10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”
So what do we glean here? Jesus is speaking symbolically of our sin state. Remember, there are two types of sin: that which we carry as a descendant of Adam, that we are washed free of when we accept Jesus' death on the cross; and the everyday sins we accumulate, that must be washed off daily by confession and penance. Once we accept Christ, we are seen as clean no matter our failings; our worst offenses are "dirt on our feet", to be washed off. But also, that daily feet washing is REQUIRED for a relationship with Christ. And the "not every one of you?" That was referencing Judas, who by his betrayal showed himself as not washed; the feet washing was useless for one such as him.
Another one such as Judas would be Jehoram, king of Judah, in 2 Chronicles 21. His many sins were listed:
-He murdered his brethren to secure a throne he already had;
-he was a pagan, following in the "ways of Ahab of Israel" and forsaking God;
-his was not an incomplete turning from God; it was intimate, as he had even married the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel;
-and it was not enough for him to be wicked, but he led Judah to worship as he did as well.
And yet, had he turned from his disobedience, he might still have saved himself, for even in the midst of his list, God said:
7 Yet the Lord would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.
God's promise meant more than all the sins of Jehoram, and would far outlast his lifetime. There was nothing he could do to eliminate the promise of God; but he could fail to accept it, and he did, and died a painful and unpopular death for it.
But how many times are we allowed to mess up? We mostly all know Jesus' "seventy times seven" answer, but let's put some meat to the story. In Judges 3, we find that the generation that had seen the miracles of God had died off, and to test the new generation, God let some of the surrounding peoples survive. These are the "Tares" of the parable, the "why does God let such people exist" of our daily lives. Six times, the book of Judges says that Israel sinned and forsook God to worship idols. Each time, one of these peoples rose up to oppress them. But, each time:
15 But when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them...
Of course, the rub was, each succeeding deliverer was a little lesser: one had to be led by a woman (a big deal back then) and had his victory stolen by a woman; another had to test the Angel of the Lord (AKA Jesus) twice before he was satisfied he should do the job; and of course, we end up with Samson, who corrupted himself with the enemy to the point of being powerless- until he called upon the Lord in his moment of utter humiliation (which he brought upon himself), and in one blow did more than he ever had before. So in the end, the lesson from Judges is that it doesn't matter how often you've sinned, nor how completely you've messed up, if you only turn back.
Not that it's alright to sin, far from it. In Isaiah 43, God goes through the long list of sins that Israel has committed, capping it off with the comment:
24 But you have burdened Me with your sins,
You have wearied Me with your iniquities.
But right away, God shows them the extent of His forgiveness:
25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.
26 Put Me in remembrance;
Let us contend together;
State your case, that you may be acquitted.
Even though God of infinite patience has been "wearied" by our sinning, He will not hold them against us- but He sets three caveats:
1- Put Him in remembrance. Remember hiding from God last week? Time to stop hiding and remember him before we act- as well as after.
2-Let us contend together- don't face sin alone. Turn to Him, let Him work for you.
3-Confess the sin, that it may be forgiven. Or in other words, allow your feet to be washed.
So why would God bother putting up with us? Because He knows us. Observe Jeremiah 17:
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.
God knows that the flesh we wear is going to lead us into sin. Period. This concept is so necessary that Paul paraphrases it in Romans 7:
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
But God, who calls on us to hear the Still, Small Voice of His Spirit, can dig through all our BS to the still small voice that we have, reading our intent at our noblest depths. We cannot bury our good deep enough that He cannot find it.
And while He would prefer that we turn to Him now, "while the branch is still green," He will wait until our very end for our turning. An example I had not contemplated before was that of the second robber on the cross. In Matthew 27 and Mark 15, we find the exact same set up:
1- everybody is laughing and making fun of Jesus.
2- BOTH robbers join in (Matt. 27:44 and Mark 15:32).
3- IMMEDIATELY AFTER this, we reach the "sixth to the ninth hours of Good Friday, when it clouds over and everyone begins to become aware that something... different is happening. Both verses Matt. 27:45 and Mark 15:33 (the very next verses) say, "NOW from the sixth hour to the ninth hour..."
But in Luke's telling, something begins to happen in that sixth hour. The second robber seems to look around him at what is happening. All the sudden, he begins to realize how foolish he's been and who he's in the presence of.
39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ,[j] save Yourself and us.”40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord,[k] remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
44 Now it was[l] about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour... So at his very end, with his condemnation looming before him, and now chance to make any amends, do any good works, nothing but to just turn to Jesus within his power, he finds that forgiveness.
And now I can look at my sins and say:
If I confess every time, I am forgiven every time.
That is God's promise, and I cannot break it.
No matter how many times I fail, no matter how bad I screw up. (though each one makes it that much harder.)
As long as I keep Him in mind, call on His help, confess my faults.
No matter how deep I have buried the voice in me that calls out to Him.
No matter how much time I have wasted.
And that is a comfort beyond comfort.