The significance of foot-washing

Foot-washing was adopted, as one of the religious ceremonies, regularly practiced by some Christians. This is as was initiated by Jesus on His last night before the crucifixion. Foot-washing was instituted along-side another Christian practice, called “The Lord’s Supper.”  For which tradition was adopted from the fact that Jesus specifically instructed His disciples to do so, as often as they remembered Him. (Luke 22:19).

However, nothing shows that Jesus intended to limit such practices, just for ceremonial purposes. It is quite easy, though, to understand reasons, on a religious basis, as causing people to apply such instructions, ceremonially. This includes Paul and the other early apostles, due to their having been associated with Jewish religious practices. This shows how difficult it can be, for humanity to transform into God’s way of thinking.

The most important datum to keep in mind is that Jesus never came to introduce a new religion. But He came to introduce a Kingdom. The definition of a Kingdom is different from that of a religion. The two terms cannot be interchanged. In God’s Kingdom, the two appear as fused together. Leaving no need to, ceremonially, engage in religious activities.

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Though under the Roman Government, the Israelites were allowed to practice their Levitically administered Religion. Christianity, when truly practiced, annuls the idea of being under a human kingdom. This means that the subjection of being under a human kingdom ended at the time of Jesus, for His true followers (Luke 16:16).

However, there is a heavy price for being a follower of Jesus. The persecution that a Christian faces, is validated in self-denial, similar to committing suicide. Just as Jesus was rejected for being God’s Son, a Christian exposes himself to similar treatment. The life of a Christian is not governed under any earthly authority—but Jesus. His Church, is not humanly governed. (Matthew 23:8-12).

The followers of Jesus were not under the Roman kingdom. Neither were they under the Levitical Priesthood—who never recognized Jesus, in the first place. Jesus and His disciples were not under the Roman kingdom but were directly under God’s Kingdom.

For the Israelites, the Ten Commandments had been for them to be under God’s Kingdom. Yet, the Israelites deliberately rejected the idea of being under God’s Kingdom. Their behavior, in this regard, exposed them to human kingdoms (1 Samuel 8:5-7). This was the incident that caused the Israelites to end up being under the Gentile kingdoms.

The last of those ancient Gentile kingdoms had been meant to be the Roman Empire. Otherwise, the Israelites would not have been identified similarly to other nations. God had sought to keep them as God’s children, according to His original avowal. Other than the brief encounter with the Israelites, God’s Kingdom had never been applied, anywhere else, in this world.

Christianity is supposed to be under God’s Kingdom. But, Christians, in general, are not under God’s Kingdom. Some of them may claim to be under God’s Kingdom. But that is subject to understanding what those Christians would be talking about, as God’s Kingdom is yet to come.

But the true followers of Christ subject themselves under the authority of Jesus, so as to be refined, for the regal responsibilities awaiting them. Just as Jesus will be the King, at His second coming, His followers, are delineated to also become kings under Him. That is why Jesus will be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).

Under Christ, those kings will comprise the Royal power of the entity of God’s Kingdom. The stubborn humanity cannot accept Jesus as Christ—having caused His crucifixion. They continued to reject Him through His early disciples, including those whom He calls His brothers.

Interestingly, counterfeit Christianity confers Jesus as a member of the Trinity. This is designed to invalidate those whom Jesus addresses as his brothers, although yet to attain the final glory. Hence Jesus declared: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45) (NIV).

The brothers of Jesus are distinguished by foot-washing. We have to now answer the question, regarding the significance of washing another person’s dirty feet. Peter was almost rejected for refusing Jesus to wash his feet. Typically, our brother, Peter, had to profusely repent, immediately, after Jesus had threatened to exclude him from the system. (John 13:5-9).

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet’” (John 13:12-14) (NIV).

Jesus had not pre-warned His disciples about foot-washing, that evening. Apparently, that exercise was not just another Religious ceremony, as demonstrating a principle of service, applicable in God’s Kingdom. Remember, the disciples comprised those having left everything to follow Him, except Judas Iscariot, whose mission had been different from theirs.

Jesus had occasionally taught them that the greatest among them ought to be a servant. A good teacher uses demonstrations to be effective in His teachings—hence, washing their dirty feet. But, conspicuously, no-one ever washed His feet, yet He was their Master. Foot-washing was practiced on the night before the crucifixion.

Of course, the disciples’ feet had no semblance of dignity, for obvious reasons. Jesus had not forewarned them to be prepared for the exercise. Their mode of transport had not been associated with modern vehicles. Those feet could not be presentable, to be handled by a Master as revered as Jesus. Had they been forewarned, those disciples would have appropriately come to the meeting-place with dignified human feet.

But, why did Jesus put some importance on foot-washing? One of the duties of the menial servants of that time had been to clean their Master’s feet. The feet needed washing because of their easy exposure to accumulation of dirt, in that part of the world. But, still, why did Jesus not advise each of them to regularly clean their feet—as to be presentable before the brethren? Let alone burdening each other with that humiliating activity, of foot-washing?

The most profound lesson is that in God’s Kingdom, each person carries other people’s burdens rather than carrying one’s own burdens. Christians are expected to be their brothers’ keepers, more than being keepers of their own interests. Imagine, if we were to adjust our minds to apply that principle? Indeed that would have been the only way to eliminate all poverty, as existing everywhere, today.

This principle is readily workable, as carrying survival for humanity. It enables those of this world to identify with the purpose of their existence. And that enables God’s purpose to be fulfilled, even in this life. When God created humanity in His own image He did not make any mistake. Selfishness does not match the equation of being in God’s image.

Foot-washing reminds true Christians that they are their brothers’ keepers. That is, as long as they identify with God’s Kingdom. In other words, a Christian has all His needs catered for, by his brothers. This is just as each Christian takes care of his brother’s needs—depending on their respective individual purposes of attachment to that group.

The foot-washing idea should be observed in the context of humility. The only qualifying certificate to be in God’s Kingdom is humility. This has got nothing to do with boasting about academic achievements in Theology, or being taller or shorter, white or black. James underpinned this reality in his book:

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:10-12) (NIV).

James revealed what the foot-washing exercise, entails. Just as Jesus carried our sinful burdens, Christians do likewise, towards their own fellow sinful humanity. In that light, Christianity cannot be assumed to be a badge of honor. It implies service for the fellow humanity until one is interred in his/her earthly grave. There is no other purpose in the life of a physical human being.

The countries that are governed under capitalism, appear as more economically proficient than others. Capitalism appeals as better than other forms of controlling the economy—as appearing to promoting ingenuity. China is viewed as communistic, but that is in name only. The success of China is, based on Capitalism, attributed to Western countries, in general.

But capitalism falls short on the aspect of taking care of other fellow humans. As driven by the desire to accumulate profit, capitalists arbitrarily exploit their fellow humans, rather than serving them. The revolutionary uprisings that led to the establishments of communism and other dictatorships, in Europe, were the effects of capitalism. Therefore, the permanent solution on handling problems of humanity lies in God’s Kingdom—symbolized in foot-washing behavior.

It is a question of whether most people derive satisfaction for human existence, or exploiting them for profit maximization. A carnal mind seeks to be viewed as better than others. Rather than desiring to uplift the dignity of other fellow humans, the capitalists seek to manipulate other fellow humans for profit maximization. Only the methodology espoused by Jesus, for God’s Kingdom appears as workable, where the rest is fantasy.

What Jesus taught, as was to be implemented by His disciples, represented the fundamental of what is espoused in God’s Kingdom. The idea of assuming that another fellow human is greater or inferior to others is of this world. When created in God’s image, how can one claim to be superior to others—or assume being less honorable than others?

If appreciating the undeniable reality that humanity is lost in sin, nothing else can be viewed as better than Christ’s teachings. The aim of humanity is survival, regardless of which racial background the person emerges from. Jesus said He was the way, the truth, and the life. This idea of catering more for own survival, ahead of others, was never in the vocabulary of Jesus. The starting point is the visualization of what God’s image entails.

A true worshiper, simply, applies exactly what the only one who deserves to be worshipped said. Only a false worshipper selects what identifies with his character, leaving out what he considers inconvenient. The package of salvation requires accepting everything, without excluding what could be considered as unacceptable.

Foot-washing may appear as not dignifying, to the not-so-bright, who have a bad point on the button of self-importance. Yet the fundamental reality of Christianity is on the symbolism of foot-washing, more than anything else. The so-called “Lord’s Supper,” is also important, in light of promoting the sharing of food provisions. But, foot-washing, clearly, underpins the principle of service to others, being the purpose of Christianity.

Many a Christian is thrown out of the equation, due to valuing their own dignity. But where in the teachings of Jesus do we find self-dignity? Could the cross have been considered a symbol of dignity? Were the early apostles treated with dignity, throughout their earthly ministries? If the opposite is true, Christians would do well to reconsider their positions, as to extricate themselves out of deception.

In as much as many people assume that demanding respect is virtuous, it carries the opposite effect. There is no value in being respected. The actual value of an individual gets lost on being respected, rather than when respecting others. All this is validated by what Jesus said:

“The first shall be last and the last shall be first” (Matthew 20:16). This is a truism that envelopes the significance of status, as opposed to worthlessness. Sadly, human beings have a tendency to uphold valueless things at the expense of what is truly valuable. Jesus was respected by those healed of their infirmities and those having observed their loved ones being healed.

But Jesus never solicited for being respected—although to some people, Jesus maintained good reasons, highlighting truth in that He was the Christ. Jesus focused more on service than being served. Hence washing the filthy feet of His disciples. Those failing to connect with the idea of washing other people’s feet carry no reason for calling themselves Christians. This is why only the truth sets people free.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

The Print copy is now available at for $13.99

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