If Lent is all about a return to the life God gave us in the font, then we must realize that that life is nothing other than our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is given us to be our life. That is why St. Paul could say: "I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
And as our Baptism always has two aspects: drowning and emerging, dying and rising, so our return to Baptism, that is to having Christ as our Life, always involves the death of something in us, and the rising up of something new - a gift of God to us in Christ.
If we think about Judas and we think about Peter, it becomes pretty clear what needs to die in us, doesn't us? This impulse to think WE know better than God. It's ancient. Goes right back to when Eve decided that she knew better than God about the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and Adam decided Eve knew better too. And despite all the evidence that has accumulated in the centuries since that we do NOT know better than God, it is something that is born and bred in us to think we do.
And so Judas agrees to hand Jesus' over. Jesus was not turning out the way Judas thought he should when he signed up with the disciples. And so Peter says: "You shall never wash my feet." And why not? Because Peter thought it beneath the dignity of the Lord to do so such a thing. Didn't fit with his idea of Messiah at all. It's the same spirit in which he once rebuked Jesus for speaking of his cross and passion, saying: "May it never be." And that happened right after he had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. To be the Son of the Living God, to Peter, could not be made to fit with washing dirty feet or being nailed to a tree, with suffering and dying.
Thinking they knew better than the Lord. Thinking we know better. Sure God said, but.... And in such pride we continue to wreck the havoc of betrayal, of impeding God's grace, of dishonoring one another and God. This pride needs to die inside of us this Lent. It needs to be drowned in the water and left there. This pride, this strutting about as if WE were the ones who had it all figured out. This dealing with God and with others as though: If only they'd agree with US, we'd soon get things straightened out around here.
In utter contrast to the pride seated at the table, let your eyes drop to the man who is busy washing feet. He takes in hand dirty foot after dirty foot, touches them, cleanses them, pats them dry, moves on to the next. And who is this who is washing feet, doing the task of a slave? It is the Lord of the Universe, the Eternal Word through whom all things were made. If ever there were anyone who had reason for pride, it would be He. But see! He is not proud, He is humble. You've never come to understand the first thing about the true God until your eyes have been opened to see that about Him: the astonishing truth about our God is that He is humble.
He humbled Himself and did not abhor the Virgin's womb. He humbled Himself to be laid in a cow's feeding trough for a cradle. He humbled Himself to be the child of refugee parents. He humbled Himself to obey his Mother and foster-Father even though He was their Creator. He humbled Himself to labor as a carpenter and to regularly go to Synagogue and hear and learn and love the Scriptures. His Holy Spirit is the AUTHOR of the Scriptures, and yet He listens and learns as you and I do. He humbled Himself to hunger and thirst in the wilderness, to endure the sneers and trickery of Satan. He humbled Himself to spend His life for others: teaching, healing, loving and giving. And now He was on the doorstep of the greatest act of humility that would ever be known for He was preparing to yield his life to torture and to death that He might give forgiveness and life. And His prideful disciples STILL don't get it. So he takes off His clothes and dons a towel to give them one more lesson before THE moment arrives.
"You call me master. You call me the Lord. It is good that you say that. That's what I am. And if I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. I have done this to show you the way to do as I have done to you."
To show you the way. The way of humility. The way of love. The way that Jesus gave you at your Baptism to live. To live united to the One who alone has reason for pride and yet who is filled only with humility, with serving, sacrificial love.
The almighty is among us as One who serves. And so He reaches His body and blood even that night - for this would be His greatest service of all. That He would sacrifice Himself, offer His body and blood into death to obtain forgiveness for them and for us and for all the world. Forgiveness for all the silly pride we dress ourselves up in. Forgiveness for all the betrayals of His love. Forgiveness for all the things we think we know best and presume even to correct Him. For it all, He goes to the cross so that in Him we might die to sin and live for righteousness. That is, that we with Him might die to pride and live with Him in humility.
If we are returning to the font, to the life that God gave us there when the water was poured over us in the name of the Triune God, then that life which is Christ is death to all pride and the rising up of humility. He would raise us to be servants with Him. He would crown us with a servant's crown of thorns. He would love us that we might become lovers of each other.
"Lord, where are you going?" Peter asked. "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but afterwards you will follow me." Not merely a prediction of Peter's martyrdom. But rather, that where Jesus goes: into the uttermost depths of humility, Peter will follow - and so will you and I, as we are united to His death and resurrection in Baptism, strengthened in humility by His self-giving in the Eucharist, lifted to loving and serving. We will follow Him and it will be joy indeed. Amen.