Summary: Does the church undervalue the practice of foot washing? Should it be an ordinance or a sacrament

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Is Foot Washing a Sacrament?

John 13:1-17


Foot washing has been erratically performed by the church throughout the ages. Different groups hold to divergent opinions of it. I used to be in the Church of God where it was held in high regard, at least then. It seems even there to have fallen out of favor. The United Methodist Church at various times and places has embraced the practice of foot washing. The Poe in the Roman church washes the feet of some priests on Good Friday. How much more than that they practice, I do not know. Other churches do not practice it at all, or say that we practice it indirectly in our acts of service. What does the Bible say?

Exposition of the Text

There is definite break in the text here from chapter 12. This chapter starts with two significant terms. The first of these is “feast”. This word is used throughout the Gospel of John, showing that Jesus was in the habit of attending them. The full phrase occurs in John 5:1, in the section where Jesus meets the bedfast man at the Pool of Bethesda. All of these feasts serve as pointers to this feast, this Passover. This is accentuated by the use of the second phrase “that His hour had come”. The use of the word “hour” also occurs throughout the Gospel in one of two ways. The first of these occurred in 2:4 in which Jesus tells his mother that His “hour” had not yet come. Here he addresses his mother as “woman.” What Jesus was telling her was that he had to follow His Father’s will, not His mother’s in the way His Messiahship was to be revealed. When we encounter Mary again at the crucifixion, Jesus gives her care into the hand of John, where again she is addressed as “woman” as though Jesus is saying: “Mother this is the hour and the way my Messiahship is to be revealed.” A similar word “time” is used in John 7:6 where again Jesus refuses to show Himself in the way his own brothers wanted Him to reveal Himself. It was the wrong feast (Tabernacles), the wrong time, and the wrong way. God’s plan was for the Messiah to be revealed at a certain Passover on a cross.

The second use of “hour” supplements the fact that Jesus was working out a specific plan scheduled on a day in history that the Father had ordained before creation itself. So when the Jews in 8:20 desired to seize Him in the Temple treasury they were unable to do so because it was not yet the time that God had set. Later on in that chapter, they took up stones to stone Him, but he walked out unharmed because stoning was not to be the method of Jesus’ execution.

In chapter 12:27, Jesus talks about the imminence of His departure and attaches to it that it would be as the result of violence. This prepares us for 13:1 which we are now discussing. The time had fully come, the time which was preordained. All of the events had come together. It was the time to complete the mission that he had been sent to perform on earth and return to His Father.

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