~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
Jesus gave up everything when he went to the cross for his people. John is careful to include in his gospel that the soldiers who crucified Jesus also divided his garments, and cast lots for his tunic. This point, though secondary, is important for understanding the full extent of the love of God for his people, and the complete vulnerability and selflessness of Jesus as he goes to the cross.
Why do we clothe ourselves? Early on in scripture, in the garden, clothing becomes synonymous with the needs of an imperfect people. Adam and Eve, once they experienced sin, immediately desired to hide themselves. Their earthly clothing became an imperfect cover for their shame. It also shielded them from a now-harsh world that brought danger and bitter elements. We continue to cover ourselves with many things today, not just clothing, but accomplishments, power, and position.
So what does it mean that when Jesus went to the cross, his clothing was removed?
He became vulnerable for his people, exposed to every element – the stares, the stones, and the scorn of those who mocked him even as he forgave them. Giving himself. Trading himself. For us. And yet he did it. How great a love is this?
This story has a profound ending. On Easter morning, John is again careful to note, that as the women went to the tomb, and later the disciple Peter, they found the burial cloths of Jesus laying there, “and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.” (John 20:7)
Jesus was not there, but his burial clothing still was.
In resurrection Jesus was without need of any earthly garments. In perfection he needs no covering, he has risen to something greater. Revelation 19 paints a picture of the risen Christ as “clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.”
We are to see that on the cross as Jesus gives up his clothes, he does so in order that we might be eternally covered. So that we might look forward to a final day, when washed in the waters of forgiveness and raised to new life, we will be covered from all shame, guilt, vulnerability and need. We will be given the finest of holy garments which never wear out and which never fade to show we have been called as his own.
As we gather on Easter morning in just a few days, many people will be wearing their best – little boys in suits and girls in new Easter dresses. Let it be a reminder that while we celebrate, and while we do have every reason to wear our best as we worship, he has gone to prepare clothing, and a place, and a feast, far greater than any we now could imagine.