We have all been wounded at some time by one who should have only loved us. Every life has a Judas.
His name is synonymous with betrayal. We like to vilify Judas, to make him the enemy of Christ and the Gospel. The other apostles recorded his damnation with the indelible ink of history.
The truth is, Judas was not the only traitor. The friends and family who accompanied Christ to Jerusalem basked in the cries of “Hosanna!” When Jesus spoke of his coming kingdom, they argued who would sit where. Then it became clear that the kingdom would come to earth not through glorious victory but through suffering and death. Nobody wanted to be part of that.
Jesus knew. Tonight, he said, you will all desert me. He washed their feet anyway. He prayed for Peter, knowing he would deny ever knowing Christ.
Jesus knew about Judas, too. He knew about the 30 pieces of silver before he wrapped the towel around his waist and knelt on the floor before him like a servant. He knew it as he ran his hands over the man’s grimy feet, cleansing away the stain and stink of the journey.
Later that night, Judas burst into the olive grove with an entourage of soldiers, and betrayed Christ the Lord with a kiss. As his heart was breaking, Jesus called Judas “friend.”
It is easy to kneel before Jesus, who gave up everything for us. But can you kneel at the feet of Judas? Can you wash his feet when you know his heart?
Jesus had already taught the disciples to pray for their enemies. Perhaps they imagined he meant the Romans or the Sanhedrin. They didn’t think of Judas. They didn’t think of Peter. They didn’t think of their own untrustworthy hearts.
When we pray for our enemies, we call down grace on their lives instead of comeuppance. At first our prayer is born of sheer obedience, but if we pray for our enemy diligently – daily – a change begins to take place. Prayer may not change the betrayer, but it changes the one who prays.
You cannot whisper over and over, “Lord, heal her,” without developing a true and earnest desire for your enemy to be healed. You cannot keep asking God to put bread on someone’s table without beginning to think of the surplus in your own cupboard. You cannot pray morning after morning for your enemy, your betrayer, without beginning to fall in love.
How long must you pray for an enemy? Only until the enemy goes away, and you find yourself kneeling in prayer for a friend.
So pray for Judas. Wrap the towel around your waist. Wash his feet. Love him.