John 13:4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. 12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
It is evident from the context that in washing his disciples’ feet Jesus was teaching a spiritual principle of serving one another. He was not instituting a practice of washing feet. This is clear from what he says to Peter.
John 13:7 What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
Peter could clearly see that Jesus was washing feet; but Jesus is saying that he wouldn’t understand the significance of what he was doing until later – meaning after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
At the time none of the disciples understood that Jesus was going to sacrifice his life to redeem them from sin.
Jesus makes the point that they are clean through the word that he has spoken to them, (John 15:3) but their feet still needed washing.
We might reasonably suppose that Jesus meant that his sacrifice for sin was necessary for them to be presented completely clean in the sight of God.
In making the sacrifice Jesus was ‘washing their feet’ in removing the sin that makes man unclean.
This is surely the meaning of:
John 13:8 If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
To have part with Christ is not a matter of him washing our feet but of us recognising that he died for us for the remission of our sins.
It was not until after his resurrection that the disciples understood the full extent of Jesus’ service for them.
There is no record of the apostles washing feet or instructing others to do so, but there is ample exhortation to serve one another after Christ’s example as we find occasion.
Luke 22:26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Philippians 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Galatians 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
I hope you have found this helpful.
God bless you,