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.
It's the first garment recorded in Scripture, the first covering worn by man.
Can you guess?
It's not the animal skin couture that God designed for Adam and Eve before sending them out of the Garden of Eden.
It's a bit earlier than that.
Genesis 3:7 says that once Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they realized they were naked and they were ashamed. To try to cover their shame, they stitched together aprons of fig leaves.
While the newer translations of the Bible render this word coverings, the original Hebrew is the word for 'apron'. The King James Version calls this fig leaf fashion 'aprons'.
We see an image of them again in Exodus 39, when the priestly vestments were described, the garments that the members of the priesthood were required to wear when going into the temple to serve the Lord. The clothing item that they wore over the top of their layers of linen clothing was called an ephod and in its configuration, it looked very much like our aprons of today. It included straps which hung over the shoulders, a breast piece that covered the chest and a type of skirt attached to the waist band. The ephod was encrusted with twelve types of jewels to call to remembrance the twelve tribes of Israel and the Lord's promises to them.
Aprons. An apron of fig leaves, made in an attempt to create self-salvation, pieces and patches of green woven to cover sin and shame. An apron as ephod. The necessity for a priest to serve as intermediary between God and man, a covering of jewels required to enter into the presence of the Lord.
And then there are Jesus's aprons.
The ones that change everything.
For thirty years, we see Jesus wear the apron of a carpenter. The architect of the heavens was willing to sit at the elbow of his earthly father, Joseph, and learn the simple geometry of angle and lever to build a sound roof. The divine chemist, who somehow combines hydrogen and oxygen to give us water was willing to go fetch this life-giving liquid from the town well for his mother. He played with His brothers and protected his sisters, all while wearing the apron of a carpenter, a tool belt. For every year Jesus spent in public ministry, He had spent ten years in relative obscurity and in service to His trade and His family.
And then the time came for Him to hang up His carpenter's apron.
In John 13:4, He takes on a new apron, the very apron that the purpose and point of Christianity would be predicated on. He takes off His outer clothing and He wraps a towel around His waist.
And He kneels to wash the feet of His disciples.
What He tells them is groundbreaking, earthshaking.
He tells them that this is to be an example to them, that He has come as a master to become a servant. To serve them. To love them. And He asks them to love and serve each other.
In taking up the towel of an apron, relationship with God will no longer be determined by trying to patch together a covering for sin. Jesus will bear it.
In taking up the towel of an apron, Jesus will take on the ephod of the priest and give us the right to come into the very presence of God.
And what He asks is that we simply love and serve one another as evidence that we have understood His message.
To take up the towel. To wrap it around our waists. And to kneel at the feet of our siblings in Christ. And to serve.
Just like our Master.