“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean…. (John13:8-10a)
Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is a familiar New Testament story. You may even have foot-washing ceremonies in your church. But today, let’s dig in and look at two symbols in John’s foot-washing story.
First, “had a bath” refers to what happens when we are baptized. Baptism is a one-time event, and symbolizes how, once and for all, we believed that Jesus was crucified for our sins and resurrected, giving us eternal life and salvation.
But, does our believing mean we never ever sin again? No, we do sin in some manner every day. And the foot-washing in today’s verses symbolizes repentance from our daily sins. Just as sandaled feet get dust on them every day and need to be washed, so we need a daily cleansing from sin.
Are we on our own in our daily fight against sin? See what Jesus says in verses 14-15:
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
These verses show how we should lovingly serve one another. But I think they also show how we can help one other in our fight against sin, instead of each of us wrestling with it on our own. My own natural inclination is to try to work things out as an iron-butted loner. But I think the Lord is telling all of us to encourage one another as we grow to make progress in the battle against sin.
It’s important to conclude by noting that the fight against sin isn’t an end in itself —no, we press on to remove any obstacles that hinder us in our quest for growth. Our end goal is to help each other to “trust and obey” — to give out more of Jesus’ love in an increasingly mature walk with him.