zeal. For on this account He takes instances from greater actions that we may, if so be, perform the less. Thus schoolmasters write the letters for children very beautifully, that they may come to imitate them though but in an inferior manner. Where now are they who spit on their fellow-servants? Where now they who demand honors? Christ washed the feet of the traitor, the sacrilegious, the thief, and that close to the time of the betrayal, and incurable as he was, made him a partaker of His table; and are you highminded, and do you draw up your eyebrows? Let us then wash one another's feet, says some one, then we must wash those of our domestics. And what great thing if we do wash even those of our domestics? In our case slave and free is a difference of words; but there an actual reality. For by nature He was Lord and we servants, yet even this He refused not at this time to do. But now it is matter for contentment if we do not treat free men as bondmen, as slaves bought with money. And what shall we say in that day, if after receiving proofs of such forbearance, we ourselves do not imitate them at all, but take the contrary part, being in diametrical opposition, lifted up, and not discharging the debt? For God has made us debtors one to another, having first so done Himself, and has made us debtors of a less amount. For He was our Lord, but we do it, if we do it at all, to our fellow-servants, a thing which He Himself implied by saying, If I then your Lord and Master— so also do ye. It would indeed naturally have followed to say, How much more should ye servants, but He left this to the conscience of the hearers.
2. But why has He done this now? They were for the future to enjoy, some greater, some less honor. In order then that they may not exalt themselves one above the other, and say as they did before, Who is the greatest Matthew 18:1, nor be angry one against the other, He takes down the high thoughts of them all, by saying, that although you may be very great, you ought to have no high thoughts towards your brother. And He mentioned not the greater action, that if I have washed the feet of the traitor, what great matter if you one another's? but having exemplified this by deeds, He then left it to the judgment of the spectators. Therefore He said, Whosoever shall do and teach, the same shall be called great Matthew 5:19; for this is to teach a thing, actually to do it. What pride should not this remove? What kind of folly and insolence should it not annihilate! He who sits upon the Cherubim washed the feet of the traitor, and do you, O man, you that are earth and ashes and cinders and dust, do you exalt yourself, and are you highminded? And how great a hell would you not deserve? If then you desire a high state of mind, come, I will show you the way to it; for thou dost not even know what it is. The man then who gives heed to the present things as being great, is of a mean soul; so that there can neither be humility without greatness of soul, nor conceit except from littleness of soul. For as little children are eager for trifles, gaping upon balls and hoops and dice, but cannot even form an idea of important matters; so in this case, one who is truly wise, will deem present things as nothing, (so that he will neither choose to acquire them himself, nor to receive them from others;) but he who is not of such a character will be affected in a contrary way, intent upon cobwebs and shadows and dreams of things less substantial than these.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon