Important Things You Need to Know about Foot Washing

Jesus taught us some important things in His simple act of foot washing and you may be excited to know you're doing more of them than you think.

Have you ever gotten down on your knees and washed someone’s feet?

No, I’m not talking about your three-year-old’s muddy little toes after an afternoon of puddle jumping . . . but feet of all ages and sizes.

A number of years ago, I attended church with my son and daughter-in-love at the church where she grew up and they continued to attend with her parents.

Once a year, they wash each other’s feet.

At the end of the service, the men go one direction and the women another. Basins are filled with warm water as shoes and socks are removed. And then, humbly young and old kneel before each other washing and drying . . . serving in love and following Jesus’ example.

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that His hour had come to leave this world and return to His Father. He had loved His disciples during His ministry on earth, and now He loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given Him power over everything and that He had come from God and was going back to God. So during the meal, Jesus stood up and took off His outer clothing. Taking a towel, He wrapped it around his waist. Then He poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. John 13:1–5

The task typically assigned to the lowest servant in the household performed by the King of kings.

Jesus taught us some important things in His simple act of foot washing and you may be excited to know you're doing more of them than you think.

Important Things You Need to Know about Foot Washing

1. Humility

If anyone had the right to be served it was Jesus, the Son of God . . . the Son of Man. Yet, His consistent message was…

 Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. Matthew 11:29

2. Obedience

Everything about Jesus’ life was about obedience to the Father, although He said, “The Father and I are one.” John 10:30

Even so, He chose obedience…

“No one takes it away from me; I give my own life freely. I have the right to give my life, and I have the right to take it back. This is what my Father commanded me to do.” John 10:18

3. Surrender

Jesus surrender happened when He stepped out of heaven into the body of a helpless babe knowing it was for one pure purpose . . . to redeem the hearts and souls of people for all eternity. He relinquished His power, authority, and control for you and me.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5–8

4. Service

It’s hard to live a life of humble service. It’s exhausting. And we know Jesus felt all those same feelings you and I have when we are pressed in on and underappreciated.

Yet, love won. Jesus had a mission to accomplish and as He remained connected to the Father, He had everything He needed to do what needed to be done. With God’s help, you and I can allow love to win as we surrender to the His will and serve His people.

“In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many people.” Mark 10:45

5. Love

God is love. Jesus is God. He is love. Everything He did

God is love. 1 John 4:8

From His abundance, we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is Himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1:16–18

Oh, how I want to do better.

Jesus taught us some important things in His simple act of foot washing and you may be excited to know you're doing more of them than you think.

But I wonder . . . if we too often believe the lie that if we’re not doing some grand world-changing mission we’re falling short.

Maybe you and I are doing more foot washing than we realize.

One of the best parts of this account is the small intimacy of the moment. Jesus and His disciples. Not the masses . . . this moment was family.

And I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for ways to serve on a grand scale, but today when you…

  • clean up spilled milk for the umpteenth time
  • bathe little bodies
  • do something around the house so your spouse doesn’t have to
  • run an errand for your elderly neighbor
  • call your parents
  • set up chairs at church
  • apologize to someone whose feelings you hurt
  • cook dinner
  • clean the bathroom
  • forgive the person who hurt you
  • do the laundry
  • run your children to one more activity
  • look a stranger in the eye and smile
  • visit a friend in the hospital
  • pray for your spouse, children, friends, family, etc.

You are foot washing!

You are showing humble, obedient, surrendered, servant love.

For me, one of the most powerful things about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet is not that He did it but that He included Judas.

Foot washing is easier to do for the people who love us. Not so easy for those who don’t. In fact, sometimes it feels downright impossible.

And it is impossible without God’s help. But with His help . . . you and I can do the impossible, even offer kindness and love to those who hurt and betray us.

So, for the next few days, take notice of the ways you are already washing feet and be on the lookout for small ways you can bless the people around you with humble obedient service and love.

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  1. Phyllis Trexler says:

    Dear Deb, Thanks for another insightful blog. As we go through Holy Week it is something that I will certainly now be more aware of. As you said it is easy to wash the feet of someone you love — no so much someone that has hurt you or makes it hard for you to love them.
    Blessed Holy Wee and Easter to you and yours.

  2. Pam Ecrement

    Well said, Deb! My husband and I were a part of a church for two years that did foot washing. It was humbling indeed and so foreign a tradition to experience, but one that was woven into the tapestry of our spiritual lives and which I am grateful for. Holy Week blessings on you!
    Pam Ecrement recently posted..Are We Asleep?My Profile

  3. Carlie

    Deb, I am always amazed at God’s personal touch in teaching me the hard lessons. It is no mistake that I opened this post today. The struggle is real. ‘Foot washing’ a strong willed teenager has a way of testing your humility to the core. Not only my humility, but like you rightly said, my obedience, my surrender, my service and my love to my Father in heaven. But God has been bearing me up, coming alongside and supporting me in such incredible ways. I am so grateful for His help. Thank you for being part of His plan to inspire me today. Blessings to you!
    Carlie recently posted..Beyond The Storms, A Spark of HopeMy Profile

  4. Linda Todd

    Our church still has the foot washing. Not as often as it once did, but still. It is a simple, yet profitable example of humility, obedience, and wanting to be more like Jesus. I believe if He can humble Himself to wash his disciples feet, I can surely do the same now and then.

    Great, great article, and no some people would have nothing to do with this but, The Words states, even as I have done this to you, do this If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14

    Thank you for sharing

  5. Elizabeth says:

    This was so encouraging to me, thank you! I’m glad I read your blog today on Maundy Thursday 🙂 I’ve been thinking a bit about foot washing and how Paul includes it in the list of requirements of a godly widow. So thought provoking. I love your list at the end of the post of ways in which we foot wash.

  6. Cindy says:

    Great topic, Deb. I had not equated foot washing with daily service tasks. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Blessings to you!

  7. Debbie Kitterman

    Deb – I have only participated in foot washing a few times, once shortly after my husband and I stepped in to lead the church we are now pastoring. It was funny, because some people refused to let us wash their feet, and others didn’t really know much about it. It was a great experience and a teaching moment on serving one another in humility and obedience to the Lord. Thank you so much for joining me each week at #TuneInThursday – see you again this week.
    Debbie Kitterman recently posted..The Cross Beckons Me & Tune In Thursday #7My Profile

  8. Dawn says:

    This was soul-filling Deb. I needed to read this. I have been wrestling with purpose and with goals, and really it is just been that kind of a year for me. ( I know we are only in April.) I think, too, it is the end of the school year, meaning my son is now done with school and will be moving on. Milestones have always been momentous, good and bad for me… and I am not quite ready to see this season end. Yet, still… I am excited for his next steps.

    But as I read I had to pause on the words, ‘pure purpose’ and ‘for love to win.’ Together they reflect even more… His pure purpose was so that ultimately LOVE does win.

    What an an upside down paradigm of grace He continues to teach us through Christ.
    Thank you for sharing this with the #GraceMoments Community!

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