Read Psalm 35.
In the ancient world of sandals, dirt roads, and animal transport, it’s an understatement to say feet got dirty. In fact, even the word dirty isn’t quite right, as it wasn’t just dirt that got caked between toes. It’s not surprising, then, that the job of washing people’s feet was normally reserved for servants and slaves. But in John 13, Jesus got up from the table, wrapped a towel around His waist, grabbed a basin full of water, and began scrubbing soles.
He washed the crud off Peter’s feet, the gunk off John’s, and the sludge off Andrew’s. He went around the room, making filthy feet clean. Somewhere in the mix, he knelt down in front of Judas to humbly serve the man who would betray him. Jesus knew what was lurking in Judas’ heart, and yet He chose to wash his feet anyway (John 13:2–5; 12–18).
In Psalm 35, David seems to understand that wounds from a friend cut deepest: “They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother” (vv. 12–14). In other words, David had been a true friend to the men who now seek his life.
As he has done before, David asks God to step in and intercede. He doesn’t seek his own vengeance; he leaves it to the God who sees all. This may seem like a small difference, but it is enormous. The worst thing that can happen to a person who is the victim of some sort of betrayal is that he or she changes as a result. They can drag David’s name through the mud, they can cheer when he falls, and they can even take his life, but they cannot change David’s heart—not unless David lets them. David has chosen to seek God, rising to His level, rather than sinking to the level of his enemies. After all he’s been through, I suspect he is still the sort of person who would fast and pray for these men, should they fall ill again.
I’ve often wondered why Jesus washed Judas’ feet. He’s known Judas will betray Him for a long while at this point (John 6:70), and sometime during their meal, He will tell Judas to leave and get on with his treachery (13:27), so why not say something before going to the trouble of washing the man’s feet?
There is beauty in the washing of an enemy’s feet, not because the feet or the man they’re attached to are particularly beautiful, but because the one who washes is. The Savior of the world served a man who was about to do something that would make him wish he’d never been born (Matthew 26:24). Judas chose the path of greed; Jesus chose the path of love. Neither Judas nor the devil who inspired him could change Jesus’ heart. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).