Loving Our Enemies

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:1–17 NRSV)

I have participated in several footwashings over the years. All of them took me out of my comfort zone and humbled me. We know the disciples were uncomfortable with the concept of Jesus washing their feet, as expressed by the dissatisfaction of Peter. We know from the other gospels that what was foremost on the minds of the disciples was who would be the greatest and sit next to Jesus in the coming Kingdom. As Jesus listens to the disciples jockeying for a heavenly position, he kneels down and washes their feet! Let me state that again in another way: Jesus washes Judas’s feet!

Jesus is demonstrating Matthew 5:43–45, where he says in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

On this eve of Good Friday, just three days from celebrating the risen Christ in our churches, let us proclaim the risen Jesus by loving and serving those who would consider us enemies. Let us pray as Jesus exhorts us to, for those whom we do not have peace with. And let us also pray that our genuine love for our enemies would be a sign and foretaste of God’s Kingdom to a world that desperately needs a risen Christ as the Savior in their lives.
Steve Weisenburger is the regional minister for the NAB Northwest.