John 13:1-5 : It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he 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.
This is remarkable. Jesus KNEW who He was, He Knew He was the son of God. He KNEW that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He was going back to God. At that time, and in that context, He decides to do something, ie. Wash the disciples’ feet and wipe them dry. What was the significance of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet? Why did He do it? What was He trying to communicate?
Many a times, we have heard it being taught that this was Jesus teaching about humility. Yes, there is a lesson about humility which you can learn from this. It’s true that there are many teachers who think of themselves higher than the students and expect/demand respect. In fact, that’s the norm in this world’s education system. Here, by Jesus washing the disciples feet, you could indeed learn a lesson on humility, considering how Jesus didn’t think it below his dignity (knowing who He was, the son of God) to stoop down and wash his disciples feet.
However, that was not what Jesus had in mind when he did this act. He was trying to demonstrate something much deeper. The bible teaches about humility quite directly on many other occasions. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6, Proverbs 3:34, Proverbs 11:2, Proverbs 15:33, Proverbs 18:12.
There are plenty of verses in the OT and the NT that teaches about humility and contrasts it with pride. So if Jesus wanted to teach on humility, He would have simply told them to be humble. There wouldn’t be a need to perform an act like this and leave them wondering why He was doing this. He washed their feet to remind them of something very important.
Let’s read verse 6 and 7 again:
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.”
Now, why would He say “What I am doing you do not understand now”, if it was about humility. He also said “You will know later”.
There was a much deeper message than just humility here. In effect, Jesus was demonstrating to them that by His death and resurrection, they were cleansed from their sins and no longer separated from God. He was demonstrating that His blood had cleansed them from all their unrighteousness. But though they were cleansed completely once and for all, they still lived in a sinful world and they would end up getting their feet dirty, or defiled every day.
Feet represents your daily walk..
Watching TV and movies, listening to people talking, your own thoughts, walking through the mall and seeing images and pictures, listening to negative people, listening to angry people who speak foul, etc. In other words, whatever you do daily as part of your normal life in this fallen world brings in daily defilement's. Things such as negativism, wrong beliefs, news, medical news, etc. For example, all you need to listen on TV is some medical professional say "one in 10 people drinking coffee are bound to get cancer at some point in their life" and you suddenly feel fearful. These are all faith killers and little foxes that affect your identity in Christ. Your mind is defiled every day and leads you away from who you actually are as a child of God. This sinful world always leads God’s children away from righteousness to unrighteousness and from NO condemnation to guilt.
How do you keep yourself clean from all of this? The bible answers this question and says "By cleansing yourself by the Water of the word". Washing your feet is a form of preaching. Whenever you are listening to the gospel being
taught or reading a blog post or Gods word by yourself or a daily devotional, etc…you are exposing yourself to the basin of water. That is what washes your feet and cleanses your defiled mind and thoughts and any other “faith killers”.
Jesus washed them and wiped them with the towel with which He was girded. Towel in the greek (original Latin) is Linteum, which is linen cloth. And Linen is representative of righteousness in the OT. The priests wore linen garments.
Isaiah 11:5 – and righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
So by Jesus wiping the disciples feet after washing, He meant the following. After you read the word or after you listen to the word being taught, you should leave with a sense of righteousness. You should leave with a reminder that you are indeed the righteousness of God in Christ. You should feel clean, accepted and loved by the Lord. You should leave reminded that you are a new creation in Christ, you are a citizen of heaven, you are not of this world, you belong to Gods family and you are His child. You are seated together with Him in the heavenly places. No weapon formed against you can prosper. He that is in you is stronger that He that is in the world. Whenever you listen to teaching or preaching of God’s word, you should leave with a sense of acceptance. You are accepted in the beloved. That’s what gives you hope, faith and makes you experience the (zoe) life of God.
When Jesus said in John 10 – The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly. In the original language, it says “zoe” of God which is the God kind of life, divine life and have the completeness of that zoe life.
Expose yourself to the water of the word, as often as you can. If not, you will accumulate dust and dust is a representation of the devil’s food. God said to the devil, dust you shall eat all the days of your life. Gen 3:14
John 13:7 - Obviously Peter understood the physical washing….but Jesus wasn’t referring to that when He said, what I am doing, you do not understand now. So this is not so much about humility. It has a much deeper significance. You have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is what he meant by saying, you are clean already. Those who have bathed need only to wash their feet.
Peter then says “Not only my feet, but my hands and head also. Then Jesus responds to Peter in John 13:10:
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.” - The "not all of you" was referring to Judas who would later betray Jesus.
But you my brothers and sisters are cleansed by the blood of Christ. All you need is washing of your feet everyday due
to the exposure to sin/dust in this world. And you clean your feet by washing with the word.
When your feet gets dirty, (or when your mind gets defiled due to everyday living in this sinful world), It does not mean you have lost your standing before the perfect and holy God. The blood of Jesus Christ has washed you clean once and for all. You are righteous. You are a citizen of heaven. You are a joint heir with Christ. You are seated together with Him in the heavenly places. When God looks at you, you are blameless because of Jesus and you are still His new creation. But your feet is dirty. You might be someone who doesn’t read the bible a lot or spend too much time every day in the word other than on Sunday at church or maybe once or twice a week. If this is you, maybe that explains why you don’t experience the love and grace of God in your life. Maybe this explains why you don’t experience the goodness of God in your life. Maybe this explains why you are constantly in need of prayer by someone else who DOES spend a lot of time with God and in His word.
But then maybe your friend calls you and says something encouraging or shares a testimony, or you read something on facebook or a blog post, and all of a sudden you experience this washing of your feet. All of a sudden, you feel accepted by God and loved by God. What happened? Your feet just got cleansed…
Jesus says "You are completely clean."
In villages (in our home town) people go down to the river or lake to bathe. After they have bathed clean, they step on to the muddy ground and walk back home. Do they bathe again? Of course not. No…they just wash their feet. So also, washing of water by the word (Ephe 5:26) cleanses your feet, whilst you are already clean. This is why it is important for us to spend time in His word everyday as often as we can. Meditate on His word. Wash your feet every day.
John 13:14 - “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
So how do we wash one another’s feet? How do I wash your feet and you wash someone else’s feet? Obviously, we don’t see anybody doing this in the bible from the book of Acts onwards or at least it is not recorded.
Each time you remind someone else about the forgiveness of their sins through Christ, when you encourage them, when you lift someone up from their depression or discouragement, you are washing their feet as well. This is how you wash others feet.
Ephe 5:19 says speak to one another in psalms, hymns, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Each time you remind a brother or sister about the Lord, about who they are in Christ, you have just washed their feet.
When your feet gets dirty and you don’t clean it for a long time, it affects your life. Many Christians who are walking in defeat or are discouraged, depressed, struggling with issues, always wanting someone to pray for them, etc. Their feet might be dirty. In other words, they have forgotten how much the Lord loves them. They have forgotten that they are completely clean. Their feet needs cleansing. The longer you stay away from the word and the longer you stay away from prayer and worship and church, the longer it takes to feel clean, free and full of faith again. It’s a lot easier to consistently walk in victory, peace and full of joy when you keep washing yourself with the word often.
Jesus was giving them an assurance that they never need to feel like they have lost fellowship with God. He who is bathed need only to wash his feet. John 13:10
So my dear brothers and sisters, stay blessed, stay clean and wash one another's feet as often as can.
I was radically transformed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ back in 1997 in a most unusual way and unusual place. Read my testimony here. Over the years I have come to realize a few basic truths that have altered my life.
True freedom is freedom from self-centeredness. Dying to yourself, your wants, your desires and to what gives you pleasure for the sake of others is more liberating than you think.