Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
Imitators of Christ – Humility
Teacher’s Notes: We are currently in a series of lessons on being imitators of Christ. When we call ourselves by His name (Christians), we are expected to act like Him. Last week looked at an example of Jesus Christ’s great compassion. This week, we are going to learn what humility is, and see it at work in the life of Jesus. Humility does not come naturally to most of us. But by following Jesus’ example, and with the help if The Holy Spirit, we too can be humble servants of God, just like Jesus!
Begin by asking the students who were with you last week if any of them tried to imitate Christ this week by helping someone in need. Ask them if they would like to share the needs they encountered, and how they were able to help. If any students share an example, rejoice with them that they were able to be the hands and feet of God! Then ask if anyone remembers the verse they learned last week, and if time permits, review the verse with them, to help reinforce what they’ve already learned.
Last week, we talked about the word “compassion.” Does anyone remember what it means? (remind them that compassion has two parts, feeling badly that another is hurting, then doing what they can to help). This week we’re going to learn about another word. Humility.
I want to begin, today, by asking you some questions. Do you know any great people? What makes a person great? (Ask the students to give you specific examples of people they know, who they might consider to be great people.) What do you think is the greatest thing this person has ever done?
Have you ever done something great? If you have, can you tell us about it? Have you climbed a mountain? Sailed around the world? Flown in a space ship? Did you ever sing in front of a large crowd? Win a spelling bee? Get a really good grade on a test? Many people would consider all of these to be great accomplishments.
Let’s look at some more…Have you ever taken care of someone when they’re sick? Cleaned up a mess your pet left behind? Cleaned up a mess your brother or sister left behind? What about washing someone else’s dirty, smelly, walked–all-day-on-a-dirt-road feet? If you’ve done any of these things, how did you feel about it? Did you feel like you had done something great? Did you want everyone to know what you had done? Or, perhaps, were you embarrassed by having to do such things?
Most people would not include these in a list of the greatest things they’ve done. But there is someone who did. Jesus Christ. Of all the great things He did while walking on this earth, washing the feet of His disciples is one that He felt was great enough to include in The Bible. Why do you think He chose to include such an event in the Bible? Perhaps it was to teach His disciples and us about humility!
Here’s one more question for you, before we look at our Scripture passage for today: imagine that today a very special party is being given for you. Perhaps it is your birthday. You and your friends have been playing outside all day. It was a rainy day, so everyone is very muddy. And now it’s time to go inside and enjoy a wonderful meal that your mother has prepared for everyone. The only problem is that your mom has said that no one can eat until everyone has gotten cleaned up. There is an empty pitcher for water and a towel. But someone needs to get water. Remember, you are the guest of honor…the party is for you. What will you do? Will you wait to see if someone else will get the water? Will you ask someone else to do it? Or will you be the one to go and get the water for everyone? What do you think Jesus would do?
Can anyone tell me what humility is? (After allowing your students to share their ideas, share with them this one:) According the dictionary, humility is an attitude that is free from pride and arrogance. It can also be “a sense of one's own unworthiness through imperfection and sinfulness.” Since God cannot sin, that definition would not apply to Him. But how about this one, it comes right from the book of Philippians, and describes a humble attitude as lowliness of mind…each one looking at others as being better than themselves. And the verse just after this says that we should “let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus: Who…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant… ” (Philippians 2:5-7)
Today, in our lesson, we’re going to look at an occasion where Jesus performed an act of great humility before His disciples. He did this so they would learn to be humble servants, too.
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for the opportunities you gave us this week to meet the needs of people around us. We count it a privilege to be Your compassionate hands and feet! Please help us now, Lord, to see what great humility You had, too. And help us to see when our hearts need to be changed, so that we can be willing servants, for You. Open our ears and hearts to Your lesson for us today. Amen.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” John 13:14-15
This Week’s Lesson:
(Jesus washes His disciples’ feet)
(Suggested Bible Reading): John 13:1-17 (you may read the entire passage now, or just refer back to it when suggested in the lesson)
1Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
2And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;
3Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
11For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
12So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
15For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
Our Scripture passage, today, takes place at a very important time in Jesus’ life. In just a few short hours, Jesus will be betrayed by one of His own disciples. He will be turned over to the Jewish authorities, then the Roman authorities. And finally, they will hang Him on a cross. Three days later He would rise from the dead. Then after another few weeks, He would be going away from them, to Heaven. Jesus knew His time with His disciples was coming to an end. But He still had some very important lessons for them to learn before He leaves.
There are many good ways of teaching lessons. One is to simply use words to give information to those who are learning. But often, a much more effective way to teach is by example. A teacher can help his or her students learn how to do something by actually doing that very thing themselves. So they can hear and see how it’s properly done. And this is exactly what Jesus did for His disciples in this passage.
Verse 1 of our chapter tells us that Jesus and His disciples are celebrating the Passover Feast. And by verse 2, the supper is already finished. But in verse 4, we learn that something has been forgotten. It would have been traditional at a Jewish feast for a servant to wash the feet of all the guests when they entered the home. There was no servant here, at the time. So everyone sat down to eat, and no one took the responsibility of filling the servant’s role. Now, you must remember that in this culture, they would have been eating in a reclining position. So each one’s feet would probably have been near someone else’s head…while they were eating. Do you think the disciples noticed? I think they did! But still, no one offered to wash the others’ feet. No one wanted to take the role of a servant.
Then, when everyone was finished eating, the unimaginable happened. According to verse 4, Jesus, Himself, put aside His regular outer clothes. He picked up a towel, and dressed Himself as a servant would be dressed. He then (according to verse 5) put water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples. How do you think each disciple felt as Jesus knelt down on the floor in front of him, dressed like a lowly servant, and carefully washed all the dirt from his muddy feet? How do you think you would have felt?
We get to hear what Peter thought in verse 8. Peter said, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Peter could not believe that His Lord and Master was kneeling there, getting ready to act like his servant. This was a lowly job, meant for a lowly slave…not the Son of God! But Jesus responded to him, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” What do you think Jesus meant by this? He was not talking, now, about being washed by the water in the basin. Now Jesus was talking about have clean hearts. If you have been saved, then God has cleaned your heart just like He was talking to Peter about, here. Once Peter heard Jesus’ response, he decided He wanted to make sure he got all he could from Jesus. But he still did not completely understand what Jesus was doing. Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” (verse 12) Peter got a little overanxious here. And Jesus took the opportunity to teach yet another lesson. He told Peter that when he is clean, then goes out for a walk, it is only his feet that need to be washed. We don’t need to bathe our entire bodies just because our feet get dirty. But when our feet do get dirty, they do need to be washed. The same is true with our hearts and sin. Once we have been saved, and our hearts have been cleansed from sin, we don’t need to keep getting saved over and over again. But when we do sin, we need to come to God, and confess that sin, so our relationship with Him is not dirtied up with our sin.
Jesus did point out, however, that someone there at the feast was not clean. And that was Judas Iscariot. He was about to go out and betray Jesus to the Jewish officials who wanted to kill Him. And Jesus knew it! But do you know what Jesus did when he came to Judas’ dirty feet? He washed them, too, right along with everyone else’s. Now that did not mean that Judas’ heart was clean. We know that from verses 10 and 11. But did that stop Jesus from showing love to Judas, anyway? How do you thing Judas felt as Jesus washed his feet? The Bible does not tell us. But don’t you suppose that he felt guilty and ashamed? What a loving Savior we have, that He would show such humility and love, even toward His enemy.
Jesus closes this passage by doing something He didn’t always do. He took a moment to sit down with His disciples, and carefully explain what He had just done, and why He had done it. He acknowledged, first of all, that He really was their Lord and Master. And in doing so, He was saying that He knew He should have been the one at the feast that everyone else would show honor to. But Jesus wanted the disciples to understand that no one is above serving others. No one is too good to lend a hand when needed. He wanted them to see with their own eyes that to be a great Master, one should be willing to be a humble servant. And not only that, but He wanted to be sure His disciples understood that He then expected them, as His disciples to do as He had done…to be willing to serve each other.
And while Jesus didn’t say so in this passage, do you think it matters to God what our attitudes are like when we are serving others? You can be sure it does! Listen to these verses:
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” Colossians 3:23.
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3:17
Not only does God want us to follow Jesus example by being willing to serve others, He also wants us to do it with an attitude of worship to Him. Even going so far as to give thanks to God! When was the last time you were thankful as you did something for someone else? Do you think you can have a positive attitude as you serve others? What if it’s someone who picks on you, or says mean things about you? Yes, God wants you to be willing to gladly serve even your enemies, just as Jesus did.
But how can we do that? How can we be like Jesus, and want to serve others in ways that may seem beneath us…like we’re too good to be doing that? Only with the Holy Spirit in our hearts can we serve others the way Jesus did, with a positive attitude, genuine love, and true humility.
Closing Prayer: Lord, thank You for showing us, through Your example to Your disciples, what it means to be truly humble. Thank You for being willing to humble Yourself by coming here, to this earth, to be our Savior. Help us, this week Lord, to be humble servants for You. When we’re asked to do a task that may seem like it belongs to someone else, help us to do it with joy, knowing that we are being humble, just like You! We love You, Lord. And we want to grow to be more like You, every day. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity: If you have time, bring a bucket of water and a cloth to class. Then have each student wash the hands (or feet) of another. As they do, ask the one who is doing the washing how they feel about the task. Perhaps they will be surprised to find that they feel good about doing something like this for someone else. Then ask the one whose hands are being washed how they feel. Many may feel uncomfortable having someone else do this for them. Remind them that Peter felt the same way.
Then encourage the students as they are at home this week to try to remember this lesson when they are asked to help out around the house, or perhaps at work, or even when they are out with their friends. Perhaps they can even look for ways they can serve others this week, without even being asked. What a blessing they could be…and what great examples of being imitators of Christ!
To wash another’s feet…
That’s true humility!
The duty of a servant
And not a lofty king.
But that’s just what our Lord did;
Put kingly robes aside,
To teach His twelve disciples
To put away their pride.
Could you do what The Lord did,
And be a servant, too?
Yes, you can be like Jesus -
His Spirit lives in you!
Lisa DeVinney, February, 2017