Friday, September 24, 2010

On stonewalling Peter, a revision

        Watching Jesus wash the feet of his fellow disciples, Peter is perplexed.

        Not long before, when critics pointed out the neglect of his disciples to wash their hands before eating, Jesus taught, "To eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."

        Now, here he is, washing their feet. It doesn't make sense.

        Jesus comes to Peter.

        "Lord, dost thou wash my feet?," Peter asks.

        Peter understands the footwashing in the ordinary sense of it, a cleansing of the physical dirt from the feet, a task which a servant might perform for his master, but not one that a master would perform for his servant.

        His question points out the inappropriateness of Jesus washing his feet and serves notice that he has a problem with allowing Jesus to do so.

        His question is a plea for an explanation of what Jesus is doing.

        Jesus says to Peter, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter."

        Jesus concurs with Peter that Peter doesn't understand what he is doing.

        Further, he dismisses the understanding which Peter has. It is not a footwashing in the ordinary sense. It is not the cleansing of physical dirt from their feet. It is not an act which a servant might perform for his master but not vice versa."

        "I know what you're thinking," Jesus might have said, "but that's not what I'm doing. I'm not going to explain it to you now. You'll have to wait until later to understand."

        Peter feels that he can't wait for an explanation. He can't suffer Jesus washing his feet not knowing why he is suffering. He puts up a front of rebellion.

        "Thou shalt never wash my feet."

        Behind the front is only a second plea for what he doesn't know now, now - before he suffers Jesus washing his feet.

        Jesus says to Peter, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me."

        He refuses for the second time to explain to Peter what he is doing. Further, he adds a significant statement about necessity which only adds to Peter's perplexity.

        Peter's front crumbles.

        "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head."

        Peter's need for an explanation is so great that he is reduced to begging. Jesus gives what he can under the circumstances.

        "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all."

        For the third time Jesus refuses to explain to Peter what he is doing.

        His gift to Peter is meager - the scant information that there is an unspecified uncleanness in the group.

        He can't give Peter what the evangelist gives us, "For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean."

        He is in the process of telling Judas his fault between him and Judas alone.

        He is in the process of cleansing (symbolic of forgiving) the heel that Judas had lifted up against him when he agreed to hand him over to those who would  take him.

        He is handling these matters with confidentiality in accordance with his teaching.

        Jesus could not give Peter the explanation he so desperately desired, and after his several attempts to get it, Peter realized that he was being stonewalled.

        Peter bowed to Jesus and suffered him to wash his feet.

        I offer these words only in my own name.

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