The Final Clothes
I've been stalling. This is the final post in the clothing series, and I'm now two weeks late. I like to start. But something in me deeply resists finishing. Two weeks ago, we celebrated Holy Week. I've been studying the Gospels. All of them. Flipping back and forth between them to read their accounts of the cross.
After they put the crown of thorns on my Savior's head and put a reed in his hand like a scepter, they beat him in the head with the reed. I never read that before. They spit on him and punched him in the face with their fists, taunting him to prophecy who it was that hit him. I never read that before either.
Isaiah 53 says they marred Jesus beyond “semblance of human form.” So I knew it was bad. Beyond imaginable bad. I just never thought of the emotional trauma He suffered as well the physical.
And still, til the very end, He never stopped thinking of others. He didn't take the wine with gall offered to numb and sedate himself. He suffered the full weight of the pain. He wanted to remain alert. To finish.
Even on the cross, with every breath excruciating, He mustered strength to finish His work here. He said, “Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing.” He assured the thief on the cross that today, he would be with Jesus in paradise. He made sure John took care of his mother Mary. He cried out to God, but it was also a message to us, quoting the 22nd Psalm that He had just fulfilled: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In his final breath, He said, “I thirst,” and then, “It is finished.”
I think of the bloody mass that His body must have been. Flogged 39 times when 40 counted as an execution. I think of the trail of blood that the true Passover Lamb left as he walked outside the city. And this year, for the first time, I also think of his clothes.
How many times had Christ Jesus been stripped naked and then dressed again? I've been reading back and forth and from what I gather, they stripped him of his clothes and flogged him. Then when Pilate gave up and sentenced crucifixion, they put a “splendid purple robe” on him when they put on the crown of thorns and mocked him. Then they took off the purple robe and dressed him in his own clothes once more to be crucified. At the crucifixion, the soldiers then stripped him a final time, dividing his clothes among them (Matthew 27:27-31, Psalm 22) .
With a bloodied, scourged body, each time they stripped him, his wounds would be ripped open, fresh again by the fibers that would have fused to the wounds.
When the Lord asked me to write about his clothes during the crucifixion, I stalled. I don't know what to say. It disturbs me. And it should.
The eye-witness accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John include this information about His clothes. Lord, what are you trying to show us?
Remember, this was a culture where showing your ankles was deeply shameful. Our desensitized culture may or may not give a man in a speedo a few raised eyebrows. But if showing a man's ankles was shameful... the extent of beaten naked back then was a much deeper level of shame than we can fathom.
The Son of Man, stripped of his street clothes. Maybe it is a picture of how Jesus was stripped of his humanity.
Then the Son of God, stripped of his “royal” garments. Maybe to show us that at the cross, He was stripped of his royalty and place as King of Kings.
Last, the Blameless Spotless Lamb, stripped a final time. Maybe to show us a picture of Christ's lowest point, the embodiment of sin, stripped of his identity at the core.
Jesus Christ was reduced to being a naked man, then reduced to being a naked king, then reduced to being a naked bloody mass beyond recognition as human form. The one who did no wrong.
Maybe this nakedness and shame is a picture of the state of our sin. Jesus became every evil action and thought, everything hurtful, selfish, adulterous, glutinous, lying, conniving, murderous.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:21
We feel the smallest taste of it when we sin. That slimy, guilty, crappy, regretful feeling. But Jesus felt the fullness of everyone's crap all at once. Ashamed. Abandoned. And naked.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus gave him a costly burial with the amount of linens and oils they would have reserved for kings. Even those linens were left behind in the tomb. And something about the face cloth folded neatly to the side is what convinced John of Jesus' resurrection. Read it in Luke 24:12-32. I'd love to know why. (Tell me if you have any hunches!)
I'm not sure if the Scriptures mention what Jesus wore when the tomb opened and he reappeared, victorious over sin and death. (If you find it anywhere, please tell me!) But we do know that when He comes again, His robes will be dipped in blood. And his robe will also say KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
As for us, His armies and His Bride... we get to wear fine linens, bright and clean to represent our righteous deeds (Revelation 19).
I think that's the same reason His clothes are dipped in blood. His righteous deeds. Similar to why He came back from conquering sin and death and sickness, and yet kept the holes from the nails in his hands. He didn't have to keep the holes or the blood. He chose to. He didn't have to endure the cross. He chose to, for you, His Beloved. For you who believe in Him, whom He calls “the joy set before him.”
Prayer: Truly, You are the beginning and the end. You are the first sacrifice and the last. And that just causes me to sit here in the middle of a flood of lighting flashes and tornadoes at peace, and to crack a smile. I love you back. You are the joy set before me too. Help me run the race with endurance, to finish well. I know the nail-pierced hands that await me at the finish line! And they are beautiful.