Why did Jesus Wash the Disciples’ Feet?

By Candy

Before we address the question, Why did Jesus Wash the Disciples’ Feet? it is important to note that Jesus did not invent foot washing. Jesus took an ordinance of God and communicated it in the light of a New Testament in which he would be the mediator. 

Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree

Genesis 18:1-4

A Jewish Tradition

Father Abraham being the father of promise and blessing to the families of the earth, engaged in the mystery of washing of feet. It was a culture in the time of Abraham still passed on to different cultures of the world. Traditionally Washing of feet is considered one of the most heartfelt gestures a host can bestow to a visitor.

Genesis 18:1-4 was the first time such an act of benevolence was captured in human history. The pathways of journeys at the time were very dusty and as a gesture of welcome washing of the feet was a symbol of acceptance.

Jesus the master, Washing feet

As symbolic as the washing of feet could be, it was not meant for the master of the house. It was a token of welcome and acceptance into the master’s house. In this case, Jesus the master took on the role of a servant to wash the feet of his disciples thus instructing them to do the same one to another.

Christ is our role model. The express image of the Father. He came to show us the Father that we may know Him and be beloved of Him. In Christ, the master also captured the servant. The perfection of his divinity also captured the frailty of his humanity.

Jesus did not wash their feet as God, rather he communicated identification with their humanity. 


3 things: Identification, Acceptance & Restoration

Christ gave a directive to wash one another’s feet and, when we reflect upon it, there are basically three principles that we can learn from John 13.

  • Principle of Identification

Jesus identifies with every one of us on the journey of life. He is aware of the weariness, tiredness, stressfulness, complexities, endangers and loneliness the journey of life can be to mankind. But He said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and of heavy-laden…” (Matthew 11:28).

The keyword of responsibility is “Come”. Why? He is touched by the feeling of your infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). He knows how troubled you can be with the many things you are trying to juggle with life. All he is saying to you is COME. 

His invitation is one that gives you rest. Please who does not want rest for their soul? 

As we travel the terrain of life, our feet become dusty with the dirt of life, which comes with its own challenge. But I have good news for you, Jesus wants to give you a wash, so you can always be fresh on your journey of life.

  • Principle of Acceptance

You are welcome to the secret place of Jesus, which is your heart. If your heart condemns you, the bible says, He is greater and knows all things (1 John 3:20). 

Come to him the way you are. You need not be perfect for him to accept you. Accepting that you are accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6) is the beauty of a relationship with Jesus.

Come into the warmth of His embrace that you may know that in him you would be washed with living water. The water that makes alive (Ephesians 5:26).

  • Principle of Restoration 

Jesus restores! Jesus told the woman with the issue of blood, “ daughter…thy faith hath made thee whole” – Matthew 9:22. And the testimony of Matthew as recorded was, “and the woman was made whole from that hour.”

Being made whole means, you are restored of all things lost, to the intent that you would live as though nothing ever happened to you.

The kingdom of God is manifested to make all men whole, restoring us to our relational state with the Father in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19).


The specks of dirt of life

We are all spirits; we have a soul and live in a  body. As beautiful as life looks physically, life is more spiritual than physical. Life is the platform for all three to journey as an establishment of reward in eternity.

Thus, Jesus cleanses all three realms. There are specks of dirt of the spirit, of the soul, and of the flesh. God starts His work in you from the realm of your spirit and moves in to conquer your soul and then transform your body.

When you are born again, your spirit is born. Then the soul is ‘being’ saved. Then ultimately shall be saved.

  • Spiritual speck of dirt

Man fell at the garden of Eden into sin through the deception of Eve and the willful rebellion of Adam. The present state of all men is short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23). That is a state beyond the light of God’s reach. 

John said, “the light was the life of men” – John 1:4. This suggests the absence of His light was the darkness and spiritual death of all men (Luke 11:34). 

Sin, as a nature, became the speck of dirt that separated man from His source and creator. Man as a creation of God was made to have fellowship with God in the class of his image and likeness, but for sin, that relationship was short-changed.

But thanks be to God for the sacrifice of our Passover, Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7). With one sacrifice, once and for all, you have been justified, made righteous, and declared not guilty from the penalty of sin forever.

The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin – 1 John 1:17. 

For your assurance, the sacrifice of Jesus paved the way for fellowship with the father of all spirits and with his son.

  • Soulish speck of dirt

As we interact with each other on a daily basis, we communicate the imperfection of our souls in words and in deeds – Acts 24:16. Offenses would sure arise; Jesus did mention it – Matthew 18:7. Offense corrupts the soul – Romans 5:17. 

When you are offended, Jesus wants you to come to him so that he can cleanse you – Ezekiel 36:25 – from the works of corruption in your soul. He extends an invitation according to Hebrews 10:22, “having your hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience…washed with pure water.”

Come let Jesus wash you, so you are free from all malicious intents and motives towards anyone. You are birth of His love – John3:16 -, and he wants you walking in love, perfecting faith.

Keep this promise in your heart from 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

  • Physical speck of dirt

Jesus told the blind man to go wash up in the pool of Siloam, “he went his way, therefore, washed, and came seeing.” 

Jesus is touched when we are physically challenged. When the frailty of humanity shows up in our bodies in the form of sickness or diseases. Jesus is so willing to heal you and keep you in a perpetual state of health by the wisdom and power of God.

The promise of God in Jeremiah to you say, “for I will it health and cure, and I will cure them, and I will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.”


The Blessedness of God

“Blessed be God…who comforted us…that we may be able to comfort them…by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The knowledge of being identified with God, accepted in his beloved, and bearing testimony of his restorative power, makes you and I stand in awe of how thoughtful he is of us.

That is in the same way he is mindful and thoughtful of others. You are the vessel of his Love to others. And you know that what you received you were freely given – 1 Corinthians 2:12. You are comforted in the journey of life by Jesus that you may comfort others.

Every moment you are in the benevolence of God’s blessedness, you are saddled with the responsibility to be a channel of that lovingkindness of God to a dying world.


Called to Serve One Another

You are called to Jesus to serve one another in the body and those called to be heirs of salvation. Of Jesus, we so learned to supply according to the measure of grace we have received of him in the moment of our “washing of feet” – Ephesians 4:16.

We have been called to the liberty of Christ by love serving one another – Galatians 5:13. The heart of a servant is one of humility. The recommendation for a  servant is, “well done, thou good and faithful servant” – Matthew 25:23.

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Good News of Jesus Christ Today!