Sequence of Holy Communion events

Question:

“During the Lord’s Supper and feet-washing, did Jesus Christ wash the feet of Judas Iscariot?”

Response

The Scripture makes it clear that Judas Iscariot left the venue of feet-washing and communion after the dipping of sop in the dish (i.e. after the Lord had indicated he would be betrayed by one who would dip the sop with him in the dish). However, as I will shortly demonstrate, the dipping of the sop was not that of the Holy Communion but the ‘ordinary’ part of the supper.

To understand the answer to the above question we must establish when feet-washing was done: was it before or after the dipping of the sop? And most importantly, how do we reconcile the sequence of events as given in Luke which seem to suggest, contrary to records in the other Gospels, that Judas was present at the time when the Holy Communion was administered by the Lord?

Many Christians read John chapter 13 and believe that feet-washing was done after Holy Communion. However, a simple closer look at the passage actually reveals the opposite. The misunderstanding of placing feet-washing after the Holy Communion (or Lord’s Supper) arises because of this KJV English phrase, “And supper being ended”, found in   Joh.13:2-5. But verse 4 of this scripture  actually shows that when the Lord took the basin to start washing the disciples feet the supper was actually still going on. If supper had ended the Scripture would never have said “He riseth from supper” (v.4). Thankfully many other Bible versions have the correct phrase for John 13:4. Here is what some versions say: “The evening meal was in progress…” (NIV), “During supper…” (English Standard Version and also in Numeric English New Testament), “The evening meal was underway…” (Berean Study Bible).

Now, here is another important thing to note: the supper or evening meal doesn’t refer to the Holy Communion. The Holy Communion was done at a certain point DURING or AFTER the supper. Its occurrence was marked by the Lord taking bread and blessing it – “And as they were eating [the evening meal], Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body” (Mat.26:26). There is clearly no way for the benediction to have come after the disciples were already eating the bread and drinking the wine; what the Lord did signified that holy part of the supper or communion. Having established this, here should be the correct sequence of what happened:

  1. The Lord and disciples gather at the venue for the Passover meal. It is evening time and they are eating their evening meal.
  1. A contention arises among the disciples of who is the greatest among them; “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Do you remember that this contention had previously occurred among the disciples when the Lord had pointed to a little child to illustrate how they were supposed to be humble? The story is found in Luke 9:46-48. This time however, when they were on the supper table and the same conversation ensued again, the Lord stopped eating, moved away from the table and humbled himself as a servant to his disciples. Here is what Luke mentions: “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luk.22:27). The Gospel of John went further to narrate how Jesus demonstrated servant-hood by taking a basin of water and  clean the feet of the disciples (Joh.13:5).
  1. When the Lord came to Peter and had admonished him saying, if he refused to be washed then he wasn’t a part of Christ and Peter then had desired for his hands and head to be washed too, the Lord said: “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all” (Joh.13:10). Ofcourse the one not clean was Judas. At this time Judas was still around as the Scripture says he only left after sopping into the dish with the Lord.
  1. In John 13:12 we read that after washing the feet of the disciples the Lord went back to sit on the table, and then he began to speak about one who would betray him – “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?…Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he” (John 13:12, 16-19).
  1. Like in verse 10, there is every good reason to believe that when the Lord said “I speak not of you all”( in verse 18), a statement which came after he washed his disciples’ feet, Judas was present. Furthermore it was after saying that that he spoke about the person that would eat bread with him (sop it in the dish). And it was after the sopping that the Devil entered Judas and he left the room: “Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly” (Joh.13:26-27). After Judas was told, “That thou doest, do quickly” he left the room: “He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night” (Joh.13:30).
  1. It was after Judas left that the Lord administered the Holy Communion as shown in the other Gospels (read, Mark 14:20-23, Matthew 26:23-28). Note that Luke’s record seems to suggest Christ talking about the betrayer after the Communion (see v.20-23). However, the sequence of events as recorded in the other Gospels should help us see that Luke’s writing is more a sequence of subject matter than a sequence of events. Elsewhere Luke has done this. Consider this: when did John the Baptist baptize the Lord: Was it before or after he was jailed? Ofcourse it was before he was jailed but a casual reading of Luke 3:19-21 may seem to suggest otherwise. However, Luke is actually a kind of writer who first has to exhaust one subject before he moves to the next one: he has to mention all the necessary detail of John’s ministry before moving on to the ministry of the Lord. Thus, in narrating about John he goes further to talk about his imprisonment. But when he comes to talking about the Lord he has to mention that he was baptized by John. To carefully follow Luke you have to observe the sequence of the subject matter and not the time of events. I trust that if we look at events of Luke Chapter 22 in this light the problem of sequence disappears. When Luke begins to talk about the eating activity at the last Supper he tells everything at once of what happened about the supper. Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke does not distinguish the transition that occurred from the mere part of the evening meal to the administration of the Holy Communion. When he moves to the talk about who would betray the Christ, he narrates all conversations that related to that.

Although we delved into other matters in trying to answer the question, if my sequence of of 3, 4, and 5 above is Scripturally correct (which I believe is to the best of my knowledge), then Judas participated in the feet-washing done by the Lord. However, he never partook of the Holy Communion. A question which arises is, Does it mean Judas was part of the Lord, going by the Lord’s words to Peter – “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part  with me” (Joh.13:8)? Not so. The context of what the Lord said should be correctly understood in the context of what the act meant. That is, “Peter, if you can’t participate in this act of humility then you can’t identify with me. All those who claim to be my followers should accept this show of humility”. May I state further that if Judas had not moved out during Communion the Lord would surely still have gone ahead to also give him the bread to eat and the wine to drink. However, it is his hypocrisy and wrong heart that would have brought judgement on him.

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