Is Feet Washing Biblical Practice?

Feet washing (also known as Maundy) is common practice in many Churches today. This practice is derived from John 13:3-5.

John 13:3-5 (NKJV)

3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to WASH THE DISCIPLES’ FEET, and to WIPE THEM with the towel with which He was girded.

This act (by Jesus) has since then been spiritualized in christendom. In Nigeria where I pastor, feet washing is believed by some to have the potency to “wash away evil” from a person’s life.

This misconception is due to the fact that John 13:3-5 has not been understood in its cultural context.

Now, feet washing was never a spiritual act in Scripture. It was merely a gesture of hospitality carried out by the Jews (see Gen 18:4, 19:2, 24:32, 43:24, Luke 7:44).

The Jews had large stone waterpots in each household to cleanse the feet of visitors (as the roads in the Middle East was very dusty, and the people wore sandals). This act (of feet washing) was usually done by the lowest slave in the household (see 1 Sam 25:41, John 2:5-8).

By taking up this menial/servile task, Jesus (their Master) was teaching them humility:

John 13:12-17 (NKJV)

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do YOU KNOW what I have done to you? 13 You call Me TEACHER and LORD, and you say well, for SO I AM. 14 If I then, your LORD and TEACHER, HAVE WASHED YOUR FEET, you ALSO OUGHT wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you AN EXAMPLE, that you should do as I HAVE DONE TO YOU. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a SERVANT is not greater than HIS MASTER; nor is he who is SENT greater than he who SENT HIM. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus’ point is simple—if the Master could wait on others, how much more the servants?

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, not to institute a spiritual ritual, but to show them that greatness is in service.

In today’s world (the 21st Century Western world), “washing the feet” would be equivalent to taking your guest’s coat at the door, when they arrive at your house, to hang it for them.

How ridiculous would it then be to transmorph “taking coats” (a simple act of hospitality) into a spiritual act? The same goes for feet washing!

The Bible DOES teach Christians to be hospitable (see Rom 12:13, 1 Pt 4:9, Heb 13:2). Hospitality may be expressed differently, varying from place to place, and based on the particular societal context in which the Christian finds himself (not necessarily by washing the feet).


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *