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The Towel of Jesus Christ

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The Towel of Jesus Christ

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Many are familiar with the famous Lord of the Ringstrilogy of books by English author J. R. R. Tolkien, which were also made into movies. It’s a fictional account, but there is a lesson in it about Christ-like service.

The story revolves around the forging of 20 magical rings, and one in particular, called by several names—the One Ring, the Ring of Power, Precious, or the Lord of the Rings. It is the most powerful of all the rings, created by a Satanic being named Sauron. It gives invisibility and stupendous power to the bearer, but since it was fashioned through evil energy, it will ultimately corrupt its wearer.

A war ensues where Sauron is defeated and the One Ring is taken from him. The victorious king wants to destroy it, but in the end, is seduced by the power of the ring. Later, he is killed, and the ring is lost. When it is finally discovered, purer men know better and refuse to wear it. They decide Frodo, a Hobbit, is to take the ring to its place of origin where it can be destroyed. The journey is full of adventures as Frodo and his friends battle evil men and watch as many are seduced by the ring’s power. The ring is a symbol of selfishly accepting unbridled power and authority.

As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Lucifer was the first who lusted after absolute power and wanted to overthrow God. Eventually, he led a rebellion of angels that ended in abject failure, but he and his minions are now on the earth and tempt mankind into following their ways.

As the Bible says of Lucifer: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation,on the farthest sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15).

In Christ’s day, Satan offered Him the rulership over the entire earth (symbolically the offer was like wearing the “Lord of the Rings”), yet Jesus utterly rejected his offer.

As Luke 4:5-8 says: “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

We are all exposed to Satan’s temptations to wear the “Ring of Power” and allow selfishness to rule over us. Satan knows his power grows as one lets something corrupt him and he is thwarted when someone refuses to give in.

God purposefully made the earth with great riches, which man would have dominion over and have to administer—for good or ill. There would be an abundance of land, oil, metals, and precious stones that man could generously use and share or greedily hoard. He made great rivers and vast oceans to provide navigation, food, and water, and would watch what mankind would do. He gave humans strength, intelligence, beauty, sexuality and charisma in different proportions to see what men and women would do with them. Would they be used to serve others or to serve self?

Unfortunately, since the time of Adam and Eve, we see so many were corrupted by lusting after the “forbidden fruit,” a fitting symbol for the Lord of the Rings.

Recently, we just finished keeping the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. We went over what Jesus did for all of us, and we lived for seven days avoiding anything leavened, and instead eating the unleavened bread symbolizing humility and not being puffed up, as well as allowing Christ to live in us. It is a lesson for us to resist the sins of vanity, pride, greed, lust and envy, which are all types of wearing this ring of worldly lordship.

Now let’s see the contrast—what Christ has to offer. He doesn’t present a worldly ring to corrupt us, but instead offers us His towel to serve others.

He symbolized His Christ-like service by taking up a towel during the Passover. John said Jesus “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded…So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them’” (John 13:4-17).

To avoid falling into the temptation of selfishly grasping the “ring of lordship,” we need to:

1. Search out our motives for why we do things—is it to be seen by others and be praised, or is it to do it genuinely before God?

As Paul explains: “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” (Ephesians 6:6-8).

2. Contribute with humility as you can to please God.

When compared with what Jesus Christ did for all of us, we do so little to serve God and should be humble about it. As Jesus said: “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:7-10).

3. Don’t be ashamed to do menial things; take up the towel of service and symbolically wash the brethren’s feet.

Paul notes: “Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work” (1 Timothy 5:9-10, emphasis added).

So God the Father and Jesus Christ are not offering us a ring of power and prestige that will ultimately corrupt us, but rather a towel of service, which both first took upon themselves.

As John says: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:8-11).

God the Father and Christ are offering us a Kingdom—but a very different one from this world’s ways and its tempting ring of power. Sauron is still symbolically alive as Satan the Devil, and he wants us to join his kingdom. We need to reject that way of life and instead become God’s royal servants, practicing His ways now, by humbly taking up the towel of Christ.

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