In John chapter 13, we read of one of the most excellent sermons ever taught, and most of it came in the method of illustration. The table is prepared in the upper room, and the Feast of the Passover is ready. In verses 3 and 4, we read,

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come forth from God as was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.”

Please read what happened next in John 13 as Jesus placed himself in what many would consider the lowest ranking position in the room, the foot washer, even knowingly washing the feet of the one who was going to betray Him (v.11,12).

If Jesus had never spoken a word, the imagery of the Son of God girding Himself with a towel and washing the nasty feet of the apostles would be enough to forever impress an impactful lesson in the minds of those who were there. For you and I, simply reading what Jesus did before He was betrayed by Judas, falsely accused, mistreated, and ultimately crucified on the cross is so monumental that the stamp of what true servitude looks like is deeply embedded in our minds and hearts. What a powerful lesson Jesus taught simply by way of illustration!


As we carefully read the text, gleaning from Jesus how to become more effective in delivering God’s Word, we see that Jesus debriefed His illustration. Debriefing means He took the time to discuss the action of washing His disciples’ feet. He wanted them not simply to see what was done, but He wanted them to know why it was done in the first place, thus His question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” It’s here, in this phase, we see a profound portion of any lesson. While the imagery of Jesus Christ stooping down to wash the feet of the undeserving speaks volumes and relays the supreme example of servitude, the simple and direct admonition that follows gives the apostles a charge to keep and ultimately something to do with this lesson.

In John 13:13-17 Jesus said,

“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent great than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

As the application is being effectively implanted in the apostles’ minds, Jesus doesn’t stop at what the message means. He adamantly gives the apostles something to do with the lesson. As they observed the humility and servant heart of Jesus, He offered them a tangible way to implement the lesson in their lives – “do as I did to you” (v.15). It’s in this portion of the lesson, you and I can learn from Jesus’ delivery become better teachers/preachers of God’s Word. Consider the following.

Giving them something to do…

1) Makes the Lesson Simpler to Understand.

As discussed in previous submissions in the Excelling in Application series, sometimes, in an effort to teach God’s Word, we give a lot of information. In so doing, we challenge the listener and, sometimes, run the risk of overwhelming the listener. We must remember that most of those who will hear our lessons are not spending the time studying God’s Word that we are. That’s not said to be self-righteous. It’s simply a statement that could be made of any profession. Plumbers know more about plumbing than most of us. If they came in and wanted to explain everything about plumbing in one lesson, we would be overwhelmed and want them to cut to the main message. It’s the same for many when listening to sermons or classes. Giving them something to do with the lesson boils it down and makes it digestible. They leave knowing what was taught and what to do with it.

2) Helps Move the Lesson from the Head to the Heart to the Hands.

To help move the Word of God from merely an intellectual exercise to a physical display of what has been taught and accepted in one’s mind and heart, giving them something to do offers a practical way to implement the lesson in their lives. If your lesson is about the way a husband is to love his wife, give him three things to do that week to put into practice the love he is supposed to have. If the lesson is about submission to the will of God, give the listener one or two things to do specifically that will require them to sacrifice their time and desires to fulfill the teachings of Jesus. In offering this in your application and debriefing any illustrations, you will bless the learner and show a simple way to put the lesson into practice.

3) Encourages Practical Spiritual Growth in the Life of Disciples Today.

Anytime we study God’s Word and allow the lessons we learned to change us internally and externally, we grow spiritually in the way God desires. As Christians, we are called to growth and maturity. While this includes and begins with a knowledge of God’s Word that is deeply implanted in our minds and hearts, the outpouring of such knowledge that is genuinely accepted is a natural outcome. So, as you encourage those you teach/preach to sow to the Spirit and walk accordingly, give them something to do that will stretch them. Teach them about self-control but provide them with something that pushes them in this area. Tell them about true joy but also give them something to do that will sow joy in the lives of others. Spiritual growth is the aim for all of us. The saved must continue to grow until Jesus returns. In giving the listener/learner something practical to do with the lesson you present, you aid them in this journey.

Joe Wells
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Joe Wells holds an earned B.S. degree in Science along with a completion certificate from the Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies and a Masters of Ministry degree from Freed Hardeman University. Joe travels the country as a frequent speaker for youth and family events, men’s days, as well as gospel meetings. He is the co-founder of Kaio Publications, publishers of the Family Devotional series as well as the Finer Grounds Bible Study series for women. Joe is also the author of the book Complete: Becoming the Man God Purposes You to Be and Game Plan: Developing a Spiritually Winning Strategy for Adults and Teens in Today’s Culture. Along with this, he and Erin are the co-host of The Hey Joe Show, a podcast designed to challenge and strengthen families and teens across America. Joe has served God in a public way since 2000 in the capacity of youth minister and gospel preacher, helping people make the connection with the Word of God and encouraging them to be transformed for Christ. He is blessed to the husband to the former Erin O’Hara, and they are the proud parents of four beautiful children: Colton, Michala, Camden, and Bennett.