This site uses cookies to provide you with more responsive and personalized service and to collect certain information about your use of the site.  You can change your cookie settings through your browser.  If you continue without changing your settings, you agree to our use of cookies.  See our Privacy Policy for more information.

Teaching by Example


Corey Nelson is an Arizona high school track coach who his students will tell you “never quits.” While coaching his students on how to sprint, the teacher continues to compete at the Master level. The teacher’s dedication, both to his students and to the sport, has made a deep impression. One parent commented, “He’s going through the same training, the same problems. They can see he’s not all talk.”

Jesus made a deep impression on His disciples not only because of what He said but also because of what He did. In today’s passage, He showed them what it meant to be a servant leader by humbling Himself and washing their dusty feet. The disciples had gathered for the Passover Festival and their evening meal. Notice that before Jesus teaches by example, the passage explains why He did it. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so . . . ” (v. 3). Jesus understood the suffering that would come in the days ahead. He realized who He was and to what He had been called. Even so, He demonstrated sacrificial love for Peter and the others by pouring a basin of water, taking a towel, and washing their dirty feet (vv. 4–5).

This intimate act of humility proved too much for Peter, who objected, “No, you shall never wash my feet” (v. 8). But Jesus wanted to make a point. He explains more fully in verses 12–17. He was indeed their Teacher and Lord, but He was also showing them by His personal example, what it meant to serve with love and humility. Just as He served them in such a dramatic fashion, they were to serve one another in the same way. I’m sure the disciples never forgot that lesson.

>> This month has been filled with lessons from the great Teacher. Which ones have pressed most deeply on your own heart? And how can you model your own interactions with others after the example of the greatest Teacher of all?

Pray with Us

Coming to the end of the month, thank the Lord for patiently teaching His disciples—and us—His truth. Tell Him what you determined to change in your interactions with others as a result of the great Teacher’s example.

BY Mary Martin, Former Professor of Christian School Education

Dr. Mary Martin previously served at Moody as program head of Christian School Education and chair of the Education and Counseling division. She has also served as a classroom teacher, principal, and head of school. Mary is the author of Impacting Student Learning through Christ-Centered Instructional Leadership and currently resides in North Carolina with her husband, Michael. She speaks at numerous education conferences each year and loves mentoring Moody graduates.

Browse Devotions by Date