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4. Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

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Scripture Reference:

John 13:1-17

Key Verse:

John 13:15 (NET)

“For I have given you an example – you should do just as I have done for you.”

1. Read the Passage

Read John 13:1-17

Dig deeper

In his book, John maintains a pattern of ‘7’. He lists 7 witnesses, lists 7 miracles and also lists 7 ‘I Am” statements of Jesus. Family Devotionals Activity Sheet – Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet lists the scripture references for the 7 miracles (John calls them ‘signs’). It also lists scripture references noting the responses of the people to those seven signs. In the space provided, jot down the signs and the responses. You will notice that as Jesus’ miracles became more significant, the hatred towards Him grew as well. Discuss with your family why this may have been the case.

2. Observe the scene, as well as the actions and attitudes of Jesus

This devotional will focus on the emotions Jesus may have been feeling. What do we know about what Jesus knew and felt? How did He demonstrate His feeling?

Notice an important principle here: Jesus KNEW (vs. 1, 3) so Jesus DID (vs. 2, 4-5). Jesus did what He did because He knew what He knew. Our actions are the result of our deepest thoughts. What do your actions say about your thoughts?

3. Understand the culture

It was customary for guests arriving at a person’s home to have his/her feet washed. This was a menial task and was often done by a servant.

This particular foot washing, however, did not take place upon arrival rather it occurred during the evening meal (John 13:2). Jesus got up from the meal and removed His outer garment because His outer garment would have gotten in His way. He then wrapped a towel around His waist.

“By putting on an apron, Christ looked like the slave to whom the task of washing the feet of guests was assigned. Though the disciples realized what Jesus was doing, none of them offered himself for the task. Servanthood was not on their minds. Jesus loved them knowing all about them, including the worst of them, Judas. All of them knew what needed to be done. All of them could have done it but none of them did.”i

(See Luke 22:24 for a glimpse as to why they may not have been thinking about servanthood.”

4. Observe the response of the people

We’ve already observed that none of the disciples offered to wash the others’ feet. Granted, it was not their job to wash one another’s feet, but they would have recognized what Jesus was doing the moment He bent down to wash the first set of feet. Thus they knew what Jesus was doing yet not one of them offered to do it for Him or to even help Him for that matter.

John tells us of Peter’s response. What did Peter tell Jesus?

Do you think Peter was being disrespectful? Why or why not? (see verse 9)

Peter loved Jesus and did not want Jesus washing his feet. He couldn’t imagine Jesus washing his dirty feet. Yet Jesus insisted because Jesus always took the opportunity to teach a spiritual lesson when doing physical tasks. What might have been the lesson Jesus was trying to teach Peter with His response: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

Also note: Peter was trying to tell Jesus what Jesus should or should not do. This is interesting; how often do we try to tell Jesus what we think is best for us?

Dig deeper:

Discuss with your family the contrast between the events of Palm Sunday and this event. Jesus announced Himself as King of Israel and was now performing the task of a lowly servant. What does this tell you about Christ and about the example He has set for us?

5. Your Response:

We can note three responses here:

1. Jesus

Out of His love for His disciples and because He knew His time had come, He washed their feet as a demonstration of His love for them. Consider Philippians 2:5-8 (NET)

    “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”

2. The disciples

They were too busy arguing over who was the most important that they neglected to volunteer to wash the others’ feet or even to offer to help Jesus was the others’ feet.

3. Peter

He loved Jesus and wanted to please Jesus, but he was still trying to dictate to Jesus what He should do.

What about you? Are you too busy trying to become someone that you are missing opportunities to serve one another? Are you like Peter, one who loves Jesus but sometimes tries to tell Him what to do? Or are you like Christ, demonstrating your love for Him in how you serve others?

Decide as a family how you might serve another person or family. Perhaps you could bake cookies and take them to a shut-in or to a nursing home. Perhaps someone needs help with childcare or an auto repair and you are in a position to help. As a family, demonstrate your love for God by serving others.

Pray with your family…

    • Thank God for Jesus and for the example Jesus sets for us in His word.

    • Ask God to help you identify someone in need so that you might serve them.

6. Family Activity

Have you ever been a part of a foot washing? Why not follow the example set before us by Christ and participate in one with your family?

Beginning with the adults, wash the feet of one another in your family. As you wash one another’s feet, remember to pray for that person. Upon the conclusion of the foot washing, a parent should lead the family in a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing for his/her family.

Related Topics: Easter, Children

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