Summary: This text challenges us to ask if we could serve those who have ill will toward us; it also challenges us to ask if others see us as their Judas.
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. 20Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” 21After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately (John 13:1-30; NRSV)
In this scene, we see Jesus sharing the Passover meal with His disciples. The other gospels inform us that it was at this meal when He instituted His supper. The text tells us that after the meal, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet; this was done as an object lesson on humility and service to others. What is striking about this object lesson is that Jesus washes the feet of Judas, the man who planned to betray Him.
Let’s think about the magnanimity of the love of Jesus. He divested Himself of His glory, en-fleshed Himself in humanity and then disrobed Himself to serve the ones who served Him. But on top of all of that, He presents Himself as a servant to a man that He knows will betray Him.
I am fully aware that our goal is to be imitators of Christ, but I do not know if I could wash the feet of my Judas. I may pray for my Judas. I may make every effort to give ‘coals of kindness’ to my Judas and to treat my Judas with respect (even if it is not returned). I may even go out of my way to avoid an intentional confrontation with my Judas (because it may not end well for one or both of us). But to present myself as a servant to my assassin – that is another matter. As much as I want to live for Jesus, I do not know if I could do that.