The Christian Mandala™ shown, Jesus Washing Judas’ Foot, depicts the event described in John 13 during the Passover meal. Washing the disciple’s feet is a visual object lesson that Jesus gives to the twelve apostles.
Context. In first-century Palestine, it was common to wear sandals. The roads in Palestine were dirt, turning into mud in the rain. It was typical to go barefoot in the house, so the first duty of the host of a meal was to wash the guests’ feet before their entry. Foot washing before a feast was a task usually performed by slaves.
The first point of the lesson is humility and service. As the theologian, Frederick Dale Bruner writes in his commentary on the Gospel of John, “There is no parallel in [existing] ancient literature for a person of superior status voluntarily washing the feet of someone of inferior status.” Here we find God in the flesh performing the work of a slave, giving his disciples a lesson in humility and Christian service.
The second point of the lesson is symbolic. A comparison is made between the cleansing of feet to the purification of a person’s soul. Jesus’ washing of feet is symbolic of his work on the cross, which cleanses the souls of believers, enabling them to enter into intimate fellowship with our Lord.
The lesson: By allowing Jesus to wash our souls, we learn humility and service. We join in the heavenly feast.
The Great Reversal – Love Your Enemies
There is a great reversal in this story.
In Luke 6:27a, Jesus states, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies….” Jesus exhorts his disciples and us to love their neighbor regardless of whether they are friends, relatives, or enemies.
The thing about Jesus is that he lived out his message. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, including Judas’, at the Passover meal. This incident is an extreme example of loving one’s enemy.
Judas Iscariot is the enemy of Jesus. He betrayed Jesus.
Jesus is aware that Judas is his adversary. He highlights Judas’ nature partway through his ministry well before the arrest in the garden. (John 6:70-71.) Later, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. Yes, this includes Judas, who was already planning his betrayal of Jesus. Later, during the meal, Satan entered into Judas (John 13:27.)
Just before the betrayal, while praying for his disciples, Jesus refers to Judas as the son of perdition. (John 17:12.) This is intense language. The expression “the son of perdition” is also used in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, referring to the anti-Christ. In both cases, the phrase refers to someone of extreme wickedness.
Finally, in John 18, Judas reveals Jesus’ identity to facilitate his arrest. Judas, whose feet were just washed by Jesus, guided an armed detachment of soldiers to arrest Jesus.
Jesus knew that Judas was his adversary, yet, he washed Judas’ feet.