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Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

John 13:1-17

Story Summary

To put this story in context, see this visualization of the chronology of Holy Week. In this visualization, this story falls within the "Last Supper" section.

This story is fairly straightforward and should be read directly from the Bible. Unlike most of the Holy Week stories, this one is only told in the Gospel of John. This story happens alongside the Last Supper. If you did not teach that lesson, or are unfamiliar with it, you can review it beforehand.

This story is straightforward and should be read directly from the Bible to understand it. However, here are some highlights.

  • Foot washing was a basic practice of hospitality in the Middle East. You can find examples of this in several Old Testament passages. You can just imagine how dirty their feet got as they were walking around the desert with only sandals on or bare feet! 
  • Typically a servant would be presented to the guests as they entered a home to wash the feet of the guests. In this story, Jesus takes on the role of a lowly servant with his disciples. This was a powerful move on his part. They would not have expected their leader to wash their feet. This is why Peter objected so strongly to Jesus doing this for them.
  • Jesus used this act of service to teach them one of the most important lessons in the Kingdom of God - in order to be considered great in the Kingdom of God, you must be a servant. He told us  this in Mark 10:35-45, he showed it to us by washing their feet, and then he died for us.

Also, it should be noticed that some denominations consider foot washing a third ordinance (along with baptism and the Lord's Supper). If your denomination has specific beliefs about foot washing, feel free to include those in your teaching to the children.

What You Will Need

Supplies
sandals and dirt/sand to illustrate to the children why people in those days washed their feet so much.

Resource Sheet

Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts Jesus washing one of the disciple's feet.

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

What things do you do that make your feet dirty or smelly? Does anyone have smelly feet right now?

Would you want to wash someone else's feet that are really dirty or smelly?

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.

For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.

While you are teaching them the story, consider putting on sandals and making your feet dirty with sand or dirt to show them why foot washing was so important.

If you only do one reinforcement activity this week, we strongly urge you to do the "Wash the Student's Feet" activity. Give them an example of someone who they would see in an authority role choosing to become their servant.

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: John 13:1-17

4. Comprehension Questions

make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • Where were Jesus and his disciples when he washed their feet? (in the upper room, eating the Last Supper together before he would be crucified)
  • How did he wash their feet? (he wrapped a towel around his waist, filled a basin with water, and washed their feet)
  • Who didn't like the fact that Jesus was washing their feet? (Peter)
  • Why was he unhappy? (he didn't think it was right for Jesus, as their leader, to wash their feet)
  • What was Jesus' response? (that he must wash Peter's feet; "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.")

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • In this story, we learn that God himself came to earth in the form of a man (Jesus). But instead of being the type of leader who rules over us, he came to be our servant. He came to lay his life down for us.
  • How can you serve someone this week like Jesus served his disciples when he washed their feet?

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31 ESV)

Reinforcement Activities

Washing Feet Craft

Scripture After that, he poured water into a large bowl. Then he began to wash his disciples’ feet. He dried them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:5

Supplies bowl printout, paper, feet printout (if using), pencils, paper, crayons, glue, small piece of cloth

  • Have students trace someone else's feet. If necessary, they can trace their own or use the feet printout. (I think it is more meaningful if they use someone else's feet for this project, except in the case of very young children.)
  • Cut out feet.
  • Color water inside the bowl on the printout sheet,
  • Glue the feet so they are in the water.
  • Glue a small piece of cloth to one of the feet to signify the washing.

Soapy Bubbles!

Scripture So he got up from the meal and took off his outer clothes. He wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a large bowl. Then he began to wash his disciples’ feet. He dried them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:4-5

Supplies bubbles, bare feet, chairs

  • Place chairs together in a row for a small group of children.
  • Tell the children that bubbles are made from soap.
  • Blow bubbles and have students pop them with their toes.
  • This activity can be followed up with washing their feet!

Make Bath Salts Gifts

Scripture Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs to wash only his feet. The rest of his body is clean. And you are clean. But not all of you are.” John 13:10

Supplies pickling salt or course salt, epsom salt, food coloring, essential oil, baby food jars, bowls to mix, spoons, ribbon

  • Mix two kinds of salt in the bowl.
  • Add a couple of drops of food coloring to the salt. (Go easy. Stick to pastel colors.)
  • Add several drops of essential oil to the salt. and mix well.
  • Scoop into baby food jars.
  • Tie a pretty ribbon around the jar.
  • Add scripture label to the jar, so they are reminded of the verse when they use the bath salts.
  • Give the gift to someone.

Wash the Student's Feet

Heads up! We considered making this the only activity for this lesson. Why should we not wash each other's feet? This activity should take precedence over any other activities. The other activities are simply additional options should you have time.

Scripture I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet. So you also should wash one another’s feet. I have given you an example. You should do as I have done for you. John 13:14-15

Supplies water, container, towels

  • In Biblical times, foot washing was reserved for the lowliest of servants.
  • As a show of hospitality upon entering someone's home, a servant would wash people's dirty, dusty, smelly feet.
  • Jesus, our Lord, took on the role of a servant and told us to do as he has done.
  • Fill a tub with water.
  • Have students take turns washing each other's feet or the teacher can wash everyone's feet.

Trace Someone Else's Foot

Scripture So he got up from the meal and took off his outer clothes. He wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a large bowl. Then he began to wash his disciples’ feet. He dried them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:4-5

Supplies paper, pencils

  • Trace someone else's foot.
  • Cut out.
  • Write (or have the students write) "John 13:4-5" on each footprint.

Washing Feet Relay

Supplies two dish pans, two wash cloths, water, two chairs

  • Divide students into two teams.
  • Each team chooses someone to get their feet washed.
  • That person sits across the room with their feet in a dish pan.
  • Have the relay teams run from the starting line to the person getting their feet washed.
  • They have to pick up the washcloth, rub the top of the foot and the bottom of the foot to get credit.
  • If you want to make this a little harder (and potentially hilarious), require each student to wash in between each toe too!