basin and the towel | John 13.4-5
Jesus… 4 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 | ESV
With all of this reality hanging in the air before him, Jesus gets himself up from the meal, strips down to the necessaries like a slave, and then wraps a towel around his waist. Most of them have stopped their private conversations and are now watching him, wondering what he’s up to as he throws some water into a basin and then, going from disciple to disciple, he begins to wash their feet, wiping them dry with the towel wrapped around himself. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
The basic tools of those living in the now and the not yet?
Of all the possible tools or implements (or weapons!) we can imagine being necessary for such a time as this, the basin and the towel, representing the most menial service, would perhaps be the last to come to mind. Add to that we have to get up from our place of comfort to use them. And there will be “garments” – status, expectations, personal agendas and desires – that will have to be stripped off and left on the floor. It would be easier, in many ways, just to see here another Son of Man-dated “act of worship” for our church services.
A symbolic ceremony can be much more easily mastered that a simple, spontaneous act of love.
Jesus’ act of love in stripping, girding himself with a towel, and washing their feet was in so many ways just as scandalizing as Mary’s act of anointing his feet and wiping them with her hair. Foot washing was seen as being demeaning – slave work. Rabbi’s didn’t even want their disciples to wash the Rabbi’s feet because it was such a servile task. “You are my disciples, not my slaves!”
So for the Rabbi to strip, gird himself with a towel, and to wash his disciples’ feet was, well, preposterous! And both actions prompted a rebuke from one of the disciples – Mary’s anointing because of the cost in dollars and cents, Jesus’ foot washing because of the cost in loss of dignity.
“Do this understanding the present time.”
This isn’t the time for saving face, for posturing, for preserving our dignity or advancing our personal agendas.
This is a time for loving one another to the end, for loving others fully, sacrificially, spontaneously, extravagantly.
This is the time for the basin and the towel.
How are you being challenged to pick up “the basin and the towel”? What do you need to strip off first? What does this look like for you?
Abba, set my spirit free to serve others scandalously, spontaneously, extravagantly, without calculating the cost in dollars or in dignity. Free me to love. Now. Today. As you hold before me the basin and the towel. Through Christ.