The scene opens with Jesus and the twelve, and those attending them, gathered in a second story room celebrating the Passover. Jesus had sent Peter and John ahead earlier that day to prepare for the meal and in all of the rush, the custom of washing guests’ feet as they entered had been overlooked. No one seemed to mind, though. No servants had been at the door to take care of it, and the disciples all knew that role was beneath them.
The formalities had begun, with the first two cups being passed, and now they were on to the meal. The discussions at the table ranged widely, but the most common were about the strange things Jesus had been saying lately…something about death and sacrifice and that his hour had come. None of them could make heads or tails of it.
Suddenly, right in the middle of dinner, Jesus got up and walked to the doorway. All eyes followed him, brows furrowed with wonder, as he shed his robe and outer garments. Stripped to a simple tunic, he picked up the large servant’s towel used to dry washed feet and wrapped it around himself. Murmurs filled the room. He picked up a basin, filled it with water and headed back to the table where the rest were reclining on pillows. Jesus began to wash their feet. All eating stopped and many felt sick to their stomachs. Jesus had done some crazy things over the three years they had known him but this…never anything like this.
For Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, this was the last straw. He had already had his doubts, and this sealed the deal. How could the Messiah, the supposed conquering king of Israel who would deliver them from Rome, stoop so low as to wash the feet of his followers? His blood boiled with disdain as Jesus came to him. What good was all the power that Jesus had displayed if he was going to take this posture, that of a house servant? Darkness filled his eyes and his mind. His decision was made.
The enemy would have his way with Judas.
We often think of the humility Jesus demonstrated by washing the disciples feet that night, but rarely about that specific interaction between Jesus and Judas. Peter, as usual, stole the limelight with his verbal outbursts, and it gave Judas the chance to steal away and meet with the Jewish leaders.
Jesus, in love and humility, became a servant to the one he knew would betray him just hours later. He demonstrated just how low he would go to obey the will of his father: from the creator of all, to a servant, to a convict dying a humiliating death on a cross.
In light of what Jesus has done to establish the kingdom, how far are we, his family, willing to go to obey his leading for us? Whose feet are we willing to wash?