Daily Lent Devotionals: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

 

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He Was Stripped Naked So He May Clothe our Nakedness

And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots
(Matthew 27:35).

They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots (Psalm 22:18).

Jesus willfully suffered the ultimate humiliation—a spectacle of public nakedness before his enemies—in order that he may clothe us, not with flimsy fig leaves, but with his own “garments of salvation… the robe of righteousness.” All the ridicule, spitting on his face, cursing and insults inflicted upon Jesus after his arrest until he was crucified pale in comparison to the ultimate humiliation of being stripped naked before a mob of enemies, onlookers and disciples. Why do all four Gospels mention this seemingly insignificant detail in this most important event in redemptive history?

Unwittingly, the four Roman soliders who divided Jesus’ garments among them and gambled for his tunic fulfilled what David foreshadowed in Psalm 22:18. John’s account especially focuses on how those who crucified Jesus were unknowing participants in God’s plan of redemption.

If Jesus was completely stripped naked as was the Roman custom in the first century, why do all of the classic paintings of the crucifixion show him with a small loincloth to cover him? Most likely, to show the Lord completely naked is too shameful and disrespectful.

Since Adam and Eve fell into sin, public nakedness is shameful. Our first parents hid from God and covered themselves with leaves in shame. So even with the prevailing culture of wearing little or no clothing in beaches and in movie scenes, the shame of utter nakedness will never go away. This is why there is so much protest against strip searches and full-body scanners at airports.

Adam and Eve Driven from Paradise by James Tissot, 1886-94 (click to enlarge)

Adam and Eve Driven from Paradise by James Tissot, 1886-94 (click to enlarge)

Before they sinned, Adam and Eve “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). But since the day they fell, nakedness in Scripture connotes the shame of sin coupled with the fear of being found out by God. But God himself provided “garments of skins and clothed them” in their nakedness (Gen 3:10, 21). Judgment against Israel’s idolatry, which is spiritual adultery, includes leaving her shamefully naked for all her enemies to see, “Jerusalem sinned grievously… all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness” (Lam 1:8). She is judged by being uncovered like a prostitute, left “naked and bare, and the nakedness of your whoring shall be uncovered” (Ezek 23:29).

The Garments Divided by Cast Lots by James Tissot, 1886-94 (click to enlarge)

The Garments Divided by Cast Lots by James Tissot, 1886-94 (click to enlarge)

Now, hanging on the cross, it is Jesus, the Son of God himself, whom the Father forsook and left naked in shame as he bore his Father’s eternal wrath on our sin, not his. He willfully suffered the ultimate humiliation—a spectacle of public nakedness before his enemies—in order that he may clothe us, not with flimsy fig leaves, but with his own “garments of salvation… the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10; cf Zech 3:4). As Adam’s children, we too are fearful and shamed by our sins before God, but he clothes us with Christ’s perfect righteousness, from his humble birth all the way to the shameful cross. So Paul assures us, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on [clothed yourselves with] Christ” (Gal 3:27).

At the end of history, God will pour out his righteous wrath on all rebellious and wicked mankind, symbolized by Babylon the Great, whom God will make “desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire” (Rev 17:16). But as for the righteous Bride of Christ, it will be “granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” (Rev 19:8).

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die. (“Rock of Ages” by Augustus Toplady)

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