The Washing of Peter

July 1, 2009

We interrupt this program to bring you a short character study of Peter in the Gospel of John…

Basic Idea: If Peter the dedicated follower of Jesus is going to continue to follow, it will only be through continually returning to Jesus for washing.

A couple of sketches of Peter and the events John recounts to us about him: He is dedicated to Jesus and would even die for (11:16 presumably; 13:36–37) this one who has the words of life (6:68).  Peter is willing to go to great lengths, even dying for him (18:10), to save him Jesus descending from his high estate (13:6-8–the master serving!?”).  Peter is instructed by Jesus that he must return to Jesus to have his feet cleansed (13:9).  Peter denies that he is a follower of Jesus when it means following him to the cross (18:15-18, 25-27).  NOTE: he does not deny the Lordship of Jesus, only that he is a follower.  He sees the empty tomb (20:2-9)

When Peter originally declares his willingness to die for Jesus, Jesus does not deny that Peter will also be crucified.  He does however tell him that he is not yet ready (13:36 “…you cannot follow me now, but you will later.”).  At the end of the story, following Jesus washing of Peter, he again reaffirms his invitation to Peter to follow him to the cross (21:18-22) which he had previously escaped through denial (ch. 18).

And so, if Peter the dedicated follower of Jesus is going to continue to follow, it will only be through continually returning to Jesus for washing.  The remaining question for me is, Who will wash Peter’s feet?  What are Jesus’ instructions on the matter?

So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example – you should do just as I have done for you.  I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17)

Yes, the foot washing is an example of service, but Jesus (in his discussion with Peter) has also invested it with a profound spiritual reality.  So, as followers of the Servant King, we bring his presence not by bringing forgiveness (“a messenger is not great than the one who sent him”), but by washing each other with and bringing each other back to the Gospel we so regularly fail to believe.

How do we as believers carry out this washing?  As others New Testament authors have put it,

Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man has great effectiveness. (James 5:16)

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph. 5:25-27)

And again, with Peter,

But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he had clearly done wrong…But when I saw that they were not behaving consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “If you, although you are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you try to force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal. 2:11, 14)

Peter’s life declares his disbelief in the Gospel and Paul confronts him on it, washing him and drawing him back to Jesus, the Servant King, at whose Table all find provision!

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Ephesians thoughts (and all that jazz)

May 13, 2009

So I thought I’d actually write about the stuff I’ve been hinting at that I may have seen vaguely in Ephesians like a mystery of complexity upon the brow of inversion. This sentence makes no sense. And that is how we all like it. But the thing is, I was writing a paper for Ephesians and came across this interesting thought/epiphany that I had concerning the ending of Ephesians. Here is the section (we all know it):

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord,  because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church – he himself being the savior of the body.  But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her  to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word,  so that he may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.  In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one has ever hated his own body but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church,  for we are members of his body.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is great – but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.  Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment accompanied by a promise, namely, that it may go well with you and that you will live a long time on the earth.”  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart as to Christ, not like those who do their work only when someone is watching – as people-pleasers – but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart.  Obey with enthusiasm, as though serving the Lord and not people,  because you know that each person, whether slave or free, if he does something good, this will be rewarded by the Lord.  Masters, treat your slaves the same way, giving up the use of threats, because you know that both you and they have the same master in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

So my grand epiphany is that women should submit to men.

Anyways, I was thinking about this in the context of the whole book of Ephesians, and if Paul is pointing out that the whole church is like a body, with Christ at the head, why would he then divulge into just small social things like roles of men/women, masters/slaves, fathers/children? Now I do not mean to say that what Paul tells us can just be ignored in the context of these social matters; men and women should act in such a way, as should slaves and masters, fathers and children. But if Paul is really talking “with reference to Christ and the church,” maybe this all makes more sense now. If we are to be children (5:1, 5:8) to our Father (5:20), and if we are His possession (1:11), and when Paul speaks of husbands and wives he speaks of the church and Christ, we begin to see that Paul is in a larger context talking about the church in relation to Christ and the Father. As the wife of Christ we must submit to Christ, as the possession of the Father we must obey, and as children of light, children of the Father, we must honor our Father who is in heaven.

Now I do believe Paul is talking about real masters and slaves; it isn’t just all an allegory. But he also is telling the church to live as one body, submitted to Christ and the Father. And Paul builds upon this earlier in his letter by showing how we are the body, children of light, and possessions of God. So it isn’t just to give us social actions but also how the church must act in context to Him.

Be a wife to the Husband.

Be children to the Father.

Be slaves to the Master.

Cameron


This Old Man, He Wrote Two

October 8, 2008

The passage that I am going to comment on today is not so often misquoted as misused. And I have to confess, that in the first part of my ministry I also misused it. Let me quote the passage from the NIV:

Ephesians 5:22-33

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Why do I say misused? It is misused because it is seen primarily as a message to husbands and wives and how they ought to live together. Let me tell you, that is not the purpose of this passage. How do I get to that you say?

First of all, let us remember that this is part of God’s message to his people. It is our Lord communicating something fundementally imporant to us. To get to that, we have to first ask the question, “What is the book of Ephesians about?” The answer is that this is Paul’s (God’s) treatise on the church. What is the church, how it came to be, how are we to act as a part of the church? The first three chapters are a “theological” description of how the church came to be, what is its shape, etc. The last three chapters are more “practical”, how we are to live as church in relationship to our Saviour, to each other and to the world in which we live. Paul gets real practical, outlining how we are to be different, to stand out and to stand firm.

So now let us get to our passage. If this is not primarily a message about marriage, what is it about? Paul gives us a couple of clues:

Verse 24  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Verse 25-27  … just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Verse 29-30 …  just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body.

Verse 32  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

As we isolate these words, we find that this passage is first of all a picture of Christ and the church, how the bride gives herself to the bridegroom and how the bridegroom gives himself for his bride. As verse 21 tells us, it is a mutual submission. (Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.)

For many years this passage has been used at wedding ceremonies as a guide for a proper marriage relationship, and I am guilty of doing just that. That misses the real depth of what this passage is telling us. It is telling us of our deep relationship to and involvement with our Lover, our Husband, our Saviour. It is telling to note that the role of the Husband is dealt with in more detail than that of the Wife. She is simply told to submit as church to the Lord. The Husband’s role is laid out as one who gives, who dies, who cleanses, who prepares, who presents. It is his role which begins, maintains and completes the relationship. It is his purpose to make it work. And isn’t that so true of our relationship with our Lord. As the writer to Hebrews says, “He is the author and perfecter of our faith.” Jesus is the one who began the relationship, who did all things, even dying to make it possible to have a relationship and He is the one who will bring it all to completion on that final day, when we stand before him and are with him for eternity.

Now can this be used as a marriage ceremony text? Of course it can. For the word of God has much more to in than just one layer. This is a profound message to relate to those entering into marriage, it is great to use as a tool to help marriages grow. But if that is all we see it as, we are missing out on the greatness of who our Lord is and what He has done and is doing at this moment for us. Because what this calls for in our relationship to him, is a radical denying of self and submitting to him as he did when he submitted to the anger and fear of those who hung him on the cross. We are called to submit to one another. Jesus did his part when he submitted to us, now we have an obligation to submit to him in the same depth, in the same completness as he did, including going all the way to death, if it is called for.

So now, when I use this passage in Marriage Counseling, I use it this way: I say to the couple that they are not to look at what the other is to be doing, but to work at their part until they have it right. For the wife (bride) I ask the question, “Have you given yourself to your husband the way the church gives itself or should give itself to Jesus?. Until you have, you have no right to complain about how your husband (groom) is performing his role.” And to the husband (groom), “Have you died for your wife (bride) yet? Until you do, you have no right to complain about how she is performing her role.” They both need to get their parts right, before looking to the other. And once they do, it is amazing how well the marriage works.

Have a great day!