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The Servant Master

Key References: Luke 22:7-13; John 13:1-17; The Desire of Ages, chap. 71, pp. 642-651; The Bible Story, vol. 9, pp. 55-64; Our Beliefs nos. 16, 21, 9

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“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” (John 13:14, 15).

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We share God’s love with others when we serve them.

Has anyone ever done a job for you that you hate to do? Have you ever done a hated job for someone else? Would you be willing to do that for someone who was unkind to you? That’s what Jesus did.

There he is!” exclaimed Peter. “Just as Jesus said.”

“Where?” asked John.

“Near the basket vendor. See? He’s carrying a water jar,” said Peter. “I see,” replied John. “Quickly. He’s going into that house.” The two disciples followed the man as quickly as they could. He hadn’t been hard to find. After all, how many men carried water jars? That was woman’s work. Peter noticed that the man was walking into a house that had an upper floor.

Just as the man passed through the door, the owner came into full view. As Jesus had instructed them, Peter said, “The Teacher asks: ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ ”

Just as Jesus had said, the owner led them up the stairs to a large, furnished upper room. Entering the room, Peter and John looked around. There wasn’t a lot to do, but they were glad that they came when they did. They arranged the tables and placed the cushions so that everyone could recline comfortably. Peter almost tripped over a basin and the water jar the man had carried. Peter realized that the man had carried it for them to use before eating. Soon everything was ready—except for the food.

Then Peter and John started making the necessary preparations for the Passover meal. As the unleavened bread and the grape juice were placed on the table, the rest of the disciples began to arrive. The men crowded into the room, surveyed the arrangements, and argued over who was going to sit where.

They didn’t even notice when Jesus walked in, looking sad. If they had, they would have realized that His thoughts seemed to be somewhere else. Judas pushed his way toward the spot nearest Jesus.

Gradually the disciples stopped talking among themselves and grew quiet. Looking at Jesus, they waited for Him to say something. The silence seemed to last forever. Then Jesus stood up, took off His outer coat, and wrapped a towel around His waist. He walked over to the basin that Peter had tripped over—and that everyone had ignored when they came in. He filled it with water from the jar. Jesus then picked up the basin, knelt down in front of Judas, and began to wash his feet. Even though Jesus already knew that Judas was going to betray Him, that didn’t stop Him. Judas was shocked. But he didn’t say anything. He hoped his face wouldn’t give away what he had done before coming there.

The other disciples were shocked into silence also. Jesus slowly made His way around the group and lovingly washed and dried each man’s feet. When Jesus reached Peter, Peter put out his hand as if to hold Jesus off. “No,” he broke the silence, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Looking at him intently, Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Peter burst out, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

“Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean,” answered Jesus (John 13:8-10).

With these words Jesus explained the distinction between what baptism and the ordinance of foot washing represent. In other words, Peter had been baptized already. He just needed to daily renew his commitment to God through prayer, confession of sins, and receiving God’s grace.

Peter sat back, his face started to let go of its frown, and he allowed Jesus to finish. As Jesus washed John’s feet, He could see the gratitude in the eyes of this disciple.

When Jesus finished, He sat down again and looked at everyone around the table. “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,” said Jesus. “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” (verses 13-17).