One reason Jesus washed the disciples’ feet is because he loved them and wanted to serve them by practicing hospitality.
The custom of washing feet as hospitality has roots among the peoples of the Ancient Near East. Thus, examples of foot washing are found throughout the OT scriptures beginning with Genesis.
Since Jesus came to fulfill the Scriptures, it is no coincidence that echoes from OT can be heard in the NT.
With that in mind, here’s a fun biblical-theological exercise to try at home:
+ Look for and listen to the echoes between the two stories:
lifted up (Gen. 18:2) = rose up, lifted up (John 13:4, 18)
bowed down (18:2) = implied by wash and wipe feet (13:5)
favor (18:3) = love (13:1)
pass by (18:3, 5) = Passover (13:1)
servant (18:3, 5) = implied by towel (13:4)
water (18:4) = water (13:5)
wash feet (18:4) = wash feet (13:5-14)
bread (18:5) = bread (13:18)
LORD (18:1, 3) = Lord (13:9, 13, 14, 16)
do (18:5) = do (13:6, 17)
Stories like these, with intertextual connections like these, help us to see, hear, and feel the unity of the Spirit in the Story of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
- Just as Abraham welcomed “god-men” to his tent and practiced hospitality towards him, so the God-man Jesus — the Word made flesh who tented among us — welcomed friends and enemies to himself and practiced true hospitality towards them by washing their feet.
- Interestingly, when Abraham offered to wash the feet of the “god-men” they said, “Do as you have said.” But when Jesus tried to wash Simon Peter’s feet, he said, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”A proud man resists what the Humble God receives: gracious love and service.