“Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.”
Jesus washed the feet of His disciples
Where the soil is dry and dusty and sandals or similar footwear is worn, frequent washing of the feet is not only a luxury, but a necessity for comfort and health. It is, also, extremely refreshing, as anyone knows who has bathed their feet in cool water when they’re dusty and hot. Under such circumstances, it’s great hospitality and consideration to see that the feet of guests are washed with cool water. Just as important as feeding them when they’re hungry, or giving them a place to rest when they’re tired. Not to do so would be discourteous and even insulting.
In Genesis 24:32, it tells how Rebekah’s family gave Abraham’s servant and the men who were with him water to wash their feet, “So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet.” In Genesis 43:24 it tells how Joseph’s servant gave water to Joseph’s brothers, “The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys.”
It is this courtesy of providing water for washing that Jesus refers to when He mildly reproves Simon the Pharisee, at whose house He was a guest, for not giving Him water to wash his feet: “Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair” (Luke 7:44).
When the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about the qualifications necessary for a widow be provided for by the Church, he listed foot washing among them: “… and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds” (1 Timothy 5:10). All of these were signs that the person had committed her life to serving others. If she had done this, then it was the responsibility of the Church to provide for her.
These signs of a servant give force to the beautiful symbolic action of our Lord, Who washed the feet of His disciples, so that His disciples might see how they were to act toward each other after He was gone. No one was to be master or lord it over another, each was to be a servant of the other. (John 13:4–15)
Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (Rev. ed.].) (25–26). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.