Peter symbolizes all of us as he protests, "You will never wash my feet!" (John 13:8). But Jesus answers, "If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me." That is strong! We all find it hard to receive undeserved love from another. For some reason it is very humiliating to the ego. We all want to think we have earned any love that we get by our worthiness or attractiveness. So Jesus has to insist on being the servant lover. Thank God, Peter surrenders, but it probably takes him the rest of his life to understand.
This is so hard for me to grasp. I do think that it will take me the rest of my life to understand this.
It's interesting to notice what Peter says next: "Lord, not my feet only, but my hands and my head as well!"
It's as though Peter immediately identifies the act as one of ritual cleansing, and wishes to be completely cleansed.
Gosh, how familiar that feeling is!
And what does Jesus say? He says that Peter is bathed and clean already.
It's though Jesus is making it very clear that this act has nothing to do with purity codes, with cleansing- it has only to do with unconditional and servant love, and if they do not surrender to it, they can have no part with Him.
Which is rather like His first miracle, which was to turn the vats of water used for ritual cleansing into fine wine.
It's as though He is insisting that the barrier to knowing Him has nothing to do with ritual purity, but simply with the ability to receive and express love.
This is a truly difficult thing to grasp, but I can't give it away if I'm resisting it for myself. Still, every day I say to Jesus, in horror and amazement: "You will never wash my feet!"
And each day, He insists. He is so persistent. Eventually, He will wear me down, and I will completely give up this outrageous and wrong headed and seductive idea that I can earn anything.
But it's so easy to believe!
Look God, I read the Bible! Reward me by spending time with me.
Look God, I lost my patience! Punish me by abandoning me.
Jesus aims right over those thoughts, just passes them right by. His economy of love has nothing to do with these simple equations.
It's like I'm a child, scribbling something that I think requires urgent attention, and I bring it to His attention, and He puts His arm around my shoulder, and says tenderly, "Tell me about it."
And so I am gathered up in love, regardless of what it was I was scribbling.
It's funny to realize it; to realize even in the moment when I am explaining to Him why I am unlovable, He has already embraced that entire moment and that experience with greater love.
His message is always: I love you, I created you, I alone am responsible for you- trust Me.
Or, this verse, which is often in my head:
"Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you."
-Isaiah 46:4 NKJV