The Path of ServiceJohn 13:13-17Theme: Foot-washing.This week’s lessons teach us how to encourage one another and share each other’s burdens. LessonFollowing the Lord Jesus Christ is an individual matter, but it is not individualistic. Let me explain. When we say that discipleship is an individual matter, we are saying that it is something the individual must do. No one can follow Jesus for you. Your husband cannot be your proxy. Your children cannot read the Bible for you, pray for you, obey the Lord for you. You must do these things for yourself, and if you do not do them, you are no true disciple. Individualism is something different. The dictionary defines individualism as “any doctrine or practice based on the assumption that the individual and not society is the paramount consideration or end” (Webster’s). Christianity is not individualistic, because it is never merely the individual but also all other persons who are in view.
The Lord indicated this when he responded to the question about the first and greatest commandment. He said that the first commandment is as stated in Deuteronomy 6:5 – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” But having spoken of the individual’s relationship to God, he immediately went on to speak of the individual’s relationship to all other people, citing Leviticus 19:18 – “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (See Matt. 22:37-40).
What should our relationship to other persons be? Jesus said that we are to love them, but how is that love shown? Do we show love by some form of benevolent rule in the same way that a king might be said to love his audience–or the way an audience might be said to love the performer? Christ’s answer was none of these possibilities. He said that we are to love others by serving them.
Jesus also demonstrated what he had in mind. John tells us that at the Last Supper, which Jesus observed with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion, the Master got up from the table, laid his clothes aside, and then, wrapping a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin, got down on his knees and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
An action like that was so unheard of that the outspoken Peter objected, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:6-8).
That was not enough for Peter, and he obviously thought he understood well enough to rebuke his Lord, as he had on an earlier occasion (“Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Matt. 16:22). Peter declared emphatically, “No, you shall never wash my feet.” However, when Jesus explained that unless he washed him Peter could have no part with Jesus, Peter reverses himself, saying, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:8-9). He was still trying to tell Jesus how to do things.
Jesus explained that he only needed to wash Peter’s feet, the very thing he had set out to do. Then he continued the foot-washing, rose, put his normal clothes back on, and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked. They obviously did not. He continued, “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. I tell you the truth, 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” (John 13:13-17).
According to this explanation, following Christ means serving others in accordance with his own example.
What does Dr. Boice mean when he writes that following Jesus is an individual matter but not an individualistic one?
According to today’s lesson, how are we to love others?
What was Jesus teaching by washing his disciples’ feet?