Gratitude Day 612

John 13:5 – Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ dirty feet and dry them with his towel.

The thought of actually washing another person’s feet might gross most of us out.


This is one of those stories from the Bible that we can read and get caught up in how this would play out in our modern day culture rather than understanding how it lived during the time Jesus was alive.

Two thousand years ago, washing another person’s feet wasn’t weird. It was a gimmie.

With walking being the most common for of transportation during Jesus’ day, people arrived at their destinations with dirty, dusty and stinky feet. Because of unpaved roads and unsophisticated footwear, it was customary for hosts to provide their guests a way to have their feet cleaned once they arrived. Hosts would hire a lowly servant to literally “wash” their guests’ feet when they arrived.

Being a foot washer was not a highly desired job. In fact, it was one of those jobs that no body really wanted. This job ranked at about the same level as cleaning out the stable. People who literally had no other option would become foot washers.

It’s the last night Jesus will spend with his inner circle of friends. It’s the night of the Passover meal. A special location has been secured for Jesus and his besties. The meal has been arranged for. Now, it’s time for everyone to show up.

Jesus acts as host of the meal. But there’s one huge difference the disciples notice as soon as they arrive. Rather than having a lowly hired servant wash the guest’s feet, Jesus takes on this job as well. He removes his outer coat, grabs and towel, kneels before each disciple and carefully removes the grit, dirt and gunk off of their feet.

And the disciples don’t know what to do. They don’t get it. Here, they thought they had signed on to be a follower of a king, a leader, a person who was going to change the world. Instead, he’s taking on the role of a foot washer. Seriously?


Jesus is no longer speaking in parables. No, he’s living and doing the things that Jesus wants his followers to do whether he is present or not. He’s an actual living example and model for how he wants them to treat each other and other followers of him.

While I had read and heard this story many times, it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I began to understand exactly what this story meant. At the time, I was living overseas as a missionary, teaching English at a state university. Amy and I taught together and shared an apartment provided by the university. We had befriended an American family. Jim and Grace, the parents, taught at an English-speaking school in the city where we lived. Their three children, elementary age at the time, attended the school as well. Most Sundays, we met up with Jim and Grace at the English-speaking church we attended. Often, we would go back to their apartment for brunch.

As Maundy Thursday approached, Jim and Grace invited us to their apartment for the evening. We had dinner together and then we read the story of the first Maundy Thursday from John’s gospel. Then, Grace brought out large buckets filled with sudsy water. She put her feet into one of the buckets and Jim washed her feet, explaining the tradition behind the story. And then, he invited the kids, Amy and I to wash each other’s feet as well.

Washing feet has a practical purpose of removing the dirt and grim from the guest’s feet. But the metaphorical reason behind the foot washing is actually more significant, Jim told us. When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, he demonstrates for us that there is literally nothing he wouldn’t do for his closest and most trusted friends. Once again, Jesus demonstrated that power in God’s kingdom comes not from wielding authority over others. No, it comes from serving each other they way we want to be served. The best way for you to have someone serve you is by doing those very acts for and to and with other people.

Lead by example, Jesus demonstrates. This is how things work within God’s kingdom.

It was such a counter-cultural idea 2,000 years ago. It is no less counter-cultural today.

Literally, who wants to wash another person’s feet today? Metaphorically, any else really excited about doing this?

Yet, this is what Jesus says is the way we are to treat our neighbors. Friends. People we love. People who irritate us. We are simple to “wash” their feet.

Who is someone you know that has lived a life of washing other people’s feet? Someone who selfishly does the things that speak loudly but does it so quietly others may not really know? This is a true foot washer in God’s kingdom.

If possible, let the foot washer who has impacted your life the most know that you appreciate all that he/she has done for you. Be specific. Share how they have literally been the hands and feet of God’s kingdom to you.

Then, take it one step further. Whose feet can you wash together, whether literally or figuratively? It’s Maundy Thursday today, folks. Whether you are able to attend a worship service in person or online, may you discover how to “wash” another person’s feet tonight.

As I watched Jim perform this humbling exercise with Grace all those years ago, I witnessed something powerful and significant. Something I’m still talking about 20+ years later. Something that has stuck with me for a long time. Something, I pray I can share with someone else.

For the ability to see foot washing from a new perspective, I am grateful.

Blessings –


Holy God – Your decision to wash the disciple’s feet wasn’t just a last minute decision. It was one that was carefully crafted as an opportunity to teach us what servanthood really looks like within God’s kingdom. Thank you for this powerful an important life lesson. May I take seriously the role of washing another person’s feet today. Amen.

Stop by diannedeatonvielhuber on Instagram today for a few more thoughts about today’s Lenten topic. If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

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