Today's Sunday school lesson...a paraphrase of John 13:
It was Passover time in Jerusalem, and the city was crowded. The Jews celebrated it every year to remember how God led the children of Israel out of slavery so many centuries earlier. Sunday was an exciting day. Riding on a donkey, Jesus led His twelve disciples into the city, and the crowd went wild! They were so excited to see the One who had been promised ever since the time of Adam and Eve. A lot had happened since then, and Israel had lived as a Kingdom for a while, but then the nation went back into slavery. The first time, they were slaves in Egypt to the southwest. The second time, they were slaves in Babylon and Assyria to the east. God delivered them from that slavery as well, but they were never the same. Before they knew it, a new kingdom called Rome took over, and their Emperor Caesar was not the nicest guy to be around. Herod, the governor he had appointed, was also pretty bad. (Herod’s dad had actually tried to have Jesus killed when Jesus was a baby!) Not only that, but the Jewish Priests and teachers had looked at the Law that God gave Moses, and they had added a bunch of extra laws, which got harder and harder to keep.
For centuries, the prophets had told Israel that a Messiah would come and deliver them from their bondage once and for all. So now, Sunday was the first day of the week of Passover. Just as the prophets had said, Jesus had finally come, and the people could hardly contain their joy! They laid down coats and palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna! Save us! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”Some of these people had seen Jesus raise His friend Lazarus from the dead a few days earlier, and they were pumped!
The next few days, Jesus taught the crowds and His disciples a lot, and He even did a bunch of miracles for them. When Thursday rolled around, the time had come for the annual Passover Feast. This was to remember the last meal the Israelites ate before leaving Egypt long ago. Jesus sent Peter and John to a certain house in Jerusalem to set up the upstairs room and prepare the food for the feast. But there was something important they didn’t do. There was nobody to wash their feet.
Back in Bible times, they had no cars, no minivans, not even paved roads. People got around by walking on the dirty, dusty roads, wearing only sandals. Some people had horses, camels and other animals that they used to carry things and to ride on. If you’ve ever walked behind a horse, you know you have to watch your step. Not only that, but when it rained, the dirt on the roads turned to goopy mud. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t keep their feet clean.
Washing people’s feet was very important when they came into a building…but it was a really dirty job, and nobody wanted to do it! So, the servants would wash people’s feet.
When the feast was all ready, Jesus and the rest of His disciples arrived at the house and got ready to eat. But there was an important thing that needed to happen first. Where was the servant that was supposed to wash their feet? Oops! None of them wanted to do such an awful dirty job right before eating!
So the disciples were gathered around the table, and Jesus stood up. He took off His outer robe and wrapped a towel around His waist. Then He picked up a basin full of water and knelt down in front of one of the disciples, and He started to wash his feet! The promised Messiah, who they knew was God in human form, their leader, friend and teacher, was doing the icky, smelly job that only the lowest of the low were supposed to do! These hands had created their feet in the first place! Once the first disciple’s feet were clean, Jesus dried them with the towel and went on to the next disciple. Peter watched as Jesus made His way around the table, washing the gunk off the disciples’ feet, and he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Finally, when Jesus got to Peter, he had had enough. He decided to put his foot down, and he blurted out, “Lord, are you really gonna wash my feet?”
Jesus answered, “You don’t understand what I’m doing yet, but you’ll understand it later.”
Peter said, “Are you kidding? You will never wash my feet!”
“If I don’t wash you,” Jesus said, “you have no part with me.”
“OK,” said Peter. “In that case, wash my hands and head too!”
Jesus then reminded Peter that he didn’t need a bath; he just needed his feet washed.
After Jesus finished washing 24 filthy feet, He sat back down and asked them if they had figured out why He did that. When nobody answered, He went on. “You say that I’m your teacher and your Master. You’re right. I’m your teacher and your Master, and I’ve just washed your feet. You need to do that for each other. I did it to set an example for what you need to do. The truth is that no servant is greater than his master, and the messenger isn’t greater than the person who sent him. Now you know. You will be blessed if you do it.”
Today, we don’t usually need to wash each other’s feet. But there are a bunch of other things we can do to serve others. Something that other people don’t want to do, but needs to be done. Can you think of anything?