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Jesus, the Servant

John 13:1-17; The Desire of Ages, pp. 642-651



We show God’s love when we serve others.

Memory Verse:

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).

Do some chores you have to do seem unpleasant? Jesus did one of those jobs for His disciples. He wanted to show His disciples how much He loved them, and how they should serve others.


Jesus and His disciples had gathered to celebrate Passover. Jesus knew this was the last meal He would eat with them before He died. And there was still so much He wanted to teach them.

His disciples could feel that something was about to happen. But they were expecting Jesus to take the throne and become the ruler of the country. They were waiting for Him to set up a kingdom on earth. And each one wanted the best place in it. Every one of them believed he deserved the most important position.

In those days a servant usually washed the guests’ feet before dinner, especially an important dinner like the Passover. And everything was there in the room where they had gathered—the pitcher, the bowl, the towel. Everything except the servant. Dinner was ready. If someone would just come and wash their feet, they could begin the Passover feast.

The room grew quiet as they waited. Uncomfortably quiet. None of the disciples would look at the others. Each of them knew what needed to be done, but none of them would do it. I’m not going to do the work of a servant, each one probably thought. After all, I deserve the most important job in Jesus’ new kingdom. I am not going to get down on my knees and wash the others’ feet.

Jesus knew what His disciples were thinking. He desperately wanted to teach them that His kingdom was built on love. The way to show His love to others to unselfishly put others first. Jesus’ disciples had spent three years with Him. But they still had not learned the most important lesson. Greatness in God’s kingdom comes through humble service to others.

So Jesus gave them one last example. Quietly He got up from the table and took off His coat. He wrapped the towel around His waist. He poured water into the bowl. Without saying a word He began to wash the disciples’ feet. He didn’t lecture. He just did the job they each thought they were too important to do. Can you imagine how embarrassed they felt? He was their Master, the Son of God, the Creator of the universe. And He was doing the work of a servant.

It was more than Peter could bear. “Lord, You’re not going to wash my feet!” he exclaimed.

“If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me,” Jesus replied.

Jesus was washing more than the dust from His disciples’ feet. He was washing away their pride and selfishness. He was teaching them to serve one another. He was showing them how to reach those to whom they would soon be preaching the good news. Jesus finished and sat down. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked His disciples. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have given you an example. You should do as I have done for you.” Serve others, Jesus was saying. Do not be ashamed to do anything that will show My love.

Humility is the sign of true greatness. That night Jesus’ disciples learned a lesson they would never forget. Jesus wants us to learn that lesson too.

When Jesus was finished, He gave another promise. He said, “I will not have another service like this until I share it with you in heaven.”

Someday, we will be with Jesus. And we will share in that special service. But for now, Jesus wants to help all of us live a life of helpfulness to others. That’s one way to show God’s love to others.