Peter was one of a kind. In fact, most people probably found him annoying. He was often impulsive, naïve, and thoughtlessly quick to speak. But Jesus deeply loved him in a way that was unlike most of his other disciples. So, what made Peter different?
At the last supper, Jesus did the unthinkable. He removed his outer cloak and then grabbed a towel and filled a basin full of water in order to wash his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-11). And one-by-one Jesus began to scrub away the filth that had clung to them. The sweat, dirt, and unbearable stench of this dishonorable body part made Jesus’ actions all the more repulsive to Peter. It was bad enough that the slaves and servants would be asked to clean the master’s feet. Yet, in this remarkable display of humility, Jesus, the Master, begins to wash his followers’ feet. When he comes to Peter, the disciple says, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” And Jesus says to his beloved friend, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but afterward you will.”
With amazing force, Peter jerks away his feet and says, “You shall never wash my feet.” He could never ask or allow his Master to wash such an unclean portion of his body. Peter is humiliated at the thought of Jesus stooping to wash the filth from his feet. With kindness, Jesus solemnly says, “If I do not wash you, then you have no share with me.” Now Peter is shell-shocked. He is completely stunned at the seriousness of Jesus’ words, and though he doesn’t fully understand he complies with the much-loved and trusted Master. Peter says, “Lord, then don’t just wash my feet—wash all of me, my head and my hands, too!”
Peter trusted Jesus and as a result was willing to follow whatever Jesus said, especially when Jesus spoke with seriousness. Such eagerness is unmistakable in Peter’s life. He was always a passionate man and never knew how to do anything half-hearted, if it was worth doing at all. He was always quick to jump into whatever captured his heart, and while his discernment sometimes floundered, his heart was to be admired. Very few like him were so ready to jump in with both feet ready to run. Over time, Peter would learn to channel his passion into useful and prudent pursuits that would honor and glorify God. And while his impulsion often got him into trouble, it also received the admiration of his Master. You see, unlike many of the other disciples who decidedly loved Jesus, Peter’s love hit like a hurricane. Wherever he went, it was hard, fast, and unrelenting. He was a tremendous force and the expression of his love and loyalty were difficult for most to endure. Once committed to serving his Master, Peter would never fully be moved from that pursuit. Like any sinful human being, he had moments of failure, but he could never fully forsake the grace that was given to him. He was called to follow Jesus and like everything that he had ever done, Peter would pour his whole heart into that single passion.
Even his most humbling moments of failure demonstrate that passion (Matt. 26:69-75). When he realized the depth of his denial those three times, he wept bitterly over his sin. His sorrow was experienced at the very core of his being, the depth of his heart. He was sick over what he had done. Only hours before, Jesus had lowered himself by washing Peter’s filthy feet. And now, in the presence of others, Peter wasn’t even willing to admit that he knew Jesus. When that reality hit Peter, his heart sank. In that moment, the weight of the world felt as though it had descended upon his shoulders and his heart was crushed. He had denied the Son of God, his Savior, in order to save his own skin. How disappointing.
And yet Peter found mercy and grace in the arms of Jesus. He found love in the Master’s heart. He found hope and healing for one who was helpless on his own. Jesus knew all along that Peter would deny him, and yet he still washed Peter’s feet and told that passionate disciple that he would one day be with his Master again. That forever changed Peter’s life. The power of the gospel transformed that rash and often ignorant man into a passionate follower whose love was deep and full of knowledge. He eventually understood the depth of Jesus’ love and the extent to which the Master would go to demonstrate that love. When divine love meets human weakness, human beings are never the same. The power of Christ is found where divine love has met our human weakness at the Cross. God’s grace covers our sin and it gives us strength through transformation. May we humbly submit our lives to Christ and allow the grace of God to hit us like a hurricane. If we do, we will never be the same. We will never again be content settling for less than running hard after the One who saved us. Those who are deeply affected by Jesus will experience growing affections for Jesus. May that be true of us!!
Blessings in Christ,