“The soldiers…took His outer garments…and also the undergarment…” (John 19:23; Psalm 22:18). Jesus was naked on the cross. No passion play, movie, TV series, art picture, sculpture, poster, or any piece of jewelry ever portrays this biblical scene accurately. Why? It is too scandalous and not “fit” for public consumption. The stark facts of scripture have to be sanitized in some way. But for a moment let the weight of the scriptural account permeate the sanitized images we have in our heads about the cross. Jesus was totally exposed and naked for the public to see. Why?
A piece of advice that has been given to public speakers in the past to help calm nerves was to imagine their audience in their underwear. I believe the first time I heard this was on a Brady Bunch episode when I was growing up. I suppose the philosophy behind this piece of advice is if you feel “exposed,” as public speakers might with every word being scrutinized, then simply imagine your audience “exposed” as well. If you feel vulnerable, imagine others in a vulnerable position. I don’t use this advice myself nor do I teach this with the pastoral students training for public ministry. However, the advice portrays a real issue about the fear of “exposure.”
Nakedness of the Soul
Physical nakedness exposes our entire physical being to scrutiny. Naked people do not control what people see regarding their physical bodies. Nothing is covered. Everything is known. Likewise what if every thought, motive, fantasy, and personal secret was uncovered about you? I suppose we could call that “nakedness of soul.”
If our soul was on full glorious naked display to the world how might we respond? If we were utterly known down to the core of our being, what visceral reaction would we have? We would probably recoil in fear, knowing that we might be rejected because of what is seen. At the core of our being, we know something is wrong with our souls. Evil resides in our soul. Hurtful thoughts take up residence there. Meditations of getting my way are rehearsed regularly there. Ugly self-absorption is there. Don’t believe me? Get married. Have children. Commit yourself to the well-being of others and not yourself to see how difficult that really is. Something is wrong in our souls. In regard to this unease in our soul called “guilt,” we all tend to carefully craft coverings for our souls. We craft our behavior, speech, activities, and social associations so that people see what image we want them to see about us, whether or not it is true.
What if we could be utterly known down to the nakedness of our soul but still be utterly loved?
Naked so that We Might be Clothed
Jesus Christ thought very little about the “shame” of His exposure on the cross (Heb 12:2). In fact, Jesus Christ embraced His exposure willingly without hesitation. Why? Jesus had nothing to hide. He had no personal guilt that needed covering. Even Pilate said, “I find no guilt in Him” (John 18:38). More than physical nakedness exposing His body, His soul was completely exposed throughout His ministry and an even higher resolution exposure was found on the cross. While Jesus was unclothed physically on the cross, He was clothed with the greatest clothing of all—Love for humanity in bearing their guilt and shame.
- He took the shame of our nakedness of soul for us.
- He bore the guilt of our soul that causes us to labor unsuccessfully to find coverings for our soul nakedness.
Utterly Exposed but Utterly Loved
Thus, God who intimately knows us down to the nakedness of our soul has not rejected us utterly. Our greatest fear of being exposed and unloved has not come true! Instead, God loved us in spite of knowing us and sent His own Son for us (John 3:16). Have you embraced the One who took the shame of your nakedness for you? Have you believed in the One who offers you the most beautiful coverings for your nakedness—the love and righteousness of Jesus Christ? Don’t you think it is time for some new clothing? Are you not growing tired of fashioning clothing that wears out and doesn’t cover those important parts well? Christ offers the most glorious garments of His love without cost and labor from us. We must simply repent and believe. Believer, how will resting in this truth impact your daily appropriation of Christ’s garments of righteousness?
*Seed thoughts for this blog came from my listening to a sermon by Tim Keller, “They Divided my Garments”