The Basin and Towel

David Bast

READ : John 13:1-17

Taking a towel, [he] tied it around his waist. (v. 4)

Washing the street-dirty feet of each guest was an expected part of hospitality in Jesus’ day. It was a demeaning job, though, one that was usually performed by a servant. But apparently there was no servant in the Upper Room. How is it that those who had been sent ahead to prepare everything (Luke 22:7-13) failed to provide for this basic necessity? The disciples were probably embarrassed when they realized this. Maybe they even wondered if one of them ought to volunteer. But none of them did. It was too far beneath them. How must they have felt when, to their amazement, they saw Jesus rise and take up the towel and basin?

Do we really need to have the point of Jesus’ actions spelled out to us? It should be clear that if our Lord would do this, then no act of service to others is “beneath” us. We feel the force of the towel and the basin. The Lord has now placed these servants’ implements in our hands. From that night onwards humble service has been the distinctive mark of true followers of Jesus, both individually and as a community.

When the Lord calls us to wash one another’s feet he’s telling us to feed the hungry, house the homeless, help the destitute. He’s calling us to remember the prisoner, to visit the lonely, to befriend the stranger. He’s calling us to share the good news of the gospel with everyone.


Now that we know these things, blessed are we if we do them!