Wash your feet before you eat

When we were young our parents stressed the importance of always washing our hands before we eat.  In the Bible it was customary for a host to offer his guests water so they could wash their feet before eating.

Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.”

So they said, “Do as you have said.”
Genesis 18:2-5

This was such a common practice that when he had been invited to dinner Jesus spoke of his host’s failure to do it.

Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.”
Luke 7:44

When the events in the Bible took place there were no sidewalks or paved roads so people had to walk in the dirt.  Since most people wore sandals or went barefoot their feet naturally became dirty so foot washing was a necessity.

Before the last supper Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and what he said to Peter on this occasion shows that the custom had a significance that went beyond mere physical cleansing.

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.”
John 13:5-10

Washing in water is a symbol of the spiritual cleansing we need in order to have fellowship with Jesus.  Two kinds of washing are mentioned here.  The first is bathing the whole body.  This is a picture of salvation.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:4-7

This is what Jesus was referring to when he told Nicodemas about the necessity of being born again.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
John 3:5

This kind of washing is something that only takes place once.  When someone puts his faith in Jesus he is reborn spiritually and now has eternal life.

After salvation we still sin and these sins need to be taken care of.  This is the equivalent of washing out feet to remove the dirt we have picked up as we go through life.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

We are not told that we must cleanse ourselves.  We must admit that we have sinned and need to be cleansed and then we must allow Jesus to remove the spiritual dirt from our lives just as Peter allowed him to remove the physical dirt from his feet.

All of these instances of foot washing took place as preparation for a meal.  Our souls, as well as our bodies, need food to continue functioning.  The food for our souls comes from the Bible.

Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Deuteronomy 8:3

We can only understand the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit.

These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
1 Corinthians 2:10-12

We must always remember that he is the Holy Spirit.  Sin in our lives is a barrier that keeps him from helping us.  We should follow the Biblical practice of washing our feet before we eat; before we begin to read or study the Bible we should be sure that we have confessed our sins and received cleansing from Jesus.  If we do this then the Holy Spirit will be free to work in us and open our minds so we can understand the Bible more fully.

Posted on September 29, 2012, in practical lessons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Very interesting subject, thank you for posting.


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