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Scripture: John 13:1-17
Materials: Basin of water, towels
Objective: To demonstrate and teach how Jesus taught his disciples to be servants.
Have you ever played outside barefoot and gotten really muddy and dusty? Maybe when you came inside, your mom fussed at you to wash your feet because you left footprints across the floor!
Well, in Jesus’s time, everyone wore sandals, and it was very dusty walking the roads and paths. So, as a gesture of kindness and cleanliness, a visitor would be offered a bowl of water to wash his feet when he came to someone’s house. Normally, a servant would assist with this messy task.
However, Jesus used this idea to teach his disciples an important lesson. Listen.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Jesus began washing his disciples feet at the meal, as if He was the servant! One of the disciples, Simon Peter, had a hard time accepting this.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
Simon Peter first thought he was being respectful to Jesus by saying he would never wash his feet. He didn’t want Jesus to stoop to this lowly position. And then when Jesus said he would have no part with Him, he exclaimed he wanted to have his whole body washed!
Do you like to take baths or showers? Washing your whole body takes more time, effort, water, and attention. Peter wanted to impress Jesus with his devotion by saying these words.
Jesus replied that Simon Peter only needed to wash his feet. I bet you wished your mother would let you skip the bath like this, too! But again, Jesus was showing them something bigger than just being clean on the outside. Listen to what He tells them next.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Wow, those are amazing words! Jesus says He wanted the disciples to wash one another’s feet. He was setting an example of servant hood and humility, which means putting others before yourself.
Jesus says, “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Jesus was reminding the disciples that they were all equal and that none of them could be greater than Him.
And what did Jesus do? He showed them how to be servants, and also how to accept someone else’s humble servanthood.
Now, as we have learned the example Jesus set, I want you to experience what it is like to have someone else wash your feet. It may seem funny to have someone touch your feet—it may tickle or be uncomfortable.
And as the one washing feet, it may feel awkward. But remember, Jesus has called us all to do as he did. We may not wash feet anymore when we visit a friend’s house, but we can remember to use the same idea—servanthood—when we interact with them.
(Using the basin and towels, lead the kids through a simple foot washing, taking turns to wash or be washed.)
1. How did you feel as you washed your friends’ feet?
- How did it feel to have your feet washed?
- What does servanthood look like today? How can you be a servant to your friends and family? (Invite kids to answer. A few examples and ideas to share: Help them with chores, listen to them, be respectful.)
4. And how can you allow others to be a servant to you? (Ask for kids’ input again. Examples: Don’t make fun of someone who helps you. Be kind when someone compliments you or gives you a gift, even if you don’t like it.)