As a child, I remember running around outside all summer with no shoes. There were days that my feet were so dirty that they were black on the bottom. We were never allowed to go to bed without having a bath first or at the very least washing our feet.
In John chapter 13, we read that the disciples also had dirty feet. Their feet got dirty from walking on dusty roads in their sandals. John 13:1 (NLT) says, “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.” Verses 4-5 continue, “So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.” The disciples must have been stunned at the humility of Jesus when He began to do the work of a lowly servant and wash their feet.
The church where I grew up taught that washing the feet of the saints was a command to be observed by believers. I was a teenager the first time I participated in this practice. It sounds kind of weird to think about washing someone’s feet at church, but I remember it being a very special time. The chairs were lined up in rows and we sat facing each other. It was very humbling to have one of the older ladies kneel down on the floor to wash my feet and then wipe them dry, and then for me to wash her feet in return. It helped me to see the humility that Jesus wanted His disciples to understand. When we have a servant’s heart, the Lord promised, we will be greatly blessed (John 13:17).
We have to read both Luke and John to see more of the actions of the disciples on the night of the Last Supper when Jesus washed their feet. In Luke chapter 22, the disciples were discussing which of them is the greatest. Then we jump over to John chapter 13 to find the account of Jesus, God’s own Son, their Teacher and Lord, washing the feet of His disciples. They did not understand why Jesus would be doing the job of a servant. Peter first said that Jesus would never wash his feet. He quickly agreed when Jesus told him, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8 NIV), and then he asked the Lord to wash not just his feet, but his hands and head as well.
Biblical commentator, Matthew Henry said, “Those who truly desire to be sanctified, desire to be sanctified throughout, to have the whole man, with all its parts and powers, made pure. The true believer is thus washed when he receives Christ for his salvation. See then what ought to be the daily care of those who through grace are in a justified state, and that is, to wash their feet; to cleanse themselves from daily guilt, and to watch against everything defiling. This should make us more cautious. From yesterday’s pardon, we should be strengthened against this day’s temptation.”
Jesus showed us here how important it is to humble ourselves and serve one another. When He washed the disciples’ feet, He reminds us that living in this world also makes our spiritual feet dirty.
Through prayer, we ask the Lord to cleanse us of our daily sins. In Luke 11:2-4 (NLT), we read, “Jesus said, ‘This is how you should pray: ‘Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.’’”