What do we imagine God sees when he looks at us? What is the true me? Does it actually reflect what others think of us or even what we choose to think of ourselves? There is a strong inclination to be self-deceiving but the bottom line is that it is what God sees that counts. Personally, I would like to pick the time God can see and rub out the other times as just embarrassing. But that isn’t how it works; my honest self-evaluation is despite some good things there is a great deal that might be described as dressed in filthy rags. Peter knows that, even though he had been as close a friend of Jesus as anybody. He didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet because his view of the world was still the world’s view. ‘Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet. v8 He understood rank as it was commonly practiced around him by the Romans and by the Jewish religious leaders. Servants served, leaders were served. Worth was determined by perceived rank. Contrast Peter with Jesus.
‘Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round him.’ John 13.3-5
Jesus the man, fully conscious of divine status, knowing his equality with God the Father, aware of the path immediately in front of him and his eventual glorification because of his death on a cross, chose not to be served but to serve. His enactment of the servant’s role, washing the feet of his own disciples, was also a picture of their sins being washed away. Instead of being dressed in filthy rags in the sight of God, because of him, they were to stand as people who are clean in the eyes of God.
When Jesus said to Peter, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,’ v8 he was meaning that without the forgiveness and cleansing that comes from the trusting in him and his forthcoming death on his behalf, Peter could not be acceptable to God the Father and be part of the kingdom of God.
Only through his cleansing, now symbolised in baptism, can we be seen as clean in God’s eyes. Peter had already confessed that Jesus was the Christ. His faith, however wobbly it was about to be in a few hours’ time, was already rooted in Jesus and Jesus knew that. The initial trusting in Christ is a once for all matter. However even so the normal human condition is that we repeatedly rebel and place other things in our heart where the love of God should be. Jesus’ feet washing was a picture of the disciples regular need to confess and be forgiven for the sake of the ongoing relationship with him.
It is an excellent feature of the Anglican liturgy that confession is placed early in every act of worship. Spiritually as we confess we come to Jesus’ foot bowl to have the obstructions to our relationship removed and only he can do it. It is something often omitted from ‘nonconformist’ services. Is that because we want to miss out the embarrassing things that expose our dependence upon him or is it because we still want to pretend that we are better than we are?
For our own spiritual life, we need to learn the humility of Christ and value it as something of great worth. He who had no need to be humble expressed ultimate love and humility.
Do you think it is sometimes hard to “allow” Jesus to wash us?
What particular form of pride can prevent us from accepting our need of forgiveness?
Lord, I need you.