What does washing feet symbolize in the bible (Biblical Meaning and Symbolism)?

During last Sunday’s service, I was assigned to oversee the Sunday school’s drama presentation. After discussing with them, the Sunday school children agreed that they would present a play where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. We were excited as we and the entire church would learn a thing or two from the play. So, you may be a Sunday school leader and wonder why we chose this play. This may make you ask,” What does washing feet symbolize in the bible?”.

Washing feet in the bible may be used as a symbol of humility and love. John 13:1-17 narrates how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, something they were not expecting. Through this act, Jesus showed love to his disciples. He also showed humility by humbling himself before his disciples and washing them. Washing feet in the bible may also be seen as a symbol of servanthood as it teaches us to serve others.

So, join me until the end as we delve more into this topic. I will discuss where the bible talks about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, significant lessons we can learn from Jesus washing feet, and different interpretations of foot washing. We will also talk about how you can use foot washing for spiritual growth, among other topics.

Where Does the Bible Talk about Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet?

The topic of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is recorded in the book of John 13:1-17. This happened during the last supper, right before the Passover festival. Jesus had already known that his time on earth was ending and that one of his disciples Judas Iscariot, would betray him. During their meal, Jesus got up and took off his outer robe. He then wrapped a towel around his waist, took water, poured it into a basin, and started to wash his disciple’s feet.

During those days, there were no fancy cars that one would travel in, so one had to use a donkey or walk on their feet for a long distance. This would automatically make their feet dirty, as they wore open shoes, which tended to collect dirt. Since people would dine using low tables, servants needed to wash their feet before meals. During the last supper, no servants were present in the upper room, and Jesus used the opportunity to teach his disciples what he wanted them to practice while he was gone. Jesus then went around washing his disciples’ feet and drying them with the towel he had wrapped around his waist.

What was the purpose of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet?

Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to set an example of what he wanted them to do. John 13:12-17 records Jesus questioning his disciples if they had understood what he had done to them. Jesus then told his disciples that he expected them to wash one another’s feet, as he had washed them despite him being their teacher and Lord. Jesus’ purpose for doing this was to show his disciples the importance of servanthood. Although Jesus was way greater than any disciple in that room, he took the servant’s position and washed their feet without compromise.

Another purpose of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet was to show the importance of humility in God’s work. In most cases, pastors or leaders who have higher positions in churches tend to look down on others, considering them as lesser people or less righteous. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to show that it does not matter who you are or your position in the kingdom of God and that you should exercise humility.

Jesus also washed the feet of his disciples to show love to them. Before washing their feet, Jesus knew that one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, would betray him, yet he washed his feet without a bargain. This was an important message to the rest of his disciples, to love everyone in their work of God and not discriminate against one because of their sins.

4 Significant Lessons We Can Learn from Jesus Washing Feet

What does washing feet symbolize in the bible?
Significant Lessons We Can Learn from Jesus Washing Feet. Image source: Pinterest

We should treat everyone with love.

The first significant lesson we can learn from Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is that we need to treat everyone around us with love. As a Christian, you may be given a task in church, for instance, to help a needy church member with something or do something for them. You may have the urge not to want to do the service, as you might feel the person does not deserve what you are about to do to them. In the bible, we see Jesus washing Judas Iscariot’s feet without questions, although he already knew what he was up to. Jesus wanted us to love and treat everyone equally despite who they are.

We should always be humble

Another significant lesson we can learn from Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is humility. Humility is a great attribute that most Christians lack, especially when they hold a higher position in the church. Jesus was the Messiah who was sent on earth by God. His disciples referred to him as Teacher or Lord, yet he humbled himself before them and washed their feet. Washing people’s feet was done by some but the servants who the owner of the house had hired. Jesus reduced himself to a servant to show the disciples and modern Christians the importance of humility when doing God’s work. Proverbs 3:34 suggests that God mocks those that are proud mockers and shows favour to those that are humble and oppressed.

We also learn that the Kingdom of God does not work like the world’s

By Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, we can learn that the Kingdom of God is very different and unique and does not work like the worldly kingdom. Picture this, your work in an office setting, and one day when you are seated, you see your boss bringing you breakfast or lunch. Won’t you be shocked why they did that, as you are used to a lower staff member doing that? Although he was greater than everyone at the table, Jesus humbled himself and washed his disciples’ feet as a servant did. After washing their feet, Jesus reminded them in John 13:16-17 that no servant is greater than his master, nor a messenger is greater than the one who sent him. This was to remind his disciples that what he did was not common or usual but should be done in the kingdom of God.

We can also learn that Jesus is ready to make us clean again despite our sins

Although we may be saved, we might fall into temptations because we are human beings born into sin. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, although they were his followers because he knew they were not righteous. John 13:6-10 suggest that when Jesus approached one of his disciples, Peter, to wash his feet, Peter refused and vowed that Jesus would never wash his feet.

Jesus, however, revealed to him that he did not realize what Jesus was doing at the moment, but he would have a revelation of it later. Jesus also revealed to Peter that he would not be a part of him unless he washed his feet. This meant Peter was a sinner, and Jesus needed to cleanse him by washing his feet. Just like Peter, we Christians should be ready to go before Jesus to “wash our feet” to become clean/ righteous before God.

Spiritual Meaning of Washing Feet

It could mean you are undergoing a spiritual growth

Washing feet is mostly associated with practising inner growth and self-reflection, which can lead to spiritual growth. One can try and understand what washing the feet means in their life and use it to grow their spiritual side.

It could also be used to mean love

Washing someone’s feet or letting someone else wash your feet may be used to mean love in the spiritual world. Feet are the only parts of the body that constantly come in contact with every kind of dirt, and therefore considered to be one of the most unclean body parts. So, when a person offers to wash your feet, this may spiritually mean that the person genuinely loves you or you love the person to that extent.

It may also mean that someone is being cleansed

Washing of feet may spiritually mean that one is being cleansed of their sins and is becoming new again. Washing of the feet may be literal, but most spiritual people use it to represent the whole cleansing of the body. Being cleansed may mean that your sins are forgiven, and therefore, you are a free person. It may also spiritually mean that you are letting go of the past and washing your feet to become a new person.

It may also be used to show respect

When a person volunteers to wash her feet in a group setting, it may spiritually mean that the person respects or honours you and is washing her feet to prove that to you. This is mostly seen in instances where there are elders and young people. A young person will wash an elder’s feet as a sign of respect to them.

It may also be used to show unity

Just like Jesus washed the feet of all his disciples, the act of washing feet may be used in the spiritual world to represent unity. The exercise of washing each other’s feet may bring a group of people together, as they will support and even encourage each other. The bond that will be great among this group may lead to them being united.

It may also be used to mean that one has submitted themselves

For you to wash another person’s feet or for them to wash your feet, there must be an agreement that one party has agreed to be worked on. This may be seen in the spiritual world as submission. One can only submit to you if they know that they can trust you fully and that they obey your authority at the moment.

Different Interpretations of Foot Washing?

What does washing feet symbolize in the bible?
Different Interpretations of Foot Washing? Image source: Pixabay


Different Pentecostal denominations also practice the act of foot washing in relation to the Lord’s supper or communion. This is usually done as a service of its own, where the pastor reads the scripture in John about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. The members are thereafter directed to wash each other’s feet according to gender. The pastor will then finish up the sermon with a benediction and release the congregation. The Pentecostals use this act to remember what Jesus did during his last supper.


The Jewish usually practice the washing of feet instead of circumcision, as they are against or disagree with the customary ceremony of circumcising a male child. They instead wash their feet during that celebration.


The anabaptist is another religious group that practices the act of washing feet, which they call feet washing. This group practices foot washing as one of the ordinances ‘Love feasts’ they usually carry out. They also do this as an interpretation of the Lord’s supper.

Seventh-day Adventist

The Seventh-day Adventists also practice foot washing, and they practice four times a year. During this service, which they call ‘communion service,’ the church member is expected to wash each other’s feet as an act of humility. Members of the Seventh-day Adventist also carry out this practice to renew and cleanse themselves and reconcile with each other.

Different cultures also use the washing of the foot as a symbol of purification, cleansing, and humility. Other people also interpret the washing of feet as serving one another.

How to Wash Feet Spiritually: Is there a special way to wash feet?

What does washing feet symbolize in the bible?
Is there a special way to wash feet? Image source: Pixabay

There is no suggested special way to wash your feet spiritually, as what matters is how you carry yourself spiritually. However, before performing a spiritual or religious activity, it is important to wash your hands and feet as a sign of making yourself clean before God.

If you have never washed your feet spiritually and want to try it, I suggest you do it while saying a prayer. For instance, you can ask God to forgive your sins as you wash off your feet and make you clean again. You can also ask him to guide you before practicing whatever ritual or activity you want.

How to use feet washing for spiritual growth?

Feet washing can be used differently for one’s spiritual growth. One can use this act to be reminded of the humility they need in the Lord. Reflecting on what Jesus did during the last supper reminds one to remain humble just like Jesus did and to serve others without thinking of their position in life or church.

Using the story of Jesus washing feet can also help you with other Godly attributes you need on the path of salvation, such as kindness, patience, and self-control. Washing another person’s feet may be more challenging than it may seem, and one would need patience with the other person. One must also practice kindness with the person they are washing their feet. This will contribute to the person’s spiritual growth, as they will have these fruits of the holy spirit.

What is the meaning of foot washing in Hebrew?

Washing of feet among the Hebrews started long ago and was practiced right before the start of the Sabbath. Washing of feet among the Hebrews was done as a reminder of the importance of respect and humility. It also served as a sign of hospitality and acceptance for those entering the synagogue.

The Hebrews also use foot washing to remind themselves of the ancient traditions carried out from generation to generation. The washing of the feet in the Hebrew culture is also used to show devotion and honor.

What is the meaning of foot washing at a wedding?

Washing of feet is a common act in weddings, as most couples use it to represent love, humility, and loyalty. When a wife washes the husband’s feet, she is ready to humble herself before the husband and serve her fully.

When a husband washes his wife’s feet, it may mean that the husband fully commits himself to the wife and is ready to be loyal to her. When a couple washes, each other’s feet may also be used to show a sign of love between them.

Washing your partner’s feet during your wedding may also show that you have your partner’s full support and vice versa and that you can fully trust them with everything. It may also be used as a sign of respect and honor. This is usually associated with when the wife is washing her husband’s feet.

Additionally, washing each other’s feet during your wedding ceremony may be a simple of purity, and both of you are making yourselves pure for each other. It may be used as a sign of submission towards each other.

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