Jesus did small groups. We tend to think that small groups are a creation of the last 20 years. Not so. Jesus was leading one 2000 years ago. His small group consisted of 12 men that he chose after an entire night of prayer (Luke 6:12-13). Jesus did life with the disciples. They interacted together so frequently that he actually referred to them as family (Mark 3:34).
There are numerous life-lessons the disciples learned from Jesus. But there was one lesson so significant that it surpassed all the others. It happened in the upper room.
The night before the crucifixion, Jesus gathered in the upper room with his disciples. He is there to celebrate Passover – a meal that had rich Hebrew traditions. There was tension that night, revealed through the disciples’ arguments with one another. Luke makes note of it,
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest (Luke 22:24).
The disciples were understandably mistaken about the next item on Jesus’ agenda. Earlier in the week the multitude had been proclaiming Jesus as their Messiah. Hadn’t Jesus said they would sit on 12 thrones over 12 tribes? Were there not twelve of them? (Matt. 19:28)
There must have been pushing and shoving for the head table—every disciple for himself. It is at that moment that Jesus moved away from the table. This is how John recalls it,
He rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him (John 13:4-5)
Jesus does this act of service without a word. In fact, you’re left with the impression that if Peter hadn’t denied having his feet washed Jesus would not have spoken at all (John 13:6).
Having washed the last set of feet, Jesus puts down the basin.
Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them (John 13:13-17)
What if every time I entered a small group setting I positioned myself to serve, and not to be served? Could it be that serving others is a resource to gain victory over my selfish inclinations? Might this be the most important purpose when we gather with a group of friends?
There is something that happens when we serve one another—we discover what God has called and anointed us to do.
And in Jesus’ words,
If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them (John 13:13-17)