Jesus Washing the Disciples Feet

(John 13:1-7)

washing the disciples feet
Jesus washing the disciples feet

One of the strongest visual images we get of Jesus is that of Him washing the feet of His disciples. He is trying to teach His disciples an important lesson in His actions and not to them only but to us also.

The power of this simple action is enormous. It speaks volumes about who Jesus was and what His expectations are of His people. In this one simple action He opens our mind to understand the role we are to play as members of the family of God.

Washing the Disciples Feet

First let us consider the act itself. The primary mode of transport in those days was to walk. Jesus’ disciples did not walk around on paved roads with storm water drainage and pavement as we do today. Nor did they wear shoes and boots as we do today.

Instead they walked on roads that were dusty in the dry and muddy in the wet. There may have been all manner of refuse and rubbish on or beside the roads, and as the people wore sandals their feet would possibly have gotten quite dirty and smelly by the end of the day.

The washing of feet was therefore not a pleasant task for the washer, but was a great blessing to the one washed. To be freed from the dirt and grime of the day and to have weary feet bathed in water must have felt wonderful. But the washing was usually delegated to a servant because it was lowly work.

The Servant Leader

In Jesus’ action of washing the disciples feet we see a powerful example. He who was their teacher, master and Lord has taken the role of the lowest of the servants and given them something that most people of the time would consider a great blessing.

In this action he has shown that even though He was their leader, the essence of leadership is to serve. And by this service the recipients receive a great blessing. It is to the benefit of the disciples that Jesus washed their feet. What did He get out of it? What did the servants who do the washing get out of doing this sometimes revolting task? What they get is the satisfaction of providing a service to the other person and giving them a blessing.

This is how we need to consider ourselves as we work for the Lord. When we serve our act of service is to upbuild, encourage, strengthen and support those we are serving and by so doing giving them a blessing.

For us as we serve, sometimes the work will be hard. Sometimes it will be onerous and sometimes we will be or feel rejected. But the blessing comes in the service and the role of the leader in Christianity is to any and all levels.

Jesus was the original and ultimate example of the servant-leader. From Him we need to learn to likewise serve our fellow brothers and sisters and so prove ourselves to be doing the will of God.


The basis of the servant-leader attitude is one of humility. Only a humble person can lower themselves to do the work of service down to the point of foot washing. I am not suggesting we need to literally wash people’s feet as some churches do, but we do need to emulate the humility of Jesus when He did that task. And perhaps there will be a time when it is needed to do foot washing as well.

As leaders in the church we need to understand that our purpose is to focus on Jesus and to teach or direct others to focus on Jesus. The greatest blessing we as servants can offer is the knowledge and insights we have gained over years of study and practice to help others in their faith and walk with Christ.

We must remember that we are offering a blessing to them. Just as the blessing goes from the foot washer to the one who is washed. It is the service offered that brings the blessing and the one who is washed is elevated and lifted up as a result.

It ain’t about us…as I have said many times before. It is firstly about Jesus. He is the focus of our faith and the way of salvation. Secondly then it is about those we serve. We give to them so that they might grow, just as Jesus gave to us that we may learn and grow and be saved.

When we begin to think of ourselves more highly then we ought, we have lost the plot. Pride comes in rather than humility and we fall. A proud person cannot learn anything about the truth of the Lord because they think they have it all. But a humble person knows there is yet more to see, understand and learn and so are capable of being taught by the Holy Spirit.

There is still much more to bring out of this example of Jesus washing the disciples feet, but I will cover that in the next couple of posts.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Sirichai Tichakorn)

You might also like:

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Making A Request Of God
Pride Goes Before A Fall
Will You Be Recognised By God
Pride Goes Before A Fall 2
To Such Belongs The Kingdom Of God
Things That Make For Peace

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4 Replies to “Jesus Washing the Disciples Feet”

  1. What a vital, foundational lesson! I was just reading this morning about the attitude of James and John (and their mother) concerning their request to sit nearest Jesus in the Kingdom. Although their desire to be near Him was, of course, a positive thing, the selfishness that tainted the request was not. The Lord led me to a similar conclusion as what you have drawn here: we must have a servant’s heart!

    Our church is actually one of those that observe the foot-washing as an ordinance. We use it as a time of heart-searching and reconciliation before the communion service. I have been very blessed by its observance.

    Sheila :)

    1. Hi Sheila,
      Thanks for the comment.
      Yes the servant attitude is nowhere more strongly shown as in this example by the Lord washing the disciples feet. Its a powerful message and one that we must learn, for unlike life in the world, a Christian leader is one who serves not the one served.
      God bless.

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