Swaddling Clothes Become a Servant?s Towel by Rick Burdette
THEN AND NOW – Swaddling Clothes Become a Servant’s Towel
Luke 2:6-7(pg. 715) December 27, 2015
Have you ever heard the saying “Clothes make the man?” or “Dress for success?” or “She’s decked out to the nines!” It comes from a Robert Burns poem which means… “dressed to perfection!”
Jimmy and I had a conversation the other day…“Jimmy’s my future son-in law this coming July…The conversation followed Kari and Karissa getting ready for a Christmas party…both had put on at least 3 different outfits before the event…Jimmy looked at me and said, “How many outfits did you put on?” I said “one.” “I chose a brown shirt with a collar.” We both laughed and said, “but they’re worth the wait huh?”
Let me show you a very scientific pie chart
SHOW PIE CHART PIC
Maybe the reason for this time difference is found in our closets.
SHOW PICUTRE OF MEN VS. WOMEN CLOSETS
I’m not saying that clothes aren’t important, but in most cases they hold a significantly different priority to men and women…about what they say about who we are…and about how much we care about what others see.
If by some miracle I have a conversation with Bobby, Brian or Tony about what they’re going to wear to an event it would go like this… “You wearin’ a T-shirt and Jeans…yeah!…cool…me too!”
But the same conversations between two women, I’m going to bet would be radically different…it would involve color…shoes…style…belts…purses…possibly makeup…accessories…and an absolute commitment that it wouldn’t be the same thing.
Uniforms make it easy for us all…Whether it’s in schools…or when required by a person’s job…in the military…the medical field…the police or firemen….We see the uniform and we instantly know a lot about that person.
Luke’s gospel tells us after Mary gave birth to Jesus “she wrapped him in cloths.” His first clothes are “swaddling cloths.”
In fact we learn that when the angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shines around them the angel says:
“Do not be afraid (probably not so easy), I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.”
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths…and laying in a manger.”
Remember signs are meant to give information about future events…signs let you know about what’s coming…and the angel specifically says one of these signs that identifies the Savior is “You’ll find Him wrapped in cloths.” Why tightly wrapped cloths…why are swaddling cloths so important?
I. LAMBS MEANT FOR SACRIFICE COULD HAVE NO BLEMISH
Micah 4:8 says “As for you, watch tower of the flock, stronghold of Daughter Zion, the former dominion will be restored to you…KINGSHIP will come to daughter Jerusalem.”
The watchtower of the flock was Migdal-Eder (Tower of the Flock) and it’s located about 5 miles outside of Bethlehem…It’s where shepherds tended their flocks…The newborn lambs that were set apart for temple sacrifices were bound with strips of cloth and laid in mangers so they would not be trampled or bruised, because they could not be blemished.
I doubt sincerely that this sign was lost on these shepherds… “who came to Bethlehem to see this thing that had happened, which the Lord had told them about.” (Luke 2:15)
No wonder “all who heard it were amazed, concerning what had been told them about this child by the shepherds.” (v. 18)
Fast forward to Jesus’ burial…The Lamb of God has died on a cross taking away the sins of mankind…The sins of all the people His sinless body has been beaten…His blood has poured out from His hands, feet, head and side.
Isaiah’s prophecy has come true.
ISAIAH 53:4-9 (p. 511)
We are all wayward, rebellious sheep…He was led as an obedient lamb to slaughter, we protest our goodness…He is silent…He died for our transgressions and is put in a rich man’s grave…Listen:
MATTHEW 27:57-60 (p. 698)
By the way…all this happens during Passover…remember…where the blood of a perfect Lamb is applied to a home for protection of the death angel while Israel was in slavery in Egypt.
Shepherds knew about perfect lambs’ and sacrifice.
No wonder they were the first visited by God…and given a “sign” wrapped in swaddling clothes at His birth…and wrapped in swaddling cloths at His burial.
From the very beginning we learn a great deal about God’s plan from the cloths that became a baby’s clothes…but let me take you to another cloth that says just as much about Jesus’ heart.
II. THE HUMILITY OF THE TOWEL
When Jesus died he only had one thing on Him of physical value. Scripture tells us “when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into 4 shares, one for each of them…with the undergarment remaining, the garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
The soldiers made a decision not to tear it, they divide to cast lots to see who gets it (John 19:23-24 p. 756)
Even here, prophecy is being fulfilled concerning Jesus’ clothes…King David wrote in Psalms 22:18, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
Had Mary made Him that garment? Had one of the sisters from Bethany? One thing worth gambling for…a robe…His under garment…How humble is that? We spend a great deal of our life trying to accumulate things…And Jesus died with only 1 thing worth the soldiers trouble.
A handmade woven garment…I’ll bet you (no pun intended) that the person who gave it to Him was more important than the possession itself!
Powerful to think it was probably this very some set of clothes that shone with the glory of God on the Mountain one day…Right after He told His disciples…“whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25)
Listen to what follows:
MATTHEW 17:1-9 (p. 687)
Peter, James & John get to see Jesus in His glory…His face shone like the sun. His clothes become as white as light…He talks with the great law giver…and the greatest prophet…Moses…and Elijah…and the Father speaks from Heaven and then He says, “Don’t talk about this until you see the Son of Man raised from the dead.”
It would be those same garments He would remove in the upper room to perform one of the greatest demonstrations of His humble heart…it also would involve a cloth…This towel would be even more than a sign…it would be a “challenge” for the 12 disciples and each of us who would deny ourselves, take up our cross…and follow Him.
JOHN 13:1-5 (p. 751)
Once again Jesus is wrapped in a cloth…only this time it’s a servant’s towel.
John tells us He knows it’s time for Him to die…to go back home…but He also tells us how much He loved them…right up until the end.
And then John records how Jesus showed them His love…love is a verb not a noun!
At the last supper Jesus shocks His disciples by washing their feet…It’s a humbling job that needed to be done…a job no one else wanted to lower themselves to do…after it’s over He explains why it’s so important.
“So if I 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 just as I have done for you…I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:14-16)
That night Jesus stripped down and washed dirt from the disciples feet with His own hands…the next day He was stripped down again and those same hands were nailed to a cross in order to wash the sin from their souls…and ours! The dirty towel lay by a basin of water…and the dirt of all sin, covered Jesus as His blood flowed from the cross…and then soaked His grave cloths…which would be left in an empty grave.
This was their Lord and Master…This is our Lord and Master…from the manger to the cross, Mary’s little lamb becomes the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world…swaddling baby clothes…becoming a servant’s towel. The savior of the world THEN….AND NOW.
[Jesus uses two adjectives to describe Himself… “Gentle and Humble,” They are the driving attitudes behind love becoming a verb…I often think…what were the disciples thinking as Jesus washed their feet? Maybe “I wish I had done this instead of Him.” Peter lets us know what he’s thinking…“No way Jesus.” What was Judas thinking…“I know no Messiah would do this!!! I can’t wait to get out of here!”
As he laid the dirty towel aside and got dressed was it quiet as He said, “Do you understand why I did this…I did this to show you an example of how you should treat each other…wash each other’s feet…Now you know what to do…go do it! Become servants who pick up the towel.
One of my favorite writers, Brennan Manning, was waiting to catch a plane in the Atlanta airport. He sat down to have his shoes shined where usually black men shine white men’s shoes. An elderly black man began to shine Brennan Manning’s shoes and while he was doing so, the Spirit of God spoke to Brennan Manning’s heart.
When the black man had finished, Brennan Manning paid him and gave him a generous tip. But he didn’t stop there. Looking at the elderly man who had just shined his shoes, he said, “Now, sir, you sit down in the chair because I want to shine your shoes.” “You’re going to do what?” the elderly man said. Brennan Manning answered, “I want to shine your shoes. Come on now, sit down, and you teach me how to do it well.” As Brennan Manning began to shine the old man’s shoes, the old man began to weep. He then said, “No white man ever treated me this way.” They parted with a strong hug.
Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of servanthood: “To give my life for Christ appears glorious. To pour myself out for others, to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom, I’ll do it. I’m ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1000 bill and laying it on a table–here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all. But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor’s kid’s troubles instead of saying, ‘Get lost.’ Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of cold water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it’s harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul.”
Everyone noticed the basin…everyone saw the towel…But only one picked them up when they saw the need…it was a 25 cent moment that pointed to a priceless example…when swaddling cloths became a servant’s towel