"Continue Ye In My Love": The Washing of the Feet

"Jesus Washes an Apostle's Feet" by Laurie Olson Lisonbee, 2006

In the book of John, 5 of the 21 chapters are devoted to events surrounding the Last Supper.

Sorry, Leonardo da Vinci, this is more likely what it would have looked like.
We call it the Last Supper because we know that Christ would soon be crucified, but the apostles might not have realized it at the time.

The Betrayal, by Marilyn Todd-Daniels

It was during this meal that Christ gave a new commandment:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)
Why is this a new commandment?  Had they really never been told to love each other before?

They had.

In Leviticus 19:18 we read,

...but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.
So why is Christ saying this is a new commandment?

To understand why this commandment would be considered new, let's look at what happened right before Christ said this.

Christ stands up and takes off his traditional robes and drapes himself with a long towel that he fastens to his shoulder and then wraps around his waist.

He has dressed himself as a servant.

He then prepares to perform the lowliest of tasks. So low in fact that it was usually relegated to non-Jewish slaves, even Jewish servants didn't have to do it.  He starts to wash the apostles' feet. He uses the excess of the towel he's wearing to dry them.

It's probably hard to imagine the shock and surprise the apostles would have felt when they saw the host doing the work of the lowliest of servants.  Feet washing isn't a ritual we experience today.

Or is it?

While we may not come into a person's home with dusty feet, we all come into each other's lives "dusty" from the cares of the world.  Do we ever look at another's dust and think, "It's not my job to clean them."


In 2017, Inc.com listed the top 10 CEO's that led with servant leadership, or serving their employees.

One of the CEO's is Kristen Hadeed, the founder and CEO of Student Maid.


When she first started, 45 of her 60 employees quit.  She discovered she was the problem.

She said,
That's when I realized that leadership isn't a privilege to do less.  Leadership is a responsibility to do more.  
Where most cleaning companies have a turnover of about 2 months, hers now has a turnover of about 2 1/2 years.

Thankfully, Kristen isn't alone.  Many leaders in business also strive to use servant leadership.


Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we see this in action every week when we partake of the Sacrament.  Usually the ones assigned to administer the bread and water are the newest ones to have received the priesthood. Now even 11-year olds are carrying the trays.

I heard once that someone was shocked to see little boys doing such an important task.  Surely something so sacred and meaningful should be the job of the older, wiser priesthood holders in the room.  But when I see a little boy wearing a crumpled shirt and pants that no longer fit, I smile and think of Christ kneeling on the ground pouring the water over the feet of his loved disciples washing away the dust and dirt from the roads they have travelled.

Jesus Washing the Feet of the Apostles, by Del Parson

Christ has descended below it all.

Below the little deacon who can't remember which direction the trays should be passed.

Below the mother in the congregation whose children are spilling Cheerios onto the floor.


Below the person covered in piercings and tattoos who isn't sure if she'll even be allowed in the chapel.


There is no depth so low that it cannot be lower than the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  There is no one He cannot reach.

The Mighty Hand, by Yongsung Kim

And when we recognize the love Christ is offering us, we will be like Peter and say,
[Wash] not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. (John 13: 9)
Jesus Washing Peter's Feet, by Sieger Koder

Christ then says,
...ye also ought to wash one another's feet. (John 13:14)

or in other words, be willing to descend below others.  We should love others without expectations, conditions, or limitations.

This may have been a new commandment to Israel, but it should not be a new commandment to us.


Special thanks to Camille Fronk Olson whose talk at BYU's Easter Conference in 2017 inspired this article.  To view her 30 minute speech, click here.  

To coincide with the Come Follow Me 2019 Lesson, June 3 - 9.

Not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.