(Continued from “Gleanings from Claudia: The Abiding Life – JESUS! Posted May 9, 2014)
Scripture doesn’t record the response of most of the disciples to Jesus’ incredible act of service, but we do get to look at Peter. For me seeing Peter is perfect. Every word he speaks echoes from my heart and soul. I resonate powerfully with the pride that seeps from him as he reacts emotionally to Jesus. And I confess that I burn with shame for him and for me.
Peter takes it all in. Jesus gently lifting each dirty foot, pouring clear water that runs brown into the basin underfoot. And then tenderly taking each beloved disciple’s foot into his lap and drying it with the towel wrapped around his waist. As Jesus comes to Peter, Peter is tense, hoping against hope that Jesus will pass him by. Now the basin is beneath Peter’s feet and Peter asks, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus’ replies, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
How these words of Jesus have brought me comfort! As I’ve questioned the events of my life, the obvious and not so obvious work of God in my life, the times of abrasive pain when ‘iron sharpens iron’ in my life – these words of Jesus have brought comfort and the ability to wait for understanding.
Now Peter becomes adamant, “No, you shall never wash my feet.”
There is so much behind Peter’s statement. I sense the swirl of motive and emotion and understanding and blindness that is in all of us. Peter is, after all, the one who said of Jesus “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” How could Peter possibly allow this exalted Jesus to wash his feet, the act of the lowest servant? Jesus is his teacher, his Rabbi, his master – how could he accept this service from him? And shame, there must have been shame – perhaps Peter wished that he had found a servant to fulfill this duty so that Jesus’ would not have felt compelled to perform the task.
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “Not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Peter really does want to give himself body, heart and soul to Jesus. But Peter has an understanding of the Jesus he wants to serve that isn’t quite the reality of Jesus. As Peter and the other disciples experience this servant act of Jesus and then as they ponder it in the days ahead, they begin to understand more of the true heart and identity of Jesus.
Jesus answers Peter with “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” Scripture adds the commentary that Jesus knew who was going to betray him and that was why he said not every one was clean. Evidently at this point Peter submits to Jesus’ ministrations and Jesus moves on to finish washing the feet of all of the disciples. And somewhere in this queue of disciples awaiting Jesus’ foot-washing touch reclines Judas the one that Jesus knew would betray him. And Jesus tenderly washes the feet of his betrayer.
Every time I read this passage I am moved by the incredible love that Jesus demonstrates. This is the night of his betrayal and trial – the night before he goes to his death. He doesn’t just have a premonition or an unsettled feeling about what is coming, he knows what is coming. But his heart is so tuned to the need of these men that he loves, and even beyond to what we need to see and understand, that he is able to powerfully demonstrate truth and love through both his words and actions.
How in the world did Jesus do this love thing?
(To be continued …)