"You do not realize now what I am doing, but later ..." (John 13:7)

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." (John 13:7)

Why was Jesus washing their feet?

And what is it that Jesus is doing that his disciples will only later understand?

This clearly indicates that Jesus wasn't simply interested in keeping their feet clean: There is a metaphorical, symbolic meaning to Jesus' washing their feet. What was it?

Jesus hints at it with a statement he makes later:
"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him." (John 13:16-17)
Jesus is speaking of being a servant. Washing someone's feet is an act of a humble servant. Jesus is asking that his disciples do what he is doing: Provide service.

In other words, Jesus wants his disciples to take up a life of service, as he has done.

Jesus is clearly indicating that he is a servant. He is the servant of God ("the One who sent him") and he is the servant of humanity.

Is Jesus the servant of humanity?

This is precisely why Jesus referred to himself throughout his missionary as υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, mistranslated to 'son of man.'

The phrase "son of man" has no practical meaning. Every male is a son of a man. Why would Jesus call himself a son of a man?

The "son" portion of "son of man" is translated from the Greek word υἱός (huios). υἱός can indicate a relationship of offspring when one is referring to a physical family, but it can also indicate a relationship of servitude. According to Thayer's Greek lexicon, υἱός can be "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower" - a servant, in other words. Since Jesus would not be referring to "man" as his physical family, we must utilize this translation of υἱός, indicating either "follower" or "devoted servant."

The Greek word ἄνθρωπος can mean "man," "mankind" or "humanity". Jesus is obviously not speaking of a specific man. He can only be speaking of humankind or humanity.

Thus the only logical translation of υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (τοῦ means "of") is servant of humanity.

When "servant of humanity" is translated correctly, the essence of the relationship that Jesus was describing between himself and humanity becomes clear. Jesus saw himself as the servant of all humankind because he was delivering God's message - and thereby saving us. This is why God also gave this same title ("servant of humanity" aka "son of man") to Ezekial; and why both Job and David humbly referred to themselves with the same title.

This brings together Jesus' statement above, and why he felt it was so important that he wash his disciples' feet. He was showing them that he saw himself as a servant of others, and he wanted his disciples to also see themselves as servants of others.

Jesus also saw himself as a servant of God (υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ), and many referred to him as such. Once again, the word υἱὸς is being translated to "son" but is better translated to "devoted servant." Remember that υἱὸς can only refer to "son" if in the context of a physical family. The relationship between Jesus and God was a spiritual relationship, not a physical one. God was not the physical father of Jesus' physical body.

Was Jesus the only begotten son?

The references (such as in John 1:14) to Jesus' as "only begotten son" is also a mistranslation - influenced by the Roman Catholic "Nicene Creed" used to dominate religious worship as dictated by the Roman emperor.

It is an awkward notion that God could only have one son. Is God impotent? A human can have many sons in a lifetime but God - the Supreme Being - can only have one son? This is an offensive assumption, and it is clearly negated by the many scriptural passages that use the same Greek or Hebrew reference for other devoted followers of God.

In answer to this, some ecclesiastical (professional) Christian teachers have put forth the notion that God can have many sons, but only one "begotten" son. This is the same thing. They are limiting God to being able to directly create only one son.

It is quite simply a mistranslation of the Greek word μονογενής (monogenēs), which can mean "only one of its kind," but in use, the word is often used to indicate someone who is very special, or very dear.

In the context that it is being used - one of Jesus' dedicated followers referring to him - μονογενής refers to an intimate loving relationship between Jesus and God, and the fact that Jesus was dear to God, and specially chosen by God to represent Him.

What about 'Son of God'?

Thus, the phrase μονογενής υἱός τοῦ θεοῦ is best translated as "devoted and beloved servant of God" - as remember υἱός indicates "follower" or "devoted servant" in the context of a relationship with God, while τοῦ means "of" and θεοῦ is the Name of God.

Nevertheless, one can still make the case that Jesus was created by God and is, therefore, his Father - so "Son of God" is not necessarily incorrect. But what Jesus did was serve God - he did the will of God:
"Abba, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:36)
Doing someone else's will means being their servant. Jesus saw himself as God's servant, and he wanted his disciples to also see themselves as God's servants. Being a servant of God means doing God's will, and God's will is to bring us back home to Him. Thus doing God's will also means becoming a servant of humanity.

And Jesus' disciples will only later understand this as they begin reaching out to others and teaching to them after Jesus left the planet: They became servants of humanity.

In this physical world, practically no one wants to be anyone's servant. We all want to be the master. We all want to be the master of someone or something. This is why winning a "masters" tournament or contest is so important to people, and being called a "master" of something is so important. We want the admiration of others. We want cheering fans to adore us. We want to be the boss so we can tell others how to do things.

This is our disease. We want to be the master. This is because we became envious of God, because He is the only true Master. And this enviousness of God is why we fell from the spiritual world and took on these temporary physical bodies.

God created the physical world to allow us to play out our desires to be the master. So we each get to carve out our little niche somewhere - to be the master of someone or something. God is allowing us to exercise our desires in this virtual physical world.

But the physical world is also programmed to teach us that we are not masters. Through its various lessons, we are gradually taught - assuming we want to learn - that we are really not masters by nature.

This is why even the most successful of us, once achieving superstar status like being a big sports star, a big politician or a business tycoon, will not be satisfied with that status. Superstar status is not fulfilling. We can only look at the lives of many who have achieved this status to see this.

And this is why most who achieve this type of success end up using their status to begin to help people somehow. They have found that helping others is more fulfilling than being the master of others.

Will they realize it later?

Every soul who is seeking to understand God and understand themselves will come to realize at some point our position as servants. It is unavoidable unless we want to remain in ignorance.

God created us as His loving caregivers. Our natural position is to care for Him and serve Him. This is what fulfills us.

But since love requires freedom, we can also decide not to serve Him. We have the choice to become envious of Him. So we are sent out of the spiritual realm - our home - to exercise our desire to try to be like Him.

Jesus is trying to bring his disciples - and all of us - back home to our natural positions. But this requires that we make the choice and realize our natural position as servants: Servants of God and servants of each other. This and only this is what will ultimately fulfill us.

For this reason, we find that many people who gain positions of fame and fortune find no happiness there, but once they begin to serve others, they find some happiness. This is because we are servants by nature.

Finding our ultimate position includes this, but the foundation is serving the Supreme Being and serving others in the same vein. In other words, how we serve others must be consistent with serving God because otherwise we could be harming others spiritually without realizing it.

Being this type of servant is not like being a slave, as indicated by the Greek word, δοῦλος (doulos) - which Jesus used in his parables to indicate a slave. Being God's devoted servant is not forced labor. Rather, the service being spoken of here is based on love. When we love someone, we naturally want to please them (do their will). When we want to please them, we serve them. This is why Jesus' two most important instructions were:
"'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. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:37-40)