Why Jesus Washed Judas’ Feet at the Last Supper
Our reflections on the Last Supper usually focus on the table. We talk about the bread and the cup and the institution of the Eucharist. But in the Gospel of John we hear a different take on this gathering, namely, the washing of the disciples' feet. Tonight I realized something rather profound about this simple act of humility that I had never before considered—Jesus washed Judas' feet at the Last Supper.
It might not seem like a big deal to you, but I’ve never thought about it from this perspective. I knew that Jesus was aware of the fact that He would be betrayed by one of His own disciples and that He even knew which one it would be. But how could He proceed to wash the feet of the man who would betray Him, leading eventually to His suffering and death? Why would He do this?
A Lesson in Love
I would submit that He did it for a very good reason indeed. Jesus is love personified, love incarnate. He is what love looks like alive and breathing. This is not love as we see it today, a mere emotion, but true love. For Him to wash the feet of Judas is powerful. It takes perfect love to do something like that.
Through this example Jesus shows us that even our enemies are deserving of our love, not just through our prayers, but through our actions. We can’t say “I love you” in our minds and then not act on it. For if we are to call ourselves Christians and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, then we are to love our enemies enough to overcome whatever has set us at odds with each other and touch them. To touch someone, especially their feet, is an entrance into a certain intimacy which requires trust and, of course, love.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
~ 1 John 4:20
The Profound Power of Love
It may seem trivial at first, but touch is powerful. Most of the healings and miracles that Jesus performed involved touching of some sort, usually Him reaching out and touching people—their eyes, their ears, their hand. On various occasions those He touched were people who hadn’t felt touched by the hands of another person in a long time. Perhaps out of fear or hatred, but Jesus overcame that out of love.
The example of Blessed Pope John Paul II comes to mind. After surviving an assassination attempt, he began to visit his would be murderer in prison. This is the last thing most of us would do were we in his shoes, but it is what the Gospel calls us to. It shocks us to even imagine it because it is so out of the ordinary, nobody lives this way. In fact, his reaching out eventually led to the conversion of the man. His life was turned upside down. That’s what happens when you live the Gospel. You insight drastic change in the lives of others.
Jesus loved the unloved, the unlovable. We all have people in our lives who we love to hate, those we find so difficult to love. For whatever reason, we have firmly resolved that these people are undeserving of our love. We have decided not to love them. But this is not the Gospel. In washing Judas’ feet, Jesus is showing us that we are not to be selective with our love. We have received in abundance the boundless love of God, and so we are to shower that love on others. Regardless of what a person says or does we are to love them, never to hold back.
Who in your life do you feel most challenged to love?