My help only comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
I thought that when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet he was giving them an example of how to serve others. That was part of it, but for some there was more. Peter didn’t want his feet washed. He saw himself as one who looked after Jesus. He was the guy who bragged he was willing to take up arms and fight to protect the honour of the Son of God. After all, didn’t Jesus himself re-name him and gave him the identity of “Rock?” That sounds pretty solid and trustworthy.
When Jesus told him it was necessary to submit to the foot-washing thing it was the beginning of the week of stripping away all of Peter’s confidence.
A song keeps playing in my head — “Killing Me with Mercy” by Misty Edwards. It’s about Peter’s undoing.
What are You doing Lord, kneeling in front of me?
I feel indignant Lord, that You’d ever wash my feet
I’ll never let You see the dark and dirty
It’s just too much for me
I know who You are, and I know where I have been
It offends me Lord, that Your knees are bent
I’d rather You be strong and make me pay
But this is too much for me.
It was as if Jesus was saying to Peter, “Let’s get this straight. You are not here to meet my needs. I don’t need you to tell me how to do things. I don’t need you to defend me. I don’t need you to clean up my image. You need me, because without me you can do nothing. Nothing.”
The events that followed proved that. Peter’s courage, the character quality he took pride in, failed miserably when he denied Christ. He was stripped and broken. Without a shred of self-confidence he ran and wept struck with the horror of his own neediness.
For those wishing to press on in this journey to know Christ there comes a time of stripping away everything we have come to rely on in ourselves. This often comes after experiences of feeling close to God and seeing him work through us, sometimes in astounding ways. Peter and the boys had seen miraculous healing and demons fleeing when Jesus sent them out on their own. They were doing the stuff! Even Judas did the stuff. They were with Jesus when he rode into Jerusalem to a spontaneous riot of approval -and you can bet they soaked up the “friends of” benefits. It was just after that when Jesus challenged their pride.
I’ve watched people go through this process. It’s where I have been for the past few weeks. I won’t lie. It hurts very deeply. The very thing we think makes us of value in the kingdom, the reason God chose us for his team, the potential he himself has identified in us, is proven to be too fragile to serve him adequately.
Misty’s song again:
I’m a fragile stone
I’m a vow that’s broken
I’m a rock that’s crumbled at Your feet.
Judas was also devastated when he realized what he had done when he betrayed Jesus. He ran away and allowed his pride to kill him. Pride says, “I should have been able to do this! I am too ashamed to go on because I do not believe there is anyone to turn to. There is no hope.”
Peter, on the other hand, humbled as he was, did not finish himself off, although I bet the thought crossed his mind. Instead he waited and when he met the resurrected Christ on the shore cooking fish over a charcoal fire, just like the one that horrible night, things had changed. He knew he could not love God adequately. He knew he deserved rejection. Jesus’ offer of love was even more uncomfortable than it was the night of the foot-washing.
And that’s when Jesus could use him. He still wanted him. When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost he spoke with a boldness that was not his own. He spoke with the boldness of the One who knelt down and washed his stinky feet.
But You still want me
You say my love is real, though my love is weak
You still believe, the vows I make, I break, I make, I break
You still want me
You’re killing me with mercy, I can’t breath
You’re wrecking me with Your kindness, I can’t receive
What am I supposed to do with a God so humble?
It’s breaking me
I’ll just believe
And let You love me.
Misty Edwards, Killing Me With Mercy, from Little Bird album, Forerunner Music