The discomfort and intrusion of Grace

We’ve all been in uncomfortable and awkward situations often involving someone who didn’t fully understand personal boundaries. Maybe it was a “close-talker,” a house guest who stayed too long, the neighbor who suddenly appears at your back door, or the friend who asks too many personal questions. Well, if you asked the Apostle Peter about his most intrusive, uncomfortable experience, I bet he would tell you about the time when Jesus washed his feet. Having your feet washed in any context is quite personal and intimate but in the first century context of dusty roads and exclusive sandal-wearing, it was a common expression of hospitality arranged by hosts but handled by servants.  John’s gospel vividly explains the discomfort of Peter as his eyes and feet were intrusively engaged by the Savior. “Jesus, YOU will never ever wash my feet!” Peter is surprised, shaken and really uncomfortable as Jesus invades his personal space. It’s an invasion of privacy, an intrusion of touch as a right understanding of grace offered to us by Christ will bring out all of our defenses. Calvin sums up Peter’s retort, “In short, until a man renounce the liberty of judging as to the works of God, whatever exertions he may make to honor God, still pride will always lurk under the garb of humility.” Grace is intrusive and uncomfortable because of our pride and we tend to like the idea of grace but not the incarnation of it.

As this Holy Thursday scene plays out we understand that the foot washing was a little act of grace; a part of the whole of Christ’s humiliation that would involve a bigger acts of grace later in the week. So we learn that Jesus was inviting Peter and the disciples to relax and receive his intrusive and uncomfortable acts of divine grace. Moreover, when Jesus offers grace to us, He doesn’t honor our personal boundaries which makes His redemption possible. God invites us into the power and irresistibility of His Grace that can only be gained through the intrusion of uncomfortable receiving! If receiving Grace is comfortable, you have received something else. Jesus says to Peter and to us, If you won’t receive uncomfortable grace, you can never share my inheritance. Grace means Jesus wants to give something to you: Himself!  And grace means Jesus wants something from you: Yourself! And He is not one to ask permission. The King of Everything has every right to barge into our lives and personal space and it’s a good thing He does because if Jesus respected our personal boundaries He would never get in.

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