Big family gatherings at holidays mean lots of food prep. Over the past 40 years, I can’t even begin to count the number of meals I have prepared and the number of people who have sat at our table. Those familiar with my cooking habits know I never wear an apron. Somewhere along the line, I learned that the flour and the gravy spills seemed to hit the apron, yes, but they also landed on my sleeve and my slacks and my shoes. Aprons – like bibs on babies – offered little protection and meant I had just one more thing to wash.
Jesus evidently felt differently. On the night before he died, he planned one last meal with his disciples. When they had gathered in the upper room, Jesus took off his outer robe, tied a towel around his waist. Some translations call it an apron. He poured water in a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. He used the towel at his waist to lovingly wipe them dry.
Wikipedia offered no description of ancient towels in Palestine, but if its information on Roman towels from that period is correct, Jesus might have used a fabric made of soft wool. Cotton was available at the time but was expensive and considered a luxury fabric. A Jewish preacher, without money to pay a temple tax, likely used the less expensive option.
Jesus donned an ordinary towel in preparation for service. He wanted to express his love for those who had followed him.
Service always involves preparation. It might mean setting aside an hour in a schedule to visit a friend in the hospital. It might involve planning a Sunday school lesson. Or it might mean preparing a meal for those who sit at your table.
As you go forth to serve this season, don’t forget to put on your apron!