The apostle John begins his
account of Jesus' washing of his disciples' feet with theses words:
"Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the
last." Yes! The washing of feet is an action expressing the Lord's
unceasing love for us. Not only has he taken away our sinful past, he wants us
to walk with him and be like him in his holiness, love, and humble service so
that we may share his glory in the future. Let us receive this love with a
heart of gratitude.
Washing of feet has been the
tradition of the Jews since the beginning of the Hebrew culture. As a sign of
hospitality, the host would receive guests by offering water to let them wash
their feet. The footwashing Jesus performed on his disciples, however, sets
itself apart from tradition because of its importance in a believer's
relationship with Christ.
"Unless I wash you, you have
no part with me" (John 13:8). These words of Jesus to Peter are certainly
worth serious attention by anyone who wishes to have a part in God's Kingdom.
The Lord Jesus himself instituted
the sacrament of footwashing and commanded his disciples to follow his example.
A Christian needs to have his feet washed after baptism, for the Lord said,
"A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body
is clean" (John ).
What Does It Mean?
Walk with Christ
The implication of footwashing
becomes clear when we consider the Bible's teachings on Christian living. Every
believer who has been cleansed through baptism has the duty to imitate the
perfection of Christ Jesus. The sacrament of footwashing is the Lord's
invitation to his followers to participate in his divine nature (see 2 Peter
Be Like Christ
To be like Christ requires that
we forsake our sinful way of life in the past and walk with the Lord in our
daily lives. We need to keep our feet from sinning by obeying God's word, for
the word of God is "a lamp to our feet and light for our path" (Psalm
119:105). Through the constant guidance of God's word and the help of the Holy
Spirit, we will be as pure as Christ and walk side by side with him on our
journey to heaven.
The Lord Jesus also demonstrated
his love and humility when he washed his disciples' feet. "Now that I,
your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one
another's feet" (John ).
Imitating Christ not only involves preserving purity, but entails sharing his
love with others. Christians are called to support one another by humbly
serving, encouraging, and forgiving each other.
Receiving footwashing is
therefore an agreement to allow Christ to be the Lord of your life and a
commitment to walk in his footsteps. Accept his invitation so that you may have
a part in his Kingdom.
Performing the Sacrament
The sacrament must be carried out
in the name of the Lord Jesus, since the sacrament is performed on behalf of
our Lord, and it is by his name that we are cleansed and saved.
In accordance with the example the
Lord Jesus has set, the worker conducting the sacrament pours water into a
basin, washes the candidate's feet, and dries them with a towel.
The worker who administers the
sacrament represents the Lord Jesus; this duty is thus generally delegated to
church ministers who have been ordained to serve (such as elders, deacons, and
preachers). However, if no ordained worker is present, every brother or sister
who has been baptized, has received the Holy Spirit, and leads a godly life may
perform the washing of feet.
Is the Washing of Feet Just A Jewish Custom?
The sacrament of footwashing
cannot be simply a cultural custom or ritual for the following reasons:
In the Jewish society, servants wash the feet of
the master; the Lord Jesus, on the contrary, washed his disciples' feet.
The Lord Jesus clearly stated the necessity of
the washing of feet to have a part with him.
The Lord Jesus instructed his disciples to
imitate his example. Everyone who obeys his command is blessed.