False Humility? Proud Humility? Who is this Jesus, and why did he come into the world?
By Charles Carmeron
At the washing of the disciples’ feet, Peter was conscious of the Lord’s holiness without really appreciating His love.
Peter’s words, in John 13:8, “No … you shall never wash my feet” echo his words, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8) and His words, “Never, Lord! … This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22).
What do Peter’s words – “No … you shall never wash my feet” – tell us about his understanding of Jesus – who He was and why He had come to our world?
There seems to be a kind of humility about Peter’s words. It’s a false humility. It’s a proud humility. Peter appears to be humble before the holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet he is too proud to accept the love of Jesus. This is a false humility. It is based on a misunderstanding of who Jesus is and why He came to this world.
Jesus did not come only to proclaim himself as Lord. He came to be our Saviour. He did not come only to make us bow before His holiness. He came to lift us up by His love.
* What is the difference between false humility and true humility?
– False humility tries to honour the Lord in its own way – “Lord, You’re too holy to wash my feet.”
– True humility honours the Lord in this way. It honours him by letting him humble Himself in His way – the way of the Cross, the way in which He bears the guilt of our sin, the way in which He washes us clean from our sin.
– False humility has a one-sided view of the holiness of Jesus. It has no real understanding of the love of Jesus.
Peter tells the Lord what He should do and what He shouldn’t do – “Lord, You’re holy. You need to depart from me. I’m too sinful to come to You.”; “Lord, You’re too holy to think about the Cross. Lord, You’re too holy to wash my feet.”
– True humility stops blurting out its own ideas, its own opinions, and starts listening for the voice of the Lord – “Lord, what do You want to teach me about Yourself – who You are and why You came to this world? What do You want to teach me about Your death on the Cross? What do you want to teach me about the forgiveness of my sins?”
* What does Jesus say to Peter’s false humility and our false humility? – “Unless I wash you, you have no part in me?” (John 13:8).
Peter’s refusal to let Jesus wash his feet indicates something more serious – a refusal to let Jesus wash away his sins. He tells Jesus to depart from him, a sinful man. He tries to talk Jesus out of going to the Cross to die for our sins and our sins.
We need to be washed in the precious blood of Christ. This is the deeper lesson of the washing of the disciples’ feet. We must look beyond the washing of the disciples’ feet. We must look from there to our spiritual experience of being washed in the blood of the Lamb. This is the gospel – “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.”
* How can we move beyond Peter’s misunderstanding of Jesus – who He is and why He came to earth?
We must emphasize both the holiness of God and the love of God. His holiness keeps us from taking His love for granted. His love keeps us from being overwhelmed by His holiness.
Peter sets himself above the other disciples – “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29). He had a superiority complex! He trusted in his own strength. He didn’t seek the strength of the Lord. The Christian’s safety net is the knowledge of his own weakness. This sends him to the Lord for have a strong sense strength. Peter had still to learn this lesson. Behind Peter’s superiority complex, there is the activity of Satan. In Peter’s words, “I will not fall away,” we hear an echo of Satan’s proud boast, “I shall be like God.” What happened to Satan? – He fell. What happened to Peter? – He fell. “Pride comes before a fall.” “Let him who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he falls” (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:12). People with a superiority complex are very dangerous. They can do a great deal of harm.
What are we to make of this superiority complex? Remember Paul’s words, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul was deeply aware of his own sin. He was deeply appreciative of God’s grace. There was no place for boasting. All the glory belongs to the Lord.
How did Jesus react to Peter’s superiority complex? He loved him. He prayed for him (Luke 22:32). What love Jesus had for Peter! Jesus knew that Peter was going to deny Him three times. What did Jesus do? He said to Peter, “You will be converted. You will strengthen your brothers.” After he had denied the Lord, Peter was filled with anguish and despair. Think of how Peter must have felt when he remembered Jesus’ words, “You will be converted. You will strengthen your brothers.” Jesus had not disowned him. He was not cut off from the Lord’s people.
Jesus didn’t hammer Peter. he loved him. This is mercy. This is grace. Peter was restored. Jesus changed him. He took away the superiority complex. He replaces it with “a sincere love of God’s people” (1 Peter 1:22). Peter learned to love God’s people. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was able to strengthen many people. On the Day of Pentecost, three thousand people were brought to faith in Christ through Peter’s Spirit-empowered preaching (Acts 2:41).
What changed Peter? – Love, the love of Jesus. Love lifted him. He experienced the love of Jesus. He knew that he was loved. He learned to love others. He learned to share the love of Jesus with them.
The love of Jesus – This is what will change us. This is what will make us what God wants us to be. May God help us to receive the love of Jesus. May He help us to share the love of Jesus with others.
Charles Cameron, better known as Charlie to his friends, lives in Scotland and is a member of the Church of Scotland. He owns several Christian blogs found at the following links: