"Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ..." (John 13:12-15)

"Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." (John 13:12-15)

Why did Jesus wash the feet of his disciples?

Jesus is setting an example. He is also executing his role as a servant. Jesus sees himself as a servant. He may be in a position of teacher, but he is using his authority to illustrate what the consciousness of a spiritual teacher should be.

"Teacher" comes from the Greek word, διδάσκαλος (didaskalos) which relates to someone who teaches or instructs others. "Lord," on the other hand, is translated from the Greek word κύριος (kyrios), which means "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding; master" according to the lexicon.

But the word, used in context, refers to "master" and "used to address someone of authority.

This is Jesus' role here. He is not putting himself in the role of the Supreme Lord here. Rather, he is discussing his role as "teacher." This, of course, relates to the authority that Jesus brings to the particular topic of spiritual life.

Jesus also used this same word when discussing the parable of the servants and their "master" - also translated from κύριος (kyrios) - in Matt. 18:31-34. This and other verses indicate that the Greek word κύριος (kyrios) was a word used to respectfully address someone of authority.

When someone voluntarily chooses to address a person in this way, it is an address coming from a position of devotion and humility. A person greeting another in this way is voluntarily putting themselves beneath the other person. This is the position that Jesus' students put themselves in, as was customary among spiritual teacher-student relationships during ancient times.

So we know from Jesus' statement that he identified his relationship with his students and disciples as "Teacher" and "Master," as this is how his students and disciples greeted him.

We must ask, then, why did Jesus accept such a position and what is the meaning of this?

The meaning relates to an ancient spiritual tradition - confirmed by ancient texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls - that the devoted student humbly submits themselves to the Spiritual Teacher. This submission represented that the student had put away all speculative arguments, and accepted the Teacher's instructions and teachings as is. They lived by their Teacher's instructions. Why?

Is this about a lineage?

The Teacher was passing down the knowledge given to them by their Teacher without alteration or speculation. Because they had, in turn, submitted themselves to their Teacher, and followed the instructions of their Teacher, they became empowered by those teachings.

This means that such a Teacher who is representing God is given respect accordingly. They are not seen as God because they are not. But because their teachings are coming ultimately from the Supreme Being, they are respected in an appropriate manner.

This might be compared to an ambassador of a foreign country being treated with dignity by a host country. If the host country disrespects the ambassador, they will be offending the ambassador's government.

This ancient and empowering process of handing down knowledge personally from spiritual teacher to student has been lost among some of the institutions of today. When teachers are elected or appointed to their posts by groups of people in these organizations, the teacher becomes a political position.

And when the teachers are paid salaries, what should be an act of service becomes a business transaction.

What's wrong with paying a priest or pastor?

A person who puts their spiritual life at their Spiritual Teacher's feet never becomes a professional spiritual teacher and never accepts election by others, because if they are empowered to teach, they pass along their Teacher's teachings as part of their service to their Teacher and the Supreme Being.

A person who receives a salary for teaching is serving those who pay their salary, and an elected official must represent those who elected them.

This is called an indenture. A person who receives a salary becomes indentured to those who pay their salary. In some organizations, this will either be the hierarchy of paid administrators (such as bishops and deacons) who select that teacher to their respective position.

In some smaller churches, these local deacons are often elected by the actual church-goers. While this might seem very nice because it is democratic, it makes the deacon position a political position - not a position that in any respect represents the Supreme Being.

Being appointed by these deacons means that ultimately, the preacher is obligated and beholden to those deacons to keep their position and their salary. Such a person does not represent God. They are indentured to politically appointed groups and the organization that pays them.

Imagine such a politically-elected preacher teaches something the deacons don't like. Such a preacher will be booted out of their position in no time.

A person who represents the Supreme Being and their Spiritual Teacher cannot become obligated to their students or any organization made up of people. Their only obligation is pleasing God and their Teacher.

It should also be clarified that pleasing such a Teacher is pleasing God because such a bonafide Teacher is only interested in pleasing the Supreme Being.

Was this system employed by Jesus?

Jesus became a student of John the Baptist - which is why he accepted baptism by John. Then Jesus went on to take on and baptize his own students. And then he asked his own students to go out and pass his teachings on to others. (The original notion of baptism - as well as "anointing" from the Old Testament - was a ceremony representing the student's submission to their Teacher.)

This is precisely what Jesus meant when he said above, that, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet." Jesus was not talking about the disciples keeping each others' feet clean. He was not even talking about washing feet at all. Jesus was using feet-washing metaphorically. If he was washing their feet to get their feet clean, Jesus would not have said:
"You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." (John 13:7)
Remember that Jesus is emphasizing the fact that he is their teacher, and yet he is washing their feet - illustrating that the teacher might be respected as the master of his students, but a bonafide Spiritual Teacher sees themselves only as a servant: A servant of the Supreme Being and performing a service on behalf of their students - as they are humbly passing on God's instructions.

The phrase "one another's" used above comes from the Greek word, ἀλλήλων (allēlōn), which means 'to reciprocate.' Jesus is talking about the entire process, not just his disciples washing each others' feet. Jesus now wants his students to become Teachers to others, and then also see themselves as the servants of God and performing a service for their own students:
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions... (Matt 10:5) and "As you go, preach this message..." (Matt. 10:7)
This is diametrically opposed to the position that some teachers have taken as they seek to utilize their power and authority. If it isn't taking home a salary and lavishing themselves in nice houses, cars and even jets paid for by their organizations, it has been, for some, abusing children.

Yes, unbelievably, as we have now come to understand that abusing children has been rampant among some of these institutions. This is called abuse of power. It is a "fruit" of organizations that utilize Jesus' name to achieve their authority but in practice offend Jesus with their institutional activities.

Some teachers will preach that the only teacher we need is Jesus. Why do we need them to preach to us then? Why are they being a teacher if the only teacher we need is Jesus?

All of these supposed preaching missions, Sunday school teachers, and so on, are all saying they didn't need to accept a teacher because Jesus is their teacher, yet by their very teaching activities, they are saying that we need them as our teachers but they have a direct line to Jesus.

Is this hypocrisy?

Jesus specifically asked his students to go out and teach to others, after they had learned from him. He didn't announce that everyone can just have a vision of Jesus and then become preachers.

And Jesus illustrated this ancient process: Before he began to teach, he became a student of John the Baptist. Then he took on his own followers and told them to become teachers.

Jesus' teaching criticized the institutionalism of the institutional temple hierarchical organizations. Why would Jesus want a politically oriented hierarchical institution with elected officials formed in his name?

Constantine then organized his own brand of sectarianism by merging Christianity with the Roman worship of Mithra - the "Sun god." This modification of Christianity watered down the importance of Jesus' teachings, replaced by a promise of his crucifixion saving us from the responsibility of our sins.

This Roman version of Christianity also led to the abandonment of the prophetic lineage, which existed for thousands of years from Abraham's acceptance of his teacher Melchizedek to Jesus' acceptance of his teacher John the Baptist, to Jesus' own disciples.

As a result, sectarian teachers have created many inventive and speculative interpretations of Jesus' life and teachings over the centuries. They have all but abandoned Jesus' central teachings to his followers, which were to love God, serve God (do His will), make offerings to God and praise God.

This is reflected by Jesus' most important teaching:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)