I’ve felt very much challenged by the series of talks offered by the WCWT Lent course. Each denomination has had input into the teaching, and we’ve all gained many new insights which have prepared our minds and hearts better to enter into this coming Holy Week.
Last Tuesday it was the turn of Fr Mc Elhone of St Aidans and Holy Cross church, and he helped us to discuss the character of St Peter by landing us with a True or False Quiz about this disciple.
Questions such as
Peter was indignant at the suggestion of Jesus that he would deny him. T/F
Peter demonstrated throughout the course of the Last Supper meal that he had one way of doing things and Jesus had another. T/F
Peter came very close to being thrown out of the group in the course of the Last Supper meal. T/F
These particular sentences we all marked down as True. But these ones helped me realise how stubborn Peter was, and how full of pride, but not only Peter!
At this meal, Jesus had his most important words to say to them. A few days earlier they had all been arguing over who was the greatest among them!
Jesus needed to teach them a lesson by example, a drama so to speak which would stick in their minds and help them remember humility.
It would be an act of great love, akin to those who care lovingly for those in their families who are ill.
It would be a memory hopefully to sustain them through what would be the next traumatic days, a memory to sustain them and hold them together in faith.
Imagine if you can a darkened upper room, set to one side for the purpose of a Passover meal.
There was no servant at hand, to welcome them and refresh them, and perform the necessary washing ceremony before their meal. After all this was no wealthy party.
And perhaps, just perhaps, the task which should have belonged to one of the disciples, ended up as a task where nobody moved to do it. They were all sat at table.
And so Jesus rose up from the table, took a dish of water and a towel, and HE began to wash their feet.
Imagine their horror, and their guilt. This was a job one of them ought to have done for their master and friends.
This was a task that disciples did for their teacher. It was unthinkable that a teacher should do this for his followers!
They were completely taken by surprise.
And so Peter protested!
‘Lord are you going to wash my feet?’
Jesus answered him, ‘You do not know what I am doing, but you will understand afterwards!
Peter replied, ‘You shall not wash my feet Lord!’
‘‘Peter, if I do not wash you, said Jesus, ‘you have no part with me!’
Peter who got it wrong time and time again, was put in his place. ‘If you don’t allow me to do this for you, you’re out!’
Peter was strong willed, he was a Jew, who knew certain procedures and how things should be done. Here he was trying to put his master right, prevent him from humiliating himself, he gave the impression he knew better. But then again he always did.
When Jesus set his face to Jerusalem and told them he was to die…Peter knew better. No this shall not happen to you Lord!
When Peter was told he would deny his master three times before the cock crew, again he knew better. This would never happen. But it did!
When Jesus was arrested, Peter took up his sword and struck out at someone, cutting off his ear.
Peter wanted things his way, he thought he knew best.
Here was Jesus at his final meal wishing to have his final say, and Peter was simply not taking it in. He was not understanding the significance, yet it would soon become very clear to him within days.
My dad’s dying words…
I have something very important to say, I know I’m dying!
No dad, the doctor said there’s nothing organically wrong, you’re going to be fine!
Will you shut up and listen!
Jesus knew his hour of death was near; he knew the price he had to pay; he knew also his moment of glory would come, but not until he had suffered.
He could have been full of pride, but here he was washing his disciples’ feet in an act of supreme humility.
There are those who are very important and distinguished in life, and at this point Jesus was the greatest of all, but here he was acting out the role of servant.
So Peter listened.
You call me Teacher and Lord. You are quite right to do so, for so I am. If then I, the Teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, so you ought to wash each other’s feet, for I have given you an example, that as have done to you, you too should do to each other.
At that moment of contact in serving the poor and needy we are closer to God than ever.
But throughout history see the ruins of the love gone wrong, where people of faith have done their own thing and gone their own way, just like Peter, rather become servants of love and humility.
There are those, even today, who can be offended because they, in their respected positions and high authority are not accorded the respect they know they deserve.
So often in churches trouble arises because someone does not get sufficient recognition, or thanks for the work they do.
There is only one kind of greatness in service of JESUS,a nd that is greatness of service, which arises out of our love for him.
In all walks of life people are huffed and feel slighted. Some brood and sulk for days upon end, even years through some slight offence done to them.
When we are tempted to think how good we are, or when we consider our rights and privileges, and are filled with pride and impressed by great power; when we decide what it is that God wants of us, before we even ask him, when we want things our way and refuse to listen to what others are saying…
then let us stop for a moment and consider Jesus kneeling with dish and towel in hand.
As we receive his tokens of love this evening, the bread and wine, given at his last meal, let us think of how he poured himself out for us, how he humbled himself unto death and how he still gives of himself to us today.
Jesus blessed bread and shared; he blessed wine and shared. He told his disciples that in the blessing and the sharing they would have the best reminder of the love of God, and the humility and obedience of the Son.
Simple gifts shared at a simple meal; made special because they were broken and shared in love.