Important Things You Need to Know About Foot Washing

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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. I love how you’ve described how we can all be footwashers in the little ways we serve another, Deb. And I’m glad you reminded us that our acts of kindness and humility are not just reserved for those we love, but for the unlovable, too.

    1. Foot washing is never easy but it is especially hard with those we don’t find easily lovable. Only with His gracious help is it even possible. Praying to follow His example better and surrender to His help when I don’t want to serve with humility and love. Blessings to you!

  2. 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.

    1. Thank you so much, Phyllis! Your kind encouragement blesses me. May your celebration of Jesus this week be a huge blessing for you and those you love. God bless!

  3. 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!

    1. Hi, Pam! It’s something how we can read the foot washing account countless times but actually seeing it and participating makes it all more real . . . like a heart imprint. Thanks so much for stopping by and for joining the conversation. God bless you!

  4. 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!

    1. Oh, Carlie . . . how I remember those hard days. Praising God for His strength and support for you and praying for Him to bless your teen with a little more humble love. 🙂 God bless you, my friend!

  5. Linda Todd says:

    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

    1. I love to hear of churches that practice foot washing. It is such a powerful lesson for everyone involved. Thanks so much for stopping by, Linda and taking the time to join the conversation. Blessings on your Holy Week.

  6. Deb;

    I love the reminder and encouragement that we may all be footwashers in our daily lives. Love it. And that Jesus included Judas – that is profound humility and love.

    Happy Easter when it comes.

  7. Deb, this post is powerful. Thank you for the reminder of the intamacy of that moment and for correlating it to ways we serve others every day. I needed that reminder today. I’m so thankful every time I see you’ve joined us at Encouraging Word Wednesday. You are such a blessing!

    1. Thank you for your kind encouragement, Charlie. And thank you for hosting us at Mississippi Mom each week!

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. Thank you for such a great- confirming read! We foot-washed at our board retreat and it was a humble and bonding expression. Thank you for drawing the foot-washing correlation to the actions we may perform daily.

    1. What a wonderful blessing, Marcia … To be able to serve each other in that way! Thank you so much for your kind encouragement! You certainly blessed my day! God bless you!

  13. david filler says:

    I have been blessed to care for women with cancer. One was my own mother, the other was my best friend….I washed both of their feet, massaged, with oil and tried to relieve the suffering they were in …my mother has been in heaven many decades now. My friend is astranged from me, even after such acts of love on my behave. I wish her no harm. Just that , I pray she finds God, she chose to act my faith, more than once and I had to walk away from the friendship.

    1. I’m so sorry, David! It is so painful when we are rejected by those whom we have poured ourselves into. I’m asking God to be your encourager and hope … and that He will pour into you through the people He places around you. God bless you!

  14. Joan Davis says:

    Years ago I went on a retreat that had a time for feet washing. (Just as you described). I found it was actually more difficult to be the one having her feet washed… like Peter, I didn’t feel worthy. It was a humbling experience. However, what a powerful lesson! I pray for a humble and obedient heart that is always willing to serve. Thanks for posting this on Maundy Thursday… a date that is often passed over in churches. Remembering the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of His disciples right before he was betrayed is so important. We worship a King who came not to be served, but to serve! It is a somber night… but we know the joy that is to come!

    1. I agree, Joan. It is hard to let others humbly serve us. What an amazing thing that the King of All would show us that perfect humbly love. May we love each other the way He has loved us. Thank you for your words of encouragement, dear friend! Blessings!