In the Jewish culture, washing the feet of guests was a common practice. When a guest entered a house, the guest was either given water to wash his/her feet or a slave or servant would wash the feet of the guest because the roads were dusty and they wore sandals. It was considered such a lowly task that Hebrew slaves were not allowed to wash the feet of guests but only non-Hebrew slaves.

In 1 Samuel  25, when the servants of David went to Abigail at Carmel and told her that David sent them to her to ask her to become his wife, she bowed her face to the earth and said, “Here is your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord” (verse 41b NKJV). Abigail, the widow of a wealthy man, Nabal, humbled herself. See how the New Living Translation presents what she said: “I, your servant, would be happy to marry David. I would even be willing to become a slave, washing the feet of his servants!”

In Luke 7, the Bible records that a woman, who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the house of Simon, a Pharisee, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and stood at the feet of Jesus behind Him, weeping. She began to wash His feet with her tears, wiped them with the hair of her head, kissed His feet, and anointed them with the fragrant oil (verses 37-38). The point relevant to this message is that she washed the feet of Jesus with her tears. She was a sinner and Jesus said in verse 47 that her sins, which were many, were forgiven because she loved much. The woman washed the feet of Jesus as an expression of love.

We don’t know why Simon, Jesus’ host, neglected the Jewish hospitality customs, including the washing of the feet of his visitor, Jesus, either by allowing a servant to do it or giving Him water to wash His feet Himself. Among other things, Jesus told Simon, “I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet” (verse 44b NKJV). He was supposed to give water to Jesus to wash His feet as it was done in Genesis 18:4, 24:32; and Judges 19:21.

Jesus exemplified humble service

In John 13, Jesus taught His disciples a lesson about washing the feet of each other. In other words, they should serve one another in humility. Humility and service are part of the virtues that must be evident in the life of a Christian. John 13:1-8 says, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’ Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me’” (NKJV).

By washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus set an example for humble service – serving each other in humility. To wash each other’s feet demands that one must not feel too important. Don’t think you are too important to serve another person. This is not the Spirit of Christ. “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3 NKJV). Although this scripture has to do with helping someone who has fallen into sin to get back onto the right path, it could also be applied to serving others instead of feeling superior to them. The New Living Translation says it this way: “If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” 

When Jesus started washing His disciples’ feet and wiped them with the towel, Peter didn’t object to it. But when it was Peter’s turn, he asked Jesus if He would wash his feet. Jesus told Peter, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later on” (John 13:7 Amplified Bible).

However, Peter insisted that Jesus would never wash his feet. But when Jesus replied that unless He washed him, he had no part with Him, he said Jesus should wash not only his feet but also his hands and head. Then, Jesus answered that anyone who was bathed needed only to wash his feet but was completely clean. Jesus said that His disciples were clean, but not all of them. He knew that one of them, Judas Iscariot, would betray Him.

When Jesus had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He asked them if they knew what He had done to them (John 13:12). Jesus said, “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (verses 13-17 NKJV).

Here we see the Leader or Master serving His followers. Jesus not only washed their feet, He told His disciples to do the same.

Have a servant’s heart

What Jesus did on this occasion was consistent with His teachings. In Matthew 20:25-28, He told His disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (NKJV). Luke 22:24-27 records similar words of Jesus as He addressed them over a dispute among them as to who would be the greatest among them. On this dispute, Jesus told His disciples in Mark 9:35, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (NKJV). On another occasion, He told His disciples, “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11 NKJV).

According to Jesus, the leader must serve the rest. The leader, master, or most important person is the person who serves. This teaching of Jesus was contrary to the practice in His day.

No believer should feel superior to fellow believers and demand or expect to be served; they should serve. Believers should serve each other in humility. “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6 NKJV). Also, James 4:6 says, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (NKJV). God scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34). God doesn’t promote a proud man. Before honour is humility (Proverbs 15:33b; 18:12b)

Pride will not allow a believer to bend down to wash the feet of fellow believers as Jesus did for His disciples. And as you have read, God hates pride. He resists the proud, and if God resists someone, who will assist the person? Humility won’t destroy you; it will make you. But pride will destroy you. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 NKJV). Be humble. Humbly serve others whether in church or elsewhere. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (NKJV). When others serve you, serve them, too. This could be in other ways. Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NKJV).

Jesus was not proud. The Word (Jesus) became flesh and lived among us, human beings, and served us, ultimately dying for us on the cross (John 1:1, 14). If the Creator could serve those He created, what excuse do you have not to serve fellow human beings?

The followers of Jesus should emulate Him. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7 NKJV).

The early church and humble service

Humble service was the practice in the early church. The seven deacons were appointed to serve at the table and oversee the distribution of food (Acts 6:1-6). The office of a deacon or any other office in the house of God is for service, not to show off. The pastor or bishop is a servant.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he said for a widow to be qualified to be on the list for church support, she must, among other things, have served other believers – washed their feet (1 Timothy 5:9-10). The New Living Translation puts one of the questions about a widow Paul asked thus: “Has she been kind to strangers and served other believers humbly?”

Emphasizing humble service today

The church today should emphasize humble service by Christians. We should do as Jesus did. If Jesus was a servant to all, and He was the greatest, we can’t be great without humility and service. 1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (NKJV). In other words, we should be ready to sacrifice our lives for fellow Christians if the need arises. Do Christians today have this kind of love? Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NKJV). Our lives should always honour Christ, whether we live or die.

Jesus said in John 13:15 that He had given us an example that we should do as He had done. Will you follow Jesus’ example? Paul said he had made himself a servant to all that he might win the more (1 Corinthians 9:19b).

Every Christian should have a servant’s heart and joyfully serve others, Christians and non-Christians. We should serve in humility both in the church and in society. Don’t talk service; serve cheerfully! Follow the example of Jesus’ humble service; don’t emulate the devil’s pride. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6 NKJV). The greatest, the first, is the servant of all.


What to do:

1. Give your life to Jesus if you haven’t. Be born again (John 3:3-7).

2. Love God and fellow human beings (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31). Let your motivation for serving others be love. Whoever does not love, does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8). You cannot hate your brother and say you love God (1 John 4:20).

3. Understand that serving others is serving God.

4. Use your spiritual gifts to serve others. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV). The same truth applies to the abilities or talents God has given you.

5. Serve others heartily as unto the Lord. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23 NKJV).

6. Expect your reward from God. Serve others “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24 NKJV).

7. Don’t be weary in serving others even if your service is not appreciated; don’t be discouraged if you suffer humiliation. “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV). Also, 2 Thessalonians 3:13 says, “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good” (NKJV).

8. Remain humble when you are honoured as you serve. Don’t let the honour go to your head. Always be clothed with humility as 1 Peter 5:5

Render humble service.


If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.

Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.

I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.

T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
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