Who is the greatest? – Washing disciples feet


To show pupils that in God’s eyes, the greatest of all is the servant of all.

Bible base

Mark 9:35 – the last will be first.

John 13:1-17 – Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.

You will need:

  • Some sheets of A4 paper for making paper aeroplanes.
  • A bowl of water and a towel for the feet washing exercise.



1. Ask the pupils: ‘Who is the greatest?’ Say that for some people the answer might be…(say the name of a popular, successful football team); or for someone else it might be…(say the name of a singer or group who has recently had a number one hit). Give one or two examples of your own favourite celebrities – possibly provoking some groans from the audience!

2. Comment that everyone will have a different answer, according to their interests and allegiances.

3. Continue by asking, ‘But who is the greatest here?’ Say that today, you are going to find out.

The great aeroplane contest

1. Ask for three or four volunteers to take part in a ‘Who is the greatest?’ contest.

2. Explain that you want the volunteers to make a paper aeroplane from the A4 paper provided. They will then launch their aeroplanes from a raised point in the room (eg standing on a chair, or on the stage). The winner (‘the greatest’) will be the person whose paper plane travels the furthest.

3. Act as commentator whilst the contestants make their planes, building up the excitement and drama of the contest. When they are ready, ask each competitor to launch their planes in turn. Ask the audience to allow each plan to land and then the pupil nearest should pick up the aeroplane and hold it aloft as a ‘marker’ showing the next contestant the distance he/she must try to beat.

4. When the contest is over, announce the winner and reward them with a ‘tremendous’ prize (hand them a sheet of A4 paper) – an aeroplane! Give everyone a round of applause. Keep your volunteers at the front. Ask the winner how it feels to be the greatest (great designer, great scientist, great inventor and great test pilot) – officially!


1. Comment that it’s a good feeling to be ‘the greatest’, getting all the glory and lots of attention. Then say that the Bible has something to say on the subject. Read these words from the Gospel of Mark: ‘Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all’ (Mark 9:35, Good News Bible). Say that this seems a strange way to describe greatness.

2. Jesus’ way of looking at things is not the same as ours. On one occasion he demonstrated this to his disciples by getting down on his hands and knees and washing their feet! An amazing thing to do – as you can imagine – considering they were living in a hot country and had been wearing sandals.

Jesus said that he expected his disciples to do the same sort of things for one another, and that the most important people actually live as though they are the least important!

3. Bring out the bowl of water and the towel and ask the winner of the paper aeroplane contest how he/she feels – considering that they are ‘the greatest person’ here – about washing the feet of the losers.

If the winner agrees, let him/her do this! If they are obviously uncomfortable about doing it, take the heat out of the situation by saying that we don’t have to wash one another’s feet literally! Whatever you ‘winner’ decides to do, point out that there are lots of other ways we can act as servants to one another (give some examples).

4. Comment that when people are asked to list those who they consider to be great, today or in the past, those included are nearly always people who have served others in some way.

5. Challenge ‘the winner’, and everyone else, to think of how they could serve others today.