In the Seventh-day Adventist Church we follow the instruction of Jesus in John 13 concerning the preparation and practice of the Communion service: “You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (verses 13–15).
One day as I was thinking about Communion and the foot-washing service [see sidebar] I thought about the disciples and what it would be like to wash the feet of someone who’d been walking along dusty roads and perhaps not had a bath for days, maybe even weeks. Yuck, I thought. I don’t think I’d like to do that! It was only a brief thought, yet I now know that it was registered in the books in heaven.
Many months later, I can’t remember the date, but I was a deaconess in my church, and it was Communion Sabbath day. The women headed to a room, where we would wash one another’s feet and pray for one another. As I headed toward the door, I noticed a young woman quickly duck into a side room. She was mentally challenged but was able to live on her own. She could also be difficult to get along with, but my heart always went out to her, because she was always alone. I decided to go and talk with her. As I entered the room, she looked up, startled. “Hi, Edie,” I said. “I was just heading into footwashing and wondered if I could wash your feet?”
“I don’t want to wash your feet,” she replied.
“Oh, no, honey, that’s OK,” I replied. “You don’t have to wash my feet. I just want to serve you today.”
“I don’t want to,” Edie said.
“That’s OK, but in case you should change your mind, I’ll wait for you.”
I joined the other ladies and had the opportunity to wash the feet of a dear sister in Christ and pray with her. I had stayed by to help clean up after everyone else had left when I noticed Edie standing by the door. I went over to her with a basin of water and a towel and said, “Did you change your mind, Edie?” She nodded her head yes as she sat down in a chair. I placed the basin at her feet and helped her remove her bobby socks—and what I saw pierced my heart. Filthy, dirty, cracked, and swollen feet met my eyes. The Lord then brought into my mind the thought I’d had several months earlier, and I knew that God had planned this encounter just for me. I sympathized with her as I tenderly bathed those precious feet. I don’t know when those feet had ever seen soap and water. I carefully dried them as tears ran down my face. I helped her put her socks back on, and then I put my arms around her and held her tight as I prayed for her.
God knew I needed this experience. It makes me wonder what else is hidden in my hard heart that I’m not aware of, that’s displeasing to Him.
Edie and I went into the sanctuary and partook of Communion together as God bonded our hearts to one another and to Himself.
I wish I could say this story had a happy ending. Little did I know that the Lord had asked me to anoint Edie for her burial. The next morning she was found murdered in her small trailer. The murderer was never found. But God marks her grave, and she was and is very precious to Him—and to me!
Jesus’ example of footwashing is for us
Before He instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1–17). This apparently took His disciples by surprise, because Peter reacted very strongly. He said, “You shall never wash my feet” (verse 8). After all, washing feet was the duty of a servant! But that was Jesus’ point. His disciples had been arguing about which of them would be the greatest in His kingdom (Matthew 18:1; Mark 9:34), and He wanted them to understand that the greatest person is the one who serves others.
Seventh-day Adventists practice footwashing as part of the Communion service. It immediately precedes the serving of the bread and the wine. And the reason is simple. Jesus said to His disciples, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:13–15, emphasis added).
Jesus’ disciples held divisive attitudes, and the same thing often happens among Christians today. Like Sandy, in our story, we sometimes come to the Communion service with feelings of anger, pride, or jealousy. The foot-washing service provides an opportunity for correcting these wrong attitudes and making amends where necessary before we partake of the emblems of Christ’s body and blood.