"If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14).
The pitchers and the basin and the towel were all there, ready for use, but no one pretended to see them. They took their place at the table, but no one gave any sign of intending to play the part of servant that night. And why was that?
Because on the way to the Upper Room they had been contending which of them was greatest. It was not the first time they had quarrelled about their places in Christ's Kingdom. James and John, you remember, had tried to steal a march upon the rest of the disciples by getting their mother Salome to ask Jesus to promise beforehand that the two highest thrones should be given to them. On this particular evening, I should judge, the contention had been particularly keen and bitter, and so they came into the room, as Dr. Dods says, hot and angry and full of resentment, like so many sulky schoolboys. And no one would condescend to discharge this humble but grateful duty of feet-washing. John would not wash the feet of Peter; Peter would not wash the feet of Simon the Canaanite; Simon would not wash the feet of Thomas. For to wash the feet of the rest was to declare oneself the servant of all, and that was precisely what each was resolved he would not do. They stood on their dignity--a poor sort of thing to stand upon. There they sat, looking at the table, looking at the ceiling, arranging their dress, each resolved he would not confess himself a whit inferior to the others by performing the slave's office of washing their feet.