Yet Not My Will, But Thy Will Be Done

Read John 13:1-20

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” – John 13:6-11

The Voices of St. John Choir will sing this on Good Friday. It is a powerful song which they also recently sang – during the distribution of the Lord’s Supper at St. John. The song takes its words from Jesus’ prayer on Maundy Thursday, which Jesus prayed in the garden after washing the Disciples’ feet and celebrating the Last Supper with them.

I think immediately of the clear implication of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was asking that the cup of God’s wrath – the bitter, caustic, poisonous cup that will cause Jesus to die – be taken from him. It will not be. But Jesus’ whole prayer is not just that the cup would pass from him, but that God’s will would be done. It will be done.

Looking also at John 13 there is another facet of God’s will revealed. Peter protests Jesus’ appropriation of the role of the common household slave. He considers it to be beneath Jesus’ dignity and station. He refuses to let Jesus do this for him. Jesus, however, will not let this pass. Jesus’ comment to Peter says, in short, “If you won’t submit to this, you’re out.”

To have someone excluded from his rule and reign of grace is not God’s will. God desires all to repent and be saved. Peter needs to be washed by Jesus; not just so that Jesus can show what true servanthood looks like, but also so that Peter can be embraced by God’s mercy, grace, forgiveness, and service.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and Peter was more lost than he ever imagined – perhaps even more lost now than he will be when he goes out and weeps bitterly following his betrayal of Jesus. At least then he was aware of his sin and need for grace and forgiveness.

The cup of God’s wrath will kill Jesus. If there was another way for us to be saved than for God’s Son to die in our place, God would certainly have revealed it to Jesus. Isaiah tells us that “it was God’s will to crush him and to cause him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10). It is his will that we embrace God’s grace and disavow any claim to God’s mercy other than his goodness and love.

“Thy will be done,” means Jesus’ death, and our salvation. Two thousand years ago the plan unfolded as Jesus prayed this prayer the day before his death. Thanks be to God.

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