8.Thou shalt never wash my feet. Hitherto Peter’ modesty was excusable, though it was not free from blame; but now he errs more grievously, when he has been corrected, and yet does not yield. (42) And, indeed, it is a common fault, that ignorance is closely followed by obstinacy. It is a plausible excuse, no doubt, that the refusal springs from reverence for Christ; but since he does not absolutely obey the injunction, the very desire of showing his respect for Christ loses all its gracefulness. The true wisdom of faith, therefore, is to approve and embrace with reverence whatever proceeds from God, as done with propriety and in good order; nor is there any other way, indeed, in which his name can be sanctified by us; for if we do not believe that whatever he does is done for a very good reason: our flesh, being naturally stubborn, will continually murmur, and will not render to God the honor due to him, unless by constraint. 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.
If I wash thee not. This reply of Christ does not yet explain the reason why he resolved to wash the feet of his disciples; only by a comparison drawn from the soul to the body, he shows that, in washing the feet of his disciples, he does nothing that is unusual or inconsistent with his rank. Meanwhile, the reply points out the folly of Peter’ wisdom. The same thing will always happen to us, whenever the Lord begins to contend with us. So long as he remains silent, men imagine that they have a good right to differ from him: but nothing is easier far him than to refute, by a single word, all the plausible arguments which they employ. As Christ is Lord and Master, Peter thinks it inconsistent that Christ should wash his feet. But the evil is, (43) that, in refusing such a service, he rejects the principal part of his own salvation. There is also a general doctrine contained in this statement, that we are all filthy and abominable in the sight of God, until Christ wash away our stains. Now, since he claims for himself the exclusive right of washing, let every man present himself, o be cleansed from his pollution, that he may obtain a place among the children of God.
But before proceeding farther, we must understand what is the meaning of the word wash. Some refer it to the free pardon of sins; others, to newness of life; while a third class extends it to. both, and this last view I cheerfully admit. For Christ washes us when he removes the guilt of our sins by his atoning sacrifice, that they may not come into judgment before God; and, on the other hand, he washes us when he takes away, by his Spirit, the wicked and sinful desires of the flesh. But as it will shortly afterwards be evident from what follows, that he speaks of the grace of regeneration, I do not absolutely maintain the opinion that he included here the washing of pardon.
(42) “Neantmoins il ne se deporte pas de contredire;” — “ notwithstanding, he does not cease to contradict him.”