Do you reckon your feet to be precious? The Bible tells us there is a kind of feet which is the most precious..
(adapted from a sermon by Pr Chin Aun Quek)
Do you reckon your feet to be precious? If you don’t find them precious, then whose feet do you think are precious? According to insurance, the man with the most valuable leg is that of a footballer because his insurance premium is by the millions. As for women, it would be that of very famous models whose feet are insured by the millions. Whether it is the feet of football stars or models, their value would not be maintained no matter how valuable they were in the past because of depreciation. you may not want a pair of fifty-year old feet as a gift.
The Bible tells us there is a kind of feet which is the most precious. Its value cannot be measured with money and is for eternity. Such feet belong to someone who has received the washing of the Lord Jesus.
Why would such a feet become the most precious?
John 13:6-10 – Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”
This passage records of Jesus personally washing the feet of his disciples. Perhaps our feet may not be as talented as that of a football star, nor do our feet look as beautiful as that of a supermodel. To some extent, our feet might even have some skin problem or rheumatism, which is common to most people. But our Lord Jesus did not despise our feet. He is still willing to wash our feet. Why? His purpose is to let us have a part with Him. Just like what He said to Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me. If you receive my washing, then you have a part with Me.” This is the reason why when our feet are washed, they are transformed to become the most precious feet.
Think about it, because the Lord Jesus has washed our feet, we have a part with Him and all the glory that He has in Heaven. How great is this grace, to receive the honour and glory which is for eternity. It is not found on earth but in Heaven. All the things which are in this world will disappear and change. One day the entire universe will be destroyed and at that time the Lord Jesus will come to judge the world. If you have not received the washing of feet, you would have no part with Him. At that time, it will be too late for regrets.
As believers, we need to understand this truth. Yes, our feet may really be without any value. Sometimes it itches because of a particular condition. Or perhaps, rheumatism has caused it to suffer much. But it doesn’t matter because all of these are but temporary sufferings and they will pass within decades. Knowing that our feet have already received the washing of the Lord Jesus and that we have a part with Him becomes our greatest and most precious comfort and hope. That is why all of us should protect our feet and never return to tread on the path of wickedness. Rather, we ought to follow the Lord Jesus to walk on His path. For when our Lord Jesus comes again, we will surely have a part with Him.
We must not only continually remind ourselves about this teaching, but also impart this knowledge to our children to let them know that their feet are the most precious. While children may have received footwashing from young, they may not know how precious this teaching from the Lord is and thus, it is the responsibility of the parent to teach them. We must continually remind and teach the child because sometimes even we forget about how precious our feet are after receiving His footwashing. That is why we have to preserve ourselves in the Lord, to walk on His path and not towards sin.
Footwashing as a Sacrament
Why is the footwashing sacrament only carried out in the True Jesus Church? Actually other churches also practice footwashing but they do not consider it to be a sacrament. For example, footwashing is carried out when two believers get into an argument and the pastor knows about it. He would recommend them to wash each other’s feet to obey the Lord Jesus. The Catholic pope was also once shown washing the feet of about ten people. However, that is done only as a practice.
In the True Jesus Church however, we view footwashing as a holy sacrament. This goes beyond the mutual forgiveness between believers, and goes beyond the ritual practice to showcase humility. Being a sacrament, footwashing concerns our Salvation. It is something which the Lord Jesus Himself instituted, performed, and also instructed His disciples to carry out.
More than a Jewish Tradition
When we obey the command of our Lord Jesus to keep this footwashing sacrament, it is so that all those who believe in Jesus will have a part in the Lord. Why is it that most churches do not treat this footwashing as a sacrament? One reason is that they think that footwashing is just a tradition which the Jewish people carried out. Thus, to them, Jesus being a Jew, was just carrying out the tradition of the Jews in the house of a Jew.
Yet from the passage in John, we understand that this is more than just being a Jewish ritual. When the Lord Jesus wanted to wash Peter’s feet, Peter wanted to reject Jesus’ washing and he said, “You will never wash my feet!” This was because the tradition of footwashing to the Jews is such that the lowest-ranking person in the household is the one who washes the feet of those above him. In a typical Jewish household of Jesus’ times, it is the slave, who ranks lower than the steward, who would be the one to wash feet. An exception would be when a very honourable man comes and the master, in order to show his humility would personally wash the feet of his honourable guest.
Now let us think along this line that Jesus really just want to use this footwashing as an opportunity to teach the disciples about humility, therefore He washed the feet of the disciples. Peter at that time would not dare to receive this kind of footwashing because to him, the Lord Jesus is always his master. Therefore you shall never wash my feet! If you want to teach me about humility, you just have to instruct me, that is good enough. There is no need for you to stoop so low to become that of the slave to teach me this lesson to be humble. We notice that all the other disciples remained silent except for Peter who was so stubborn and said, “You shall never wash my feet!”
In Peter’s mind, he was thinking that this footwashing is actually the traditions of the Jews and was a common practice. But when the Lord Jesus spoke to him in verse 8, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Upon hearing these words, there was an immediate and complete change in Peter’s reply. He said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Just a while ago didn’t he said, “You shall never wash my feet!” Why was it that there was this huge change suddenly? Not only did have his feet washed immediately, he even wanted his hands and his head to be washed. This was because he understood at this juncture that it was not the traditional kind of footwashing that took place in the common Jewish home. If we do not receive the washing of the Lord Jesus, Jesus will say to us, “You have no part with Me.” That would be the worst thing that could happen to a believer.
If footwashing is just a normal common tradition, it will not allow us to have a part with the Lord and the heavenly inheritance. Peter knew this as a command of the Lord Jesus which we have to do and it is linked directly with eternal life. That is why Peter eventually relented and received the washing of his feet by the Lord Jesus.
Who Washes the Feet?
In verse 16 the Lord Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
Whether as a servant or someone who is sent, as long as they are sent by the master, they represent the master. So the Lord Jesus commanded the disciples to be a representation of the Lord Himself to go and wash other people’s feet. When the Lord Jesus has ascended to Heaven, how do we receive the footwashing by Him and have a part with Him? Does it mean only the twelve disciples, who have received footwashing directly from the Lord Jesus have a part with the Lord? Our Lord Jesus has ascended to Heaven, but He instructed His disciples to represent Him to wash the feet of others. When Peter went around washing the feet of other people was where he represented the Lord Jesus to wash the feet of the disciples.
If you have observed how we carry out the footwashing in our church, you will notice that the ministers who wash the feet of the believers will actually say, “In the name of the Lord Jesus I wash your feet so that you will have a part with the Lord.” At this instance, he is being sent by the Lord to represent Him to wash the feet of the believers. He is not demonstrating his humility, nor does he have any grudge with you so that he seeks your forgiveness or need to forgive you. So we have to understand this main point, we want to receive the footwashing of the Lord Jesus.
Baptism and Footwashing are Linked
Those who oppose will have other questions. They say that if footwashing is really a sacrament because it concerns salvation, why is it that in the bible, there are many references to baptism which we said is important for salvation, but with regards to footwashing, it doesn’t seems to be mentioned at all? This implies that footwashing isn’t really that important. Baptism is very important because it concerns salvation, therefore it is referenced many times in the bible, but footwashing isn’t, therefore I can say that it is not important. If it is supposed to be a sacrament to allow you to have a part with the Lord Jesus, then it should be mentioned more times in the bible rather than just once.
Towards this point, I think believers in the True Jesus Church would be able to understand it better. We also have quite a number of truth-seekers, who have received baptism after they have understood the truth. They also bear testimonies, and some of them penned down their testimonies to be published in the “Holy Spirit Times”. When they were preaching to their friends they might say, “I have already been baptised on this particular date, year and day.”
You often notice that when a person is bearing testimonies, they talk about when he/she was baptised, they also talked about the year, the month and the date but they will never talk about footwashing. So you will also notice this whenever you get to hear the testimonies recorded in whatever form, they will always talk about baptism but they will not mention things like, “I remember I had my foot washed on this particular day, month and year.” This is because baptism and footwashing actually are linked together. After one is baptised, one will receive footwashing.
So whenever anyone mentioned about baptism, it will naturally involve footwashing. Hence footwashing is never mentioned again because really in their minds when they mentioned baptism, it includes footwashing. It becomes very easy for us to understand that why is it the disciples in the Bible only mentioned about baptism and not footwashing. Some people will say, “If it is that important, why is it that it is only mentioned once in the Bible?”
With regards to many other teachings in the bible, the Lord Jesus would repeat His teachings, isn’t that true? For example with regards to the teaching of one loving one another, the Lord Jesus had mentioned it many times. Or with regards to the Holy Spirit, there are also many mentions. But if you are referring to footwashing, it is only recorded here. If it is really that important, why is it that the Lord Jesus only brings it up once? This seems quite reasonable, isn’t it? But let us ask you, how many times do you need the Lord Jesus to say then only do you know it is important? Three or ten times? Does it mean that the more our Lord Jesus talks about the matter, the more important it is?
Our Lord Jesus will not say things without reason, because He knows who He is and today we know who He is. He tells us, “My words are Spirit and they are life. And he who obeys my command will have eternal life.” Is this what the Lord Jesus said? Did the bible really mention or record about what Jesus said? If so, even if it is only mentioned once by our Lord Jesus, we today will still believe without any doubt.
So in our church, we obey the command of our Lord Jesus, to carry out footwashing in the church. It is the way for us to have a part with Him.
Evidence from Early Church History
Even if everything we said earlier is true, based on what had happened in the church history, there is no mention whatsoever about the church carrying out footwashing. If it is like what you have said that after one carried out baptism, there would be footwashing immediately, we do not see any record in history at all of such event. If we look at the various church denominations today, we will realize that none of them carry out this footwashing sacrament.
Just because you have not seen it before or by researching into a lot of church history you have not found a single piece of evidence, can you boldly say that there is no footwashing being carried out at all? It is just that you have not seen the evidence, you have not been able to find it yet. With regards to ancient artefacts, it is very difficult for you to find them. Just because it is not found or it is yet to be found, doesn’t mean that it has not happened.
A theologian, Petersen, based on the materials that he had researched, actually confirmed that in the early days, the church really did perform footwashing. He mentioned that the apostles understood the relationship between baptism and footwashing. So when they preached in Antioch, they preached about the importance of baptism and footwashing. From Antioch, they preached to other people in other places such as Milan. When they talk about baptism, they included footwashing as a part of baptism and is carried out after one has been baptised.
This is evident in the early Christians. Until the 4th century, the churches around Rome actually prohibited people from conducting the footwashing sacrament. But the believers who were still in Milan continued to carry out this footwashing sacrament. There were already people who opposed footwashing in Rome, so slowly people who entered into Milan also started to oppose footwashing. To some people, although they did not openly oppose, they started to doubt and question, “Is footwashing really a sacrament? Is it really that important that concerns salvation?”
During that time, the archbishop of Milan, Ambrosius, actually insisted in emphasizing the footwashing sacrament despite all the opposition. He even mentioned that within the province of Milan, the footwashing which they carry out is actually an orthodox tradition. There were still people then who continued to insist and persist in the fact that since the Lord Jesus was the one who taught this, therefore we should keep footwashing.
In 306 AD, a church conference was held in Spain to discuss whether footwashing is a sacrament or not. In the final resolution of what they have decided, in article number 48, it is written that they will stop all sacramental footwashing of any new believer who is going to be baptised. So with the resolution from this conference, it clearly tells us that prior to the year 306 AD, they were still carrying out the footwashing sacrament in the church. It was only after 306 AD when the conference had made this resolution did they stopped footwashing sacrament henceforth.
Based on this person’s study, there were still people who carried out footwashing during the early period of Chrisitianity. It was only after the 8th or 9th century where the Roman church declared and very forcefully stopped the footwashing sacrament, then footwashing in the churches completely stopped. So all these historical documents tell us that the disciples actually obeyed the commandment of our Lord Jesus to carry out the footwashing sacrament and this continued to be preached until later when there were opposition and only after the 8th or 9th century was footwashing completely stopped.
In the 19th century in China, a church known as the True Jesus Church emerged and claimed that they are established by the Holy Spirit and is the revival of the apostolic church. They will only obey all the teachings according to what Jesus has instructed, to pray for the promise of the Holy Spirit which evidence is the speaking in tongues and to keep and carry out the footwashing sacrament.
This caused many of the Christian denominations to be very alarmed, because they have not been carrying out footwashing as a sacrament but the True Jesus Church once again is keeping this commandment of the Lord which is the sacramental footwashing. They are also praying for the promise of the Holy Spirit just like the apostles and speaking in tongues. Even till today, when we pray in this manner, the Lord Jesus also grants us this promised Holy Spirit and we speak in tongues just as the apostles did. All of these proved that God is with us, because we obey the command of the Lord Jesus.
Will You Heed His Command?
Just like what the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 28:20 – “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Everything which the Lord had commanded, we have to teach others to observe. The sacramental footwashing is a command of the Lord Jesus. Have you heeded his command?
We ask the Lord to help us so that we can obey the command of the Lord and receive the footwashing of the Lord Jesus so that we have a part with Him. And that means we have the most precious feet.