This is the fourth part of the series of Sabbath School Lessons on the “Life, Work, and Teachings of Jesus.” Previous lessons on this subject have presented the wonderful teachings, miracles, and life experiences of Jesus while He was on earth. We began with His preexistence and miraculous birth in Bethlehem and followed with His baptism and ministry in Galilee, Samaria, Judea, and other regions. With the lessons for this half year, we will study the final phase of His life and ministry–the closing events of His life on earth that were critical to the plan of redemption. The focus is on receiving Jesus’ message, considering how His contemporaries, including His disciples, received that message and how it should be received today.

Jesus gave His disciples clear information about what was ahead of them: “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” “Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.” “Nevertheless I must walk to day, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” Matthew 16:21; Luke 18:31; 13:33. He outlined His sufferings, death, and resurrection as well as the prophecies of the immediate future relating to Jerusalem and the end of the world.

The Spirit of prophecy writes: “All who study the life of Christ and practice His teachings will become like Christ. Their influence will be like His. They will reveal soundness of character. As they walk in the humble path of obedience, doing the will of God, they exert an influence that tells for the advancement of the cause of God and the healthful purity of His work. In these thoroughly converted souls the world is to have a witness to the sanctifying power of truth upon the human character.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pp. 96, 97 (1900); Evangelism, p. 269.

“As we study the sufferings of Christ, the results of sin are so distressing to us that we cry out to the Lord to take away our sins. As we continue to look, we become more capable of enduring the sight of what Christ suffered, and we realize more and more clearly His love for us. The cross of Christ is invested with a wonderful attraction and unlimited power; for in the suffering connected with the crucifixion scene, God’s love becomes to us more and more impressive.” –Signs of the Times, February 22, 1899.

Therefore, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1, 2.

As we learn from Him, through us His example will affect others, for “Those who will study the manner of Christ’s teaching, and educate themselves to follow His way, will attract and hold large numbers now, as Christ held the people in His day…. When the truth in its practical character is urged upon the people because you love them, souls will be convicted, because the Holy Spirit of God will impress their hearts.” –Evangelism, p. 124.

Living among men, Jesus changed their natural current of carnal thoughts and affections through His self-denial, meekness, humility, forbearance, cross-bearing, and devotion. If we learn from Him, we will follow His wonderful example, the world will acknowledge us as His servants, and searching souls will joyfully accept Him.

“ ‘We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ 2 Corinthians 3:18. We are to keep the Lord ever before us. Those who do this, walk with God as did Enoch, and imperceptibly to themselves, they become one with the Father and with the Son. Day by day a change is wrought upon mind and hearts, and the natural inclination, the natural ways, are molded after God’s ways and Spirit. They increase in spiritual knowledge, and are growing up to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. They reflect to the world the character of Christ, and abiding in Him, and He in them, they fulfill the mission for which they were called to be the children of God–they become the light of the world, a city set upon a hill that cannot be hid. ‘No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.’ Luke 8:16. Those who have been lighted from above send forth the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness.” –Sons and Daughters of God, p. 296.

“Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth with power and great glory. ‘This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.’ Matthew 24:14.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 111.

As we study these lessons, may the miracle take place that we reflect the love of Jesus and are a light to others.

–The brothers and sisters of the General Conference
and the Ministerial Department



Special Sabbath School Offering for the

God bless every heartfelt, self-denying gift!

Sabbath, January 7, 2017

“Reconciliation one with another is the work for which the ordinance of feet washing was instituted. By the example of our Lord and Master, this humiliating ceremony has been made a sacred ordinance. Whenever it is celebrated, Christ is present by His Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit that brings conviction to hearts.

“As Christ celebrated this ordinance with His disciples, conviction came to the hearts of all save Judas. So we shall be convicted as Christ speaks to our hearts. The fountains of the soul will be broken up. The mind will be energized, and, springing into activity and life, will break down every barrier that has caused disunion and alienation. Sins that have been committed will appear with more distinctness than ever before; for the Holy Spirit will bring them to our remembrance. The words of Christ, ‘If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them,’ will be clothed with new power.” –Review and Herald, November 4, 1902; Evangelism, p. 275.

Love to the very last

1. What always motivated Jesus’ feelings and actions toward His disciples? What did He do to the end?

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

“Christ knew that the time had come for Him to depart out of the world, and go to His Father. And having loved His own that were in the world, He loved them unto the end. He was now in the shadow of the cross, and the pain was torturing His heart. He knew that He would be deserted in the hour of His betrayal. He knew that by the most humiliating process to which criminals were subjected He would be put to death. He knew the ingratitude and cruelty of those He had come to save. He knew how great the sacrifice that He must make, and for how many it would be in vain. Knowing all that was before Him, He might naturally have been overwhelmed with the thought of His own humiliation and suffering. But He looked upon the twelve, who had been with Him as His own, and who, after His shame and sorrow and painful usage were over, would be left to struggle in the world. His thoughts of what He Himself must suffer were ever connected with His disciples. He did not think of Himself. His care for them was uppermost in His mind.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 643.

Serving and cleansing His disciples

2. Knowing that it was time to leave them, what did Jesus do when they were together?

John 13:2-5 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; 3Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 

“At a feast it was customary for a servant to wash the feet of the guests, and on this occasion preparation had been made for the service. The pitcher, the basin, and the towel were there, in readiness for the feet washing; but no servant was present, and it was the disciples’ part to perform it. But each of the disciples, yielding to wounded pride, determined not to act the part of a servant…. By their silence they refused to humble themselves.

“How was Christ to bring these poor souls where Satan would not gain over them a decided victory? How could He show that a mere profession of discipleship did not make them disciples, or insure them a place in His kingdom? How could He show that it is loving service, true humility, which constitutes real greatness? How was He to kindle love in their hearts, and enable them to comprehend what He longed to tell them?…

“This action opened the eyes of the disciples…. So Christ expressed His love for His disciples.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 644, 645.

New understanding

3. Amazed at what the Lord was doing for His disciples, what did Peter say when Jesus came to him to wash his feet? Did he understand what Jesus was doing?

John 13:6, 7 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

“When Peter’s turn came, he exclaimed with astonishment, ‘Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?’ Christ’s condescension broke his heart. He was filled with shame to think that one of the disciples was not performing this service. ‘What I do,’ Christ said, ‘thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.’ Peter could not bear to see his Lord, whom he believed to be the Son of God, acting the part of a servant. His whole soul rose up against this humiliation. He did not realize that for this Christ came into the world. With great emphasis he exclaimed, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet.’ “ –The Desire of Ages, pp. 645, 646.

“When God is seen as He is, the blessed truth shines with a new and clearer light. That which kept the mind in perplexity is cleared away by the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. And yet there are many things we shall not comprehend; but we have the blessed assurance that what we know not now, we shall know hereafter.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 184.

Higher cleansing

4. Was Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet an act of courtesy, or did it have a much deeper meaning? Without spiritual cleansing, is it possible for one to have communion with and be connected with Jesus?

John 13:8-11 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

“Solemnly Christ said to Peter, ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.’ The service which Peter refused was the type of a higher cleansing. Christ had come to wash the heart from the stain of sin. In refusing to allow Christ to wash his feet, Peter was refusing the higher cleansing included in the lower. He was really rejecting his Lord. It is not humiliating to the Master to allow Him to work for our purification. The truest humility is to receive with thankful heart any provision made in our behalf, and with earnestness do service for Christ.

“At the words, ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me,’ Peter surrendered his pride and self-will. He could not endure the thought of separation from Christ; that would have been death to him. ‘Not my feet only,’ he said, ‘but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.’ “ –The Desire of Ages, p. 646.

Unique example

5. How typical is it for a master or lord to serve his disciples or servants? No matter what we may think of this service, what does the Lord ask each of us to do?

John 13:12-14 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 

“ ‘All ye are brethren.’ As brethren we are identified with Christ and with one another. As brethren we are identical with Christ, and through His grace identical with one another. And as we wash the feet of Christ’s followers, it is as though we were indeed touching the Son of God. We do this act because Christ told us to do it, and Christ Himself is among us. His Holy Spirit does the work of uniting our hearts. To become one with Christ requires self-denial and self-sacrifice at every step.

“The performance of the ordinance of humility calls for self-examination. The noble principles of the soul are strengthened on every such occasion. Christ lives in us, and this draws heart to heart. We are led to love as brethren, to be kind, tender, courteous in daily service, having hearts that can feel another’s woe.” –(Letter 210, 1899) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1139.

6. Was the special service that Jesus performed for His disciples one that He alone could do, or was it an example for all His followers? What will happen if we follow His wonderful example?

John 13:15-17 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. 

“So Christ expressed His love for His disciples. Their selfish spirit filled Him with sorrow, but He entered into no controversy with them regarding their difficulty. Instead He gave them an example they would never forget. His love for them was not easily disturbed or quenched. He knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came from God, and went to God. He had a full consciousness of His divinity; but He had laid aside His royal crown and kingly robes, and had taken the form of a servant. One of the last acts of His life on earth was to gird Himself as a servant, and perform a servant’s part.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 644, 645.

“Humility is an active principle growing out of a thorough consciousness of God’s great love, and will always show itself by the way in which it works. By taking part in the ordinance of feet washing we show that we are willing to perform this act of humility. We are doing the very thing Christ did, but this is not to be talked of as an act of humiliation. It is an act which symbolizes the condition of the mind and heart.” –(Letter 210, 1899) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1139.

Washing away alienation, jealousy, and pride

7. When we think of Jesus’ washing His disciples’ feet, what purification comes to mind? What impurity must be removed from all who will enter the Lord’s kingdom?

1 John 2:1, 2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 

Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.

“… Jesus … desired by that very act to wash the alienation, jealousy, and pride from their hearts. This was of far more consequence than the washing of their dusty feet. With the spirit they then had, not one of them was prepared for communion with Christ. Until brought into a state of humility and love, they were not prepared to partake of the paschal supper, or to share in the memorial service which Christ was about to institute. Their hearts must be cleansed. Pride and self-seeking create dissension and hatred, but all this Jesus washed away in washing their feet. A change of feeling was brought about. Looking upon them, Jesus could say, ‘Ye are clean.’ Now there was union of heart, love for one another. They had become humble and teachable….

“Like Peter and his brethren, we too have been washed in the blood of Christ, yet often through contact with evil the heart’s purity is soiled. We must come to Christ for His cleansing grace. Peter shrank from bringing his soiled feet in contact with the hands of his Lord and Master; but how often we bring our sinful, polluted hearts in contact with the heart of Christ! How grievous to Him is our evil temper, our vanity and pride! Yet all our infirmity and defilement we must bring to Him. He alone can wash us clean. We are not prepared for communion with Him unless cleansed by His efficacy.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 646-649.

Thought questions 

– Is it our responsibility to provide only physical cleanliness to our family and acquaintances, or are we also called to share spiritual purity?
– What do we need in order to be able to show others how to be spiritually pure?
– What will happen to us if we are willing to engage in this ministry?
– What are the results when we follow Jesus’ example in His spirit? 

For additional study

“When He whom angels worshiped, He who was rich in honor, splendor, and glory, came to the earth, and found Himself in fashion as a man, He did not plead His refined nature as an excuse to hold Himself aloof from the unfortunate. In His work He was found among the afflicted, the poor, distressed, and needy ones. Christ was the embodiment of refinement and purity; His was an exalted life and character; yet in His labor He was found not among men of high-sounding titles, not among the most honorable of this world, but with the despised and needy. I came, says the divine Teacher, ‘to save that which was lost.’ Yes; the Majesty of heaven was ever found working to help those who most needed help. May the example of Christ put to shame the excuses of that class who are so attracted to their poor selves that they consider it beneath their refined taste and their high calling to help the most helpless…. True, it may not always be agreeable to unite with the Master and become co-workers with Him in helping the very class who stand most in need of help; but this is the work which Christ humbled Himself to do. Is the servant greater than his Lord? He has given the example, and enjoins upon us to copy it.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 467.

“This ceremony means much to us. God would have us take the whole scene, not only the single act of outward cleansing. This lesson does not merely refer to the one act. It is to reveal the great truth that Christ is an example of what we through His grace are to be in our intercourse with each other. It shows that the entire life should be one of humble, faithful ministry.” –(Manuscript 43, 1897) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1139.