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John 13:5 (NKJV)

5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

Christ clearly states that one of them will betray him,but he goes on & washes all their feet.

Since Christ had indicated earlier on to Peter the significance of washing feet

Why did he still wash Judas feet?

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Jesus does not explain on that occasion why He is washing the Apostles' feet, but He tells Peter, What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this (John 13:7).

The understanding here is that Jesus was teaching a lesson in humility. Theophylact explains:

"You do not yet understand that I am teaching you humility. But after this you shall see Me ascending into heaven ... Then you will know that He Who humbled Himself and washed your feet is the same One Who ascended into heaven ... Then you will understand that My power and majesty are not diminished in the slightest when I display humility. Having learned that humility elevates one to the heights, you too will embrace it."*

Given that Jesus' purpose in washing the Apostles feet was to demonstrate His humility toward man, I do not think His declining to wash Judas' feet along with the others' would have accorded with this purpose. After all, He had the power to decline crucifixion, but submitted Himself not only to the one who betrayed Him but even to those who committed the physical act, even begging forgiveness for them as they were in the midst of committing it (Luke 23:34).


* Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. John (tr. from Greek, Chrysostom Press, 2007), p.212

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St. John Crysostom gives an insightful commentary on this scene; his conclusion was that it was to convince Judas not to betray Him, to give him occasion to reconsider his intentions freely, and not by compulsion, by offering him a gesture of the uttermost kindness and humility (though God—cf. Phil 2:5-11):

... Let us see also what He does now towards the disciples, or rather what actions He now exhibits towards the traitor. The man whom most of all there was reason to hate, because being a disciple, having shared the table and the salt, having seen the miracles and been deemed worthy of such great things, he acted more grievously than any, not stoning indeed, nor insulting Him, but betraying and giving Him up, observe in how friendly sort He receives this man, washing his feet; for even in this way He desired to restrain him from that wickedness. Yet it was in His power, had He willed it, to have withered him like the fig-tree, to have cut him in two as He rent the rocks, to have cleft him asunder like the veil; but He would not lead him away from his design by compulsion, but by choice. Wherefore He washed his feet; and not even by this was that wretched and miserable man shamed.

St. John Chrysostom, Homily 70, 1.

(emphasis mine)

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The interchange between Jesus and Judas during the passover celebration is very powerful. The timeline of events during the supper is critical to understand the answer to your question. If proper comparisons are made between the Synoptics and Johns gospel it becomes clear that the foot washing event happened early in the evening. Maybe one of the first things even before the eating of the meal, and certainly before the institution of the bread and cup is established. The Footwashing is a symbol of humility and servanthood, which is an important lesson Jesus wants to leave with His disciples who have been arguing continuously about, "who among them is the greatest". (even at this very event they were bickering). The interesting part of this narrative is that if followed to it's end in John's account you realize that Judas was not present when Jesus actually instituted the Eucharist, which makes sense since unbelievers are not permitted to partake. The difference with Judas being allowed to have his feet washed was that Jesus wanted to set the precident for all His disciples, that they were to humbly serve all mankind believer and unbeliever alike.

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Judas had fixed the deal to betray Jesus. At the table, when Jesus announced that one of them was going to betray him Judas was troubled, he feared getting caught. If Jesus was not captured, Judas's very own life was in danger by betraying the Jewish theocracy. There was fear in Judas's heart, was his cover blown?, should he return the money?, should he keep it? He was walking on thin ice. He wanted to betray Jesus discreetly, without anyone knowing. Jesus felt Judas's turmoil and washed his feet. By washing his feet, the Lord put Judas at peace. Judas was reassured that his cover was not blown and went on to fulfill the scriptures in Isiah by betraying Jesus. Only Jesus has the power to put the evil ones at ease that they' are not being watched. They can go about their crafty schemes until judgement day comes.

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Why does Jesus wash Judas' feet? I do not think we get the full answer in the immediate context, however I think the answer is revealed in other passages as we learn about God's love for sinners and relentless desire to save them.

Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’ EZ. 33:11 NASB

Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? EZ 18:23

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matt 9:10

But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. Luke 23:34

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Jesus washed Judas's feet in order to follow righteousness. Jesus allowed himself to be baptised by John similarly, to follow righteousness. He fed bread to the children, to follow righteousness. In other words, He needed to follow the letter of the law, before following the spirit of the law. Jesus did not need to be baptised, but Jews who showed fruit worthy of repentance had to be baptized for Israel to be taken back into the covenant. The children were made vessels of dishonor, but they needed to be allowed to reject the bread, in order to manifest, expose, their disobedience, so that all would receive mercy, be saved by grace.

What was the letter of the law in Judas's case? Since all who showed fruit worthy of repentance could not be denied baptism, Judas was baptised. Similarly, when he confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, he would have been baptized in Christ's name. Going forward, when he gave up all he had, Jesus would have washed his feet. Outward action is responded with following of righteousness, the letter of the law. Judas may not have meant any of his actions, internally, spiritually, he may have been unclean, unfaithful, but his outward acts needed a lawful response.

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Interesting question because it may impact the idea of a water baptism regeneration that some have taught for centuries. To be clear, prior to Christ's resurrection, they had only gone through the baptism of repentance.

Anyway, the Lord and disciples are at the meal; Judas Isacariat is present. Jesus gets up, washes their feet, returns to the meal, announces that one will betray Him, dips the bread, and hands it to Judas.

The OP asks, why wash Judas' feet?

Jesus replied, "The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you."

In other words, they had been baptized (cleansed), but either Judas had not been baptized by John or had been, but to no effect. Washing feet would not cleanse him, nor would eating the bread bring him to the kingdom.

As another mentioned, there was also the lesson of humility, of service to be taught and learned.

  • This comment assumes that water baptism is a requirement for 'salvation' and there are a total of about 2 verses read without the context of the entire NT can make it seem this way. A great way to really dig into this is to ask the question: "when does a person receive the indwelling Holy Spirit? 1 verse makes it seem like it's at baptism (Acts 2:38) but Acts 10 proves this not the case as well as every other reference of when it's declared a person receives the Holy Spirit. – Lionsden Nov 18 '19 at 21:09

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