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John 13:1-17; Mark 10:42-45

We’re going to begin by listening to the passage being read aloud slowly. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes as the passage is read, and try to imagine the sights, sounds, smells, etc., as well as the feelings and inner-thoughts of the characters.

This passage is the beginning of a new section in John’s account of the life of Jesus, known as The Last Supper. Chapters 13-17 detail the conversations at the final meal Jesus had with his disciples before he was arrested and killed. Jesus and his disciples gathered privately, away from the crowds, to share the Passover meal together...

Read John 13:1-17

  • Share with one another what you imagined as you listened to the passage. What were the sights, sounds and smells? What were the feelings and thoughts of each character?

Foot-washing was traditionally the work of a slave, but not at this meal.[1] The disciples had been wearing open-toed shoes on dirt roads full of animals, in a time before modern sewerage and sanitation. Their feet would have been disgusting.

  • What is the most disgusting thing you have ever had to clean up?

  • What does it mean to you that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would do this?

Have another look at the interaction between Peter and Jesus (v6-9).

  • Why do you think Jesus insisted on washing Peter’s feet? Why was this moment so meaningful to him?

  • Why do you think Peter changed his mind? How much do you think he understood what Jesus was talking about?

In verse 10, Jesus says that they only need their feet washed, not their hands and heads. Traditionally, people would wash their hands and faces at home, but footwashing would be provided upon arrival at a meal because feet get dirty on the way there.

  • How does Jesus use this tradition as a metaphor? What do you think it means that Jesus has made us ‘clean’? And what does it mean that we still need Him to ‘wash our feet’?[2]

Jesus concludes that we should ‘wash one another’s feet’. He often taught his disciples to be humble servants.

Read Mark 10:42-45

  • What does it mean to you that Jesus would tell us to stoop down to the level of a slave?

  • In our modern context, what sort of serving could be the equivalent of footwashing?

  • How hard is it to serve with the same kind of humility that Jesus displayed when he washed his disciples’ feet?

Final thoughts:

If you are willing and able, fill some buckets with soapy water and wash one another’s feet as a sign of your willingness to serve one another.

[1] “Footwashing was normally carried out by a servant, not by those participating in the meal, and certainly not by the one presiding at the meal. According to later Jewish tradition, a Jewish slave would not be asked to wash people’s feet. That task was assigned to a Gentile slave. Presumably, there was no servant at the venue where Jesus ate the Passover with his disciples. There must have been a period of embarrassment as the disciples realized there was no-one available to do the footwashing, and none of them was prepared to carry out this menial service for the others. The consternation of the disciples would have been palpable as they realized Jesus was preparing himself to carry out this lowly service.” (Colin G. Kruse) [2] The truth is, there is no ‘right’ answer to this question. Scholars have suggested a number of interpretations. It is an interesting thing to wonder about together, but if it causes too much debate, you might like to let your group know there is no consensus!


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