This is part of a series studying Peter’s life and ministry. Click here for the entire series.
After the Passover meal, Jesus used this important opportunity to teach His followers crucial lessons. But before the lessons began, Jesus did something unpredictable—unthinkable! Under normal circumstances Jesus and His disciples would have been met at the door of the “upper room” where Passover was to be celebrated by a Gentile servant who would have washed the dirt off their feet. Not so that night. Apparently Peter and John forgot to attend to that detail! John writes,
“It was just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1).
Jesus shed His outer garment, grabbed a basin, filled it with water and began washing the disciples’ feet. Here, the One the disciples knew as “Master”, respected Rabbi, “Holy One of God”, and “Son of God” assumed the position of a servant! What is particularly striking is John’s set-up for this story. Not only did Jesus know He was about to die and return to His high position in heaven, but as John writes, “Jesus knew that the Father put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God” (John 13:3). Knowing His true identity as God enabled Jesus to humble Himself to serve others.
Up to his old tricks, Peter blurted out, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (John 13:6), clearly meaning he wasn’t going to allow his Rabbi to do so. When Jesus said He was, Peter recoiled with an odd mixture of humility and pride: “No you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8).
Peter simply didn’t understand Jesus’ action, but Jesus didn’t give up on him—“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7). Speaking of spiritual cleansing, Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8). Peter suddenly felt very dirty—“Then, Lord, give me a bath” (paraphrase of John 13:9). Jesus made sure that Peter, and all the disciples, understood why He had washed their feet,
“You call me ‘Teacher’ [rabbi] and ‘Lord,’ [Supreme One] and rightly so, for that is what I am . . . I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:13,15).
Had you been in Peter’s place, how would you have reacted to Jesus’ action?
Have you asked Jesus for a thorough bath?