Jesus is Washing His Disciples Feet: Healing is in our Becoming a Servant. John 13:1-17

John 13:1-17 New King James Version

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

And [a]supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you [b]know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Jesus came to model for us, show us what the Kingdom of Heaven is so we could become a dynamic, functional and living part of it.

Spending time reading the Gospels and studying and praying about who he was is a great way to remind ourselves that of all the rich and transformational ways Jesus is never what we expect but, in every way, is better than our expectations.

The story of Jesus redefining kingdom expectations, of kneeling to the floor and as host, gently handing his disciples feet so all could comfortably dine together is truly one of the most profound pictures of our Savior’s heart of love for us!

Jesus, like His Father in Heaven, cared so very much about the minutest details of his followers’ lives!

He was willing to completely surrender himself to the moment His Father set aside, to move into his destiny, to not shy away from God’s plan, get messy, to reach, teach, and show undeserved compassion to his ragtag group of disciples.

This is still true today!

Jesus cares about even the most minute details of your life and still come to us, still willing to model, set the example get messy to show you that you are loved.

None of your fears are too small, too inconsequential, needs much too silly, or stresses too insignificant or too great that God does not care about them all.

He cares about it all… even our stinky feet!

Jesus’ actions in this passage set an example of what it means to imitate him with our lives.

We are called to be more and more like Jesus every day, without exception, the servant of others, selflessly to live with humility, and love in every situation.

Christ-Followers are called to a selfless life as servant, conduct themselves in a very radical counter-cultural fashion – in unity, healing, instead of dividing.

Let’s learn more about what we can learn from the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at Passover.

Where Does the Bible Talk about Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet?

The story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is recorded in John 13:1-17.

This event occurred in the upper room during the Last Supper.

In the biblical account, we read that when Jesus’ disciples arrived at a special gathering Jesus took the role of the ultimate servant of the house and humbly surrendered to His Father’s will and began washing each of his disciples’ feet.

This gathering, this time of communion, of the breaking and sharing of the bread, fruit of the vine, would later come to be known as the Last Supper.

It was the last time Jesus and his disciples broke bread together before his death on the cross.

It was during this Passover meal that Rabbi Jesus served as host, took the first communion with the disciples and also quietly identified Judas as his betrayer.

The act of feet washing was a necessary custom during this time period when gathering to have a communal meal.

The men would have come in with their feet dust-covered and dirty from their walking the undoubtedly, the decidedly unhygienic sun baked Roman roads.

Cleaning of the feet would have been necessary because the group would have likely been reclining together at a low table and dirty feet would not be the least bit welcomed so close to their food.

It was the servant of a household’s job to wash the feet of incoming guests.

Why Did Jesus Do This and What Was the Significance of Washing Their Feet?

In the Old Testament, priests performed and received ceremonial foot washings before they entered the temple for worship.

Foot washing was a serious matter: a basin for foot washing would have been placed between the Tent of Meeting and the altar so Aaron and his sons could wash before entering the Tent of Meeting, “Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die” (Exodus 30:20).

Disregarding the ritual cleansing meant death to a priest.

In John 13:4-5, Jesus “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” 

Jesus has placed the basin between the disciples and the altar, His cross.

Through the witness of His death and the testimony of His resurrection, Jesus makes holy all who do come to the cross through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Through Christ’s atoning work on the cross the disciples and all believers are made holy and righteous before God and then cleansed of their sin and set apart by GOD for service in His body, the Church, a holy priesthood of believers.

Jesus set himself aside, washes his disciples’ feet to purify and cleanse them for their service to God: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8).

Jesus, knowing his coming destiny, washing the feet of his disciples came with so much significance for both his disciples in this intimate moment and for all Christians who strive to live, to love, to follow Jesus’ example and teachings.

This selfless act displayed Jesus’ amazing humility!

He took the role of a servant to wash the dusty and dirt-covered feet of his disciples.

Rabbi Jesus was setting an incredible example of what it is to be “Christ-like” through his decidedly humble actions.

Status, pride, or even dirt did not stop him from rolling up his sleeves to serve the men who had been at his side throughout the duration of his ministry.

Prior to this encounter, the disciples had been fighting amongst themselves trying to determine who was the “greatest” among them (Luke 22:24).

Jesus was in a very hands-on way showing them that in his Kingdom the last shall be first and the first shall be last (Matthew 20:16).

Jesus even prompts his disciples to show the same heart of service for each other (John 13:15).

He is clear that servanthood is essential to what it means to be his follower.

This washing also is symbolic of the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus to wash away our sins.

Peter objects to Jesus’ actions but then Jesus rebukes him by saying that unless he washed him, Peter had no part in him (John 13:7-8).

Peter then in a display of passion for the Lord asks him to then wash him from head to toe!

Jesus explains Peter does not need to be washed from head to toe because his actions were symbolic of the cleansing power that being a Christ-follower has in our lives (John 13:10).

Once washed by the blood of a lamb you are free from the stains of sin!

Jesus anoints the disciples for their new role as priests in the new temple that God Himself will raise up.

Jesus ordains them so they can serve His church when He leaves this world, returning to the Father.

Through the act of purification, Jesus imparts His holiness to the disciples so they will be set apart from the world even though they will remain in the world.

Jesus teaches his disciples that His holiness, salvation, and purity will all come through Him and His suffering.

Through the cleansing blood of our Savior – No repeat washing is necessary.

Our Healing is in our Becoming a Servant

John 13:14-15 New King James Version

14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

In our culture today, sadly we don’t have an automatic equivalent to Jesus’ instruction to wash one another’s feet.

But we can figure out that it’s mainly about showing hospitality and serving one another.

The roads of Palestine were unpaved, and with sandals as common footwear, people’s feet would get really dirty—sometimes caked with dust and mud.

As a result, before you entered someone’s home, a servant would come with a pitcher of water, a basin and a towel and wash your feet, an act of hospitality.

It was a customary act of hospitality—like someone offering to hang up your coat and scarf on a cold day as you entered their warm home.

On the night of the last supper, Jesus took the role of a servant as he got up from the meal and began washing his disciple’s feet.

In doing this, Jesus was teaching his disciples an important spiritual principle.

We come to Jesus with nothing of our own, and we must receive from him and be ministered to by him before we have anything to give.

Then, having been served, we go and do the same, we surrender ourselves to God, serving, sharing with others the fullness God has poured into our hearts.

In this example, Jesus provided a profound symbol of his call to servanthood.

Following him is not about position, power, or prestige.

We serve because Jesus Christ came to us as sinners, yet he has served us first.

Jesus shows no squeamishness: He performs this ceremonial washing of His disciples’ feet with a solemn purpose – so others may be prepared to serve.

Setting aside their squeamishness to serve all others as Jesus first served all.

Jesus’ determination made me want to explore the Scriptures more deeply.

What Does Jesus Show When He Washes the Disciples’ Feet?

Through this simple act of foot washing, Jesus demonstrates to His disciples His eternal role as God’s High Priest and Mediator and the disciples part in the priesthood.

Even though He, Jesus must suffer and die and be raised again, the disciples can by faith in the empty tomb be certain He will never leave them or forsake them. 

Scripture says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:7-10). 

Jesus is the High Priest of Heaven.

Through the foot washing, He ordained His disciples to be priests of the church in the world.

1 Peter 2:4-10 New King James Version

The Chosen Stone and His Chosen People

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who [a]are disobedient,

“The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone,”

and

“A stone of stumbling
And a rock of offense.”

They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Christ, our permanent High Priest, sitting at the right hand of the Father;

He will offer up prayers on their behalf, “he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25), and will empower them through the Holy Spirit to perform their priestly duties to the glory of God. 

3 Lessons from Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet

1. God’s Kingdom Works In Reverse Order

Matthew 18:4 says, “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Humility, trust, simplicity, joy, full of wonder, and playfulness are all words that could be used to characterize children.

In Jesus’ Kingdom what seems logical to adults oftentimes goes against the way God works. Jesus calls the last to be first (Matthew 20:16).

His Word prompts us to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

The Bible teaches us to humble ourselves before the Lord (James 4:10).

In Matthew 5:38-40, Jesus teaches that when we are wronged not to fight back but to offer our offenders more of ourselves!

All of these ideas go against everything that seems logical, right, or justified in our world!

We live in a world where pride, greed, and ambition rule our systems.

Money talks, looking out for yourself is prized, and caring for those who are hurt so you can get ahead is not often considered.

Jesus intentionally sets an example of how we are to live as his followers through his actions at the Last Supper.

He makes it clear that we are called to be the feet washers of our community.

Our mission as Believers is to be those who love beyond reason every chance we get.

2. Jesus Washes Us Clean

Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

The prophet foretold of the cleansing power of Jesus years before Jesus physically walked the earth.

His followers would have seen the feet washing and the breaking of bread and sharing of wine at the first communion that happened at the Last Supper as symbolic of Jesus’ cleansing power.

When we bring our sins to the Lord he is willing and able to wash us clean.

All Jesus did led up to the work of the cross, where he took the weight of our sins onto himself, so we could be forgiven.

Don’t be ashamed of your “dirty feet” bring all that you are to the Lord and he is willing and able to set you free.

3. Jesus Was Not What the World Expected

Peter was shocked by Jesus’ actions and asked him to stop because in his mind his king and Savior wouldn’t stoop to the level of a feet-washing-servant.

Jesus was not what the world expected.

They were looking for a political liberator, someone who would help restore power to the Jewish people, and they thought their Messiah would be powerful in the same way the world measures power.

Jesus was full of heavenly ability and did many miracles but he never strove for a place of worldly power or influence.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (Matthew 23), avoided political confrontation (John 18:10-11), and took the posture of a servant throughout his ministry.

Meanwhile, his disciples were concerned about who would get the best seat in Heaven next to Jesus.

It wasn’t until Jesus’ death and resurrection that the full picture of Jesus as a Messiah as their foretold Savior was fully understood because while on Earth he never did as they were expecting.

When we think of what it means to be a Christ-Follower do our expectations line up with the example of Jesus?

It is easy to put God in a box, thinking he should work in ways that make sense to our worldly sensibilities.

The Bible reminds us that God rarely plays by our rules.

Jesus came to show us what the Kingdom of Heaven is so we could become a part of it.

Spending time reading the Gospels and studying and Praying over who he was is a great way to remind ourselves of all the ways Jesus is never what we expect but, in every way, abundantly, utterly, infinitely better than our expectations.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

“Unless I wash you

you have no share with me.”

If only it were otherwise.

If only I could present my credentials,

show my record of service,

get some kind of unlimited pass.

In every area of my life

I am more used

to proving how adequate I am,

presenting a polished image,

gaining certain privileges.

But you, Lord,

you bring me down

to where you are kneeling,

and take hold

of the feet I prefer to hide.

We are here together,

near the ground,

and in this humble position

I am touched by you

and made clean.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

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Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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