FOOT WASHING REVISITED
Over the years, it became customary for the Church to allow prospective or non baptized members to participate in the foot washing ceremony. It seemed harmless enough, but if we examine this a bit further, we will see why that was a mistake, to say the least. We may recall that Christ had been baptized, not because of any sins in His life, but rather to “fulfill all righteousness” as He put it. Perhaps the only reason He had to be baptized was to set the example that the foot washing service was only to be participated in by those who were converted, since the symbolism is one of a person who had been washed completely clean, and now only needed a touch up, so to speak at the annual Passover service. We are to allow a person to wash our feet as if it was Christ Himself doing the washing, and that person could only represent Christ if they were washed in baptism. No unconverted person could ever represent our Savior, only someone who has been humbled by the act of conversion.
Now we will add another vital element to this discussion. In today’s scattered Church, many brethren are faced with the challenge of keeping the Passover alone. Therefore the question arises: Who will wash their feet? Can such a person wash their own feet? Corporate groups have differing opinions, but tend to believe that a person cannot wash their own feet. I beg to differ, and here is why. Blow the dust off your trusty Strong’s concordance, and look up the scripture that says this: “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
There is the answer straight from our Bible. Since Christ lives within a converted Baptized person, then it is a no brainer that washing one’s own feet is simply an act of faith that Christ through the Holy Spirit is doing the washing. The truth is so remarkable. It is of utmost importance to remember Christ’s own instruction to the disciples: “If I wash you not, you have no part with me.” It could not be more plain, that a person’s feet must be washed by a Christ-like person at Passover; otherwise it is evident that our Savior may not recognize a person’s participation in the rest of the service. It is just that important!
Is the foot washing ceremony just a symbol of humility, or is it found on a much higher plane that we ever thought before? Is it just a ‘footnote’, or a vibrant dynamic part of the most important service of the year? Most corporate groups have believed that the foot washing is only symbolic, so it was always treated as something just to get out of the way quickly in order to get on with the components that celebrate our Savior’s personal sacrifice. What is the truth?
The book of John, strangely, is the only bearer of the foot washing ceremony, so that alone makes our task easier to get to the heart of the matter. Certainly it is clear that the service itself is one that conveys humility. To get down on our knees and literally wash someone else’s feet is Christ’s way of teaching that we humans are all equal in God’s sight. In setting the example for us, He showed that He truly emptied Himself of having been God and was temporarily equal to all other flesh and blood humans, by becoming subject to death.
But often a very important element of this ceremony is glossed over without a thought as to its significance, so we will now examine this for clarity. John 13: 8 proves beyond doubt that the ceremony is far more than just a symbol, as we read Christ’s words about its importance in the overall Passover. He said, “If I wash you not, you have no part with me.” Let that phrase sink in while I reminisce for a moment. Christ went on to explain that a person who already bathed had no need to wash again, except for the part that would come into contact with dust on the way to the Passover. Do we realize what He is saying? In a nutshell, a person would bathe prior to the ceremony at their own homes, but on the way to the Passover, their feet would gather dust. The symbolism is unmistakable, as Christ is talking about a person who had been called, converted and also baptized. Such a person was washed clean of all past sin, but had gathered a little dust (sin) either since baptism, or since the last Passover. If for some reason a person had gone back into the world altogether, they would need another bath, or re-baptism, not just a minor washing.
Now let’s add another important component to the mix. Christ only washed the disciple’s feet. Nobody washed His feet, but why not? It is because they all had sinned since baptism, but Christ had never sinned, and therefore needed no washing of any kind!