I know a guy…let’s call him Peter.
Peter reminds me of Jim. Hard-headed but big hearted. The first to step out of the boat and yes, the first to sink. But hey, those other guys didn’t even try. And, when the sinking happens, just like Peter, Jim knows whose name to call out.
I always loved how Peter was so passionate about everything, from his fishing to his Lord. Threaten my Lord? I’ll cut off your ear. Tell me people are going to kill you? Let me at ‘em. Wash my feet…whoa. Now there’s a story.
So, here’s a guy that you know to be the Messiah. You have followed him for three years through the good and the bad. You’ve seen miracles and even watched him raise Lazarus from the dead. You are closer to him than your family that you left behind when you answered his call. I mean, this Jesus is the real thing!
So, now your sitting with the other disciples, after a day of preparing for the Passover and you’re tired and just want to relax and have a nice meal. And then the arguing starts…
However, there also arose a heated dispute among them (the disciples) over which one of them was considered to be the greatest. -Luke 22:24
Can I pause here a moment to recall another story that will help us understand the significance of what Jesus is about to do? This comes from the Luke 7.
A Pharisee invited him (Jesus) to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”…
…Then he (Jesus) turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.
If you know anything about the Middle East, you know it is arid, sandy and hot. Imagine walking everywhere, either in sandals or shoeless. Can you imagine how your feet would feel? Smell? So usually the servant of the house would bathe the feet of all who entered. And if there was no servant, it was the head of the house’s job to make sure it happened. Let’s go back to Peter.
The disciples have come to the Upper Room, each arguing over who is the greatest among them. In other words, who should have the seat of honor by Jesus. But none of them are prepared to serve the other. So, Jesus stands, takes the role of a servant and begins to wash their feet. Peter is watching this event unfold before him in horror. Not my God…not my Savior…on his knees, like a slave!
So, when Jesus reaches Peter, he says, “You will never wash my feet.”
I get that. I understand what Peter was feeling. I have this thing I do, when I’m going through a really bad time. I picture Jesus sitting in my chair and I sit on the floor. Sometimes I imagine my head lying on his lap and other times, I lay my head on the floor, as through it were resting on his feet. It brings me such comfort. But I have never pictured me sitting in a chair and Jesus kneeling before me. It would be uncomfortable…embarrassing. It was hard enough once when a minister washed my feet on Maundy Thursday.
So, I understand how Peter felt. But I also understand that Jesus was teaching the disciples about serving others. About putting your own feelings of self-importance aside and doing the little things, day in and day out, that don’t bring you glory or “Atta boys!” And I struggle with that part as the disciples did. Humility…obedience. They don’t come easy. But Jesus himself came to serve not to be served.
We see in I Peter 5:6-7, that Peter remembered the lesson that Jesus taught that night. “Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time. Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.”
The next time God is calling me to humility, I need to remember to look down and see Jesus at my feet, preparing to wash them. Can I profess to love him and do anything less?
Thank you, Lord, for being our example of servanthood.