It’s Thursday. The preparations have been made, and Jesus is eager to share in what will be his last Passover with his friends. There is still so much to be said. So much that will happen in the next few hours. But before any of those things transpire, there’s another matter to attend to as Jesus and his friends sit down to supper. Whether out of custom or out of necessity for a pleasant meal, their feet need to be washed. And apparently, everyone is sitting there expecting to be serviced, rather than to serve.
So, when Jesus, who is clearly the leader and most important person in their company, begins to wash their feet, they are surprised. One by one, he washes the sweat and grime off of their feet and then dries their feet with the towel wrapped around his waist. There is an exchange with Peter about what it means to be clean. And somewhere in this process, Jesus washes Judas’ feet.
What? Why would Jesus serve the one who he clearly knows is about to betray him? Was it just a ruse to keep the others from figuring out what was about to happen for fear that they might try and whisk Jesus away to safety or that they would turn on Judas in a most unpleasant manner? Why would Jesus care? Why did he wash Judas’ feet? Because in spite of all the pain Jesus was about to suffer because of Judas’ wicked choice, Judas was still one of Jesus’ disciples. He was still a part of the company. He still was an image bearer of God, loved by God, and loved by Christ. To serve him, to wash his feet, was to serve God.
In marriage, we are called on to be selfless rather than selfish—to give of ourselves for the blessing of the one with whom we share our covenant relationship. But we also live in a fallen world. We make mistakes. Whether massive, looming things like infidelity, or frequent little jabs meant to cause pain, we hurt our mates, and our mates hurt us.
I don’t know where you are at in your marriage. I hope you haven’t had to go through betrayal, or pain caused by irresponsible choices, or that your circumstances haven’t caused you to question and mistrust your spouse. But what do you do when there is tension, hurt, the sting of uncertainty? Jesus says you serve your mate. Your wash his/her feet. You live in the reality of the situation, but you don’t let it cause you to compromise who you are as a child of God. In serving your mate, you serve God in whose image your spouse is made.
I don’t know how easy it was for Jesus to wash Judas’ feet. I’m guessing it wasn’t easy at all. But he did it. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus said “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” We call it the Golden Rule. The problem is, most people think it says “treat other people the way that they have treated you.” Seek vengeance. Blow for blow. Hurt for hurt. Insult for insult. But that’s not what Jesus said. Treat your spouse the way you want to be treated. No matter what he/she has done to you. Is it easy to serve your mate, especially in seasons of pain? No. But when you do, you are reaching out from the very heart of God.
Links to the previous posts for Marriage and Holy Week: