Genesis 18:4 – Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree
As part of our annual Communion services, our church washes feet. There I said it. We wash feet. I know that it may seem strange, but it makes us happy to follow the direction and example of our Lord and Savior.
In the ancient world, most people walked wherever they went. Even wealthy people traveled dirty roads that were certainly not paved as we think of it. As a result their feet were dirty and probably smelly. So when you went into a home, a common service was washing of feet. For this reason, Abraham insisted on having water brought to wash the feet of the Lord’s messengers in Genesis 18.
Aside from the practical purpose behind washing dirty feet when entering a home, there is clear spiritual meaning behind Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in John 13. The Gospel says, “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:3-5). He was not compelled or even asked to do it. Rather, knowing that He was given power over all things and that He came from God, He meekly humbled Himself to perform this service. In like manner He would lower Himself ultimately to take the cross for His disciples everywhere despite the shame and pain of it all.
During this beautiful service, Peter initially refused to allow Jesus to debase Himself in washing his feet, but Jesus said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8). Even so, the physical washing was only representative of the cleansing of the Holy Spirit applied to their lives in their hearts and through the Word.
Having finished washing their feet, John tells us that Jesus took up His garments and set down again saying “Know ye what I have done to you?” (John 13:12). Then the Lord admonished them to wash one another’s feet, because the servant is not greater than his master. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).