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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 in!

  1. Attitudes and Images

    1. Read John 13:1-3. If you were a king, and were returning in triumph to your kingdom, how would you feel?

      1. Would you feel good? Confident? Proud?

      2. If God put you in charge of all things in heaven and earth, how would that affect your self-image?

      3. Would you be glad to leave this earth and its lowly humans behind?

      4. 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 betrayal?

        1. What would be your attitude toward Judas?

    2. 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.)

      1. 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.")

    3. 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?

      1. How does washing the feet of the disciples fit Jesus' mood of triumph?

      2. 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.)

    4. 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?

      1. What about you? How do you approach greatness and advancement at work and in your church?

      2. 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?

        1. When you pursue advancement at work is it by serving others or by having them serve you?

    5. How would washing the feet of your co-workers advance your image of success?

    6. 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?

      1. 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.)

      2. 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 and power.)

      3. 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?

        1. Or, is service to others a blessing in itself?

    7. Look back at John 13:1 for a minute. Is serving others showing them the "full extent of [your] love?"

      1. 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?)

  2. The Premium Wash v. the Touch-Up

    1. 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.)

    2. Read John 13:8b-9. What changed Peter's mind about having his feet washed?

      1. 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.)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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 him?)

      2. 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.)

    4. Read John 17:20-23. This is a prayer of Jesus for His disciples. What does Jesus ask for His disciples?

      1. Do you see that Jesus' prayer is answered among Christians today?

      2. 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.)

        1. If you do not have unity in your church, where should you look first to solve the problem?

    1. 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 attitude.

  1. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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