He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:6-9)
In today’s text, we observe Simon Peter asking a question, making a declaration and then making a request. One thing we can say about Peter. He was pretty verbal. In other words, his words reflected his heart and you always knew what he was thinking.
First, Peter asks a question. “Lord, do you wash my feet?” We must remember that we are in the context of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet. It was the evening of the final Passover Meal Jesus would have with His disciples prior to His crucifixion. As the disciples relined on mats in order to eat the celebratory meal, Jesus began washing their feet.
As Pastor Burk Parsons explains, “When people traveled the dusty roads of ancient Palestine in sandals, their feet would get dirty, and a servant commonly washed the feet of guests before they joined the master of a house for a meal. But most Jews saw this task as demeaning, so it was given only to the most menial of servants.”
This is why Peter asked his question. He resisted Jesus washing his feet because Peter believed that such a task was beneath his dignity, and therefore beneath the dignity of Jesus. This scene must be understood in light of Luke 22:24 which says, “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” Notice the contrast between the disciples and Jesus. The disciples were arguing among themselves in the upper room as to which of them was the greatest. At this same time Jesus, the God of heaven and earth, was performing a task assigned to the lowliest of servants. What irony.
Jesus told Peter that ““What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter’s immediate declaration was emphatic. ““You shall never wash my feet.” Peter was indignant that Jesus would stoop so low as to do such a menial task. What Peter did not understand, but would come to understand, was that the foot washing symbolized the believer’s spiritual cleansing in Christ while at the same time illustrated the requirement of Jesus’ disciples to humbly serve one another.
Jesus’ response to Peter was equally emphatic: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus was saying that to be one of His disciples, one must be willing to do what Jesus was willing to do. This includes acts of service.
Dr. Parsons states, “As the Master, He (Jesus) is greater than us, His servants, and if a task such as foot washing was not beneath Him, neither should we consider any form of service beneath us. The example of foot washing commends to us a willingness to meet the needs of others, to put others before ourselves, and to not be puffed up with pride. It is a call to humility and to a readiness to serve one another.”
When Peter understood this he said, ““Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Peter was all in. You’ve got to love that about him. When he understood a biblical truth there was no holding him back from a full and complete commitment. Peter reasoned that if it was that important, as one of Jesus’ followers, to have the Master wash his feet then Peter was willing for Jesus to wash his whole body. This makes Peter’s subsequent denial of, and later restoration by, Jesus all the more significant.
As one of Jesus’ servants, are you willing to serve the Lord whenever and wherever He calls you? He may call you to serve Him by working at a grocery store, owning your own business and providing income for your employees, or ministering to the poor by volunteering time at a shelter or bargain clothing store. Be open and be willing.
Soli deo Gloria!