Conversations with Peter: Prelude to the worst day.

We have spent a good bit of time eavesdropping on Peters conversations with Jesus and observing his development from simple fisherman to loyal disciple.   Now we come to the crossroads of Peters life.   Everything that Peter has experienced in his three years with Jesus is going to be put to the test.    We’re going to look at the Crucifixion weekend.   This is Peter’s life exam. We all know what happens, he loudly states he’d never deny Jesus, but he does,  He claims he’d never run away, but he does, he tells Jesus that He shouldn’t wash his feet, and then tells him to wash his whole body.   He’s a walking contradiction.  He’s like many of us…..well, all of us to be completely honest.   Let’s take a look at the last moments before the Crucifixion.

John 13: 1-17,31-38

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

1Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

1When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. Do you understand what I have done for you? he asked them.13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 1I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 1Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Let’s take a look at this moment a little closer because there is so much in there we can learn.   Jesus and the disciples are at the Passover feast, and JESUS knows that HIS time is near and that HE still has some lessons to teach the disciples in their short time remaining.   Peter, especially, has two very personal lessons to learn at this feast.   Jesus starts the lesson off by getting up from his place (probably at the head of the table or the place of honor since HE was their teacher) at the table and getting a wash basin and a towel and proceeds to wash the disciples feet.   Looking at this from a 21st century mind frame, that’s weird and even a bit creepy.   Why would you want someone else washing your feet, especially at dinner?   Context people, it’s all about context.  At this time, the majority of  footwear are sandals, so when an individual came in from a long journey their feet were dusty and grimy from the road, so it was customary for a servant to wash the feet of guests before dinner, or at the very least have a basin and wash cloth available for guests to do so.   Jesus wanted to make a point to HIS disciples however.   I can imagine the disciples reactions as Jesus was proceeding around the table washing their feet.  This was a job for the lowest servant, or the new guy to the group….not the master, not someone who they believe is the Messiah.   It’s humbling and a little shameful for both parties.  How could the master be washing the feet of the students and why are we letting him is probably the biggest question they have.   Guess who finally asks the question…well, more like makes a statement?   Peter.  Good old Peter.  Captain Oblivious pipes up and challenges Jesus and states that HE’ll never wash his feet.   Now, my Zondervan NIV study Bible noted that this was out of a mixture of both humility and pride.   On one hand he didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet because HE was the master, on the other hand he was trying to dictate to JESUS what HE should do.   BAM!   How many of us do that?   I know I do.  I have a tendency to get all passive aggressive with GOD and try to manipulate GOD by guilt.   How’s that working for me you ask?   FAIL!  Total complete fail.   It doesn’t.   You’ve probably done something similar to that as well.   Maybe not passive aggressive behavior, but maybe anger, guilt, false humility to try to manipulate GOD, has it worked for you?  Probably not.  It didn’t work for Peter.   Jesus flatly states that if he doesn’t let HIM wash his feet, then Peter has no place with HIM.   Peter’s reaction:  “Well, then Lord wash my hands and head” he states in an effort to prove that he’s worthy he goes overboard, which is pretty typical of Peter.   The lesson that Christ taught Peter was that HE doesn’t want or require magnanimous gestures of worship or fake humility to prove we’re not proud, but we’re to use HIS example and to serve the ones we lead.   Leadership isn’t about do as I say, but it’s” let’s do this together because I have a vision that GOD has given me”.   We’re all equal at the feet of GOD, GOD designates who should lead but that doesn’t give the leader the right to abuse his position.   A leader needs to be a servant as well.   This was lesson one.

John 13:18-30 are pretty significant verses, but we’re going to skip over them for the moment.   In a nutshell, these verses deal with Christ predicting HIS betrayal by Judas, and Peter even nudges John at one point and has him ask Jesus who HE’s talking about but the disciples don’t pick up on the subtle hint that Jesus gives.   At this point, Judas leaves and goes about the process of betraying Jesus, which brings us to Peter’s second lesson of the night

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[a] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

This section isn’t so much a lesson for Peter, but a stark picture of who he really is.   Peter, for the first time in his life probably, is being called coward.    Once Judas left and Christ was with the remaining disciples he gave them HIS last instruction:  LOVE each other.   Love as HE has loved them.   Since HE will no longer be physically present on earth, they (and we) are now the example of HIS love.   At this point, Peter is probably a little confused and worried because Jesus is saying he’s leaving and they can’t follow HIM.   So he asks the obvious question:  “Where are you going?”   Jesus’s reply is one of patience and love, and Peter once more steps up and proclaims that he would give his life for Jesus.  I can only imagine Christ’s face at this point.   I can imagine the conflict going on in HIS mind.  HE knows what HE’s about to face, but HE also knows the day Peter is going to have, and HE tells Peter that he will Deny Christ three times before sunrise.   Of course, at this point Peter probably profusely denied he would ever do that, but Christ knew.   It’s interesting that in John 13 you have two men that have followed Christ for 3 years both facing their ultimate cross roads in life, a turning point in history, and ultimate failure for both.   Two different reactions both prior to the cross, and then post crucifixion.   But I’m getting ahead of myself.   For now, Peter and the disciples have learned two things:

a.   A leader is a servant

b.  Love as Christ loves and be an example of HIS love.

Those are two HUGE lessons for anyone.   For a leader, this is the foundation of leadership.  It is difficult to be an an effective leader if you’re not willing to work as hard or harder than those you lead, and you can’t lead if you don’t love those you lead as Christ loves them.   If you fail at one, then you fail.   Peter learned this the hard way.  But that’s another day.

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