I really, really like Peter. Too often he gets misrepresented as a bumbling fool. His mouth does get him in trouble at points. He gets a lot of things wrong (“Jesus, you will never suffer,” “Lord, I will never deny you…”), but he also gets a lot right (“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”). So often, while he may not have his facts all straight, he has the right heart.
John 13 (the Last Supper) contains a couple of cases where while Peter is ultimately in the wrong, his heart is right. Jesus girds Himself with a towel and begins to wash his disciples’ feet. When He comes to Peter, Peter simply cannot bear the sight of His exalted Master kneeling before Him to perform a degrading, servile task for him.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” – John 13:6-10
Peter gets a bad rap for some pretty crummy reasons. Apparently the other disciples have no problem with their Lord, the Son of God, stooping down to act as a household slave toward them. At Luke’s account of the Last Supper he records the dispute between the disciples as to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom (Luke 22:24ff). This is clearly not Peter’s struggle here. Peter (correctly) recognizes that Jesus is above Him; washing his feet must surely be beneath Him. Here Jesus explains that He is doing it for Peter’s good. In fact, if Jesus does not wash Peter’s feet, Peter will have no part with Him in the Kingdom. At this Peter explodes, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Let me ask you: Why does Peter say that?
Jesus means the world to Peter. “Lord, we have left everything and followed You (Matthew 19:27)!” After Jesus announced Himself as the Bread of Life and called His followers to come and eat His flesh, people (understandably) began to leave Him. At this point, Jesus turns to His disciples and says and asks them, “What about you guys?” Peter responds on behalf of them all, “Lord, to whom shall we go? YOU have the words of eternal life!” His every hope rests in Jesus. That’s why it hurts him so much when Jesus tells him that He will deny Him three times (and why it hurts even more when it actually happens).
When Jesus tells him that he may only have a part with Him if he is washed, Peter insists that Jesus wash him from his heads to his toes. In front of all of the rest of the disciples, Peter is basically begging Jesus, “Bathe me, Lord.” He is becoming, like David, undignified in front of people out of joy in the Lord. Jesus is everything to Peter. Now, Jesus reminds Peter that he has already bathed, but as I read Jesus’ words, it seems clear to me that Jesus must be smiling (maybe even laughing) at Peter’s passion for Him.
I get a lot of church/Bible/spiritual things wrong. But, wow, I wish that I were more often doing it plunging in head-first like Peter. His doctrine is not perfect; He doesn’t always come across as the brightest guy; but he really, really loves Jesus. I want to be more like Peter.