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Sabbath School Lessons on John
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 10: True Greatness *
Introduction: How important is your "image?" When we bought our first
house I recall my neighbor asking me, "If you are a lawyer, why are
you living here?" How about that for a boost to the old "image!"
Later, I stopped buying new cars and bought a bigger house instead.
It seemed the Lord would lead me to these great (but not great-looking) auto deals. These cars saved me lots of money, but whenever
I had to drive to a meeting with people I did not know very well, I
hoped no one would see my car. It was so bad that one essentially
homeless church member asked me "Why do you fool around with a $200
car?" Why, indeed? The image that concerned me was that I drove poor
cars because I was a lousy lawyer and this was all I could afford!
Jesus has a lesson on "image" for us in our study today. Let's dive
- Attitudes and Images
- Read John 13:1-3. If you were a king, and were returning
in triumph to your kingdom, how would you feel?
- Would you feel good? Confident? Proud?
- If God put you in charge of all things in heaven and
earth, how would that affect your self-image?
- Would you be glad to leave this earth and its lowly
- Verse 2 tells us that Judas was already in the
process of betraying Jesus. If you were Jesus, and
you had all power, how would you react to that
- What would be your attitude toward Judas?
- Read Matthew 26:14-16. The "him" in this text is Jesus.
Put yourself in Judas' place. If Jesus becomes King, what
position do you hope to have in His kingdom? (We learned
last week from John 12:6 that Judas kept the money for the
disciples. The logical role Judas would have in Jesus'
kingdom would be treasurer.)
- Would Judas trade the opportunity to be treasurer of
the nation for 30 pieces of silver? (It makes no
logical sense. There are two reasonable explanations
for Judas' betrayal. One, Judas decided that Jesus
would never claim to be King. He had wasted his time
with Jesus. Two, and more likely, Judas had seen
Jesus' power and he knew that the authorities were no
match for Jesus. I believe that Judas thought that
his little plan would force Jesus to take action to
become King. Jesus would become King and Judas would
become treasurer. Judas would make a little money in
the deal to reward him for his creativity and
intelligence. A "win-win plan.")
- Let's continue our reading in John 13. Read John 13:4-5.
Remember verse 3 tells us Jesus is all powerful. Verse 4
starts out, "so." Do the actions of verse 4 and 5
logically follow from verse 3?
- How does washing the feet of the disciples fit Jesus'
mood of triumph?
- How does it fit Jesus' "promotion" to (v.3) having
all things under His power? (It is completely at odds
with His triumph from a human point of view.)
- Our lesson is entitled "True Greatness." Jesus is heading
for His destiny and Judas is heading for his destiny. If
you assume my preferred explanation for Judas' actions,
compare their strategies to achieve greatness?
- What about you? How do you approach greatness and
advancement at work and in your church?
- Is your attitude in life that you are smarter than
the others and you get what you want by manipulating
them? How about being smarter than your boss?
- When you pursue advancement at work is it by
serving others or by having them serve you?
- How would washing the feet of your co-workers advance your
image of success?
- Jesus explains this to us. Read John 13:12-17. For many
years it annoyed me that my church included "foot-washing"
with communion. Why ruin a perfectly great ordinance by
sneaking in this foot-washing stuff?
- Jesus did not say when we should wash feet. It just
so happened He did it before the Lord's Supper
(Communion). Why should we put them together?
(Communion reminds us of the ultimate sacrifice that
Jesus made for us. Foot washing reminds us of our
obligation to serve and sacrifice for others. There
is a very tight logical link.)
- Does verse 13 suggest that washing the feet of others
is inconsistent with Jesus being "Teacher" and
"Lord?" (No. Jesus accepts His authority and power.
He simply gives us an example of how to use authority
- Notice that verse 17 says you will be blessed if you
serve others. Is this a blessing that God sends down
as payment for your service?
- Or, is service to others a blessing in itself?
- Look back at John 13:1 for a minute. Is serving others
showing them the "full extent of [your] love?"
- Or, is following Jesus' model of the servant leader
mainly a pain in the neck or a cause for guilt? (Our
lesson points out (Tuesday) that anyone who has power
and money can use them to benefit self. The real
test of character is having power and money and
deciding to use them to benefit others. Consider your
life. On which side of the line does your life fall?)
- The Premium Wash v. the Touch-Up
- Let's go back and pick up the exchange with Peter. Read
John 13:6-8a. What do you think of Peter's attitude? (I
give him high marks. He did not take over the foot washing
for the other disciples, but at least he was not going to
allow Jesus to wash his feet. Peter would sacrifice clean
feet for the honor and position of his Master.)
- Read John 13:8b-9. What changed Peter's mind about having
his feet washed?
- Was Jesus encouraged by Peter's response? (Jesus must
have enjoyed Peter. Peter first stands up for Jesus'
dignity. Then when Peter learns that unless he gets
washed he cannot be with Jesus, then Peter says "wash
everything!" Peter loves His Lord.)
- Read John 13:10-11. Is Jesus talking about real baths or
is He talking about spiritual baths? ( John 11:55 reveals
that at the Passover the people would purify themselves
ceremonially. This involved a real bath, but the goal was
a spiritual one. No doubt Jesus' disciples already had
their ceremonial bath.)
- If Peter is already ceremonially clean, why would he
"have no part" with Jesus if he did not allow Jesus
to wash his feet? (We become a part of Jesus' kingdom
through belief, repentance and baptism. Washing feet
is not normally considered a prerequisite for
salvation. However, Jesus is teaching Peter an
important lesson about humility and serving others.
Jesus is saying that unless we learn this lesson
about serving others, we really do not understand the
gospel. In addition, if Peter would not allow Jesus
to wash his feet, how could he allow Jesus to die for
- Read John 13:34-35. How important is this lesson in
humility and service to the gospel? (Jesus gave
Himself up for us. True love gives up self for
others. This kind of love is a sign for those outside
the church. It makes us unique.)
- Read John 17:20-23. This is a prayer of Jesus for His
disciples. What does Jesus ask for His disciples?
- Do you see that Jesus' prayer is answered among
- If not, what does this prayer suggest may be the
problem? (The key to unity seems to be the Spirit of
Jesus (v.23) in us. A lack of unity suggests that not
everyone who claims to be a Christian has invited
Jesus to come into his or her life.)
- If you do not have unity in your church, where
should you look first to solve the problem?
- Friend, is Jesus' mind set part of your life? Is your
attitude one of service? Have you determined that the road
to true greatness involves sacrificing for others? Or, are
you more concerned about "image?" Are you experiencing
conflicts in your church because you have an attitude that
is inconsistent with Jesus' washing the feet of His
disciples? Jesus calls on you today to repent of these
sins, to invite Him into your heart and change your
- Next week: The Spirit "Replaces" Jesus.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.