Today Christians throughout the world gather to tell the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet and the story of His final meal—the Lord’s Supper—in a private room in Jerusalem. Some ancient churches begin a worship service this night and remain in worship continually until Easter Sunday morning.
The Jewish Passover Feast was set to begin at sundown, so throughout this day, Jews went to the Temple to ceremonially sacrifice a lamb for the Passover meal that night. Because the meal had to be eaten by dusk within Jerusalem’s walls, Jesus had prepared a room where He and His disciples would meet and celebrate together. His final meal, eaten this night, is one of His best-known activities. We call it the Lord’s Supper. This same evening, Jesus dressed as a slave and washed the feet of His disciples, and they found His action shocking. Foot washing was a common practice—however it was one that was always done by a servant. By His action, Jesus clearly demonstrated a model of how His followers are to live:
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14 ESV).
For Jesus, lowly service—service beyond what anyone might expect—is another hallmark of what it means to be His follower. In this deed, Jesus literally “made them clean” but He also saw this as a convenient symbol. They would be completely “cleansed” by His death on the cross where their sins would be forgiven. Remarkably, we are to join Jesus in this work. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15 NIV).
How can I imitate Jesus’ service to others?
Read aloud John 13:1-5 with your family
Note that if you have younger children you may want to read this out of a children’s bible such as The Beginner’s Bible. The story is simplified for their ease of understanding.
What happened when the disciples did what Jesus asked them to do (at the beginning of the passage)? (Everything turned out exactly like he said it would. We can trust that God will do the same for us when we do what he has asked us to do.)
What did Jesus say was the way to become great in God’s Kingdom? Why does Jesus say you need to become like the youngest or like a servant? (Becoming great in God’s Kingdom means that you are not like the rulers of the world. The disciples had been promised that they would have a place of authority in God’s Kingdom (Matthew 19:28). Jesus wanted to make sure that they didn’t get caught up in the idea of ruling like the world showed. Jesus’ rule is completely different- understanding everyone from youngest to oldest, greatest to least.)
How do you think Peter felt when Jesus told him that he would deny Jesus three times? Why would this have been especially hard for Peter to hear? How would you have responded?
Family Activity #1: Have a bowl, a bar of soap, and paper towels ready. Take turns washing each other’s hands and drying them as you express love to each other. Display the soap at your family worship space. You could also pray a simple pray for each other as you wash feet.
Family Activity #2: Take time to have an actual communion with your children. Set up communion with a loaf of bread and glasses of grape juice. Pass the loaf or larger piece of bread around allowing them to break off a piece. Explain that this is the way Jesus and the disciples would have done it at the Last Supper.
Older Children & Teenagers: This activity will mean more to elementary aged children and older. A good companion passage to use with this is found in I Corinthians 11. Talk about how celebrating Communion means that, besides remembering what he did, you are identifying yourself with Christ’s death. You can point out that Jesus gave them this instruction before the crucifixion. They weren’t totally sure what it meant yet. For us, though, it means that we are saying that we are thankful for what Jesus did on the cross and we believe that he is our savior because of that. Also, discuss that if you celebrate it without having decided to follow Jesus as savior, you are saying that you are something that you are not. Communion is not a ritual that brings salvation, but rather a time to reflect on how and why you are able to have true salvation.
Remember to color the Maundy Thursday circle and attach it to your Holy Week Palm Branch
Additional Idea: Have each person in your family make a list of different ways that you can serve others around you. Does somebody at school need help? How about work? Can you serve and show love to anyone in your neighborhood? Throughout the next few weeks, challenge each other to complete some of the things on the list they have come up with.
Prayer: Pray that God would remind you daily to love, serve, and care for others around you. Jesus gave us His perfect example and we should try to follow it in all ways of our lives.
Extra note: The Passover seder meal is rich with meaning and symbolism. You might want to extend this activity and celebrate a kid-friendly seder meal together. Or you may want to read about the original Passover in Exodus 12.