Service, Week 1
Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
Doing what you should can keep you safe.
Peter hurried to set out pottery dishes as John placed unleavened bread around the table.
“How did Jesus know some random guy with a water jar would have an open guest room for the Passover meal?” Peter wondered aloud. Just as Jesus had instructed them, they had found a man carrying a water jar who had led them to this house—where there was a guest room available.
John shook his head. “I don’t know. He just . . . knows.”
“No one has an open guest room at Passover,” Peter pointed out.
Both men paused to look around the airy upper room. The long table was surrounded by rough cushions where Jesus and His friends would sit.
“Yet, here we are,” John said, smiling.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs outside. “There they come. Quick!” said Peter. The two men rushed to finish setting out the meal.
“Did we think of everything?” John wondered.
“We’ve worked hard,” Peter exclaimed. “If anything’s missing, someone else can deal.”
As the setting sun angled through the window, Jesus and the rest of the disciples filed in. Everyone was tired from a long week of noisy crowds and hurried treks along dusty roads.
“Jesus, You can sit right here at the head of the table,” Peter offered. “James, Judas, over there . . .”
As Peter and John found their own places, Peter wrinkled his nose and whispered, “What reeks?”
“It’s your feet,” John fired back. The disciples were seated on cushions, feet propped where everyone could see—and smell—them.
“My feet?” Peter grumbled. “It’s yours!”
“Everyone’s feet are disgusting,” John pointed out. “You know what Jerusalem streets are like.”
It was true: every kind of dirt and muck was thrown out and trampled across the roads of the city.
“I’d rather not think about it,” said Peter.
“There’s a basin under the window,” John noted. “We just need a servant to wash our feet.”
“A servant?” Peter laughed. “You think we’d be making dinner if there was a servant around?” He glanced down the table and whispered loudly to John’s brother. “James!”
“Why did you put me over here?” James asked. “I should be sitting right by Jesus.”
“We need you to wash everyone’s feet,” Peter directed.
“Me?” James protested. “You do it!”
“We already made dinner,” Peter told him.
James turned to the man on his other side. “Judas!” he said. “Foot washing. Get on it.”
Judas barely glanced up from the pile of coins he was sorting. “Hello, can you not see I’m busy? Counting our money? Important work.”
“Okay, okay,” Peter said. “Who’s least important?”
They scoped out the other side of the table. “Thaddeus,” James decided. “No one ever remembers Thaddeus.”
“Hey, Thaddeus!” called Peter.
John jabbed an elbow into Peter’s side and whispered, “Peter! Look.” He gestured to the head of the table. Before the disciples had even begun arguing, Jesus had risen to His feet and removed His outer robe. Then He’d found a towel, which He was wrapping around His waist.
“What is He doing?” Peter wondered.
Jesus poured water into the basin beneath the window. Peter cleared his throat and asked loudly. “Um, Jesus . . . what are You doing?”
Jesus knelt down beside Thaddeus, removed his sandals, and began to wash the caked muck off the man’s feet.
“You can’t do that!” Peter protested.
Jesus dried Thaddeus’ clean feet with the towel and moved on to Bartholomew.
“We should have done it,” John whispered to Peter. “This is our fault.”
“Well, He can’t wash my feet,” Peter declared.
Jesus continued around the table, washing and drying each man’s feet. At last, He reached Peter. “Lord . . . are you going to wash my feet?” Peter asked.
“You don’t realize now what I am doing,” Jesus said. “But later you will understand.”
Peter tucked his feet up under him, dirt and all. “No way! You will never wash my feet!”
“Unless I wash you, you can’t share life with me,” said Jesus.
Peter blinked. He’d spent the last three years of his life with Jesus, sharing everything. If he had to let Jesus wash his feet to continue, well, that’s what he’d do!
“Lord . . . not just my feet!” he cried.
Peter untucked his feet and held out his hands, too. “Wash my hands and my head too!” he exclaimed.
Jesus smiled and started rinsing Peter’s feet. “People who have had a bath need to wash only their feet. The rest of their body is clean. And you are clean.”
Peter nodded and held his tongue, for once. When Jesus was finished, he shrugged His robe back on and returned to His place at the table. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He said. “I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet. So you also should wash one another’s feet. . . . Now you know these things. So you will be blessed if you do them.”
The disciples nodded. Jesus had made it clear that the goal in God’s Kingdom wasn’t competing to be important. It was about choosing to serve. It was completely backwards from the way things usually worked.
Has anyone ever surprised you by serving you in a way you didn’t expect?
Take a few minutes and share something someone else did for you. How did it make you feel? We tend to focus on ourselves and what we need. But when someone else steps in and lends a hand, it can make your day. And what Jesus did for the disciples, especially for Peter, changed their whole lives! It set an example for them—and for us. Because Jesus, God’s own Son, set aside what He deserved to serve His friends, we can serve our friends and families and the people we meet every day. Together, brainstorm some creative ways that you could serve others at home, school, and in your community. Then choose one to do this week. Ask God to give each of you a heart and opportunity to serve others.
Service, Week 2
Meet People's Needs
1 Peter 4:10-11
How can you serve someone today?
As a kid, Anthony had loved every trip to the WE-R-TOYS megastore. So he’d been super-excited when he landed a night-shift job at WE-R-TOYS to help pay for college.
Each evening, he helped to stock shelves with the newest, coolest, most amazing toys: Thumbling Animals, Fuzzy Blasters, and Galaxy Wars characters. In fact, he developed a whole new routine for shelving toys that put everything in perfect order by the time the store opened in the morning.
Anthony’s boss, Mr. Twitterpater was impressed. “I want to share your method with everyone on staff. The Chompin’ Dino releases next week and we’ve got to be ready!”
Anthony nearly dropped the stack of hula hoops he was holding. “But . . . I mean . . . it’s just something I figured out.”
“The crew needs a new system,” said his boss. “Some encouragement to help everyone feel confident. After all, we’ll be swamped when Dino stomps in!”
“If you want people to feel better, you should get Li to do it,” Anthony suggested. “She’s great at making people laugh.”
“You do a fine job yourself,” Mr. Twitterpater told him.
“I’m really better at listening,” said Anthony.
“That’s not something just anyone can do,” his boss pointed out.
Anthony laughed. “What, sit there?”
“No: listen. Being able to listen well is a gift. People need listeners more than they need talkers.” Mr. Twitterpater clapped Anthony on the shoulder. “Listen up. You’ll see.”
Anthony thought about Mr. Twitterpater’s words as he took his midnight lunch break. Ryan, the night security guard, joined him in the break room, rubbing his eyes.
“You look pretty tired,” Anthony told him.
“I got a brand-new baby girl at home!” explained Ryan. “You wanna see?”
Anthony nodded, and Ryan showed photos on his phone of a gurgling baby with chubby hands.
“She’s really cute,” said Anthony, grinning. But he could tell Ryan was bothered by something. Usually he’d let it go. But tonight he asked, “You doing okay?”
Ryan released a long breath. “I love being a dad! But . . . it’s really rough working all these hours. Just wish I could be there for my little girl and Lindy, that’s my wife. She’s really stressed, and I’m missing all this stuff and—” he broke off. “I’m boring you. Sorry.”
“No! Go ahead,” Anthony encouraged him.
“Well, she cries all the time,” Ryan confessed. “The baby, I mean, and I should be around to help more. And then I wasn’t there for her first smile yesterday!”
Ryan went on for a few more minutes. Anthony simply nodded. He could tell it was a rough time for Ryan.
“I know it’ll all be fine,” Ryan finished. “But it was really good to get that out.” “I think you’ll be a great dad,” Anthony declared. “You are a great dad.”
“Thanks, man!” said Ryan. He seemed to have new energy as he jumped up to return to work.
Later that night, Anthony showed Keisha, a new worker, how to run the lift. “Take it super-slow. See? Just a little pressure swings it all the way over . . .”
Keisha tapped the controls, nervous. “This is my first job. I’ve never had a real job. I just walked my neighbor’s dog. Is that a real job?”
“Did you get paid?” Anthony asked.
“Yeah,” Keisha said, “but I didn’t have a time clock. I could do it any time. And I just got the employee manual—it’s like 59 pages! I don’t know when I’m going to read all that, and when I do, I don’t know how I’ll remember it all, and what if I drop boxes off the lift? No, don’t tell me, I’ll be fired. If I get fired from my first job, no one will ever hire me again, except maybe to walk their dogs…”
Keisha didn’t stop talking for the next hour, but Anthony held his tongue and smiled.
“You’ve been, like, super helpful!” she said at last.
Anthony shrugged as he powered down the lift. “I haven’t done anything.”
“But now I know I can totally do this!” Keisha claimed. “Thank you!”
Anthony almost laughed, but Keisha was serious. She’d been encouraged, just by having someone listen to all her worries.
At 7 a.m., Anthony was finally ready to clock out and grab a few hours of sleep before his afternoon classes. But when he handed his keys over to Rita, the sharp-eyed, gray-haired warehouse supervisor, she winced.
“You made space for the Chompin’ Dino shipment?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Anthony said, and saw her hand had gone to her lower back. “Your back okay?”
“Still acting up,” she groaned. “But you don’t want to hear about that. I know you need to go.”
Anthony did need to leave. He was so tired all he wanted to do was fall into bed. But he could tell Rita needed a boost.
“I got a few minutes,” he said.
“Well, if the medications don’t help, looks like I’m gonna need surgery,” Rita sighed. “And goodness knows I got no time for that . . .”
Anthony listened as Rita detailed her problems and added, “That must be hard. I’ve never had to worry about not being able to lift and stuff.”
“Sure good to know someone cares,” Rita told him.
As Anthony finally stepped outside, he fell into step beside Mr. Twitterpater, who was also leaving.
“Think you encouraged the entire staff today. You listened out yet?” his boss wondered.
Anthony grinned. “My ears are a bit sore. But, wow! I sure collected some stories.”
“Gonna collect some more stories Friday morning when 782 people show up at 7 a.m. to get their Chompin’ Dinos,” sighed Mr. Twitterpater. “Pounding on the doors, grabbing those boxes, trampling the place like a bunch of prehistoric lizards . . .”
Anthony smiled. “Sounds like you could use a bit of encouragement.” “Maybe so!” his boss agreed.
“I’m listening,” said Anthony.
Anthony headed for home as the sun rose, ready for some well-earned sleep. He was grateful to have discovered his greater gift was not stocking shelves, but keeping his ears open. And that he could use this unexpected gift to encourage those around him.
Have you done something to serve someone recently?
Share your stories with each other. As a kid, it may feel like you don’t have much to offer. But that’s not true! God has given you gifts and skills, and He makes opportunities for you to serve others every day. When you keep your eyes open, you’ll discover lots of different ways you can serve others—whether it’s helping your little sister with her spelling words or clearing everyone’s trash at the lunch table. Each of you tell the other a creative way you think they could serve others this week. Then pray for each other, asking God to give you eyes to see all the ways you can serve and follow through.
Service, Week 3
Use what you have to serve others.
Even though Jesus had the power to do anything on His own, sometimes He invited the people around Him to be part of His work.
On one particular hot evening by the Sea of Galilee, He chose three people to be part of His plan.
First up: Philip. Jesus had come to Philip and said, “Follow me.” And he did. Philip was from the same town as another person in this story: Andrew.
Andrew was a fisherman, adjusting to a new life on the road with Jesus. Instead of catching fish every night, now he handled crowd control.
On that warm day, Andrew may have looked up to see an approaching ragtag crowd. “Um, Philip,” he wondered. “Who are all those people?”
Jesus, probably exhausted by teaching and healing, had crossed to the far side of the Sea of Galilee with His friends. But when they sat down on the mountainside to rest, they discovered the crowds had followed.
“Good grief!” Philip exclaimed. “We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“How did they find us?” Andrew asked.
“Especially at dinnertime,” Philip noted.
“Speaking of which,” Andrew added, “I hope they’ve all packed their own dinners.”
“Did we pack dinner?” asked Philip, his stomach rumbling.
“Dinner?” exclaimed Andrew. “We never even had lunch.”
“You should check around,” Philip instructed. “See if anyone’s got food.”
Hundreds of people were gathering around them like a flock of seagulls. More and more pushed in, eager to hear Jesus. Andrew took a deep breath and waded into the crowd to see if he could find any food.
Jesus looked out over the crowd. More than five thousand people spread across the hillside. Though He already knew how He would feed them, He asked Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?”
“Wait, what? You want us to feed everyone?” Philip gasped. He certainly had no extra money—he hadn’t been working in weeks! “Even if there was a place to get this much bread . . . and we only bought enough for everyone to have a bite . . . that would still take more than most people make in half a year!”
Jesus nodded and all the disciples avoided looking at each other.
Just then, though, Andrew spoke up. He had returned with the third important player in this story by the sea: a young boy we’ll call Jude.
Jude stood by Andrew’s side at the very front of the crowd—right in front of Jesus. His heart beat very fast as he held out his lunch.
“Here is a boy with five small loaves of barley bread,” said Andrew. “He also has two small fish. But how far will that go in such a large crowd?”
Jude shook his head. This was a good lunch for one, but barely enough even for two. Maybe Jesus could eat it.
“Jesus, You can have my lunch,” he offered.
Jesus smiled at the boy. Then he spoke to the disciples. “Have the people sit down,” He said.
Philip and Andrew exchanged a glance. This was going to be a make-believe picnic unless something very unexpected happened. But they had already learned it was wise to listen to Jesus.
Philip whistled loudly and shouted, “Listen up! We need everyone to sit down!”
It took some time, but eventually everyone got the word and settled down onto the grass. When all the people were seated, Jesus stood. He held up the bread.
“Father,” He said, “thank You for this food You’ve given to us.”
Then Jesus began handing bread to those seated closest to Him. Jude and the disciples watched in amazement as each person took bread and passed it on. And on…and on!
As those five loaves became food for dozens and dozens of people, Jesus lifted up the fish, too. “Father, thank You!” He said.
Then He began passing out those two tiny fish, as well. Soon, everyone was eating.
Philip stared in amazement. “Wait . . . those people all the way back by that olive tree have bread now.”
“And everyone’s getting fish, too!” Andrew exclaimed. “There were only two fish to start, but I see at least…nine fish heads…twelve…okay,I can’t even count.”
Andrew knelt down beside Jude, who was sitting in the front row. “Did you get food?” he asked.
“I ate three fish and plenty of bread, too! I’m stuffed!” Jude exclaimed, laughing.
The disciples stared in amazement at this impossible giant picnic on the lawn. Jesus had turned one boy’s meal into a feast for thousands. When everyone was finished, Jesus turned to His friends.
“Gather the leftover pieces,” He told them. “Don’t waste anything.”
The twelve men grabbed baskets and collected all the bits and pieces.
“What do we have?” Philip asked, as they compared what they had gathered. Andrew counted. “Twelve baskets of bread and fish.”
Each disciple’s basket was completely full. Each man stood there holding their loaded basket, amazed that God had used the gift of one small boy to feed thousands.
Have you ever had to get creative with a meal?
Maybe it’s been a busy week, and you couldn’t get to the store, so you had to come up with a strange combination, like a banana sandwich or having eggs and toast for lunch, just because that’s all you could find in the pantry or fridge! But at least there was something, right? In fact, some of us could live for a long time off the stuff in our fridges or pantries, even if it led to some unusual combinations. But for some people, their fridges and pantries aren’t so full. Think about what you do usually have on hand in your house—how could you use what you have to help others? Make a plan together to either raid your pantry for some good (non-expired) food options you can share, or to hit up the grocery store to gather some non-perishable food you can share with someone in need. Then thank God for what He’s given you, and the gift of using it to serve others!
What do you have? Together, brainstorm a list. These might be the things you own, but they can also be your skills and talents. Here’s the amazing thing: Everything you have comes from God, and all of it can be used to serve others! Look at your list. How could these things—whether it’s your possessions or stuff you can do—be used to help others? Pick at least two or three things each and brainstorm creative ideas. Then pick at least one to do this week. Ask God to help each of you see everything you have as something you can use to serve others.
Service, Week 4
Give in Secret
Serve others without looking for applause.
Edna Von Trapp was the best knitter in the whole town of Green Forest. Her knitting needles flew at the speed of hummingbird wings, and she created scarves and gloves and sweaters with the most beautiful patterns of trees and mountains and animals.
Every time Edna went out in the winter, she wore three of her fabulous scarves.
“Okay, it’s cold,” agreed her friend Jonas. “But not that cold.”
In truth, Edna just wanted to show off her amazing handiwork to everyone. So when she dressed for the town’s Winter Festival, she chose a thin silver scarf with woven green vines. She picked a fuzzy red scarf with a lumbering black bear. And she topped them all off with a sleek, blue scarf shot through with golden stars. Then she surveyed herself in the mirror.
“Impeccable!” she exclaimed.
The sun was shining, but as Edna threaded her way through the crowds, she noticed people shivering in the chill wind. When she reached the main stage, she shoved her way to the front and found Jonas.
“Brisk today, isn’t it?” she commented. “Goodness sakes, look at the mayor.” Edna pointed to where the mayor, a small slip of a man, was shaking with cold.
“It appears he’s lost his scarf,” said Jonas.
“Then he must wear one of mine!” Edna declared. She grandly made her way to the mayor, loudly announcing, “Excuse me. Coming through! Important business!”
As the whole crowd watched, Edna removed her blue scarf and wrapped it around the mayor’s neck.
“I feel fabulous and toasty!” he said, beaming. “What is this amazing scarf?”
“It’s made of the finest wool from a rare Kaffestanian Yak, your honor,” replied Edna.
“Such generosity shouldn’t go unnoticed!” announced the mayor, and raised his voice: “A round of applause for this fine lady!”
The whole crowd applauded and cheered Edna as she bowed low and smiled sweetly.
But as she returned to the place where Jonas stood, he raised his eyebrows. “I hope you enjoyed that,” he said.
“I was very generous,” Edna pointed out.
“I see,” said Jonas. He didn’t seem convinced.
Later, at lunchtime, Edna ordered a cheddar bratwurst at the gourmet hotdog stand Jonas ran. But as she prepared to douse the hotdog with mustard, she noticed a young man in a thin jacket hovering nearby.
“Well? Are you buying something?” she questioned.
The young man shook his head nervously. “Oh! No. I don’t have any money. It just . . . smells so good,” he confessed.
na scowled. “If you’re not buying, you should get out of the way of paying customers like me,” she ordered.
The young man nodded, teeth chattering with cold, and quickly stepped aside. But a short time later, as Edna stopped by the Treats Truck for a cinnamon funnel cake, she spotted the young man again. He was eating a bacon-wrapped hot dog! She glared at the young man and hustled back to the hot dog stand for a word with Jonas.
“See that boy over there?” she said, pointing. “I happen to know he doesn’t have a penny to his name. Did he steal that hot dog?”
Jonas sighed as he spooned relish. “No, he did not.” “Did you give it to him?” inquired Edna.
“Yes, I did,” said Jonas.
“For free?!” Edna demanded.
“Look, I could tell he was hungry,” Jonas explained. “This is my stall. It’s not a big deal.”
Edna shook her head. “If you must give a hot dog for free, give it to the mayor!” she suggested. “Then everyone will be impressed and come buy hot dogs.”
“I prefer not to let my left hand know what my right hand is doing,” replied Jonas. “Excuse me?” Edna asked, frowning.
“Just a saying,” Jonas said. “Well, a Bible verse, actually.”
“A very odd one, if you ask me,” Edna scoffed.
“I didn’t,” Jonas pointed out.
Edna waited for Jonas to explain, but he continued fixing hot dogs. “Well, what is it?” Edna asked.
“I have hot dogs to sell,” Jonas told her. “You look it up. Matthew 6.”
Jonas handed a small New Testament across the counter to Edna. Turning the thin pages was difficult with gloved fingers, but at last she found the right spot and read: “Be careful not to do good deeds in front of other people. . . . When you give to needy people, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. . . . Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.”
Edna considered the verse and recalled how she’d handed over her scarf to the mayor with so much flourish. She’d made certain everyone could see.
Another gust of wind whipped around the corner of the stall, and Edna wrapped her scarf more tightly. Her two scarves, actually.
“I need some hot cocoa,” she told herself, and glanced back at the Treats Truck. The young man in the thin jacket had just finished his hot dog. He shivered again as he deposited his napkin neatly in the trash.
Edna cleared her throat and called out, “Hey. You!”
The young man looked around. “Me?”
“What’s your name?” Edna demanded. “Gregory, ma’am,” the man replied.
“Gregory, I have two scarves,” Edna told him. “I find myself too warm. Would you do me the favor of taking this fuzzy, red scarf?
“Oh!” he exclaimed. “Well . . .”
Edna looked up. Not a single person was watching. She unwrapped the red scarf and held it out. “It’s made from the wool of the finest scarlet merino sheep,” she offered.
“Thank you very much, ma’am,” Gregory said. He took the long scarf and draped it around his neck. Then he wrapped the ends around his middle nearly down to his waist.
“I’m about to have a hot cocoa,” Edna added. “If you’d care to join me.” “Why, yes. Thank you,” said Gregory.
Together, they made their way over to the Sweet Stall. Edna tugged her remaining silver scarf more tightly around her neck. The wind was still frigid. But somehow, her small, quiet act of service seemed to have warmed her to the very core.