We got email asking about washing feet. In John 13, Jesus washes disciples' feet. Should we do same? Should we wash feet for each other?
There is much confusion about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet after the Last Supper. Jesus did this for several reasons.
1. Courtesy/Polite. Normal for host in house to ask servants to wash guests’ feet. Why? Because men wore sandals and roads dusty, dirty, animal poop. Polite to make sure your guests had clean feet when they are in house. Interesting because host did not wash Jesus’ or disciples’ feet when they went into upper room for meal.
2. Before, Jesus told disciples they should not try to be leaders. Instead they should be servants.
Matthew 20:25-28, simple English:
Jesus summoned them [the disciples] together and said: “You know Gentile rulers like to give orders, like to have authority. And Gentile rulers must obey the top rulers, top authorities. You must be different. If you want to become great, you must first become servant. If you want to be ‘first,’ you must be a slave. Son of Man the same: he did not come so you can serve him; instead he came so he can serve you and give his life to pay for many.”
So when the host did not wash feet, Jesus became servant to all and He washed their feet. He was showing most important thing to serve others, not expect others serve you.
3. Spiritual lesson. Peter was shocked when Jesus washed disciples’ feet. Only house servant should do that! So Peter refused to allow Jesus wash his feet. Jesus told Peter (John 13:8), “If I not wash you, then you not connected with me.” Then Peter told Jesus, “Then wash my feet and my hands and my head, too!” And Jesus explained spiritual lesson with physical picture: “If a person finish bath, then later only feet need wash – body finish clean. You are clean.” What was spiritual picture? When we are born again in Christ, we are fully washed clean. God separates us from all our sins. We are new people. BUT we sin every day. Same as walking with sandals in dirty roads every day. So every day we need to go to Jesus and ask forgiveness for daily sins. Maybe we don’t remember all sins. Don’t worry about remembering all sins. Jesus already knows. But we ask Him to forgive us for our wrongs. We ask Him to help us follow Him better. Then we are clean again. Foot washing is picture of daily cleaning from world dirt. Our lives get world dirt, too, and we need Jesus clean us every day.
1 John 1:9 (simple English)-- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and fair and he will forgive us all our sins. He will cause us become pure – he will clean up all wrongs.
So Jesus used foot washing to show several lessons:
1. The host should take care of his guests
2. Never be ashamed to serve others. If we want to follow Jesus, we will serve other people.
3. When you are born again you are fully clean inside. But everyday little world dirt and sins in your life and you need to ask Jesus to make you pure and clean again.
We do NOT need to wash feet for other people! Foot washing was picture of dirty service. We must be willing to serve no matter how hard or how dirty. And we need to go to Jesus to ask Him to clean us everyday, too. Picture for our lives here on earth: love your neighbor; take care of people God puts in your life. Picture for spiritual life: we are all sinners and need to go to Jesus every day for cleaning in our spirits.
Some people think we need to wash feet for each other. If feet are dirty, that is fine. But Jesus used normal thing in His time to show three lessons. Today, ‘wash feet’ is same as idiom for hard, dirty work to help another person.
Also, washing feet is not same as baptism. Not connected to baptism. Baptism shows world you are Jesus’ follower.
Barry and Helen (Penny) Setterfield, November 2008