Foot washing: Are you serious?!

If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14) 

Given the looks on people’s faces when I announced our foot washing service, it’s clear some of you are revolted by the idea. Fair enough. It was always a challenging practice — so why do it?

We humans are not always very good at serving others, especially not those of lower social status. So Jesus gave us this action to help us practice. In John 13, we are told that, on the night before the Passover festival, Jesus knelt and washed his disciples’ feet, saying to the one who objected, “Unless I wash you, you  have no share in me.” He then told his disciples to wash each other’s feet.

Back then, everyone walked everywhere in bare feet or simple sandals, and the roads were dry and dusty. People’s feet would have been dirty, cracked, and smelly. It was an important act of hospitality to wash the feet of any guest; and this degrading work was done by the lowliest slave girl. So the disciples are confused, even disgusted: How can our lord and teacher be on his knees, washing our feet?

In this act, then, Jesus is doing two things. First, he is placing himself in the position of the lowest status person in the house, doing her work, getting alongside her through entering into her experience. Second, he is graphically demonstrating that, in God’s culture, social status is of no account. Every person is to serve and be served by others.

This idea and this action are so radical that, over the years, many churches rejected the practice of foot washing, or highly regulated it, for how could the powerful be expected to wash the feet of the peasantry? If taken seriously, it turns the whole social order on its head: and surely we can’t have that!

But we’ll risk it: so on Maundy Thursday, 6 April, we will reclaim and obey Jesus’ command to wash one another’s feet. There will be an opportunity for you to allow Christ to serve you in your humanity by letting another person wash your feet; and for you to honour and serve, in the most practical way, the humanity of another by washing their feet.

Of course, many people find it highly confronting to kneel and wash someone else’s feet, or to have their own feet washed. That’s okay. You can be at the service and not participate in the foot washing, instead using the time to pray; or you can participate even though you find it difficult.

But whether or not you will be there, and whether or not you plan to participate, I invite you to reflect on what makes it so hard. What blocks you from washing people’s feet? Alternatively, wonder who in life has loved you in this way? Wonder, too, who are the people most scorned in our society, and how can you / we wash their feet? And what might you / we learn by doing so? If you want to take these reflections further, use the guided meditation on our website (here).


Emailed to Sanctuary 4 April 2023 © Sanctuary, 2023. Image shows Sieger Koder. Washing of Feet. Sanctuary is based on Peek Whurrong country. Acknowledgement of country here

Tools for the Journey

If this post has helped you on your faith journey, please consider sharing it via social media so that others may read it, too. And please also consider making a financial contribution. We are a small young community seeking to equip people for their journey with Jesus Christ. Your contributions help keep us afloat.


Comments are closed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: