It is the Feast of the Passover.
All of the sudden, Jesus gets up from the table, takes off His garments, and girds Himself with a towel. He pours water into the basin and kneels before His closest friends, His twelve beloved disciples. As a servant would to a master, He begins washing the disciples’ feet and wiping them with the towel.
He gets to Simon Peter, and immediately Peter stops Him.
“Lord, do You wash my feet?”
Peter has been watching Jesus wash the feet of the disciples in line before him, and he’s shocked. How dare they silently let their master kneel before them and wash the dirtiest part of their body? The roles should be reversed– don’t they know that?
Standing up for the dignity of his master, Peter exclaims,
“Never shall You wash my feet!”
But Jesus replies rather strangely,
“If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
Wait, wait, I take it back, Peter thinks. Rashly, he begs,
“Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”
. . .
Somehow, I find myself in this very moment.
I am Peter– impulsive, ridiculous, and obnoxious in the way that he loves Jesus.
He does not exactly understand what is happening yet, and when Jesus keeps talking about leaving, he is confused and hurt.
“Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.”
All Peter wants in this moment is to be with His Lord, His master, His friend. He would even give up his life for Him.
Yet later that evening, as soon as Jesus leaves his sight, Peter will deny knowing Him to three people.
“I do not know this man you are talking about!”
And again, I find myself standing in the shoes of Peter– this time, scared, defensive, in hiding, his back toward Jesus and his face turned away.
. . .
But right now, we are still back in the upper room of a house, sharing the Feast of the Passover, not knowing what is to come in the hours ahead.
Except one person.
Jesus, still kneeling before me, stares straight into my fickle, hypocritical eyes, sees me denying Him not once, but three times, and continues to wash the dirtiest part of my body.
And tomorrow, though we do not know it yet, He will hang on a cross, with thorns piercing His head, nails hammered into His hands and feet, humiliation and mockery flooding His ears.
He will hang there for six hours, with not just my face turned away but even more painful, His own Father’s, and He will wash away, this time, the dirtiest part of my soul. And at the sixth hour, He will breathe His last, but breathe into me my first.
I do not know what to make of this quite yet; my mind simply cannot wrap around the utter humility of this God that I serve. But this is the gospel, and this is the Jesus we are commemorating this Holy Week.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).