Jesus said a strong thing to Peter when He spoke these words: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8). Our Lord’s rebuke introduces a convicting observation: being a servant is not a sign of inner weakness, but of incredible strength.
There is no way to remove the jab and the twist from Christ’s words to Peter. He said, in effect,
“If you do not allow Me to do this, that is it. You’re off the team!”
Anybody who lives under the delusion that Christ was rather weak and spineless has overlooked such statements as this one.
Being a servant in no way implies there will never be a confrontation or strong words shared with others . . . or tough love expressed.
The Lord may choose to use the reproof of a servant who has earned the right to be heard even more often than that of a type-A aggressive leader.
It certainly worked with Peter. We know he got the message when he blurted out, in so many words, “Give me a bath!” No, that wasn’t necessary, only his feet.
After Jesus brought Peter’s overreaction back into balance, He sat down for a time of reflection and instruction among the men. “Do you know what I have done to you?” (John 13:13). What a strange question.
Obviously, they knew what He had done. He had washed their feet! But He had much more in mind than the obvious—Jesus always does.
He wanted them to think deeply, to learn something very insightful and valuable as an obedient servant. Look at what He told them.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:13–14)
He told them (and us) to wash one another’s feet. What an admonition! Now here’s the clincher, “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:15). Let’s read it in a much more popular way:
“I gave you an example that you should study about it on Sundays.” No.
Or . . . “I gave you an example that you should form discussion groups and meditate on it.” No.
Or how about . . . “I gave you an example that you should memorize My words and repeat them often.” No.
Jesus said it plainly. “I gave you an example that you should do as I did to you.” He was looking for action, not a sermon outline.