What Did It Mean When Jesus Washed the Disciples Feet?

The act of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is one of the most significant events in the New Testament. It is a powerful display of humility, service, and love.

But what did it really mean when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet? Let’s explore this topic in detail.

The Context

The story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is found in John 13:1-17. The event took place during the Last Supper, which was a meal shared by Jesus and his disciples on the night before he was crucified. This was a significant moment because it was during this meal that Jesus gave his final teachings to his disciples.

The Act of Foot Washing

During the Last Supper, Jesus got up from the table and began to wash his disciples’ feet. This was an act of service that would have been performed by a servant or slave in those days. It was a menial task that no one wanted to do, but it was necessary because people wore sandals and their feet would get dirty.

The Message

By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus was demonstrating humility and servanthood. He showed that true leadership is not about being served but about serving others.

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” He lived out this message by performing this lowly task.

But there is more to this act than just humility and servanthood. In John 13:8-10, Peter objected to having his feet washed by Jesus, but Jesus replied “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

This statement goes beyond just physical cleanliness. It refers to spiritual cleanliness as well.

Spiritual Cleansing

In those days, foot washing symbolized more than just physical cleanliness. It represented spiritual cleansing as well. Jesus was using this act of foot washing to illustrate that he came to cleanse his disciples (and all people) from their sins.

In John 13:10, Jesus says “You are clean, but not every one of you.” He was referring to Judas Iscariot, who would later betray him. This statement shows that the act of foot washing had a deeper meaning than just physical cleanliness.

The Application Today

The act of foot washing is not something that is commonly practiced in our culture today. However, the message behind it is still relevant. As followers of Christ, we are called to serve others and demonstrate humility in our daily lives.

In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul writes “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” This verse echoes the message that Jesus demonstrated through his act of foot washing.


In conclusion, Jesus washing the disciples’ feet was a powerful display of humility and servanthood. It also represented spiritual cleansing and the forgiveness of sins. As followers of Christ, we are called to live out this message by serving others and demonstrating humility in our daily lives.