Topic(s): Church, Denominationalism, Worship, Jesus
As He joined His disciples in their last Passover meal together, Jesus prepared them for their work of beginning the church and carrying the gospel to the world. It was at this meal that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, or communion, to be practiced by His followers down through the ages.
On that night, His disciples had left one thing undone. The ordinary practice for a special occasion such as the Passover meal was that a servant would wash the dirty feet of the guests, who wore sandals as the standard footwear for walking the dusty roads. None of the twelve were humble enough to perform that menial task for the others. This provided the opportunity for Jesus to teach His disciples the importance of humble service.
“Having finished the meal, Jesus laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded“ (John 13:4-5). He knelt before the disciples and washed both feet of each one, including Judas, who was about to betray Him. Having finished doing the task of a servant for His disciples, Jesus said, “Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you“ (John 13:12-15).
Jesus said, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.“ His example was of humble service. He was not instituting another act of worship, as He had done with the Lord‘sSupper, but was giving them an object lesson in humility and service.
There are frequent New Testament references to the church meeting to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30), but there is no biblical reference to the church practicing the washing of feet as worship. The only other reference to feet washing is in 1 Timothy 5:10, where Paul lists it among other good works, such as bringing up children, and lodging strangers, that a godly widow would do (in normal Christian service, not in worship).
The Lord never intended for foot washing to be practiced as part of worship. It was a simple matter of cleanliness, made necessary by the land in which He lived. Jesus‘ humility contrasted with the disciples’ pride in arguing about who would be greatest in the kingdom.