Washing Jesus’ Feet

Traditionally, people wash each other’s feet at the Passover Service. Most Christians consider this to be following Jesus example of humility as he washed His disciples feet. There is another account of a woman who was washing Jesus’ feet and what Jesus said about it. Let’s think more about what that meant to Jesus as we study the account of Washing Jesus’ Feet.

Help Us Help Others

We give everything we produce away without charge. How is this possible? Someone else has paid for your downloads and orders. If you would like to pay it forward, we will be pleased to accept your contribution so that others may receive our Christian living materials also.

Access Resource 

There are several ways to access this presentation. You can listen using the audio player at the top of this screen or if you prefer to read the presentation, a transcript has been provided. Feel free to download this audio and/or the transcript. To download the audio, follow the directions below and to download the transcript, click on the button below.

To download this audio, click the download button on the audio player at the top of this screen, as is shown in the picture below.

Example of how to download an audio from the player

Note: This is simply an image showing you how to download the audio. You must click the download button on the audio player at the top of your screen in order to download this presentation.


There’s an account of a woman washing Jesus’ feet in Luke. This took place in the second year of Jesus’ ministry – I think – and not long, probably, after John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod Antipas – so not at the beginning and not at the end, but more towards the middle. We can read it in Luke 7:36…

Luke 7:36 – One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him – somewhat unusual – and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wipe them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. So, you can’t really wash somebody’s feet with tears. This wasn’t a hygiene thing, but it was worship. 

So, what is it about feet? Before going on, let’s think about this a bit. Let’s think about how the world in Peter’s day thought about feet. When Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet Passover night, Peter told Him he wasn’t worthy to have Jesus wash his feet. That’s because Peter knew that footwashing was servants’ work, not what those in authority did. It was a humble task – not for his Master, the Lord, he thought. Then, Jesus told Peter that if he would not let Him wash his feet, Peter could have nothing to do with Jesus any longer, to which, Peter said, “Well, then, wash not only my feet, but wash my head and my hands too.” 

Now, the context of all this was that, before Jesus got there, the disciples were gathered together, and they were arguing about who was going to be in charge. So, He told them many times about this, and they still didn’t get it. So, He gave an example. He washed all of their feet – a leader washing the feet of students.

So, after Peter said, “Wash me all over,” Jesus said to him, “One who has been bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” So, back then, it was the custom to get up and bathe in the morning to be ready for the day. And that was all the washing a person needed to do, except for the feet, which got dusty from the unpaved roads and streets. So, a person doesn’t need to take another bath. He only needs to have his feet cleaned. So, Christ is talking common sense to Peter. So, here Peter’ wrong again, isn’t he? He doesn’t know what to say. He was in uncharted waters with his Master once again. 

Okay, so back to Simon’s house. Sometimes, when entering a house, it was common to have one’s feet washed with water. And that’s kind of what Jesus is doing here. They were all familiar with that. By contrast, this woman comes up behind Jesus and has done a very elaborate, yet humble, thing – to wash Jesus’ feet with her own tears and dry His feet with her hair – not a towel – and then put an entire bottle of really expensive aromatic ointment on His feet. So, this is an act of worship. And neither was this the first time this had ever been done. It may have been a custom in those days. We can consider this later, because Lazarus’ sister, Mary, did the very same thing to Jesus. He had just raised her brother from the dead and she was overcome with gratitude and love, and this was profoundly humble and thankful and worshipful of her. 

So, let’s look forward now. How did the host react to this act of worship? Verse 39:

V-39 – Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” Now, Simon thought that, if Jesus was really a prophet, He never would have let a sinner wash His feet. Remember, the Pharisees thought that sin was catching. They stayed away from all those they thought were unclean – like lepers, Gentiles, tax collectors, poor people, all other kinds of sinners except themselves. And they looked down on them. They thought they were better – both socially and spiritually – more righteous. 

Now, I was being facetious about thinking sin was contagious. It was much worse than that. They didn’t see their own sin. That’s why they thought they were better than others. They were self-righteous. All the things they did themselves made them righteous, they thought – righteous by their own efforts. 

Look at this. This is another place in the scripture – Matthew 9:13 – where He’s talking to Pharisees for putting Him on because He’s with sinners. He says:

Matthew 9:13 – Go and learn what this means – Matthew 9:13 – “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

So, when Jesus said this to some of these Pharisees – other Pharisees than Simon – they thought Jesus was explaining why He was with a roomful of “sinners,” and that that was why He wasn’t with them. Two classes – us and then everybody else. They didn’t understand that they were sinners too. Jesus didn’t make a social distinction. He ate with Pharisees, as well as with sinners. And their inability to see their spiritual poverty caused them to feel no need for His salvation and forgiveness. They were already righteous. They were the chosen people of God. 

So, back to Simon’s place again. Here comes a lesson. It’s in verse 40:

Luke 7:40 – And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” And Jesus continued: “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” So, now Jesus is going to explain to Simon why he let the woman wash His feet. Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Now, Jesus is not taking Simon to task for not doing these things. He’s just using his example to make a point. Then He said, “You can see she loves me more than you do.” So, what’s His point then? What can we take away from this to add to our spiritual understating? Here it comes – verse 47: Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much – because she loved much. So, that’s why she was forgiven – because she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 

So, He explained to Simon that she loved much because she saw that she was a sinner. Her debt was five hundred denarii, not fifty, and yet, she was forgiven in a stroke – a debt she could never repay. And she was so grateful she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears of gratitude and love. 

So, let’s back up to this part of what Jesus said: But he who is forgiven little, loves little. Simon did not love Jesus enough to wash His feet, because he didn’t think he needed to be forgiven that much. Another way to say the same thing is to say that Simon’s sins, that he was not aware of, prevented him from coming to God and loving God. That’s something we can take in, can’t we? Our sins that we are not aware of prevent us from loving God – or, diminish our ability to do that, maybe. 

Another thing we can learn from this is, that Simon could not see his sins, so he could not repent of them. And all this is saying that, because of his repented sins, he was not able to draw close to God. Now, I don’t know about you, but the awareness of my own sins is what first drew me to Christ – seeking help to overcome them and to find forgiveness. 

I worked with a man once – I’m reminded of him – who had a difficult marriage. And, after seeing him for some time, one day he showed up in my office and sat down – came for his appointment – and the first thing he said when he walked in the door was, “I am really stupid!” And I said, “How so?” And he said, “Well, I spent all this time and effort and money to get over my faults so my wife will accept me and we can be happy. And last night, we got in an argument, and I called her the b-word.” And he leaned over, and he put his head in his hands with shame. I could feel with him how bad he felt. And I said, “Well, I agree with you. That was a stupid thing to do.” I said, “It’s better to know that you should never call your wife names than to not know it. Maybe feeling stupid will help you avoid more stupidity in the future.” If we know we are five hundred denarii in debt to God, instead of fifty, it helps draw us to God. He’s giving us something we need. 

So, what does God really want of us? What’s this all about? What’s the lesson? What’s Jesus telling us? Well, He’s telling us what God is after – what He wants for us and from us – the most important thing. There’s another event in the Gospels that helps us understand that, and we can read it in starting in Mark 12:28:

Mark 12:28-34 – And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ With everything you’ve got. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him – the scribe is going to take what Jesus said and extend that – extrapolate something from it. And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” He got it! He knew that the sacrifices and offerings were to help us understand our sins, not to pay for them – that loving God and loving one’s neighbor is way more important. Those things are pointed toward loving God. But the Jews had taken it a different way. They thought they could make themselves righteous by obeying the law. Okay, so when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” So, the scribe got it. He understood what the whole Old Testament was all about. All of it – the sacrifices, all the other temple-related laws, the Ten Commandments, all the laws about how to live as a nation – it was all about first loving God, and second, loving God’s other children. So, that’s pretty important. That’s what God wants. He wants us to love Him like He loves us. And He wants us to love His other children. 

So, He told him, “You’ve almost got the whole thing. You’ve got the Kingdom’s values, the Kingdom’s laws, the Kingdom’s objectives, which is love God and love others.” So, He wants us to love Him. He wants our hearts – not our sacrifices – animal sacrifices and all that. He wants our love. 

So, how did it get so fouled up by the time Jesus came? Well, Simon and all the other Jews of that day kept the law in the letter. They made offerings at the temple. It was all right there in the Old Testament – cut and dry. They could read it. So can we. To be okay with God, you made offerings. You tithed. You kept the Sabbath to the letter and all the laws of God as well. Not hard to understand. But had they forgotten about this? You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. They forgot about that, apparently. In their world, the way they showed love to God was to follow the letter of the law. And that’s how they thought they showed love to God. That isn’t what Jesus said. Because that’s not what God tells them to focus on – all those physical acts of worship were not there so they could feel superior to those who didn’t do them. Rather, they were there to show us how our sins affected our relationship with God, so that we could love Him. 

So, Jesus is taking this deeper than following the legal rules of the covenant. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. It was much more important that she loved God than for her to go to the temple and make atonement. Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, because she loved much! So, why did she love much? Because she knew she had committed many sins. That was the difference between her and Simon. He couldn’t see his. And, consequently, because she could see her sins, she was simply aware that she had been forgiven much. It drew her to Jesus, just like Jesus said it would in John 12:32, when He said: 

John 12:32 – And I, when I am lifted up from the earth – in crucifixion – will draw all people to myself.

So, if we think about it, this is a new way of making offerings, isn’t it? It’s the kind of offerings we’re supposed to make. And they were too – expressing love to God the way humans do. We can’t do it exactly like God does it, but the people we love we like to spend time with them, or care for them when they’re down or sick, giving them food when they don’t have any. So, Jesus was grieved when all the disciples ran away when He was taken the night of Passover – all except for John. And that meant that they didn’t love Him as much as He love them. And the human side of Jesus wanted that love – and so did the Godly side. 

Let’s look at what Paul says about it in Romans 12:1 and 2:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. So, that’s what our spiritual worship is supposed to be – presenting our bodies to God as living sacrifices – holy – set apart – obedient to God, seeking His will, and not breaking God’s law as best we can. Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. And, if we see our sins, we are deeply grateful to Him – so much so that we sacrifice our life for Him. It’s our spiritual worship. But it has also been translated, in the King James Bible, reasonable service. It logically follows that, if He gave His life for us, and we see that – understand it – then, in our gratitude, we’re going to want to follow His example and live like Him.  

So, let’s ask the question: What if we don’t feel deeply obligated to follow God? I mean, we all struggle with that, whether we know it or not. What that means is, we haven’t really connected the dots yet. And there are two things that can get in the way of that. We don’t get what He did for us, or we don’t see that we need His sacrifice, because we don’t see our own sin. 

So, what does it look like when we do understand? Paul continues – verse 2:

V-2 – Do not be conformed to this world…. Whose world is it? Well, it’s the devil’s world. It’s full of the lies that he told to Adam and Eve to deceive them. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing – your experience in life – you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Instead of doing what we want to do, we do what God wants us to do – not just to go to church, or pay tithes, or keep the Sabbath so we can feel good about ourselves for doing our duty – like the Pharisees – but because we love God for forgiving our impossible five-hundred denarii debt. And we know that came at great price through Christ’s sacrifice. And that logically follows along that we are going to be trying to obey God. 

Now, there’s a thing that I haven’t mentioned yet. What is the byproduct of loving someone? If you have a leader that you love, what does the love for them cause you to do in relationship to that person? Well, we said, “Follow them.” Live the way they lived. But, another term that we can apply there, that really brings this out, is loyalty. God wants our loyalty. We have an example in the Bible of a spirit being who was not loyal to God. And, in creating us, God wants to make sure that when we’re entered into His Spirit fully, as spirit beings, we will be loyal. Because, if we can’t be, we’re going to be in a world of hurt. So, a really important lesson here. If we can do that – if we can be loyal to God and love God – if we can focus on being appreciative to God and loving Him for His care for us, well then, it will be as Jesus said, we will not be far from the Kingdom of God, which promises us, above even eternal life, a close and loving connection with God and all His family.