STUDY | Spend the week studying John 13:1-30. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | To be like Jesus, I must first seek to serve not to be served.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
HOPE AND HELP
John 13–17 is Jesus’ farewell message to His disciples. In it, He’s real with them. He tells them plainly—and sometimes with brutal honesty—what they can expect in the future. He warns them of the days ahead when they’ll be scattered, hated and persecuted. Some will even die for choosing to follow Him. But Jesus doesn’t leave it there. He also gives His disciples hope and help for the future.
This series is about eight powerful words Jesus spoke and modeled for His disciples on that night. Like the disciples, we need hope and help in life. Like them, we’re often troubled, afraid and unsure. We need assurance and peace to get us through the tough days when life doesn’t seem to work the way it should.
This week your group will look at the first word—serve. The first thing we see Jesus do with His disciples on that night is serve them. He gives them and all believers an example to follow. God calls you to be like Jesus in your life. If you want to be like Him, seek to serve, not be served.
Q: What words do you associate with “serve” or “serving”?
Q: Recall a time when God gave you peace in a difficult situation. What did you learn through the experience?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
PREPARING FOR DEPARTURE
The story of Jesus’ final hours with His disciples before His arrest is recorded in John 13–17. Jesus’ time has come, and He knows that He will soon be given over to be crucified. How does Jesus spend those final moments with His disciples? He prepares them for His departure.
All the disciples are there, including Judas Iscariot, the man who will soon betray Jesus. They enjoy a meal together. After supper, Jesus does something strange that catches the disciples off guard. He gets up, takes off His outer clothes and ties a towel around His waist. Then He proceeds to wash all the disciples’ feet. They’re shocked. This is the dirty job of a servant, not someone like Jesus. He’s their master. If anything, they should wash His feet!
Read: John 13:1–30. Split into pairs and retell the story to one another.
Q: What makes it hard to serve others?
LIVE TO SERVE
None of the disciples understand what’s going on. Jesus, knowing this, explains what He has just done. “The foot-washing is a symbol of what I will do for you and what you ought to do for one another. Serve one another as I have served you. Live to serve and not be served. If you do this, you’ll be blessed. I’ve chosen you and am telling you all these things now so that later you’ll remember who I am and who sent you.”
After this Jesus shocks His disciples again by saying, “One of you will betray me.” The disciples look at one another, perplexed about who He’s referring to. John asks Jesus, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus then takes a piece of bread and gives it to Judas. Judas takes the bread and knows he’s been caught. But Jesus doesn’t stop him. He tells Judas, “Go do what you have to do.” With that, Judas gets up and scurries off into the night.
Q: Name some of the people in your life who have a servant’s heart. What distinguishes them?
Q: Jesus served the man who betrayed Him. What does that teach you about serving?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
The goal of the Christian life is to become more like Jesus. In John 13 we see one of the most important parts of Jesus’ character in action. He was a servant at heart. He didn’t come to this earth to be served. He came to serve and give His life for others.
Jesus had nothing to prove. He was self-aware and knew who He was. He didn’t need to impress anyone to get ahead in life. He didn’t need to suck up or manipulate people in order to get His way. Instead, He served people that could do nothing for Him.
Jesus humbled Himself to serve others. And He did this out of love for His disciples. We are called to love others by serving them. Often, we do things to try to prove something or win brownie points with God. We want to be seen and acknowledged for what we do or say. But that isn’t Jesus’ way. His way is the way of humility, the way of serving others without expecting to get something in return.
Q: How would your life be different if you lived to serve others?
Q: What prevents you from following Jesus’ way of humility?
Serving others does have its benefits, though. Jesus promises us that we will be blessed when we serve. Those blessings include:
• Joy. Serving makes you think less of yourself and more of others. Instead of focusing on yourself and those things that cause you worry and anxiety, serving brings more joy into your life by lifting your eyes to see others and their needs.
• Protection. Having a servant mindset protects you when life’s storms come crashing in on you. That mind- set makes you always go the extra mile and gives you the endurance to get through the storm with God’s help.
• Promotion. Jesus made it clear that the proud will be humbled while the humble will be promoted. This is how Jesus lived and it’s the way we are called to live. To go up in God’s kingdom, you need to go down. You need to assume the posture of a servant like Jesus.
Q: What’s one thing you can do this week to take the focus off yourself and put it on others?
Q: What does it look like to take the posture of a servant?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
Jesus doesn’t just give His disciples a suggestion on how to live. He gives them a command. Serving is the delightful duty that brings you closer to the heart of Jesus, the ultimate servant. Serving is not optional for the believer. To follow Jesus is to serve others, even when it’s inconvenient or costs you something. It’s to serve everyone—even those that might annoy or even betray you. It’s to serve from a heart that overflows with love for God and others.
Q: Describe how serving is both a duty and delight.
Q: What are some ways your group can serve others outside your community?
Thank God for the example of His Son in how to live. Pray for a heart to serve others out of love. Ask God to reveal ways for you to serve others with your time, talents and resources.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
• Read Philippians 2:5–11 and reflect on what Paul says about Jesus’ example of humility.
• Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
Historical Background “Jesus’ act [of washing the disciples’ feet] is all the more remarkable, as washing people’s feet was considered to be a task reserved for non-Jewish slaves. In a culture where people walked long distances on dusty roads in sandals, it was customary for the host to arrange for water to be available for the washing of feet. Normally, this was done upon arrival, not during the meal.”
Poor Yet Rich “Even in His humiliation, our Lord had all things through His Father. He was poor and yet He was rich. Because Jesus knew who He was, where He came from, what He had, and where He was going, He was complete master of the situation. You and I as believers know that we have been born of God, that we are one day going to God, and that in Christ we have all things; therefore, we ought to be able to follow our Lord’s example and serve others.”
Justification and Sanctification “Verse 10 teaches an important lesson about the difference between justification and sanctification. The person who has had a bath is the one who has been cleansed of sin by the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. This is justification. [...] There is no need to bathe again. Once a person has received the cleansing benefit of Jesus’ sacrifice, there can be no reason why the process should be repeated. On the other hand, the cleansed person now needs only to ‘wash his feet.’ This is sanctification. Believers, through continued contact with the uncleanness of a world, separated from God and prone to act out of their old nature, need to be continually cleansed from their daily contact with sin. This is why we pray, ‘Forgive us our debts,’ and, ‘deliver us from the evil one’ (Mt. 6:12, 13).”3
1. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2050.
2. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 344–345.
3. Robert H. Mounce, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 548.