He washed Judas Iscariot’s feet.
The devil had already sown the seeds of betrayal in Judas’ heart, and Jesus knew it full well. He let Judas know that he knew it. And he washed Judas’ feet.
Later, at supper, he passed a piece of bread to Judas. He placed his life in Judas’ hands, even having seen what was in his heart. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the most bitter end.
Peter would deny him. Judas would betray him. He washed their feet anyway.
He made no excuse for Judas’ actions. He did not condone them, but neither did he look away. The more faithlessly Judas acted, the more faithful Jesus was to their friendship, to his mission of love, of forgiveness, of salvation, which is needful only for sinners.
It is precisely in our sinfulness that he seeks us out and saves us, not because he condones our sin, but because he is sinless.
He washed Judas’ feet, because no one’s sin could turn him from his cause. He would not betray himself.
Alan E. Lewis, writing “A Theology of Holy Saturday,” explains it partly this way:
Grace lets sin be and gives it space and scope; but thereby grace matches it and goes beyond. The essential mark of grace and love is their abundance, not reducing but surpassing the power and range of negativity and sin …
God loves us precisely as rebellious enemies, and accepts the reign of death within us: our revolt and God’s deposing; and by showing us a love greater in quality and depth than our lovelessness, God reconciles us and makes us friends.[i]
Jesus washed Judas’ feet not because of his betrayal, nor even despite it. Jesus washed Peter’s feet and laughed at his eagerness for a bath, knowing that even Simon Peter would soon deny him.
Jesus washed his disciples’ feet because he could do no other than to act out of grace and love. He would not borrow the methods of sin and death to defeat sin and death. He would only overwhelm them with the creative life force, the forgiving and renewing grace and love of God.
So he washed Judas’ feet. Then he told them all, “Go, and do likewise.”
[i] Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001), 96