It’s good to be clean. A day’s sweaty graft in the garden and then you sink into the bath. A hard 90 minutes efforts and the cascade of the hot shower. A ten hour shift in the grim and you finally collapse, scrubbed clean, with a well-deserved drink.
Peter says we will be ‘cleansed from our sins’ (1Peter 1:9). Hebrews promises we will be ‘cleansed once for all, and would no longer feel guilty for sins’ through ‘the blood of Christ’, meaning his death (Hebrews 10:2). The Bible closes with a people ‘white and clean’ riding behind Jesus (Revelation 19:14).
It is the idea that life and our decisions and what others have said and done to us stains us. And Jesus offers to wash us clean.
Tomorrow he dies
The night before he dies this is the imagery Jesus uses about his own death – it is like a servant crawling in the dirt, washing you clean.
‘…Jesus got up, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water in a basin and began to wash his disciples feet…’ (John 13:4-5)
‘Took off’ is the same word as ‘lay down’ in John 10:15 and 18. ‘I lay down my life…I lay it down of my own accord.’ He means his death.
Peter struggles to accept it!
‘He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ (John 13:6-9)
Seven reasons we hesitate to let Jesus clean us
1. I don’t think the dirt matters.
It doesn’t seem to be doing me too much harm, and anyway I’m too busy to deal with it now. And yet, like the child’s grazed, muddied knee must be cleaned to avoid infection so our dirt matters. Left unwashed it infects us – relationships and marriages and health and self-understanding are all weakened.
2. I don’t think the dirt can come off.
It’s too ingrained. It’s permanent. I’m struck with it and just need to make the most of life. But imagine the liberation when a mistaken tattoo can be removed. The dirt can come off. After all Peter was pretty grubby! His nickname rock was initially given because of his thick-headed comments; he would have been a murder if he wasn’t incompetent with a sword and lopped off an ear instead of a head; and three times he denies who Jesus is. If Jesus can clean that dirt he can clean yours off.
3. I don’t think the dirt can be seen.
I’ve hidden it well, re-arranging the furniture of life over the darkest stains. Yet you see it, and God does, and in your attempt to avoid others seeing it you have isolated yourself– too close and they might get a glimpse of what is there!
4. I don’t think I should be dirty.
I became a Christian, Jesus washed me then so I’m a bit embarrassed about this stain! Notice Jesus recognises that the journey of life means we are in constant need, not of another bath, but a daily wash: ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet…’ (John 13:10)
5. I am already clean!
You’re kidding yourself. ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves…’ (1John 1:8)
6. I don’t think there is an alternative – this is my normal.
In fact this is my identity. I’m quite scared of being anything else – this is who I am. I can’t see beyond this to the new life offered.
7. I quite enjoy the dirt.
It’s good fun! But C S Lewis help us here: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Let Jesus clean you.