John 13:12–15 (ESV)
12When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?
13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.
14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
The best way to teach, in my opinion, is teaching by example. This style of teaching is not action only, though. The teacher uses words to teach, in fact, all the best teachers use words to teach. But, the greatest teacher of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, taught with words and then used his actions to back up what he said.
As the Son of God, Jesus Christ, very God of very God, had authority in his teaching. Whatever he had to say should be obeyed. Yet, Jesus took every opportunity he could to teach by way of example.
He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Then, on the night he was betrayed he denied himself in the garden and submitted himself to his Father’s will. His obedience led him to literally take up a cross and die for man’s sin.
When Jesus was being tempted by the devil in the wilderness he quoted from Deuteronomy, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). He then supplemented his diet with the very Word of God.
Jesus was the perfect example to man when it came to living a life pleasing to God. Yet, it is in this passage, John 13, that we can see one of his greatest teachings played out in words and actions.
Jesus came to this world not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. John 13:12–15 is a great illustration of this. He humbles himself as a servant. The Lord of the universe bends down on his hands and knees to wash the feet of his own disciples. Do you see what he is teaching? “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Jesus asks.
If Jesus, God in the flesh, has humbled himself in such a way then it follows that his followers ought to do the same. He has given to his followers an example that teaches. Do you understand? No act of service is off limits for his followers. The Christian can no longer use the excuse, “That type of work is beneath me. I cannot do it.” Instead, when an opportunity arises to serve another, the Christian must say, “Christ has humbled himself to serve the least of this world. I shall do the same since Jesus is my Lord and Teacher.”
Do you understand? What is keeping you from serving others? Is it a pride like Peter’s, who reproved Jesus for attempting to wash his feet? Peter thought Jesus to be too perfect to do a dirty act. Yet, it is because Jesus is perfect that he did such a dirty act. He was teaching by way of example.
Do you understand what he has done? If you do, then follow Christ’s example.