Important Symbols – The Towel
Symbols help to grab the attention of the eye, sending a message to the brain so that words can be filled in where only a picture is present. Symbols are powerful. The expression comes to mind, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” How true this is. The life of Jesus offers many powerful symbols and truly, as we near the passion week, there are many poignant symbols of the death of Jesus. One symbol of Jesus’ life that stands out is the towel – the towel Jesus used to wash the feet of his disciples.
Read John 13:1-17
1 Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 Now when it was time for supper, the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son,[a] to betray him. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, that he had come from God, and that he was going back to God. 4 So he got up from supper, laid aside his outer clothing, took a towel, and tied it around himself. 5 Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who asked him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t realize now, but afterward you will understand.”
8 “You will never wash my feet,” Peter said.
Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”
10 “One who has bathed,” Jesus told him, “doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For he knew who would betray him. This is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
The Meaning of Foot Washing
12 When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. 14 So if I, 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 for you.
16 “Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Talk to your family and friends about how hard it can be sometimes to serve people in such a way that places you in a lowly and humble position. Talk about how some of the disciples responded and how Jesus responded to them – verse 14 is key – “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”
Pray together and ask God to show you ways you can serve others and show them how much you love and care for them.
Consider all the many ways you can creatively “wash the feet” – serve your loved ones. Maybe you can offer to wash dishes, wash the car, give the family pet a bath, or you can actually do a foot washing moment.
Content inspired by Faithful Families for Lent, Easter, and Resurrection by Tracy Smith – Chalice Press: 2021. All rights Reserved.