Washing One Another’s Feet

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” —John 13:14

THE BIBLE, A most wonderful book, is the oldest in existence, and has outlived the writings of thirty centuries. It has been hidden, burned, and made a crime to possess. The most bitter, relentless persecutions have been waged against those who have been found to possess it. Yet, the Bible lives today and no one has succeeded in suppressing it.

We know that in the Bible there are many lessons for God’s people because it was written for them. Paul says, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.” (Rom. 15:4) God arranged to have a ‘movie colony’ of ‘actors’ enact these pictures for you and for me, and he recorded it all in his Word for our help and assistance.

In the New Testament we find a certain incident which is most helpful. In endeavoring to benefit by this lesson, we have to remember Israel’s background. In general, the Jewish nation had hope of national greatness. The Jewish people were to God a “peculiar” people. (Exod. 19:5) They looked forward to the time when he would exalt their nation. God had promised through Abraham to bring a blessing to all the families of the earth. That promise was given, in turn, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to the twelve tribes of Israel. This promise came all the way down to Israel at Jesus’ First Advent.

All Israel were in expectation of the Messiah to come. (Luke 3:15) Their expectation involved the removal of Roman rule, and the bringing about of their exaltation as a nation. Jesus’ disciples, who were only natural men, had been looking, too, for national greatness.

Jesus’ lesson is recorded in John 13:3-17. This incident reveals to us the depth of the love of our dear Redeemer. In those days, feet-washing was considered a very menial service, though a necessity, and it was always done by the most lowly slaves, who were provided for that purpose. It was a great comfort to those who had been walking the dusty roads.

Jesus did not appoint any of his disciples to do the feet-washing. He taught them that they were all brethren. Now he saw an opportunity to give them a lesson in loving service, a lesson they would never forget. Here, on the one hand, were these twelve, some of whom were ignorant fishermen; and, on the other hand, the Lord or Master himself, gathered in the same room.


Jesus started on this humble service. The disciples were dumbfounded; they were so astonished that it almost took them off their feet, and, with the exception of Peter, they could say nothing! Peter protested, and he was lovingly set right by the Lord. The feet were symbolic—they represented the mind. It is our mind that needs cleansing daily. It is our mind that becomes defiled. Whether we want to or not, we receive various impressions during the day from conversation around us. Often we have to associate with people who speak coarsely and rudely. We get so used to their language, perhaps, that we are apt to use it ourselves.

Our ‘feet’ have become defiled. We cannot help their becoming defiled, but we can help their staying defiled. The Lord has provided the water in his Word. It takes time to purify the mind by the Word of truth, and the Lord is graciously willing to help us. Jesus washed their feet. Paraphrasing, he said, “Now you wash one another’s feet.”—John 13:14

The figurative feet-washing does not consist in reproving others. That is not our business. If we see a brother or sister endeavoring to walk in the narrow way, and yet making some mistakes, we are not to judge them. We must not use the ‘scrub brush’ of criticism. Criticism is very apt to be destructive, and we should be engaged in building one another up. While we must not criticize our brethren, we have to criticize doctrine. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (I Thess. 5:21) We must have a ‘Thus saith the Lord’, for our beliefs, The Word is the standard which we must use in all our decisions.


So then, how do we wash one another’s feet? Sometimes, in a testimony meeting we hear the experience of a dear brother or sister who has just received a knowledge of God’s plan. They are so bubbling over with enthusiasm that they make us ashamed of ourselves, because we have become lukewarm. We are refreshed; our minds are cleansed. Sometimes a brother makes a truth plainer than it ever was before, and we rejoice because we can see “still new beauties” arising from God’s Word. (Hymns of Dawn, #49) Such thoughts refresh our mind; they stimulate and encourage us! Sometimes a truth will ‘dawn’ on us in our meditations on God’s Word. It will strike our minds—our feet!—with the impact of a bullet. What happens? Our minds are cleared up, washed, refreshed!

Every time we study God’s Word, or read the Studies in the Scriptures, or other Bible helps, we are using cleansing agents for our minds. Anything that assists us in a better understanding of God’s Word is equivalent to the refreshment that came from feet-washing in our Lord’s day. And as we assist one another in knowing God’s plan, we are washing one another’s feet.

Yet another way that we can wash one another’s feet is through correspondence with brethren that need encouragement. We are to anoint one another with perfume, as Mary anointed our Lord Jesus. (John 12:3) Flowers cannot be appreciated by the dead. Above all, Jesus appreciates what is done for our brethren, because the principle of the parable of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46) applies to us now. Jesus said in that parable, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”—vs. 40

There are so many that need assistance in all kinds of ways, and if we provide it, we are washing one another’s feet. The hard experiences of brethren, and their example of faith and love in enduring these experiences, is cleansing to our minds. In all these ways we are assisting one another in figurative feet-washing.


Although the Lord uses human instrumentalities in this cleansing work, those that are involved must be clean themselves. “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” (Isa. 52:11) Jesus said to his disciples, “Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.” (John 15:3) This cleansing must continue until the last member of the church finishes his course upon earth.

The principal work of the Gospel Age is the development of the church class. All other work is incidental. The “perfecting of the saints,” or the “edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12), is of paramount importance. This work of the ministry can be viewed as occurring in three ways: studying the Word; practicing the Word; and spreading the Word. We must be engaged in all three works in order to grow up “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”—vs. 13

We are able to grow by a proper diet: studying the Word; by assimilation of the food: practicing the Word; and by exercise: spreading the Word. Our chief work is in ourselves, although by helping others we are helping ourselves. “He that watereth shall be watered also himself.”—Prov 11:25

It is God’s Word that washes away the contaminating influences in our lives. We must develop a head and heart reliance on the Lord and his Word, which reliance comes through an understanding of his plan. Soon the whole world will be cleansed, also, but not until the cleansing of the church is completed. As Jesus said on that Passover and Memorial evening, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14) “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”—John 13:17

Dawn Bible Students Association
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