John 13:10, revisited

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.  And you are clean, but not every one of you.”-John 13:10

Jesus had announced that Peter was “completely clean”–fully forgiven, freely justified, and set free from the penalty of sin.  Jesus made it clear that the person who has bathed does not need to do so again “except for his feet.” 

Although we are set free from the penalty of sin, we are not miraculously free from sinning.  Every one of us still sins daily.  Jesus was telling Peter, and the rest of the disciples, that his forgiveness covers all sin–past, present, and future.

Do you ever struggle with believing God is that good?  Do you have trouble believing that God not only cleansed you, but that he continues to do so, day by day?  Listen, his river of grace never stops flowing over you.

Prayer
Jesus, I am so thankful for your work on the cross, where you delivered me from the penalty of my sin and purified me from all of my unrighteousness.  Thank you for reminding me, through your interaction with Peter that your forgiveness continues day by day.  Help me to live in that freedom.  Amen.

John 13:10

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.  And you are clean, but not every one of you.”-John 13:10

“You are clean” was an amazing pronouncement.  When Jesus said they were “completely clean,” he meant that sin had no remaining impact on their standing with God. Because of his life, death, and resurrection, sin would no longer have dominion over them.

One of the most precious doctrines of the Christian church is the doctrine of justification.  Justification has to do with our legal standing before God.  We are all guilty of breaking God’s holy law, but we are unable to pay for our release.  Yet because God loves us, he sent his son, Jesus, who willingly paid the penalty for our sins, justifying us before God.  The penalty for sin has been paid.  We are free. We are, as Jesus told his disciples, “completely clean.”

Prayer
Jesus, you tell me, through your word, “You are clean.”  You have justified me, setting me free from the bondage of the sin that entrapped me.  Help me to never lose sight of your finished work and to believe you when you tell me I am clean. Amen.

John 13:9

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”-John 13:9

Peter remained resistant.  Jesus pressed in when Peter tried to get out of the foot washing, reminding him of the importance of their relationship, yet rather than simply accepting the words of his Lord, Peter doubled down.  Put yourself in the room. What do you see?  Peter was guarded. For me, the word “huffy” comes to mind.  The other disciples anxiously watched their interaction. They knew Peter could be a hothead. How would Jesus respond to Peter?  Jesus, remained kind but firm, gentle but insistent.  He never lost sight of his purpose even when he was challenged.

We could consider Peter’s words in a few ways.  Perhaps he recognized the realities of what Jesus was saying.  Maybe he was just being thick (Peter could be a blockhead), saying what he thought would make Jesus happy.  Perhaps he was being sarcastic as a way of covering shame.  I can almost hear him, “If this is so important, why not go even further Jesus?”  Peter’s ill-timed humor was intended to derail the intimacy of the moment, but Jesus did not take his bait.

Like Peter, each of us puts on false masks intended to cover our vulnerability and shame. Many times, our behaviors—for example, sarcasm, anger, or sullenness—drive people away or short circuit intimacy, but praise be to God, Jesus persists.

Prayer
Jesus, Thank you for your persistent love.  You press in even when we seek to escape from your intimacy.  Like Adam and Eve, we attempt to hide from you, believing it is better to be alone with our fear and shame than to be vulnerably present with you, yet you never fail to ask “Where are you?”  Help us to come out of hiding into the light of your unfailing love. Amen.

John 13:8

Peter said to him, “you shall never washed my feet.”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”-John 13:8

How often do we resist what we most need? 

Jesus used ritual during the Last Supper because he knew physical actions help us to remember. He was not only providing verbal instruction in living a life of love, but showing his disciples physically.  Peter was a pretty literal guy. I imagine he was probably the last one to understand the message beneath the message.  Watching Jesus stoop to clean the disciples’ feet, he resisted Jesus, wanting to communicate that he needed nothing, or alternatively, that he was unworthy to be cleansed. But Jesus knew that Peter needed to be reminded of a deeper cleansing, the forgiveness of his sins.

Baptism is a one-time event in the life of a Christian, whether at infancy or as a believer.  Symbolically, we go down into the water in death and are raised in purity to new life.  Sometimes, we forget the truth of our baptism. We need regular reminders of our new purity and of our ongoing dependence upon the forgiving work of Jesus.

Jesus told Peter, “Without receiving my cleansing, you have no relationship with me. If you choose to rely upon yourself, you cannot rely upon me. It is your choice, but you cannot do this on your own.”

I began by asking, “How often do we resist what we most need?”  How frequently do our words, thoughts, or actions communicate our belief that we can manage life on our own?  How often do we downplay our dependency upon God’s forgiveness and grace?  Today, remember your baptism, and remind yourself that you cannot save yourself.

Prayer
Jesus, I often try to be fiercely independent, acting as if I do not need anything from you and trying to manage life on my own.  Yet my sins continue to accumulate and I become overwhelmed by my brokenness.  Remind me again that I need to come daily to the river of your grace and mercy. Amen.

John 13:7

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” -John 13:7

How often do we attempt to make sense of our circumstances from our limited vantage point, even when we do not know all of the facts?  Our rational minds try to make everything fit neatly into a pattern and when we encounter information that doesn’t fit, we have trouble making sense of it.

Jesus was attuned to Peter’s defensive and confused emotional state.  Peter was confused about what Jesus was doing, but he did not have the whole picture.  On this side of heaven, we see only in a mirror dimly (see 1 Cor. 13:12), yet we are asked to place our lives in the hands of the one who sees the end from the beginning and who holds the world in his hands.  Jesus invites us to trust him, saying, “Child, you do not now understand, but one day, you will.”

Prayer
Jesus, so often, this world makes no sense to us. We try, in our limited understanding, to make all the pieces fit.  When they do not, we feel confused and afraid.  Remind us again, dear Jesus, that you hold the world in your hands and that because you are the one who holds the future, we have nothing to fear. Amen.

John 13:6

“Lord do you wash my feet?”-John 13:6

Jesus made his way around to each of his disciples, skipping none.  Not even the betrayer was passed over.  I wonder what Peter was thinking. “What is Jesus doing?  This is a job for servants, not for my friend, my teacher, my Lord.  How could he stoop to this level?  I will just tell him to skip over me; that will prove that I respect him.”  If I had to guess at Peter’s primary emotion in that moment, it would be shame.

For many of us, shame is a frequent, if not constant, companion.  Shame whispers messages such as, “You are unworthy of being loved” or “If that person only knew the wickedness of your thoughts, they would rather spit in your face as soon as accept you.”  Peter was looking for an exit. He did not want to face his shame, so he questioned Jesus.

Many of us act like Peter. Rather than acknowledge our feelings of unworthiness, rather than accept love, we look for exits.  Maybe we use humor as an avoidance strategy, making light of intimacy. Perhaps we turn to anger, because lashing out at another person is safer than accepting grace and love in the midst of our shame.

Prayer
Jesus, you came to show us how to live and how to love. You leaned in to cleanse us from our sin and to daily remind us that in you, shame has no hold, so we no longer have to hide.  Teach us to trust in you and to accept your grace. Amen.

John 13:5

“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” -John 13:5

There is such intimacy present in these few words.  If we allow ourselves once again to place ourselves in the upper room, what do we see, hear, and feel?  I hear the splash of the water as Jesus pours it from the pot and I see a stream of diamond lights as the water catches the beams from the lamps.  The disciples were thinking to themselves, what is he doing?  He knelt before each of them setting a wide bowl beneath their feet and pouring the water.

Washing another’s feet is a deeply intimate act.  Perhaps, in that culture, it carried with it no intimacy, but rather was simply viewed as a degraded act to be performed by servants.  Regardless, I cannot help seeing the gentleness and tenderness of Jesus, his rough carpenter hands taking time to clean the soles, and toes, and ankles of these men.

In the 21st Century, in America at least, physical touch–and especially between men–is avoided, or minimized.  It can be threatening, yet Jesus modeled the way we are to be with one another.  Christianity was never meant to be a merely a cerebral faith; it is ruddy.  Earthy.  Incarnate.  I wonder if sexual brokenness would be such a huge issue if nonsexual physical touch was not so quickly shamed.

Prayer
Jesus, Your message is not one of distance, but one intimacy; not of indifference, but closeness.  You call us to lives of love and that involves getting into the dirt with people. Help me, by your Spirit, to be your hands and feet.  Amen.

John 13:2-4

“During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper, laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.”-John 13:2-4

The men had proceeded to sup together.  There was no servant present to wash their feet.  Jesus had arranged for the room, I wonder if they thought he also should have planned for a servant.  But no one said anything.  When the food was already set out for this most important feast, and the men were seated together, Jesus rose to perform this most menial of tasks, certainly not a job for the host.  But the absence of the servant was no oversight; Jesus intended it.  He was going to teach them about service, about what the Jesus-life looked like practically.

But we cannot miss two other points.  No details are wasted.  First, John mentioned only Judas by name here, pointing out that the devil had already planted the seed of betrayal in his heart and it was growing to full height.  Jesus rose to serve not only those who were like him, but his enemy as well.  His love for Judas did not fail even though Judas’s love for him did.  This is the biblical notion of hesed–the steadfast level of Lord.

Second, Jesus knew who he was.  He was the possessor of all good things.  Soon, he would reunite with the Father.  He had every right to command allegiance from these men or to demand their submission, yet he chose the way of service.  God, in the flesh, stooped for sinners.  He did not insist on their service to him.  He taught them practically the way of mutual submission.

Prayer
We often live with a “me first” mentality.  Our culture encourages us to take all we can, but not Jesus. He encourages pouring ourselves out in service to others, even those who would be our enemies. Jesus, in your omnipotence you came to earth, humbling yourself by becoming a man.  You gathered your friends around you, showing them the way to live life in your Kingdom, day by day.  You came to serve, and to show us the way to serve, the way of love.  Amen.

John 13:1

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”-John 13:1

Jesus was having his last meal before going to the cross. He knew it. He was about to face an unjust trial, a cruel scourging, and a very public crucifixion at the hands of the Romans and the Jews. He could have been anywhere, but he chose to be with his friends. Every time I read John 13, I am captured by the short phrase “he loved them to the end.”  It brings to mind one of my favorite Hebrew words, hesed. Hesed has to do with “the steadfast love of God.”  What does it mean to say that God’s love is steadfast? It means it is unswerving, unfailing, immovable, persistent, and relentless.  It never stops, not ever. The verse does not say “he loved them until they sinned” or “he loved them until he got tired of them.” Even in the face of death, Jesus kept on loving them, with persistence and perseverance. 

Jesus’s love wasn’t just for his disciples. He would gladly have had his last supper with you and me too. Even in the midst of our self-centeredness and our screw-ups, he doesn’t go away. He will keep on loving us in spite of ourselves, not because we are so deserving, but because love is who he is. 

Prayer
Jesus, my love for you is fickle. It changes with the breeze. I am so grateful that your love for me is not dependent upon my conviction, but upon your own, which says that I am your beloved.  You willingly gave your Son so that I can live in your love for all eternity.  Amen.