There are certain moments in a family’s regular routine that are often intimate and have certain rituals associated with them. I’m thinking especially about meal time, bath time, and bed time. Each of these moments bring parents and children into close, intimate contact.

Bath time seems to be the most intimate and the most vulnerable. You wouldn’t want anybody giving your child a bath, would you? A child would definitely not want a stranger to give her a bath. This is a moment of vulnerability and trust.

The best part of the bath, I think, is when you get wrapped up in a nice warm towel. Perhaps you share a parent/child snuggle as that warm towel cocoons the little body. It’s a beautiful image.

This week we read the story of another towel, a basin of water, a bath, and an intimate moment. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet in John 13:1-17. We usually talk about the fact that this was an act of humility for Jesus. Only a servant washed the dinner guest’s feet. That is most certainly true.

Yet, I wonder if it is also a little bit like the family bath described above. Jesus loved his disciples. He knew that he was about to leave them and they were going to suffer. He wants to wash their feet like a loving father or mother wants to care for the children.

A towel hangs above my desk. It was given to me at my Seminary commencement ceremony. Our teachers told us that we, as pastors, must first take up our towel and serve the people we are called to lead. This is true for pastors. This is true for parents. The symbol of our role is the towel. May you gather up those you love in that towel this week and serve them with God’s love.

Here are the Family Questions from the Grow Guide to help you discuss this passage further.

  1. What is bath time like in your family? What part does the parent play in helping the kids get clean? How does that make the children feel about the parents?
  2. In Jesus’ day, it was the servant’s job to wash the dirty feet of the dinner guests before the sat down at the table. What are some jobs people have like that in our culture?
  3. How does it make you think about Jesus to know that he was willing to do the work of a common servant in front of his followers? In what ways can we serve others the way that Jesus served his disciples?
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