Lenten Reflections

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John 13:6-11

February 16, 2024
John 13:6-11

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”


With a basin of water and a towel around his waist, Jesus drops to his knees and proceeds to wash his disciples’ feet, a form of service that was reserved for the lowest of the low. Not surprisingly, Peter sharply objects to this shocking and condescending action on Jesus’ part. Peter would far rather be the one to wash the feet of his Lord instead of the other way around. But Jesus explains that Peter will only understand the full significance of this action after the fact. This is often the case. In the Christian life there are many things we do not fully understand in the moment, but will only know afterward.

Despite Peter’s fierce resistance, Jesus explains that if he does not wash Peter, he will not have any “share” or “part” with Jesus. In response, Peter enthusiastically expresses his desire for Jesus to wash his hands and head as well. But here again, Peter goes wrong. Jesus suggests that “the one who has bathed does not need to wash.” Most interpret these words to mean that those who are truly united to Jesus by faith are made “completely clean” before God through the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  Our sins are washed away, and our new standing before God is fixed. There is nothing more that must be done. We do not need to bathe over and over again because Jesus declares that we are clean on the basis of his finished work. All that is required is that we continually wash our feet, signifying a lifestyle of ongoing repentance and faith. Jesus assures us that he knows those who are clean. He knows those who rest secure in him.

Have you ever been confused by God’s actions in your life and perhaps only understood the meaning afterward?