Maundy Thursday: Memo from Simon Peter

You shall not wash my feet, I said.
My reaction was visceral, reflexive, furious.
I couldn’t then say why I was so offended
By his self-humiliation.
But now I see.
If he, Rabbi and Leader, would abandon
All protocols of propriety,
What would it mean for us, for me?
I had my heart set upon a throne,
Right next to his,
Preferably to his right,
With Zebedee’s sons, my rivals,
Put in their places on his left.
I was ambitious. I am even now.
What does it do to my ambition
To make the top the bottom,
The leader the servant,
And the last the first?
Where could this lead?
Will women dare to aspire
To be seen as our equals?
Will the outsiders stand on level ground
With the pure, the righteous, the orthodox?
Will circumcision, sacrifice, priesthood, temple
Count for nothing?
Doesn’t he know?
The cosmos is hierarchical.
There are kings at the top and slaves at the bottom,
Fathers and sons, men and women, teachers and students,
Older and younger …
No sane man would unsettle that order.
It is divinely ordained.
So, yes, I was offended.
When he pressed me,
Said my feet must be washed
Or I had no part with him. So
I wrestled again to be first,
Seizing on this:
I will be first in being served!
And so I demanded to be washed
More than the others, head to toe.
But no. He saw through my game, and
Would not comply.
As he washed my feet and allowed me no special place,
I burned within.
Later, the burning flared: I will never abandon you! I said.
All the others might falter, but not I!
He told me the cock would mock my boast.
I hated him. I resented him. I thought he hated me.
Yet I loved him.
Serve one another as I have served you, he said.
Love one another as I have loved you, he said.
If his wild ways succeed,
All this world’s order will be undone
And some new order will come.
I see why Judas has been so concerned.