Jesus rose from the table, stripped naked, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He poured water into a basin, then knelt to wash his friends’ feet, foot by dirty foot.
Dusty and dirty, nomad feet. Feet like those of their shepherd, the man who had no place to lay his head, no place to call home. One of them, Peter, protested when Jesus came to him. Jesus stopped. Looked at Peter. And said, Washing your feet is everything. (Otherwise, you will have no part with me.)
John’s portrayal of Jesus washing feet is that of an artist, almost surreal with imagery more than depiction. John included this whisper of a story in substitution of the Maundy Thursday institution of the Holy Eucharist found in the other Gospels. Perhaps John intended the washing of the feet to interpret the Eucharist. The Eucharist is holy because it represents healthy self-sacrifice and service.
Of-course Jesus washed all of his friends’ feet, creviced and calloused, blackened by dirt and time, twenty-four feet in all, taking each foot with his own two hands, plus love. I wonder, did Jesus wash them with tears like the repentant woman washed his feet with her tears? Were those tears part of the passion? Such devotion.
The hour has come. And, John offers this gratuitous view, “[h]aving loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
To the end, as though Jesus’ love for the twelve was time-bound. He loved them from the moment of their call, Follow me, to the moment of his own death, it is finished. Marked both by a beginning and ending, bounded by time. To the end, day in and day out, to the moment of crucifixion. Jesus loved them. All of them.
Judas Iscariat, and Jesus washed both of Judas’ caked and cracked feet. Judas, sandwiched (perhaps) between Bartholomew and James. Jesus loved Judas to the end.
Love, the love of God. The old hymn reports God’s love as being boundless, unattainable, so deep, so broad, so high. Scripture offers marriage as a metaphor, with its love. Two people in marriage become one. Becoming one is poetry that refracts reality. One soul at some subterranean level becomes entangled with another soul, so much so that upon dissolution, be it by divorce or death, a violence occurs – a tearing apart. Love, then, is not the feelings of infatuation, but a state of being joined to another. A condition.
Jesus loved them all, loved them to the end. The Jerusalem Bible interprets the verse differently: [Jesus] had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was. [By washing their feet.] “How perfect” elevates Jesus’ love from the bounds of time here below to the eternal above. It is not that Jesus endured and that his love towards his disciples endured until he was crucified, but rather, that he loved them eternally. He loved them to the end in that he loved them absolutely in a way that is not bound by time.He was bound to them – period. No starting, and no ending. Full love.
Abide in my love, live there, make your home there. (In my father’s house are many mansions.)
Jesus turned to Judas, looked him in the eye with love that was complete and invited him in. Jesus had bound himself to Judas as he did to all the others by eternal – complete – love long before that moment at the table. Which is why Jesus washed Judas’ feet.
Jesus’ love for Judas did not end at the cross. It has not ended still. Because his love is perfect.