My friend is convinced that Jesus Christ commanded us to wash one another’s feet, literally. I would like to know how you understand the commandment of Jesus .


I know of no serious Bible scholar who interprets what Jesus said in John 13:14 literally. As far as I know, none of those who are familiar with biblical interpretation conclude that Jesus is commanding that all Christians must do foot washings in order to obey what Jesus is commanding here. All passages should be interpreted in light of the context and in light of knowledge about the culture (which, of course, is part of the context!). In the context of Palestine in the first century AD, having dirty feet was a continuous problem. People wore sandals and walked on dusty roads. It was the common practice for the household servant to offer to wash the feet of guests of the house. I believe that what Jesus is commanding here is that his disciples look for the needs of those around them and meet those needs. He is commanding that those who lead must serve. He is telling us that we must be willing to take the role resered to the household servant–which is to be willing to do the lowliest of tasks for one another. To apply this passage literally in a modern context would be to strip it if its original meaning. Most of us shower every day, wear socks, and walk on pavement. We do not need our feet to be washed when we enter the houses of our friends. There are better, more practical ways to put John 13:14 into practice for us today.

By the way, if a disciple of Jesus wants to do a foot-washing of a fellow disciple as a symbolic way of showing humility and willingness to serve, that is fine. However, this should not be enforced as a biblical command.

John Oakes



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