Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. [He] got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet . . . . After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “ . . . I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:1, 4–5, 12–17)
Here, Jesus forms and participates in a community based on service and love to one another, setting an example to be followed by each of his disciples. For John’s community, the purpose of the foot-cleansing here is not a ritual cleansing, such as Peter thinks, but the completion of Jesus’s full revelation of service and love. Throughout John’s Gospel, as this passage indicates, the exercise of leadership and power in the new ministry of Jesus is not one of ecclesiastical hierarchy, but one of love and service among a community of friends.