Footwashing Services – John 13:12-17

In John 13, Jesus tells us to follow his example – by washing feet.

John 13:12 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? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, 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.

In their culture, footwashing was a great comfort, and routinely done for an honored guest by the lowest servant in the house. The only surprise was that it was Jesus, the Lord, who washed their feet.

To follow Jesus’ example by literally washing feet, however, is perceived differently in our culture and crosses boundaries normal to our culture – most folks don’t like others touching their bodies, including their feet. Many would consider it an invasion of privacy and an unwanted intimacy.

So how do we wash feet today?

The only way I’ve been able to do it is symbolically. I’ve conducted “remember your baptism” services where an individual dips their hands into waters of the baptismal font, makes a washing motion, and then their hands are dried by the person waiting in front of them with a large towel. Then they take the towel to dry the hands of the person behind them. I am the first person to hold the towel and the last person to be helped to dry their hands.

Drying wet hands is a long distance from washing feet, but it’s as close as the blue collar culture I serve can tolerate.

I’ve sometimes done this at Easter Sunrise, where people come forward to the communion table down front, and in sequence…
– touch the cross, remembering the crucifixion.
– touch a large stone, remembering the resurrection.
– wash their hands in the water, remembering their baptism.
– rise up to walk in newness of life (dry hands), a resurrection metaphor (Rom 6)
– rise further to take the towel and be of service, following Jesus’ example.
– make room for others to also serve.

How do you celebrate this command of Jesus? How do you wash feet in a service of worship?

Context:

What is the command? What does it say?

What type of command is it?

What would we observe if we obeyed it?

What does it mean today?

How shall we teach them?

Who needs to hear this?

COMMENTS

RESOURCES:

This material comes from a list created by Dave Ahl and can be found here. http://swapmeetdave.com/Bible/Commands/index.htm. He also supplies some bible studies for download which go with these 50 commands.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The photo is by David Kueker.

Hot coffee needs a cup …
and the cup needs the coffee.
Coffee without a cup is a mess.
A cup without coffee is just empty.

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