John 13:1–20: The Servanthood of Jesus
At various points throughout our study of the Gospel of John, we have assumed a connection between the suffering of Jesus and our own suffering. Is this a safe assumption to make? Jesus’ suffering is redemptive in a way that ours is not, so that no amount suffering we endure can save us or anyone around us. If this is the case, then how can we see any connection between Jesus’ experiences and our own? Can we legitimately argue from the fact that Jesus’ glory is revealed in his suffering to make the case that his glory will also be revealed in us through our own suffering? What glory does the Master retain, and what does he share with his servants?
As Jesus enjoys his final meal with his disciples in John 13:1–20, our Lord begins to make these connections clearer when he passes on his pattern of servanthood to his disciples. In this passage, Jesus serves his disciples as yet one more form of his humiliation and suffering. Then, he tells them to follow his example by serving just as he has served. Ultimately, no one could ever replicate the glorious, redemptive, suffering servanthood of Jesus, but Jesus calls all of us to imitate it. The suffering servanthood of Jesus connects to our own suffering in this way: Jesus takes the form of a servant to save and to send.
1. Observe as many details as you can from John 13:1–5 to describe the servanthood of Jesus. Why does he serve? What does his service accomplish? To what degree does he humble himself as a servant? How does the servanthood of Jesus compare to the way that you serve those around you?
2. Why does Peter refuse to let his master wash his feet? Why does Jesus insist on doing so? What makes the total humiliation of Jesus during his earthly ministry necessary in order to bring about our salvation? What part of Jesus’ ministry belongs exclusively to him, unrepeatable by us? What part of Jesus’ humiliation does he command us to imitate?
3. What kind of a Lord is Jesus? How does he use his authority when he commands his disciples to serve? How does Jesus’ use of authority compare with the way that we use authority? How do we seek to be served, and how does Jesus’ example compel us to leverage our authority in order to seek to serve?
4. What kind of a Teacher is Jesus? How does Jesus model what he intends to teach? How can our own teaching become more about leading by example and less about lecturing people about things we aren’t willing to do?