Read John 13:2-11.
Jesus And Peter
We find ourselves in the middle of Jesus’ last supper before his crucifixion. Judas, influenced by Satan, has already decided to betray Jesus. And Jesus, knowing that his Father has given all things into his hands, and that he came from God and is going back to God, gets up from the table. He takes off his outer garments and ties a towel around his waist. Then he pours water into a basin and begins to wash his disciples’ feet.
He comes to Peter, who questions what he’s doing, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”
Jesus answers, “You don’t understand what I’m doing right now, but later you’ll get it.”
Peter is adamant: “You shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus says, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part in me.”
Peter says, “Then don’t just wash my feet, but my hands and my head too!”
In our passage, Jesus knows his hour has come. His imminent death by crucifixion is looming. His betrayer reclines within arms reach at the dinner table, ready to sell him out to his executioners. And yet, as we have seen throughout the gospels, even under the greatest possible stress, Jesus is secure. He knows God has given all things into his hands. And he’s secure in the knowledge that he came from his Father, and he’s going back to his Father. Just hours before he’ll be betrayed into the hands of the authorities, in a display of both poise and humility, the Son of Man calmly rises from the table and begins to wash his disciples’ feet.
I used to suffer from anxiety. And Peter here reminds me of me, when I was suffering from anxiety. He reminds me of me because, when I was suffering from anxiety, I was seeking and pursuing what I wanted, instead of what God wanted. In our passage, we see Peter adamant toward God and arguing with God.
Jesus begins to wash his feet and right away Peter questions his actions. “Lord, you’re washing my feet?”
Jesus doesn’t rebuke him, but gently explains, “You don’t get it right now, but later you will.”
But Peter is against Jesus’ plan, he says the words, “You–shall–never–wash–my–feet.”
So Jesus explains that “if I don’t wash you, you have no part in me.”
So does Peter then decide to follow Jesus’ plan? No, he doesn’t. He comes up with a new plan of his own. He says, “Then don’t just wash my feet, but wash my hands and my head too!”
When I struggled with anxiety, my propensity to behave like Peter was the root of the problem. Like Peter, I used to be adamant about my plan and I used to argue with God about His plan.
Here’s what I used to do when I suffered from anxiety: I used to make my plan and then pray to God for Him to help me to execute my plan. But the problem with that was, whenever it looked like someone or something might mess up my plan, I experienced anxiety.
But contrast Jesus with Peter (and contrast Jesus with me). Jesus knows that the Father has given all things into his hands. (John 13:3) And why has the Father given all things into Jesus’ hands? It’s because Jesus genuinely wanted his Father’s will to be done. Jesus knew God’s plan, and Jesus’ desire was for God to help Jesus follow God’s plan. Jesus said he came down from heaven, “not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38) Jesus even said his very food, his sustenance, was to do the will of his Father. (John 4:34)
How To Cure Anxiety
I used to think that Philippians 4:6-7 was unattainable. In that passage it says, if I pray about everything with thanksgiving, I’ll experience the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. I used to pray that way but I still experienced anxiety, and I didn’t understand why. The problem was, although I was praying as instructed in Philippians 4, I still wanted my plan. It wasn’t until I genuinely desired God’s plan that I experienced that peace described in Philippians 4:7. And God’s plan is to conform me into the likeness of Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
I can’t speak for anyone else, but the cure for my anxiety was to change the way I approached God. My anxiety was dramatically reduced when I stopped making my plan and praying for God to help me execute my plan, and when I started asking for God’s plan and praying for Him to help me follow His plan.
Once I realized that God’s plan was to conform me into the likeness of Jesus, and once I genuinely desired for God to conform me into the likeness of Jesus, I could count anything that happened to me in life as a blessing. And I could pray about everything with genuine thanksgiving.
As James wrote,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
“Perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
“Lord, make each of us perfect and complete.”
“Make each of us like Jesus, whatever it takes.”
ANXiETY image via Mariana Zanatta – Creative Commons