"Lord, do you wash my feet?"
Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand."
Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered him, "If I do not 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 13:6-9)
Typical Peter, we always say, always overdoing it. No, he didn’t overdo it. He didn’t go far enough, in fact. None of them did. Not a one of them said, “No, Lord. We ought to be washing YOUR feet.”
It wasn’t that difficult a concept. Two women had already figured it out, one identified as “a sinful woman” in Luke 7, and then Mary, Lazarus’s sister, in John 12.
One of those apostles should have said, “Why didn’t we think of that?” but none of them did, not even the three from that inner circle. If ever they failed to show their understanding of who Jesus really was, it was that night in the upper room. In fact, instead of serving him as Mary did a few days earlier, they all, not just Judas, resented the fact that so much was spent on that very gesture (Matt 26:8).
But just a few weeks later—“afterward,” as Jesus had said--they did get it. All of them, even that apostle born out of season, figured out what service and humility meant. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake, 2 Cor 4:5. Paul and all the others except John were ultimately martyred in their service to the Lord, along the way serving others at huge costs. They washed their Lord’s feet, not with water, but with their own blood.
Do we get it? Do we understand humility, or is saving face more important? Can we give it all up for Christ, or do our opinions and think-sos matter more than the body for which he died? Can we subject ourselves, our preferences, our goods, even our lifestyles to others for their souls’ sakes, 1 Cor 9:20-22?
I once spoke about subjection at a women’s meeting. As I was giving an illustration one of the women spoke out loud for all to hear, “That’s where I draw the line.” No, we were not discussing Acts 5:29 where such a statement would have been appropriate. We were just talking about sacrificing for others. Yet she wasn’t even embarrassed to say such a thing. She obviously didn’t get it. If she had been next to Peter that horrible night, she would have been happy to sit back and let the Lord wait on her, as long as the water wasn’t too hot and the towel was nice and soft.
Consider this thought for a moment: what would I have done that night? Would I have gone at least as far as Peter and the rest, and let the Lord wash my feet, learning the whole lesson eventually? Or would I have already been there with my pan in hand, as those two other women had been, ready to wait on him and his disciples, anxious to show my devotion to my Lord and Master?
Now take it a step farther: what am I willing to do today? Am I willing to wash feet, not just with time, effort, and money, but with my own blood? If we would draw a line anywhere, Satan will make sure we come face to face with that line sometime in our lives.
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Luke 7:44-48.