A Jesus Story: The Leader

Story: The Leader (A Bible Story Adapted by Kate Christensen-Martin, plus discussion questions)

A long, long time ago, we’re talking a couple of thousands of years ago, there lived a man named Jesus. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. He lived his life so big and loud that people all over the world to this day still talk about him and his love. Jesus said and did a lot of things that surprised people, things that were considered different or even unheard of. Things like talking to people who no one else would talk to and interrupting important, powerful leaders if he didn’t think they were treating people very well. That’s what Jesus was all about. Love. Jesus was a teacher of love. Everywhere he went and everything he did, he tried his very best to live love and teach love.

Because Jesus lived his life so big and loud and did things so differently than anyone else, a lot of people followed him and listened to him. He’d travel as far as he could by foot (there were no cars back then, of course) teaching people about how to live big and loud like him, how to love everyone and how to bring change when the way things have always been done isn’t working.

One day, Jesus was hanging out with his disciples in Jerusalem where everybody was getting ready for a big festival. By the way, the word “disciple” is a fancy word that means pretty much the same thing as the word “student.” So, Jesus’ disciples were people who followed him closely, listening to his teachings and trying to live that same big, loud, love-filled life that Jesus lived. They were his students. One day, Jesus was gathered with his students or disciples in a home in Jerusalem when the disciples got into a bit of an argument with one another about who was a better student. They each admired and respected the way Jesus acted as a leader and they too wanted to be great leaders.

Can you imagine what Jesus must have thought when he heard them argue like that? Here Jesus was, trying to teach them that life is about loving others and taking care of each other and they were stuck in arguments about who is the best. Jesus was kind of annoyed. But, remember, when Jesus is bothered by the way someone is acting, he runs toward that person or people and he tries to guide them back to love.

So, Jesus, upon hearing his disciples bicker about being the greatest leader, decides to teach them about what it really means to be a leader. Jesus gets up from his seat, he wraps a towel around his waist, fills a basin full of water and he begins quietly washing the disciples feet and drying them with the towel he’d wrapped around himself. You see, in that time, where Jesus lived, people had really dirty feet from doing so much walking around in the dust and mud and when they were home, they would need to have their feet cleaned. When Jesus started washing feet the disciples were shocked and they yelled at Jesus, “that’s a servant’s job!” The disciples knew that important people like Jesus should have their feet washed for them and shouldn’t be the one doing the washing.

Jesus quietly continued washing their feet but when it was Peter’s turn, he pulled away from Jesus and told him, “Master, you will never wash MY feet.”

Jesus quickly responded, “Then you are not really my disciple.”

This must have upset and scared Peter because then he said, “Okay, fine, wash my feet, Jesus, wash my feet and my head and my hands and all of me.”

After Jesus had finished washing everyone’s feet, he sat down with them and he asked, “Do you understand what I just did?”

He said, “You call me Master and Teacher, but I have washed your feet like a servant because what I really want to teach you, all I really want you to know, is that to lead others, you must serve them. You must serve each other, you must serve everyone. No one on Earth is more important than anyone else. Everyone needs to be taken care of and that’s what it really means to lead people, it means taking care of them.”

Jesus’ disciples didn’t really understand that kind of leadership. They were used to great Kings who bossed everyone around and had a lot of gold. That’s what they thought it meant to be a great leader-to make all the rules. But Jesus taught about a completely different kind of kingdom: a kingdom where everyone is the same amount of important and to be a great leader means to share what you have and give love away.


Discussion Questions:

1. Would you ever want someone to wash your feet? 

2. In the story it was an act of service to wash someone’s feet, but in modern America, we don’t really wash each other’s feet… can you think of ways we serve other people here in our country today? 

3. What do you think of when you think of being a leader?

4. Why do you think Jesus says that taking care of people and serving them is the way to be a great leader?