Washing the Feet of Judas: Moving with Grace toward Your Betrayer

January 25, 2016

Erik and Kelly had been married for 15 years. On the outside they looked like your typical Christian couple. However, in recent years the irritations had been growing. Erik was less willing to talk with Kelly. Distance began to grow for what seemed like unexplainable reasons. Then one evening Erik confessed that he had had an affair a few years ago. He had hoped that hiding it from Kelly would protect their marriage, but it was now obvious that it wasn’t. Through confiding in a trusted friend, he saw how this secret was keeping him from being close to God and his wife. He knew he had to tell her, but he did not know if it would mean the end of his marriage or the beginning of honest relationship with Kelly. However, he finally understood that without honesty their marriage would continue to deteriorate.

By God’s grace, they committed to work through this devastating situation together. But it was not easy. Erik had to learn how to be faithful and trustworthy. Kelly had to learn how to love in ways that stretched her far beyond herself.

So how can someone like Kelly move toward another who has betrayed her trust? Jesus’ own betrayal can give some direction.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-5)

As an example to his followers, the King of kings postured himself to serve. In light of this shocking role reversal, one might breeze past the uncomfortable plot-twist embedded in this display of selfless serving. Jesus not only gave an example of serving, but he also presented a monumental example of gospel humility in serving his betrayer. From verse 3 we get a picture of what Jesus relied on to move toward his betrayer with grace. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God rose from supper…” So what does this mean for Kelly? What does it mean for anyone struggling with broken trust? Based on Jesus’ example, there are three things to hold tightly to as anyone moves toward a betrayer with God’s grace:

1. Hold tightly to what the Father has given you.

Jesus recalled what God had given him: “all things.” Those things were secure no matter what anyone did to him. Similarly, Kelly had to hold on tightly to God’s irrevocable love. She also learned to hold tightly to what Scripture promised her in Christ. She had been given everything she needed for life and godliness. The Lord promised to complete the work he started both in her and in Erik.

Therefore, holding tightly to the irrevocable gifts that God gives you is vital if you have experienced broken trust.

2. Hold tightly to your identity.

Jesus held on to who he was: “… he had come from God.” Why would that be tucked in there? Was Jesus tempted to forget where he came from? Would he forget the magnificent moments of the beginning of Creation when the stars were hung? Would he forget the radiance of the glory he shared with God? While we don’t know exactly what temptations Jesus could have been facing, these words call us to see the importance of who he was. In the face of betrayal Jesus knew his true identity. The blow of broken trust is so devastating that Kelly could not get through this if her identity was in Erik or anything else. Her identity had to rest fully on the fact that she was a child of God and as his child, God had invested in her. Nothing she could go through would change who she was as his child.

Therefore, when betrayal hits, your identity in anything else will increase the brokenness you feel. Cling to who you are in Christ.

3. Hold tightly to your promised future.

Finally, we see that Jesus knew his promised future: he “was going back to God.” He knew that nothing—not betrayal nor even death—would separate him from God. Although Judas’ betrayal would bring him face to face with those things, Jesus held on tightly to his promised future. Nothing can change this reality for God’s children. Kelly is God’s child, and his faithful love will never fail. She had to hang on to her promised future.

Therefore, when you face the crushing weight of broken trust let your promised future help you persevere.

Betrayal can come in many forms, but part of your healing is learning how to respond to your betrayer. Certainly consequences are inevitable; we see later in this story the grave consequences of Judas’ choices. However, Jesus entrusted himself to God and was able to move toward his betrayer and graciously wash his feet. He left us an example of gospel humility that moves toward the undeserved in the security of God’s sure promises.

Erik and Kelly are fictitious characters. Their story is a depiction of many encounters shared through counseling and marriage ministry.

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