Just a Thought

The Last Supper: Three Lessons I Learned From Peter

I have always felt a close connection to Peter—probably because I get him. He felt a burning witness that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). But He was impetuous. He sometimes lacked clarity. Even after dedicating three years of his life to the Savior’s ministry, Peter still had much to learn. Some of Jesus’s final words to him before the Crucifixion were “when thou art converted,” implying a need for more work (Luke 22:32, emphasis added). Just like me.

Peter’s writings are insightful. But I learn the most by reading about Peter through the eyes of others. Take, for example, his interaction with the Savior at the Last Supper, as recounted by John. I learn so much about my own relationship with the Savior by observing Peter. Here are three lessons I learn from Peter about how to trust Jesus Christ.

The Last Supper

On that very eventful night—the night that would change our lives forever—Jesus sat with His disciples and broke bread at the Last Supper. But the event embodied so much more than food. It provided the Savior, in infinite tenderness for His children, another opportunity to teach lasting truths to those He dearly loved.

In those brief moments before the chosen Messiah would “descend below all things” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:6), He introduced His followers to the emblems of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In the bread and water, He taught, we could always find access to Him. He said, “This is my body which is given for you” and “my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19–20, emphasis added). And yet, even as He prepared to “[atone] for the sins of the world” (Alma 42:15), He still taught. He still served.

Following the sacrament, Jesus “riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments … and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:4–5). It’s in Peter’s response to this act that I learn much about myself and how I react to the Savior.

Lord, Dost Thou Wash My Feet?

When Jesus bent to wash Peter’s feet, Peter’s immediate response was to question why. Why do something that isn’t done, something below your station, something I don’t understand?

In love and patience, the Savior responded, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7). It’s as if He were saying, “Peter, Peter. I love you. I know you don’t understand everything right now because of your limited perspective and understanding. But trust me. Someday you’ll understand.”

How often do I, with my limited mortal perspective, ask the same questions? Why does the Lord allow me (or worse, those I love) to suffer trials? Why do things not work out how I hope? Why does He give commandments that I don’t understand? Why, why, why? We live in a world of instant information and gratification. Waiting in the dark isn’t really our thing. But sometimes it’s the answer.

To me, just as He did to Peter, the Lord says, “Trust me. I know you don’t understand right now. But someday you will.”

Thou Shalt Never Wash My Feet

After the Savior’s patient response, Peter jumped right in with his next exclamation. “Thou shalt never wash my feet” (John 13:8). I wonder if Peter was trying to say, “I love you, Lord. I don’t want you to have to do something beneath you for someone like me.” I wonder if, in his mind, he was showing respect for his Master. But in the process, He rejected the very thing He needed from his Savior.

How often do I, like Peter, reject the Lord’s greatest gift? Christ atoned (paid the price) for my sins and weaknesses. He also carried the burden of my sorrows, grief, and ailments. He was and is the centerpiece of the Father’s great plan for the happiness and progress of His children. Jesus continues to offer me the very thing I need, not only to survive this life, but to live with Him eternally. 

But sometimes, in my misguided attempts to navigate life, I fall for the false (and dangerous) belief that I can do things on my own, that I don’t need a Savior. In a recent address, God’s prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, implored us to rely on the Savior and repent. He reminded us about the most important reason Jesus offered an Atonement for you and for me. He said:

“Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.”

To Peter, Jesus responded, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8). In very real terms, if we don’t willingly receive all the Savior offers, we will have no part with Him either. We must be willing to access His powerful Atonement in our lives.

Lord, Not My Feet Only, But Also My Hands and My Head

But Peter wasn’t done. (Ah, Peter. I so get you!) Once he realized that he needed to let the Savior wash his feet in order to have a part with Him, he went completely overboard the other way. He said, “OK, if washing my feet is what you ask, then I’m all in. Don’t just wash my feet, wash everything. I want it all.”

Jesus answered, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean” (John 13:10). In other words, “Peter, I set the requirements. I am in control.”

How often do we think if something is good and right, then more is obviously better and righter? The Jews at Jesus’s time fell into this trap. The Law of Moses, which had been established to point them to Jesus, became the focus. They lost sight of its purpose.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is simple. It’s not always easy to live. But it is simple. We don’t need to overcomplicate things to have a part with our Savior. President M. Russell Ballard taught:

“The most joy comes from the simple things of life, so we need to be careful not to think that more needs to be added … to build faith and strong testimonies in the hearts of God’s children. Let’s not complicate things …. Keep it simple. It is in that simplicity that you will find … peace, joy, and happiness.”

Our efforts are enough. What Christ requires is enough. If we come to Him with a broken, penitent heart, give what He asks, and then move forward with faith, that’s all we need. He will make of us what He needs us to become.

Trust the Lord

I, like Peter, need to trust the Lord’s wisdom. I need to believe that He knows more than I know. I need to access His Atonement and let go of thinking I can do it alone. I need to yield to His methods.

The Savior said to Peter and His other disciples, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). Peter spent a lifetime learning to know and do these things. I hope that we can learn from his experiences and know and do them too. The outcome is our happiness.

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