In our men’s Bible study at church we were recently studying the foot washing incident (John 13:1-17) in the life of Jesus with his disciples. Since this was their last night together, Jesus wanted to make a lasting impact on his disciples, so he washes their feet. He was able to do such a lowly act because we read in verses 3-4, “Jesus knew that the Father, had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” He was secure in who he was. Also the implication of verse 1 is that in washing feet he was showing love for his disciples. Men, the more secure we are in Christ, the more likely we have the heart of a servant. Servanthood will be the mark of a man of God in the days to come.
Peter strongly objects to having his master do the work of a lowly slave, “You’re not going to wash my feet – ever” (v 8 – Message). While honoring Jesus, Peter was lacking the humility needed to be a follower of Jesus. Peter expresses a willfulness found in pride – not being able to receive. Can you imagine how humbling it was for Peter to have the Son of God wash his feet. How would you have responded? He had to learn to humbly receive from God. Men, we all have to come to the place where we can humbly receive from God in all of our brokenness. Our effort in trying to make ourselves presentable is to no avail. It is all grace. Just sit there and receive like Peter. It is hard. But it will change you as a man. It takes a humble spirit to receive God’s unconditional love.
Peter had to learn this lesson before he could lead. Jesus tells his disciples, “I’ve laid a pattern for you.” (v 14 – Message). If Jesus, who is their teacher and Lord washes their feet, then the disciples ought to humbly do the same. Jesus is helping them see the vital aspect of servanthood; not just in word but also in deed. Jesus reminds Peter, “A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it – and live a blessed life” (v 16-7 – Message). Later in his First Letter, Peter was probably reflecting on this incident when he tells us, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud, but give grace to the humble'” ( I Peter 5:5). Then we are told to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that we might be lifted up.
Peter was learning what humble submission meant. It would help him to return to Jesus after his miserable failure in denying his Lord. I too, fail my Lord. I have to admit with Paul,”For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Rom 7:19). I am a spiritual work in progress. But like Peter I also am learning to trust the love of Jesus for me. Jesus has not literally washed my feet, but I have learned to receive God’s love for me in all my shame and vulnerability. Men, my testimony to you is this – real freedom from my sinful self, comes when I learn to humbly submit to Jesus and receive his love for me.