Today is the last day Jesus spent with his disciples before he was betrayed by one of them and arrested. It is on this night he ate the Passover meal with his beloved friends and devoted followers. These are the men he had poured into, sharing not only his life with them, but also teaching them in preparation for spreading the message of redemption once he had gone to Heaven. At the end of the meal he did the most extraordinary thing. He washed their feet. A job only a servant in a wealthy household would do, not one the Messiah and King of Kings should be doing. Their teacher and Master was stooping down at their feet and wiping off the muck and mire (among other things they had to walk through). It's one of the most vivid pictures of servanthood we have as Christians.
What captivates me every time I read this story is Peter's response. Peter is one of Christ's most cherished disciples, a close friend even. He becomes a great man of God and a leader in the church after Christ's departure. I mean no disrespect when I say this, but I can often relate to his impulsiveness. To think that someone with such a loose tongue can become a great leader is encouraging to me, being a little hasty and impulsive myself. Excuse my embellishment of the story a little, but this is the picture I get in my head.
Jesus comes to Peter and begins to wash his feet. Peter is a little uncomfortable seeing his Lord in this position of servitude and tells him, "No. You shall never wash my feet." I can see the look of indignation on his face when he says this.
Jesus answers, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
Here it is. Everything in Peter's demeanor changing when he cries out, "Then Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
To me this is a picture of total surrender to Christ. Something about his complete change of perspective speaks deeply to me. He's saying, "Lord, here's all of me! Take it all! I am surrendered to you completely!" In that moment he is totally completely for the Lord. And, if you know the story you know that within 48 hours of this encounter, after Christ is crucified, acting out of fear Peter denies being one of Jesus' disciples.
I have moments of complete surrender like this, too. They are powerful moments where I am totally His. I will go wherever He leads and do whatever He calls me to do. I feel it in my core and I mean it with all that I am . And, then hours later I, too, betray my commitment to Him and openly disregard Him. Maybe my betrayal doesn't look like Peter's, but my heart is the same in that moment.
This is one of the reasons Christ went to the Cross and died. People like Peter and me sometimes need experiences like this that are a little humiliating and embarrassing to show us we can't live on our emotional sensations alone. I can be totally for something at one moment and totally against it the next. I am rash. I need to be reminded how badly I need the Holy Spirit to balance out my emotions. I sometimes envy people who make decisions only after thinking through every option. I wish I could detach my feelings a little and think more clearly about things. It's my feelings that propel me to judgment about things and people. But, I realize it's my feelings that also give me a softer side, too. My husband often says he admires that about me.
What I have come to realize is that my greatest weakness can also be a great strength. Because of my rashness and strong emotional pull toward things, I can also feel deeply my need for the grace of Christ in my life. I can contemplate and understand the work that was done on the Cross by Christ's death because I can FEEL it in my heart and not just THINK it in my head. I can be motivated to change because I feel compelled to not just because I know it's the right thing to do. "Feelers" like me sin and taste humiliation, as a result we know how beautiful God's mercy can feel.