John 13:3-5 – Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (NRSV)
In previous devotionals, I have mentioned that I frequently co-author children's sermons with my friend, Anne. Because we share our sermons with other writers, they share with us. This week, I received a copy of a children's sermon that is part of a tradition on Maundy Thursday in the author's church. The sermon is called, "The Towel". Each child is presented with a new hand towel as they listen to the story.
At first glance, it is easy to look at a towel as a most ordinary object. Have you ever stopped to think that for thousands of years, towels have been used for many wonderful purposes?
Think of the mother who wipes the tears of a child to soothe an emotional or physical hurt. Think of the medic who binds the wounds of a bleeding soldier. Think of the child who wipes the muddy feet of a new puppy. Or think of the woman in her kitchen simply wiping her hands as she moves from one task to another.
Perhaps the most significant use of a towel happened nearly two thousand years ago, when our Saviour — only hours before He was put to death on the cross — washed His disciples' feet, and then took an ordinary towel in His loving hands and dried their feet.
In Jesus' day, the washing of feet was considered to be a job of the lowliest kind — something for servants to do. It would certainly not have been considered appropriate work for the promised Saviour of the world. Jesus' simple, loving act personifies the selflessness and loving service that He performed for anyone in need. What was Jesus trying to teach us? When He washed and dried the disciples' feet, He was trying to show us that if we call ourselves Christians, we are to be humble and see that there is no service that is beneath us. We are to set our pride aside and humbly serve God, the church, and our fellow man. He told His disciples, "I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." (John 13:15 NRSV)
Jesus was showing us that an ordinary thing like a towel, in the right hands, along with a giving heart, can lighten another's load. As with every action performed by Jesus Christ on this earth, His acts of service remind us that simple, day-to-day kindnesses are the Saviour's way to bless and comfort others.
Perhaps the next time when you look at your towel, you will think of someone who needs your kindness, and you will offer to help.
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, so often we see people who are suffering in one way or another, and we fail to respond. Help us, we pray, to dry their tears and soothe their fears, just as Your Son Jesus did through simple acts of kindness. Amen.