The towel and the basin

The towel and the basin

John 13 v2-12 

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.


This story was culturally unacceptable. That a rabbi would wash the feet of his disciples was unheard of. But Jesus showed from start to finish how:

The Son of God became a baby though he is a King.

The Son of God took an ordinary name though he has the name above all names.

The Son of God wrapped a towel around his waist and became a servant though one day every knee will bow.

The Son of God became obedient to death on a criminals low-life cross even though he sits on an eternal throne.


  1. To serve means to leave your elevated place. That may be the place God has given you (v3) or where man has placed you (v12)

We need to unroll the red carpets today. The Church are guilty of creating and promoting stars in what amounts to an amalgamation of the X factor and the Oscars. We build them up and then we knock them down.

We really are not that important. This is Jesus who knew where he was from, v3:

Right now around the throne are cries day and night “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come”

Beings are laid prostrate “You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.”

We really are not that important. “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3

  1. To serve means you forego your own appetite (v4)

From His position of who He is and of His power said “It’s not about me”.

When faced with temptation, Jesus didn’t say “because of my position, my experience, my title it is okay for me to fail a little because I know my father will command his angels concerning me to lift me up so that I will not strike my foot against stone.” NO, he said “Today it is not about me”.

When faced with trial and taken down a path marked with suffering he didn’t stand and say “I’m not having this. I will call on father who will pout at my disposal more than 12 legions of angels.” NO, he said “Today it is not about me.”

  1. To serve means you may actually look like a servant (v4)

If God undressed so must we. God is to be found in flesh, in humanity of pain, tragedy of life, spit and dust of the earth. We have to remove our self-sufficiency, our desire to be wealthy, for exotic spiritual experiences, our pride and right to be heard.

We must become vulnerable to the core.

  1. To serve means your work of service may not be appreciated at the time (v7)

“No one appreciates me” is a drug and you can be addicted on the praises of man. If you spend your whole life wanting to please man, waiting for their response, craving their approval you will die a disappointed man.

  1. To serve means some of your closest friends may insist you don’t (v8)

Your friends need you to be a certain type of person which will not show them up for who they are. They don’t want you to look differently and speak in a certain way etc.

  1. To serve means you may have to serve someone who will later hurt you (v11)

Judas was there!

Let us go and pick up the towel and the basin.

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