Not just my feet, Lord, but all of me!


The Mass of the Last Supper is celebrated in the evening on Holy Thursday. The Gospel reading, which is from John’s Gospel, recounts Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. 

It was customary in Hebrew culture, a hospitality ritual, to wash the feet of those who are invited to a meal. The host arranged for the feet of his guests to be washed. The ritual was performed either by a servant, or by the host’s wife, or his children. 

The practice came about because people wore sandals and travelled on unpaved roads; dust and grime accumulated on their feet. Offering to wash the feet of travellers when they entered the host’s home became a sign of welcome and care. 

When Jesus met with his friends for the meal in the upper room, he knew that he had been betrayed and that his death was imminent. Out of love for his friends, he chose to show them how they should behave, even and especially towards those who plotted against them, or failed, like Peter, to appreciate their part in God’s plan. 

For many of us, our faith in Christ is reflected in Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ invitation to wash his feet and in his denial of Jesus in a moment of weakness. May this Gospel Enquiry help in some small way to strengthen your faith in Jesus. May you come to accept that faith in Jesus is a gift intended for use for the whole of our lives.

The Gospel 

It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, and he got up from table, removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘Never!’ said Peter ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ said Simon Peter ‘not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus said, ‘No one who has taken a bath needs washing, he is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.’ He knew who was going to betray him, that was why he said, ‘though not all of you are.’

When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’ he said ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.’ (John 13:1-15)(Universalis)

The Enquiry 


  • Make a list of the elements of this Gospel. Pay attention to the interaction between Jesus and Peter.   
  • Why does Jesus want to wash the feet of his disciples? Why does Peter protest?   
  • From your perspective, what happens in the world today because Jesus washed his disciples’ feet?  


  • When Jesus says, “I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you”, do you think it applies to you? Or is it something that priests do?
  • Philip Yancey says that some people view copying Jesus’ action as being primitive, rural and unsophisticated? What do you think?   
  • How is your faith affirmed/challenged by what you read in this Gospel? 


  • What do you want to change in the world so that “washing others’ feet” is integral to culture, life and faith? 
  • What small action can you take that will contribute to bringing about this change? When and where will you carry out the action and how often? 
  • Who can you involve in your action and how, when and how often will you get them to participate in your action?

Author: Pat Branson 

Image source: Jesus washing the feet of apostles – altar painting ( 1400 / 1420 ) from Mainz, German National Museum, Nuremberg, Germany,  Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED

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