Jesus Used Footwashing To Teach About Christian Service

“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you’.” (John 13:12-15)

The Gospel of John was the last Gospel that was written. As such, it has several accounts that are not found in any of the other three Gospels. It was as if the Apostle John looked back at the life of Jesus and decided to be sure he included those special moments that did not deserve to be left out of the Gospel story.
One of those moments can be found at John 13. During the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus ate with His Disciples before He was arrested, Jesus washed their feet. While footwashing is unusual today, it was customary in the days of Jesus, a common way of greeting your guests. However, it was not something that the “master” of the house performed. Footwashing was a service usually reserved for the lowest household servant.

The message Jesus is sending here is clear. The way to be happy in this world is not to “Lord” over the world, but to serve the world. Think about what Jesus said: “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. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:16-17)

But Jesus also taught a couple of other lessons that should not escape our attention. I recently taught about footwashing in my Sunday School class. One of my members had agreed several days in advance to allow me to wash his feet as part of the lesson. After we were finished, I asked him to describe the experience. “I was humbled by it,” he said.

He’s right. I felt it, too. Jesus was teaching us about the importance of humility. Think about it. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords washing the feet of those who knew him for the Lord He was. The only other event where I remember that kind of humility in the Bible was on Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, fulfilling the Prophet Zechariah’s promise that our Savior would come to us, “lowly, sitting on a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9) Indeed, humility was one of the Lord’s greatest qualities and one that we should want others to see in our lives.

Finally, Jesus taught us about importance of sacrifice. The Bible says that when Jesus washed His Disciples’ feet, He “laid aside His garments.” (John 13:4). The only other time when I can recall He did that was when He hung on the Cross. Indeed, our Lord, not yet our Savior, was already teaching us about the importance of sacrifice. That’s why He said, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” (John 13:7)

I don’t know just when the Apostle John came to understand the importance of what Jesus was trying to teach us, but there’s no doubt that at some point in time, he realized what Jesus meant, and it really had nothing to do with footwashing at all. It was all about serving others, which as Christians we are not just called to do, but told that it will lead to true happiness.

Share on Facebook