Foot washing was a sign of common courtesy. What seems odd to us was not odd whatsoever in the first century. Most people wore sandals and most people walked from here to there. The roads were extremely dusty. Even the shortest of trips meant that your feet would end up dirty. Then, when you add into the equation livestock roaming everywhere and doing there business on the roads wherever they felt the need, you can only imagine the gross and disgusting state of a walker’s feet. So, it was common in the ancient world to provide a basin of water for visitors to have their feet washed as they entered into a home. That custom goes back so far that the first four mentions of the word “feet” in the Bible involve washing dirty feet and are found in Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32 and 43:24).
To not offer water for a guest to have his feet washed was seen as a breach of etiquette.
Foot washing was the work of the servants.
During Biblical times, a person would wash his own feet unless a person possessed servants. If a man had servants, the servant would be commanded to wash the feet of each guest. The master would never stoop so low as to wash feet. Slaves washed feet. Masters never did and yet our Master, Lord, and Savior … the Lamb of God … our perfect example humbled Himself and did what only a servant was commanded to do. Why? Because He knew that if we wanted to be a blessing to people, we would have to embrace what I like to call basin theology.
Look with me again at verses 3-5, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” Can you see the humility in those verses? Jesus set aside His status to serve. Again Why? Because Jesus knew that humble service turns heads and when people notice, He gets the glory for the difference that He can make in a totally yielded heart.
I am talking about being a blessing and displaying a little humility.