What Did Jesus Mean When He Washed the Disciples Feet?

The act of washing someone’s feet may seem insignificant to us today, but in biblical times, it was a common practice. It was customary to wash the feet of guests who had traveled on foot, especially in the Middle East where sandals were the primary footwear. However, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet during the Last Supper, it held a deeper significance.

The Context

Before we dive into what Jesus meant by washing his disciples’ feet, let’s set the context. The Last Supper was a significant event for Christians as it was the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. During this meal, he revealed to them that one of them would betray him and that he would be leaving them soon.

It’s in this context that Jesus takes on the role of a servant and washes his disciples’ feet.

The Act of Foot-Washing

Foot-washing was generally considered a job for servants or slaves. It was not something that masters or teachers would do for their students or disciples. So when Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist to wash their feet, it caught everyone by surprise.

Peter even protested at first, saying, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet” (John 13:6). Peter knew that it was not appropriate for someone like Jesus to perform such an act of service.

But Jesus explained to him and the others that he was setting an example for them to follow: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).

The Deeper Meaning

So what did Jesus mean by washing his disciples’ feet There are a few possible interpretations:

1. Humility: By taking on the role of a servant and washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus demonstrated humility. He showed that even though he was their Lord and Teacher, he was willing to serve them in a menial way.

2. Cleansing: Foot-washing was not just about hygiene; it also had symbolic significance.

In biblical times, feet were considered to be the dirtiest part of the body because they came into contact with the ground and all its impurities. By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus was cleansing them not just physically but spiritually as well.

3. Sacrifice: Jesus knew that his time on earth was coming to an end, and soon he would be sacrificing himself for the sins of humanity. By washing his disciples’ feet, he was showing them that he was willing to make sacrifices for their sake.

The Implications

The implications of Jesus’ act of foot-washing are profound. He set an example for his disciples and all Christians to follow: to serve others humbly, to cleanse others (both physically and spiritually), and to make sacrifices for others.

Furthermore, by washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus also demonstrated what it means to be a true leader. A true leader is not someone who lords their power over others but someone who serves them selflessly.

The Takeaway

In conclusion, Jesus’ act of washing his disciples’ feet during the Last Supper held deep significance beyond just physical cleanliness. It demonstrated humility, cleansing, sacrifice, and leadership.

As Christians today, we are called to follow Jesus’ example by serving others humbly and making sacrifices for their sake. We are called to be leaders who serve rather than rulers who dominate.

Let us remember this lesson from Jesus as we go about our daily lives, and may we strive to emulate his example in all that we do.