John 13:6-8

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  John 13:6-8


Peter said to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.”


How do we hear those words?


On the one hand, they shed a soft glow of friendship and devotion on Peter. He doesn’t want to see Jesus humiliate himself.


Foot-washing was a common practice in the ancient world.  In a world where walking was the primary form of transportation, a world without concrete sidewalks and asphalt roads, a world without modern medicines, an injury to your feet could lead to a potentially deadly infection.  Taking good care of your feet was essential.


In a world where the vast majority of people lived in the social caste of slavery, even relatively modest homes could greet guests with a servant prepared to wash their feet upon entering the house. 


Peter didn’t want to see Jesus stoop down to the level of a foot-washing servant.  But Jesus sensed something different going on.  Something more deadly than a foot infection.


In seeking to defend Jesus, Peter risked missing out on the benefits of Jesus’ love.  Peter didn’t see how his defense of Jesus demonstrated Peter’s own unconscious inner caste system.  For to Peter, to wash another’s feet was demeaning. Peter also thought of himself as “above” a common house servant.  So Peter rejected what Jesus was offering. 


How often, in our confession, though our mouths say the right words, do we still maintain the illusion that we are “better” than others?  Or, while seemingly more pious, do we harbor the fear that we are “worse” than others?  Can we see, in either, how such thoughts thus place us in judgment over Jesus?


Jesus alone is King, everyone else stands at the foot of the cross.  Jesus stoops to wash feet, commanding us all to see the reality that we are all servants of one another.  There are no levels.  Better and worse are categories that don’t apply.  Life happens only on two levels – incarnate love revealed on a cross and expressed in service to others.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, on this Maundy Thursday we pray that you reveal to our hearts and minds the good news of your love for us.  That while we are yet sinners, still you died for the ungodly, for all, for us.  May this love propel us to lives of gratitude and service.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


3 Responses to “John 13:6-8”

  1. Sharon Boyd Says:

    Thank you, Pastor Kerry! And God bless!

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