Washing of Feet
The references (Ge 18:4; 19:2: 24:32; 43:24; Jud 19:21; 1Sa 25:41; 2Sa 11:8; So 5:3; Ps 58:10) show that the washing of the feet was the first act on entering the tent or house after a journey. The Orientals wore only sandals, and this washing was refreshing as well as cleanly. In the case of ordinary people, the host furnished the water, and the guests washed their own feet, but in the richer houses, the washing was done by a slave. It was looked upon as the lowliest of all services (
Was it meant to be a perpetual ordinance?
F. L. Anderson
According to the Belief and Practice of the Church of the Brethren
Feet-washing is always practiced in connection with the Agape and the. This entire service is usually called " ." These Love Feasts are always held in the evening (in conformity to the time of Jesus’ ). Preparatory services on self-examination are held either at a previous service or at the opening of the Love Feast. Each church or congregation is supposed to hold one or two Love Feasts annually. No specified time of the year is set for these services. Before the supper is eaten all the communicants wash one another’s feet; the brethren by themselves, and likewise the sisters by themselves.
(1) The Mode.
In earlier years the "Double Mode" was practiced, where one person would wash the feet of several persons and another would follow after and wipe them. At present the "Single Mode" is almost universal, wherein each communicant washes and wipes the feet of another. Hence, each one washes and wipes the feet of other, and in turn has this same service performed to himself.
(2) The Salutation.
Feet-washing is also accompanied with the "Holy Kiss." As soon as one has finished washing and wiping the feet of another, he takes him by the hand and greets him with the "holy kiss," usually with an appropriate benediction as: "God bless you," or "May the Lord bless us."
2. Scriptural Basis for Feet-Washing:
There are three texts in the
(1) Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet (
"At supper time" (deipnou genomenou) Jesus arose, laid aside His garments (himatia = "outer garments"), girded Himself with a towel, poured water into a basin, and began to wash and wipe the feet of the disciples.
(2) Peter’s Objection.
".... saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet (su mou nipteis tous podas)? Jesus answered .... What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet." Whereupon Jesus said: "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me."
(3) Jesus Explains.
Peter now goes to the other extreme and desires complete washing. Jesus answers "He that is bathed (leloumenos, from louo, "to bathe entire body") needeth not save to wash (niptein--"to wash a part of the body") his feet." Jesus was not instituting a new symbol to take the place of baptism, to cleanse the entire person, but clearly distinguishes between the bathing (louo) of the entire body and the partial cleansing needed after the bath (baptism or immersion).
(4) The Command.
"If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet" (
3. The Meaning of the Symbol:
(a) It cannot be explained as necessity or custom, i.e. that the dust must be washed from the feet of the disciples before proceeding with the supper. It was so cold that Peter had to warm himself, and this is sufficient evidence that they wore shoes instead of sandals at this time. Furthermore, Peter did not understand the action of Jesus, hence, it could not have been customary. Most of all, Jesus was not scrupulous about keeping the customs or practices of the Jews; compare Jesus’ breaking of the Jewish Sabbath (
(a) Feet-washing symbolizes humility and service. The apostles had been quarreling as to who would be greatest in the kingdom which they thought Jesus was about to set up (
4. Practised by the Church of the Brethren:
Feet-washing is practiced by the Church of the Brethren for the following reasons:
(1) Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and said, "I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you" (
(2) Jesus said, "Ye also ought ("are bound," opheilete) to wash one another’s feet" (
(3) "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" (
(4) "If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them" (
(5) Feet-washing symbolizes humility and service, which are fundamental virtues.
(6) Feet-washing symbolizes cleansing from the sins committed after baptism.
For the Church of the Brethren: C. F. Yoder, God’s Means of Grace; R. H. Miller, The Doctrine of the Brethren Defended; tracts issued by the Brethren Publishing House, Elgin, III. For history of feet-washing, see ERE, V; New Sch-Herz Eric of Religious Knowledge, IV, 4; Smith and Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, articles "Baptism," "Maundy Thursday."