When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, 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 also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:12-15)
Foot-washing is a ritual not practiced as it once was but many churches keep a vestige of the practice alive. Usually foot-washing is practiced during the celebration of Holy Week, that period just before the celebration of the resurrection of Christ commonly called Easter.
Foot-washing was commonly practiced during the time of Christ because people were barefoot or wore sandals and the roads were dirt. Thus, their feet got dusty and dirty. When people came into your house, someone washed their feet.
Jesus, himself, washed the feet of his disciples on the night he was betrayed. Having girded himself with a towel, he knelt at the feet of each disciple and washed his feet. Coming to Peter, Peter refused. “Lord, You shouldn’t be washing my feet, I should be washing yours!” Jesus responded that Peter could have no part in Christ’s ministry without submitting to this act. Peter then urged Jesus not just to wash his feet but to give him a full bath! But Jesus gently said, “A person who has been washed needs only his feet bathed.”
Women are singled out in Paul’s epistle to Timothy in that a widow should not be accepted to be cared for by the church unless among other things, she has washed the feet of the saints. Mary washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.
Paul related washing to the use of the word as water when he described how Jesus cleanses the church by the washing of water by the word that he might present the church to himself without spot or wrinkle. Jesus compared the words he spoke to a bubbling well of living water in one’s heart welling up into eternal life.
The dirt of the world clings to us as we walk its pathways. We need not to be baptized again and again but merely to have our feet washed from the sin which so easily besets us, by the washing of the word. In some sense, we get our feet washed every time we meet with fellow believers and discuss God’s word. Each believer has a responsibility to other believers to wash their feet so the filthiness of the flesh, the dirt of the world, might not bring with it the germs and diseases of the world infecting the person’s walk with God.
We in the West have a deep appreciation for water for we know it can be scarce and without water there is no life. This thread of the water of life meanders through the Old Testament from the Garden of Eden and the tree of life, which appears again in the book of Revelation as having its roots on both sides of the River of Life. The first miracle Jesus performed was at the wedding at Cana where water was turned into wine. In the Old Testament, Christ was the rock which Moses struck and out flowed water. All of these waters represent times when God’s water brought healing and refreshment and grace.
As the bride of Christ, it behooves us to wash each other’s feet as we have opportunity by sharing the cleansing water of the Word with all who will receive it.
Lord and Teacher, who showed us by example how to express love with humility, grant that we may find ways to wash feet in the chaos of this sinful world and that we may have the humility and love to practice them. In the name of the risen Savior, Amen.
Pastor Cathy Bayert
Greybull First Baptist Church