I was reading a Bible passage from the Book of John the other day when I was struck by Peter’s longing for Jesus and his responsive attempt to correct his own course. He adjusted himself in the hope of coming into closer alignment with Jesus. He was in the right place at the right time… he was actively engaged in the listening process… but what he couldn’t avoid was the affect of his own human reasoning on the communication process. I found myself identifying with Peter as he swung his “reaction pendulum” in opposite directions attempting to relate to Jesus.
John chapter 13 identifies the time and setting as the Passover Festival where Jesus is gathered with His disciples for the evening meal and He knows that His work on earth is nearly finished. Verses 3 & 4 say “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.” Jesus is acting with specific intent here. Have you ever known anyone who was dying? With their last spoken words they want to express what is most important to those whom they love. They want their parting words to be meaningful… to impact lives… so they measure them well. Jesus knows this will be His last chance to personally interact with His disciples… Verse 1 says that “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” So this is his exit strategy. They didn’t realize that they were about to receive a parting legacy from their Master. In verse 7 Jesus says “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Whatever He was about to do would be meaningful & important to the future. So Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.
Let me sidetrack a moment and describe something that happened to me when I was about 19 years old. There was a family from church I used to hang out with. I enjoyed many unique family dinners with them and they always had a lot of fun together. I introduced a friend of mine to them, and on this particular afternoon she and I were invited over after church for dinner. It soon became apparent that their son was attracted to my friend. There was a visible spark between the two of them which became more obvious when after dinner the parents put on some music and proceeded to teach us a variety of dance steps including the Foxtrot, Tango, & Waltz. It really was a blast, but I found myself hesitating to dance with the son even though he graciously asked me to. My pride prevented me from accepting his invitation, because I knew that he favored my friend and my own heart was hurting from a recent breakup. A year later, my friend and their son actually got married and are still married to this day. But I have always regretted not dancing with him that afternoon. I let the mists of my emotions and pride steer me off course, and I missed out on the joy of the moment.
So there’s Peter, watching Jesus wash the feet of his fellow disciples, and he balks when it’s his turn. Do you suppose it was because his hadn’t been the first feet to get washed? No matter his internal motivations, even if he was thinking that he wasn’t worthy of such a gift, his pride was misplaced when he declared to Jesus “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus tries to steer him back by replying “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” So here’s the 2nd pendulum swing for Peter. He says “Then Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” I laugh at this response, because I can totally see myself in the same place… one moment he’s standing on his laurels and the next he’s plunging forward with eager expectations. I think Peter responded with an adamant course correction because his heart’s desire was to connect deeply to Jesus.
That’s been my heart’s desire as well, but I’ve had to make both major and minor course corrections along the way. Sometimes we get blown off course by “life storms” and other times our pride causes subtle drifts in direction. A verse that I’ve brought with me from my summer of faith with God is Hebrews 13:3-4 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” The New Living Translation says, “You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.”
Jesus told Peter that “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.” Because I’m trusting Jesus as my Savior, I’m spiritually clean, too; but, I need my feet washed on a regular basis. That’s where being connected with other believers comes in to play. We need to be doing life together with friends that we’re connected to who can encourage us, or warn us, and help keep our spiritual ships afloat! We don’t need expensive computers and GPS or even the stars to navigate. We just need each other! In my Women’s Small Group we meet weekly and share our lives. We encourage each other by listening, praying, sharing food. It’s like a little oasis of time that I’ve come to treasure.
The John 13 passage says “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” I think this is the kind of love, devotion and loyalty that Jesus demonstrated, and which He wants us to lavish upon one another. The importance of the message is punctuated by the timing of its delivery on that final Passover meal. It was Peter’s human processing and pride that caused his initial negative reaction, but it was his heart for God that helped him change his course. I John 4:7-8 tell us that love comes from God; and it’s proof that we know God when we are actively engaged in the process of loving one another! Are you “washing the feet” in your life, or are you in need of a course correction? Are the mists of your pride obscuring your spiritual vision and getting in the way of experiencing all God has for you? Consider Proverbs 3:1-6 as a recipe for living and loving and experiencing God’s favor in your life...
“My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”