Thirteen men gathered in an upper room to engage in the solemn remembrance of Passover. The commemoration of the children of Israel’s deliverance from bondage was a powerful testimony to the grace of God in bringing the people out of Egypt. This feast reminded the Jews of the last supper eaten before deliverance (Exodus 12). On this night it was especially meaningful; at least on the part of Jesus. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). He knew this would be His last Passover but He also knew He would become the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7)
John records how the devil entered the heart of Judas to betray Jesus and then the Lord rising from the supper, laying aside His garments and began washing the disciples feet. Cupping a foot in one hand Jesus would gently wash and dry and move to the next foot and repeat for all twelve men. The only conversation recorded during this event is when Peter objected and the Lord’s reply. Somewhere in those twenty-four feet is Judas. Stooping down in front of him the Son of God takes water and washes the feet of the one who would betray him to death in a matter of hours. How could Judas sit there and let Jesus wash his feet? What was he thinking and how did he not say or do something? Jesus knew what Judas was going to do and yet He washed his feet also.
Judas shows the depravity of a man consumed by a jealous need for wealth and power. Sadly he only received thirty pieces of silver for his treacherous act and this was the price of a slave. His fame would not be on the lips of those who would raise his name up in glory but rather to be known throughout the ages as the betrayer. Matthew and John (fellow apostles) would refer to him later as the one who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 10:4; John 18:2,5). Mark would also note the betrayer (Mark 3:19). Jesus touched Judas feet with tenderness and love yet Judas’ heart was filled with betrayal. The Lord washed the apostle’s feet with water soothing the rough exterior of weary feet but Judas would sell his teacher to a band of hateful men who would bathe the Son of God in blood.
Jesus finished washing the feet of the apostles and taught them a lesson of servanthood. Judas was in attendance. “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me’” (John 13:16-18). Jesus washed Judas’ heel. And now that cleansed ‘heal’ would be lifted up against the Son of God. The Lord told him how to find happiness and all Judas found was misery hanging himself in the end.
The lesson of Jesus washing the feet of Judas is striking to collect the imagery of the betrayed serving the betrayer. Jesus was dying for Judas also. The love of God’s Son was not limited to the eleven but Judas also. How difficult it must have been for the love of Jesus towards Judas knowing what His disciple would do shortly. But he bent low before Iscariot and placed his feet within His hands and washed off the filth of the world. Did He hold onto Judas’ feet a little longer? Were there tears in the eyes of Jesus when He washed Judas’ feet?
From the beginning the Lord lived the sermon He taught His followers on the mountain. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48). Jesus shows His love for all men including Judas. He did good to him and He was troubled because of what Judas was going to do (John 13:21).
The lesson Jesus taught that day was not just for the men sitting with Him at Passover. There is a great need to learn the lesson of feet washing today as we care for others. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). Jesus was not suggested the literal washing of feet as a dogma of the church but rather the application of His lesson to learn to serve others – even our enemies. Paul would expound on this principle in writing to the church at Phillipi. “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1-5).
When problems arise it may be time to wash some feet. If I have a person that is an enemy I must learn to humble myself to wash his feet. Especially within the body of Christ we are to “esteem others better than ourselves” and try very hard to look out for others above self. A lot of fussing and quarrelling would be removed if we had the heart of a foot washer. Jesus washed the feet of Judas. Can we do any less? The hand of the foot washer begins with the heart. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13). Remember – Jesus washed your feet.