“All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” (I Peter 5:5-6)
These noble words of Peter surely take us back to the Upper Room in Jerusalem, to that night when Jesus performed His act of majestic humility in washing the disciples’ feet. As Jesus proceeded with His lowly task, His action was interrupted by a significant conversation between Himself and Peter. As Jesus knelt before him, Peter asked a question with great shock and disbelief, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” Peter presumed to know better than Jesus what He should do, and his question was intended to stop Jesus from washing his feet.
Peter wants to tell Jesus what to do. We must recognize that Jesus―though servant of all―is still God’s appointed leader. He won’t allow Peter to monopolize this situation and set things on the wrong course. So Jesus replied, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter.” The Lord knows best what He is doing in His dealings with His disciples.
But Peter stubbornly declared, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Jesus sternly rebuked Peter and said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” As the serious import of Jesus’ words began to dawn upon Peter, he quickly relinquished to the perfect will: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Now he wanted a complete cleansing and renewal! But he still wanted to tell Jesus how to do it. In his request to be fully washed, Peter is still reluctant to let Jesus lead in this vital ministry. He had not yet learned nor yielded to the lesson being taught.
For a moment, let’s consider the symbolic significance of the objects mentioned here. (1) The feet must be cleansed of all filthiness of the flesh accumulated in the day’s journey. Much could be commented upon here … you see to it. (2) The hands must be cleansed as they represent how we handle the actions and events of our interactions with others. Once again, think about this. (3) Jesus then explained the meaning of what He had done by saying, “For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you.” Peter indeed learned the lesson that Jesus intended to teach. The meaning of the Lord’s inspiring example and gracious ministry is echoed in Peter’s words: “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.” Peter never forgot that night when his Lord and Saviour girded Himself with the towel of humility and cleansed their souls for greatness and service!
One last comment. When the resurrection was past, Jesus did not scathingly rebuke Peter for his denial of him. Not once, nor twice, but three times Peter denied he was one of His disciples. Yet, despite these very great offenses committed by Peter, we read these words found in Mark 16: “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man (an angel sent by God) sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.” (Mark 16:1-7)
We must be humble, true, forgiving, and faithful in all our service to God and our fellow men. This is what we call being Christlike.
Francis Mason Pastor Mason