Thursday, February 10, 2011

Washing The Feet Of A Traitor

It is striking that the Bible deliberately points out Judas' connection with Satan in the very context of Jesus' washing of his disciple's feet.
"During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas betray him, Jesus...rose from supper... Then he...began to wash the disciples' feet..." John 13:2-4, ESV
We probably all understand the main point here, of Jesus' humble love and servant's heart. Foot washing was the job of "non-Jewish slaves," and people of this culture had dirty feet from walking "long distances on dusty roads in sandals"(ESV Study Bible notes).

But consider another aspect of Jesus' humility in this passage: his love shown to Judas, the one he knew would betray him and bring about the circumstances of his painful death. Jesus washed Judas' feet. Feet that were moments away from walking out the door to sell Jesus out. Jesus washed the feet of a traitor.

Scripture plainly tells us that Satan had already put this idea into Judas' heart. Which means that while Jesus was washing Judas' feet, Judas was thinking about betraying him. And just after the washing, and Jesus' call to his disciples to do the same for each other, Jesus became "troubled in his spirit, and testified, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me'" (v21). This shows us that Jesus wasn't laughing off the betrayal. It hurt him; "troubled" him in his spirit, to think about it. And yet he loved.

Satan had put the idea of betrayal into Judas' heart before the washing. And just afterward, when Judas took a morsel of bread from Jesus, "Satan entered into him" (v27). This was a man in league with Satan himself, and Jesus washed his feet!

Do we have limits to our love? Are there people whose feet we would more readily wash than others? Some people are just easier to love. Do we pour out love on these and go away feeling that we have obeyed Christ? What about those who are hard for us to love? It's ok to be "troubled" by someone. But still we must love. Jesus had preached about loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Now he practiced what he had preached.

Sure, we understand the difference between God's saving, covenant love for his own people, and his general, "common" love for unbelievers. He doesn't love everyone the same way; there is a special love reserved for the redeemed who make up his bride. But let's stand in awe that God does show love to even his enemies. "For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45).

And he washed a traitor's feet.

"I have given you an example" (v15).
Let's go and do likewise.

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