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Wash One Another’s Feet
John 13:14 A demonstration of humility in both attitude and action
“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
John 13:14 NASB1995
John 13:5-20 is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus washing the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper is described in detail. Let’s take a look at this single verse in context:
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, *got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He *came to Simon Peter. He *said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus *said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
John 13:3-17 NASB1995
John describes this in vivid detail: “taking a towel, he girded himself”, “poured water into the basin”, and then Jesus started to “wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel”. Peter wants no part of this, thinking it odd that his Lord and Teacher would “stoop so low” as to wash the feet of the disciples, but allows Jesus to do it.
When Jesus is dressed again and reclining at the table, He provides them with an important lesson. He comes right out and tells them, not using a parable as explanation as He wants there to be no misunderstanding.
Jesus is commanding them to show the same humble and sacrificial love to each other as He just demonstrated. In households of the time, it was the job of the most lowly servant to wash the feet of the master and family, as well as those of guests to the house. Jesus wants His followers to demonstrate humility in both attitude and action.
On Maundy Thursday, it’s now a custom at some churches to have foot washing ceremonies. Jesus wasn’t commanding an annual ceremony for show, although in many cases the ceremonial foot washing may be done with the right heart. Scottish biblical scholar F.F. Bruce commented on the pedilavium (foot washing), saying:
“The studied formality of the pedilavium on Maundy Thursday, when bishops, abbots and sovereigns have traditionally washed the feet of paupers, may commemorate our Lord’s action but in the nature of the case it can scarcely fulfill its spirit.”
David Guzik on Enduring Word had this comment:
Wash one another’s feet: We, like the disciples, would gladly wash the feet of Jesus. But He tells us to wash one another’s feet. Anything we do for each another that washes away the grime of the world and the dust of defeat and discouragement is foot washing.
He also pointed out how easy it is for us to criticize those with symbolic dirty feet rather than washing them (with a reference to the great Charles H. Spurgeon):
“In the world they criticize: this is the business of the public press, and it is very much the business of private circles. Hear how gossips say, ‘Do you see that spot? What a terrible walk that man must have had this morning: look at his feet! He has been very much in the mire you can see, for there are the traces upon him.’ That is the world’s way. Christ’s way is very different. He says nothing, but takes the basin and begins to wash away the stain. Do not judge and condemn, but seek the restoration and the improvement of the erring.”
Where we see the stain of sin on others, the example Jesus made should be our guide to action. Let’s not judge others or condemn them for their sin, but work through prayer and humble action to wash away the stains with Living Water.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Father in Heaven, thank You for all of the blessing I receive, and for sending Jesus to Earth as the example of righteous living. Like Jesus, I want to serve others, so teach me to put my own needs after those of others. Make my eyes see the needs of people around me, and give me the opportunity to bless someone else’s life in the way You have blessed mine. AMEN.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org.
Commentary from Enduring Word used with written permission of the publisher.
Bruce, F.F. "The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes" (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1983)
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon "The New Park Street Pulpit" Volumes 1-6 and "The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit" Volumes 7-63 (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1990)