Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 09. Chapter 9: Christ Disrobed

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Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 09. Chapter 9: Christ Disrobed

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SUBJECT: 09. Chapter 9: Christ Disrobed

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Christ Disrobed

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.


WE GENERALLY pay more attention to the clothes in which Christ was swaddled in the manger than to the clothes in which He went to the cross, and which were brutally taken from Him by the people. Nevertheless such an apportionment of our attention is unwarranted. The swaddling clothes were given to the babe by the providence of God, and the garment which, now that He has grown up, is taken from Him on the cross, was taken from Him by this same and most special providence of God. The clothes in which He was swaddled as He lay in the manger are less essentially a sign of His poverty than the manger itself. True, they were made a sign by which the shepherds might distinguish Him, but they were constituted a sign only in relation to the manger itself. As such only were they regarded as a symbol of His lowliness and poverty. But at Golgotha the garment alone, in relationship to no other thing, was made a sign. The disrobing of Christ was a special symbol and spoke a unique language of God. This shall be the sign unto us: we shall find the Surety, robbed of His clothes, and hanging on the cross. A merciless plundering exhibited His nakedness to the eyes of the delicate priests and of the youth of the Great City of Jerusalem. Think of that. They seized on His clothes in the hour of His death upon Golgotha. And we would have been summoned to leave the place lest the penalty of Ham and Canaan come upon us, had not God Himself cried aloud that we must stay, inasmuch as He had made this plundering of His clothes a sign for all ensuing generations. Precisely this constitutes the difficulty of this day.

We want to avert our eyes, lest we should be cursed with the curse of Ham and his generation, but we may not. We must look on. He is greater than Noah, and consequently He is much less, for zeniths are nadirs, and robing is but a disrobing. God adjures us if we would not be unclothed, but clothed upon, to stand then and see, for thus saith the Lord: in the plundering of Christ’s clothes an ancient prophecy has come to its fulfillment.

Consequently let us see, let us hear what the Spirit has to say to the churches about the naked Christ who was crucified amidst the bandits.

To all appearances the incident was a very ordinary one. Regulation had it that the property of the person condemned to death was the legitimate loot of those who executed the sentence. Accordingly, the four soldiers who were carrying out the penalty against Jesus were legally authorized to lay claim to the clothes of the bandits crucified with Jesus, as well as to those of Jesus Himself. It is not unlikely that the centurion, the “captain of a hundred,” could lay official claim first of all to the property of the condemned persons. However, we have no evidence for believing that the man made good his claims on this occasion. No wonder: there was very little to take. As a matter of fact, the centurion had other things to do today besides worrying about the poor legacy left by these three crucified ones. The man concluded the day by a kind of confession of faith;[1] and that was quite a different thing. He paid very little attention to this division of the spoils. Something else was disturbing him.

[1] There will be further discussion of this point later.

Be that as it may. In the fact and the manner of the division of Jesus’ clothes we see above all a sign of His great poverty:

All rights denied,

naked, Christ died. (Guido Gezelle.)

In this connection two elements require our attention: first, that Jesus’ clothes were taken from Him; and, second, that they were assigned to others, in this case to the soldiers.

Before Christ was hanged upon the accursed wood, He was disrobed. Opinion differs about whether the disrobing was partial or complete. Some think that the Saviour was allowed to retain some of His garments. Others believe that in order to make the shame of crucifixion as great as possible the crucified person was customarily robbed of all his clothes. As a matter of fact, this interpretation seems to be historically verifiable.

It is true, of course, that we would rather not look these facts in the face. Whoever has been taken captive by the majesty of Christ will say with the Baptist: I am not worthy, I am unfit to loose the latches of his shoes. Well, if the majesty of Christ is so overwhelming that we would not dare to approach Him by way of untying the laces of His sandals, how could we dare to approach Him in order to see His complete disrobing? However, we must not forget that the question is not what John the Baptist or what any other person who loves Him can bear to see at the foot of the cross. The important thing is to know what He Himself tells us. And He wants us to understand thoroughly that He in His nakedness is unfit to untie the laces of our shoes. He wants to humiliate us to the point of shame in order to exalt us, the “clothed upon,” later, Accordingly, He compells us to notice Him. We must know what He allows the enemies to do to Him. Lo, without any piety whatever, they have made Him the subject of shame and have done this as absolutely as was “the custom” in that day. After all, He must experience all the customs, must He not? Lo, the Son of God, naked, hanging between two naked malefactors!

In this all the souls are being discovered. Only he who has faith can find his God and his Lord in this extreme shame. Such is the course which the penalty is taking. In the first place, the people cannot conceive any other device to which their delight in humiliating Him can resort. But the people are not the only ones with whom we are concerned here. Besides considering what the people do to Jesus, we must also devote attention to what God causes the Surety of our soul to suffer.

There is but one answer. The shame of nakedness is fitted into the framework of Christ’s whole Suretyship. This shame of nakedness constitutes punishment. Just as sin, when it had entered into the world, caused man to sense his nakedness with a feeling of pain because he knew his being lay disrupted, inasmuch as the forms of life were no longer an expression of their hidden, holy essence, but an expression also — and that an unknown one — of strange sinister influences opposed to God, so now nakedness comes in the form of pain to this place of perfectly executed punishment.

After the advent of sin to the world God gave man clothes to wear. God’s special providence — thus the account of Genesis — gave man those clothes. Now the entrance of protective clothing into the world was not an accidental thing, nor a passing thing, not an alogical civilized form of a highly developed life; it was, according to the Bible, an inherent part, a definitely accompanying phenomenon, of our lives — lives in part contaminated by sin, in part protected from sin by grace. Clothing is not the product of the evolution of culture, but it is the thoughtful gift of God’s grace. To go naked after God’s first act of clothing us, is not to engage in a form of primitive barbarism but is to become the victim of retrogression; it is to fall from the plane of life in Paradise.

We would be going too far afield if we were to elaborate here on our notion of the function of clothes in the world. It must suffice to remark that clothes are a gift of God’s common grace. We cannot understand the function which clothes have in our human life unless we again think of those marvelous indications of God to which we have alluded so often in this work — so often, in fact, as we spoke of common grace, of the vicious circle of life, and of the circulation of the blood.[1] In all of these matters we saw, in the last analysis, the same manifestation of God’s activity in the world and in its history. After sin, God introduced a law of retardation into the world. By this means He tempered the curse, the judgment; and by the same means He restrained the blessing from attaining its full fruition and its full realization. This God did in order to make room for the Christ and for the victory of the regenerative powers which His love and grace set into action.

[1] See Christ on Trial, (Chapter 3) pp. 53 ff. (Chapter 4) 77 ff., (Chapter 7) 137 ff., and (Chapter 27) 512 ff.

This law also affects the function of clothes. Clothes are indeed on the one hand a restriction upon life and blessing; a hindrance to the perfect expression of beauty. Clothing molests the “devine theos,” — the pagans say. For the body of a human being, beautiful and unblemished as God made it, gives a rich expression to the beautiful idea of God, the God of beauty — say the Christians. If sin had not disturbed the scheme, God, the supreme Artist, also in creating the human body, the final and most beautiful of His artistic creations, would not have allowed it to be covered by clothing. Consequently in the eventual elaborated state of things clothing will again have served its purpose. The riches of God’s perfect artistry will then again manifest themselves to every eye in their naked form.

In another sense, or better, from another point of view, clothing is part of the activity of God’s grace. Sin which eats its way into and out of all things makes itself manifest in everything which life offers. It devotes itself to the origins of our life also in order to defile these. Hence God gives man his clothes in order that sin might be hampered and restricted, and in order that the retrogression which sin introduced into the human body also, might be retarded and thwarted in its curse-laden, fatal work.

If we bear all these considerations in mind, we will appreciate better what God did to Christ when His hand disrobed the Son. Again the beautiful scheme of God’s thoughts interjects itself into the apparently accidental and certainly customary[2] activity of men. That which we observed in the passion of Christ at every successive moment, we observe again now. Human beings are active, yes, but God especially is active. The people disrobe Christ because, well, that just happens to be part of the penalty. They did not see beyond their lugubrious disciplinary regulations.

[2] See chapter 9, p. 168.

But God does the same thing by means of their activity to the Surety of the world. God lets the Surety feel the consequence of His surrender to the Suretyship. If, as was said above, clothing is a fruit of “common grace,” a retardation of the curse in its relentless course, and also is a manifestation of the “common judgment,” which hampers what otherwise would be the perfect fruition of beauty, then it must also be taken from the Christ. God could put clothing upon the first Adam only because he would one day take it off the second Adam. For clothing represented grace. But all grace — He is descending into hell — must depart from the Christ. Indeed, clothing represents judgment, but only “general” judgment, However Christ is today the subject of absolute judgment. Listen, Hosea, God is drowning out your voice: God will strip Lo-ruhamah naked (See Hosea 1, 2). Because an unrestricted exhibition of naked reality is a proper part of an exhaustive penalty of sin, Christ must be so exhibited and despised in the world, in order that all the eloquent, illustrative expressions of the time in which the Son appeared on the earth might give as complete an expression as possible to the rejection of the Surety. He had to undergo also the humiliation of nakedness, a nakedness customary in hell (and also in heaven).

Thus the second Adam sinks to a plane below the first. The clothes which were given to the first Adam were made out of the skins of animals. This gift already represented great grace, a significant restoration of the condition which obtained before man fell. For from this gift it becomes apparent that the subordinate creature, the animal, is put into the service of man, even as he is after the fall.

Yes, that first piece of clothing was made of the skin of an animal. . . Some have said that the first piece of clothing was the product of the marriage of art and worship. These argue that the clothing represented art and that the animal killed for it contained in it the idea of sacrifice. This seems unplausible to us. When first instituted, clothing did not represent art. It represented necessity. It was a defense, a protection. And the sacrifice of an animal for the sake of the piece of human clothing was not a cult, or a form of worship, for the element of sacrifice is lacking in the slaying of that animal. God seizes on the animal in order to make it serve man’s purposes, but man does not give the animal to God. Nothing is being paid.

But, if the clothing of the first Adam did not represent the marriage of art and worship, it did represent the mastery of technique[1] over nature. It represented an intervention, the product of God’s own act and later by God’s active permission the product also of man’s act — an intervention in what nature provides. Thus the phenomenon of technique might still serve to protect and defend the lost human being.

[1] Common grace (a life which is still endurable, in which dominion is still possible) and also the common judgment, by which is meant that there is no evolution of the basic elements of life to their pleroma without pain and suffering.

Therefore the first piece of clothing which God as a result of His own care gave man in Paradise, contains a beautiful if frightening lesson. It proclaims to man the whole truth of long-suffering, and at the same time entangles him in the great obsession of the law of common grace (and retardation). It still points out to man — nomad as he is upon the earth — the scope of the natural world, in order that he may still have dominion over it. And it gives the human being, brutal annexationist of heavenly gifts that he is, a certain amount of property in the world nevertheless. It guarantees the fact that technique may triumph over nature. But it adds that the triumphs will come “with fear and trembling.”

Surely the gift of clothing was an instance of grace, and also an instance of judgment. Or can you believe that it was purely an accidental phenomenon? No, for this gift is conceivable only in terms of that will of God which would make human life possible in order that Christ could in His own time redeem life conclusively; in order, that is, that Christ could redeem life, on the one hand, by first of all losing the gifts of common grace — for, after all, they had been given man only on the condition of such loss — and, on the other hand, in order that the common grace, regained by His satisfying righteousness, might burgeon forth as the Lord of nature and, as the second Adam, might rise to the highest forms of kingship over the universe.

In other words, we may say that the hour of God’s constricting logic has arrived. This is the very logic which He Himself preached to those who were unclothed in reference to particular grace. Whosoever will lose his life, shall save it. Now He Himself becomes ensnared in His own net. He who is naked as far as common grace goes, must lose His garment if He is to gain it. If He cannot earn a garment, He can conquer nothing.

Accordingly, the Son must die now, naked. Fully aware of the fact that He is doing so He must consciously endure the shame of the nakedness which is part and parcel of existence in hell. For the curse is descending upon Him. Now we know that the expressions of shame, also in their bodily manifestations, await the accursed after death. This experience is called “nakedness” but the word does not do justice to what it is intended to convey. Nakedness means a frustration of the spirit. Now the one who quite consciously wanted to endure this hellish fate for us is the Christ. Hence Christ’s disrobing was in no sense less oppressive and infamous to the Messianic sense of the Christ than the merciless, inevitable exhibition and ostentation of the lost life of all condemned persons in hell. What is true of all other things in Golgotha is also true of the disrobing of the Son. We must look upon them sub specie novissimae diei. We must see the movement of the last day in them. It is a terrible punishment for the Christ to be made a naked exhibition; for Christ is the one who would strip the authorities and powers naked and make them a public example. This to Him is the same bitter reality as that which bore down upon Him in all the other forms of His passion. The nails and hammers, we observed before, appeared to Him as catastrophic powers of the last day.[1] Well, the disrobing of the Saviour is subject to the same law; it was a part of the shame of hell.

[1] See Chapter 6, pp. 118-122.

Nothing is accidental. Clothing represents the first gift given to man by common grace; it is the first intentional technical creation coming after sin by way of constraining nature. Because it is just that, Christ’s clothing must be taken from Him, in order that the victory of technique over nature and of the intentional and violent conquest of nature by the technique should accrue to everyone save to the Surety Himself. Yes, by His loss we gain. Our factories are busy, our looms, our textile mills, our technical facilities triumph over nature because the Surety first of all relinquished the benefits of the first technical triumph over nature when he was on Golgotha. Golgotha, that bare and barren hill. The hill was bare, yes, but He was completely naked. Naked and exposed to the eyes of Him with whom He, for our sake, had to do (Heb_4:13).

Thus the offense and the foolishness of the cross was intensified and aggravated by the spectacle of the naked Christ. This is a thing for which all Jews and well dressed priests must either bite their lips to pieces, or laugh themselves into distortion. We have here a naked God, a naked Messiah, and hanging on the cross. Is it any wonder that even today we can find on the walls of certain old barracks of the paganism of antiquity certain caricatures in which the Saviour of the Christians was represented by this or that soldier as a crucified donkey? Such was the mockery with which their pagan colleagues chided Christian soldiers. No, it is no wonder. That would happen today again under similar circumstances. When God took the clothes from His Son, that Son no longer was allowed to move through the world, for one’s clothes give one the privilege of going about. That was no false fancy but a logical insistence upon Biblical ideas which made us say a moment ago that the Baptist sighed: I am not worthy, condescending, to loosen the latches of His shoes; and that, everyone can now say of Jesus: He is not worthy, condescending, to untie the laces of my shoes. Christ has not now the right to go about freely in the world. In this the Suretyship was made perfect. Let Him hide behind the bush as He can.

But He cannot. The first Adam was able to do so! the second is still limited to His nakedness. Nails, spikes, and the heat of the catastrophic day! O God, He cannot escape, He cannot hide. Nevertheless, voices everywhere are crying: Where are Thou? Where art Thou?

On our own part, it would be to cheapen the gospel of the passion and of the story of the cross if we were to separate Christ’s anxious cry, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? from these considerations. He who knew Himself to be the Son of man did not overlook the fact that He sank to a plane below that of Adam and that He was made a public spectacle in His nakedness on the accursed cross. He could not forget that He had fewer rights than Adam. Adam’s was still the right to conceal Himself. And Christ’s awareness of His own shame in part prompted the plaint: My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? He could truly lament God’s forsaking Him precisely because He, unlike Adam, felt that He would never be separated from God.

But we said that there was a second consideration which required our attention. To the fact that Christ’s clothing is taken away from Him must be added the consideration that they were assigned to the soldiers. A comparison of the several accounts of the gospel shows us that the soldiers in dividing Jesus’ clothing separated them into two groups: first, the garments in general; and then, the coat. Of the first classification we can say that by the “garments” in general was meant the outer covering, or cloak, which served as a cover for the night among the poor. It may be that the girdle, which was commonly worn around this cloak, was also included among the garments. The sandals also, doubtless, belonged to Him. Some observers suggest that a covering for the head should also be added, but it is not likely that Jesus wore one, inasmuch as He had been taken captive at night; moreover, the brutal mockery involving the crown of thorns indicates that the covering for the head had been taken away from Him if He had had any at all.

Special mention, however, is given to the coat, to the so-called chiton. By this is meant the long coat which was generally worn next to the naked body and was made up of wool or linen. Sometimes the chiton was not worn over the naked skin but was used to cover a linen shirt which, in that case, was worn next to the body. We do not know the particulars; and no one has the right to act as though he did know them.

Now the soldiers divided the clothing of Jesus into two parts of equal value. The first part consisted of that first group called the “garments,” and the second consisted of the chiton, which was kept separate.

Do you wonder why it was kept separate? Some believe that we must regard this indication as evidence for the fact that the chiton which Jesus wore was a very expensive garment. They point to the fact that the coat in question was seamless, that it was all of a piece. They assume that such a single piece of goods which had come in precisely that form from the loom, and was at no point sewed together, must have been especially expensive. From this assumption they derive various hypotheses. One observer, for instance, claims that Jesus’ beautiful, artistically constructed under-garment goes to prove that He enjoyed a relative amount of riches; and still another commentator adds that Christ laid claim to His priestly pretensions by means of this chiton. We know that the priest also wore a garment which was woven of a single piece of cloth and was seamless. Christ, these observers maintain, by means of His seamless coat was saying: I too am a priest, and I give that fact expression by my clothes.

We need devote no argument to showing that such a play of the fancy is vain. Christ did not want to make His priestship tangible by means of a cloak, and certainly not by means of a garment, which because it was an under-garment, could not be seen anyhow. Similarly, the contention that this coat was woven of a single piece and that this goes to prove its costliness is an argument which also has nothing better than fancy as its basis. Whoever, even today, can tell us something about Oriental life will confirm the fact that woven stuffs which we regard as very expensive are worn in the East by very ordinary people. Weaving was a very common activity of the time; hence Jesus’ woven chiton is in no sense to be taken as an indication of unusual wealth.

As a matter of fact, we should prefer to deduce the very opposite from the account. The soldiers divided the clothing of the Nazarene among the four of them. In doing this, they first divided the whole of it in two groups. The chiton was kept separate and formed the one group; the rest constituted the second group. The reason for this classification was self-evident. If they had done it differently, nothing valuable would have remained. If they had made a group of all the material, including the chiton, they would have had to tear it into four pieces. Then no one would have had anything worth while, for the rest was worth preciously little. Girdle, sandals, and under-garment were hardly a prize. Their decision to cast lots for the chiton goes to show that this was the only piece which “amounted to anything,” and which was still worth rescuing from the meager legacy.

Hence we can say that Jesus left very little behind Him in the world. He was poor when He came into the world, and poor when He went out of it. At several times in His life He had had money in abundance; many women served Him with their goods. But by the end of His life everything seemed to have been put into the service of the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus Himself wore no more than was necessary.

Just because of that fact the raffling of His clothes was a difficult problem in Jesus’ consciousness. Perhaps the easiest way for us to appreciate the significance of this will be for us to give our attention to two things: first, to His right of requisition; and, second, in connection with that right, to His self-awareness as the Son of God, a self consciousness which also asserted itself in His property-concerns. We shall consider each of these two matters.

We have previously mentioned that Christ made requisitions; Christ made His demands, by the grace of God. In this way, we said, He laid claim to His beast of burden, and to His passover room. He laid claim to His beast of burden as a King, upon His “triumphal” entry into the city. He demanded His room as a Priest, preparing the Holy Supper for His people. He did this fully aware that He was the Son of David and the priest-king of Zechariah’s vision. Thereupon we observed that this right of requisition was completely denied Him. This occurred when Simon of Cyrene was compelled to bear His cross.

Now God goes further along this same line with the Son, with the Surety. Simon of Cyrene — yes, it may be that he wounds Jesus’ soul, but if so he does it in spite of himself. From the viewpoint of human beings at least, the assistance given by Simon of Cyrene has the semblance of a gesture of friendship. However, even this last suggestion of assistance and good will is now taken from Jesus. They remove His clothes. This clothing — on which His disciples had lovingly labored — is now, together with a few worthless rags which had belonged to the bandits, cast upon a heap and then divided among the soldiers by lot. Surely, this is the perfect contrast to what happened a week before when rich and eminent persons threw their clothing upon the road in order that the king of Jerusalem might arrive at his residence by passing over them.

Christ’s right of requisition had merely been denied when Simon of Cyrene was constrained to bear the cross. But now God and the devil go further. That right is being mocked now. So thoughtlessly does the world throw Jesus’ property about that a centurion does not even think it worth his trouble to ask whether there is anything in the heap worthy of his attention; and the soldiers, grinning because of the meager loot, agree at least to give some consideration to one useful article on the pile.

Then they took out the dice. Or it may be that they did not even use the dice. They could also cast lots by means of their fingers. Be that as it may, they cast lots. It was a game of chance and it took place on Golgotha. This is the second cut of the two-edged sword of Satan’s mockery. Is not Golgotha the best and the first revelation of justice from God’s point of view? What place can accident and chance possibly have here — before the eyes of the Saviour? To throw the dice, to cast lots, is to catch at the hem of the garment of chance as it dances through the world.

Such was the end of the matter. He began the week by laying claim to things, and He ended it with His eyes fixed on raffling soldiers, dividing His legacy among themselves while He, alive, looked on. Such was the end of the way which began with gold and frankincense and myrrh.

In this way we naturally reach the point we wanted to give attention. Christ’s Messianic consciousness, we said, placed the problem of His property also in His own light.

When at one time they had asked that He contribute taxes for the temple, He asked Simon Peter directly, in separate conversation, whether it really was not foolishness to ask Him and His disciples for taxes. Indeed, that was a topsy-turvy world. For Christ is the Son and in the house of the Father the Son is not One who pays, He enjoys the privilege of inheritance. In the house of God, says the Saviour, the Sons are free, and if this holds true in reference to assessments for the temple, it holds true in an even larger sense for all other forms of taxation. For if Christ as the Son of God is the Heir and Receiver in the temple, He is that in an even stronger sense in the house of nature. Good, says Jesus; from Him then, who is the Son of God, the Supreme Owner of the world, nothing can be demanded. True, He paid the assessment “lest He should offend them,” and in order to conceal Himself as the free Son and as the sole Heir of the whole world. Nevertheless, exactly by way of demonstrating that He was that to His disciples, He performed a sign which demonstrated His absolute right as Owner. In order to be able to pay the penny demanded of Him as an assessment, He did a miracle. He had the coin taken from the mouth of a fish which was drawn from the water just at the time. This, in His self-concealment, He placed on the table of the collector of revenues.

Now these are things we must keep in mind at the crucifixion and especially as we look upon the scene which the soldiers are raffling off Jesus’ clothes. Are we arbitrarily putting two things together here which have no relation to each other? No, but who, indeed, has the right to separate these matters from each other. The life of Christ on earth is precisely comparable to His coat: it is all of a piece, is seamless. Consequently we are not trying to establish a connection between things lying far apart from each other but are simply doing our duty when we put those things together which Christ by His Spirit brought together. We can catch only a glimpse of that which suffused His Spirit when we say that Christ, while looking upon the raffling of His clothes, did not for one moment segregate Himself from His own consciously presented doctrine about His right of inheritance, about His right of assessment, about His Sonship, as He confessed these before Simon Peter “at the occasion” of the tax bill which was given Him. As His clothes were being raffled off and given away, His inclusive spirit saw the magi of the East, who brought Him rich gifts, saw Sheba who brought her treasures with her, saw the Father in heaven who made no demands upon His Son, and He saw all these things in their direct relationship with these raffling soldiers. Yes, yes, He senses it very well. It did seem as if that apparently inattentive gesture, by means of which through an aristocratic miracle He pulled a coin out of the mouth of a fish, was being mocked by God Himself. Now, Jesus Christ, Thou hast performed a wonder. Where now is that God who can provide money-laden fish at a moment’s notice? Thou hast instructed Thy disciples that Thou dost govern the property of the world. Thou didst set Thyself up as the Chief-Requisitioner overagainst all tax-payers of the world. Thy self-consciousness availed to vanquish nature, and to open the mouth of a fish. Thy hand reached into the water with a playful but serious gesture. And now, Chief-Heir, Thou must make compensations for that arrogant attitude. Soldiers are dickering over Thy coat, and are casting lots for it. In other words, miracles are receding. Heaven is silent. The gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh from the magi of the East has its counterpart now in these raffling soldiers of the West. The Orient sends its gift-bearers; the west its plunderers. Thus Christ as the Lord of the temple and as the Prince of the world went into concealment here.

Shall we weep about it? No, for our faith finds its Surety in this. If the free Son allows His right to property to be thus profaned, He by that means also “became poor, having been rich,” and naked having been clothed. He raised the taxes for us all, He who can demand the revenues. Write His monogram on the cross. It must be written in the form of a fish,[1] for the cross and the fish belong together. He caught that fish in order to demonstrate His right to property to the faith of Simon Peter and also in order to conceal His right to property to the unbelief of those in the temple who demanded the taxes. If only I draw the sign of that fish over His head, I will have understood the cross and the casting of lots. Then He Himself will say to me in His profound nakedness: This is Suretyship; this is Suretyship; for know this with absolute certainty — the Son is essentially free. Thus He again conceals all His human rights of requisition and all His divine claims of taxation behind the shame of His nakedness. All the problems of theology and revelation and of the Scriptures are revealed — to Him who believes — in the naked Saviour.

Now return to our point of departure. Look back to Paradise and to the clothes of Adam. In Paradise, God took an animal in order to clothe man. God said that man might continue to have dominion over the beasts. God placed the beasts in the service of man. And Christ demonstrated that as the Son of God, He, too, can take animals, if He wishes to, by way of making the beasts subservient to man’s purposes. But He did more than that. He used that animal particularly to conceal His right to property. After the dazzling miracle He satisfied Himself with the very ordinary gesture of a tax payer, who comes in the usual manner to pay His assessment.

[1] Later Christians used the symbol of the fish as a sign of recognition. The Greek word for fish is Ichthus. These are the initial letters of I(esous) Ch(ristos) Th(eou) U(ios) S(oter), which means: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.

Now this law of utmost concealment is realized in the second Adam on the cross:

All rights denied,

naked, Christ died.

The animal’s skin to be used by Adam, and the mouth of the fish by Jesus. All this returned on the cross. His people are clothed by His nakedness, and by His nakedness His people can and may support the temple.

We can easily understand in this scheme of ideas that the Scriptures should point out to us the relationship between that apparently ordinary intermezzo between the raffling soldiers on the one hand, and the whole of prophecy on the other. The Scriptures tell us that what is written in Psa_22:18 was fulfilled in the disrobing of Christ, that is, was carried out in its full implications. In that well-known psalm of passion David complains that they have parted his garments and cast their lots for his vesture.

Do not ask now whether this literally happened to David, and denying that it did, do not say therefore that he exaggerated. This is neither literal record, nor hyperbole. In Psalms 22 the poet laments that the misery which robs him of the experience of fellowship with God is caused by people who are doing him wrong, by robbers and plunderers. And he gives a vivid picture of these robbers and plunderers by comparing them with such common ones as are willing to raffle off the clothes of their victim and to make him the object of shame; they let him lie on the street naked. This figurative language employed by David is now being literally fulfilled in Christ. David gave expression to the idea of a plundered, robbed king, or (if David was but a pretender to the crown by reason of the promise of God at the time he composed this poem) to the idea of a plundered crown-pretender, one who has been promised a crown, but who for the rest feels himself without any rights in the world. And this sense of despair is expressed in a cutting lamentation to the effect that God is letting the clothes of His anointed be raffled off. According to this bitter plaint, the poet is one who has “seen the promise afar off, but has not experienced the reality of it.” David’s lamentation is the cry of one who feels the incongruousness between what is justly his and what is being given him in actuality. Now this word of David is fulfilled in his Son today.

The form of the lamentation as well as the content of it is being fulfilled. Yes, the form of it also. David speaks of plundering and the Son of David is being plundered on Golgotha. Robbers tear the clothes off His body. As He watches their game and their casting of lots, He loses His claim on all His clothes and stars. His is not the privilege of walking about freely, neither on earth, nor anywhere else in the universe. But the content of Psalms 22 also achieves its fulfillment. The contrast could not be more terrible than it is in Christ. David was robbed, but all his property which he had had before, had been given him by grace. But the Son of David is the Owner and the Receiver of taxes, and is that not by grace but by eternal right, by the right of God and also by right of the faithful Worker in the covenant of works. Now this Son of David sees His cloak being raffled off and as He watches this the problem which grieved David is perfectly present in David’s Son and Lord. It could not be more oppressive in the world than it is now. The great Clother is being stripped naked; Caesar Augustus has robbed the Child of His swaddling clothes.

May all weep because of their sin! We have robbed God. The preaching of the Deus Spoliatus proclaims our shame. Away off in the distance it uncovers the dark corners of hell, the place where all are robbed of everything which God gave them. Your clothing, O son of man, is becoming mingled with the dust of the earth; Thou mayest not take it with Thee into the realm of outer darkness. And hence the demand that we should not seek for “raiment” but for the Kingdom of heaven can never be urged more strongly than at the cross of Jesus.

Do I hear someone laughing back there in the rearguard, and is he a living person? Let everyone laugh because of Jesus’ righteousness, for the Author of the sermon of the mount is dying for His own discourses — hallelujah.

For, in that sermon on the mount Christ had said three important things. He referred to the right of requisition which one man would sometimes employ against another in this crooked world. He said: If any man strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. That insistence He Himself fully satisfied.

We observed that before.[1] Besides, He is still turning the other cheek, for He who is calling up no fish from the depth of the sea, is calling down no lightning from the height of heaven; He performs no miracle to redeem Himself; He turns the other cheek to us.

[1] Christ on Trial, Chapter 4, pp. 71 f. and Chapter 6, 123 f.

But He went further. If any man, He said, would enter into judgment with thee and would demand thy children, give him thy cloak also. Well, they have taken the chiton away from Him and He also gives them His cloak. He does not curse the gamblers, nor scold the rafflers. He leaves them all of His clothes, and He prays for the gamblers who know not what they do. He allowed the fish to go on swimming in the water, for He had to fulfill the sermon of the mount on the cross and had to vindicate it in Himself.

He went still further and said: If any man should constrain thee to go with him a mile, go with him twain. This also was fulfilled in Him now. For Simon of Cyrene bore the cross for Him. That was the first time Jesus’ right of requisition was being denied Him; but He endured it; it was the first mile, and Jesus went along. Now His coat is being raffled off; again His right of requisition is being denied, is — and this is even severer — being defied and disdained. Again He goes along; He also goes the second mile. He lets the fish swim on, He calls no lightning from heaven. He does not call upon Elijah. Nor does He, like Elijah, call down fire from heaven. He endures all this and knows of what Spirit He is, and prays: Father, forgive them.

Thus Christ verified the sermon on the mount. He told us there that we should endure three requisitions made upon us: “Injury of the body, impairment of property, and infringement upon liberty.”[2] And Christ Himself was completely faithful to His own threefold demand.

[2] Grosheide, Kommentaar op Matthew, p. 66.

Now we turn aside, and around; we fasten our eyes upon Him. We do not know what we should do now; alas we do not know. Woe to us if we should see His nakedness, and not believe in God. Then our name would be Ham. No, we turn aside now, and look upon Him no longer. Our eyes hurt, shame makes us blush; this is His repulsive nakedness. But the anxiousness makes us pale;

this is our repulsive nakedness. Time was when the priests could not stand at their ministration because of the cloud, but here was a thick mist, and we can not bear, we can not endure it. O God, the door of hell has gone open for the moment; blindfold my eyes, lest I should see. Nevertheless, He says to me: Fix your eyes upon Me, look upon Me in faith. He says: Could you believe that I had been made naked in the world in vain? He says: Am I not the Word, clothed with power? My nakedness is prompted by a reason known to God Himself from all eternity. Am I not the speaker and the autocrat of the sermon on the mount? There must be a reason for My nakedness; there is a reason, and it was known to me throughout My days. And, again, He says to me: Do not go Away now, for you must see and acknowledge that this is the Suretyship, the conclusive payment.

Thus do we bind our eyes so that they see now, and do not see then; thus we long for the hour in which His beauty will be revealed to us. We shall see that King in His beauty. We heard the death-rattle of a dying animal in Paradise. God killed it. He took the lesser for the greater, even though man said in that very moment; Lord, I perish; I am the least of all. Observe, however, that all this happened solely for Christ’s sake.

For Christ’s sake it took place. For when the animal had to serve as clothing for man it was still the privilege of the lesser, the animal, to serve the fallen superior, to serve man: and this is common grace. But this paradoxical service, we must remember, was made possible only because in a later hour at Golgotha the greatest of all should become the least of all, and He who clothes everything, should be unclothed. In this the divine will is operative; God Himself has disrobed God. This was the final remedy. It was absolutely impossible for it to be any different in the world. He who had everything, was allowed to retain nothing. To him that hath shall be given; but he that hath not for our sake from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

Presently I shall go and pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, give us this day our daily bread. Now if in doing so I never once think of Christ who lacked bread and water and shelter and clothing, I am but a proud trifler with words. The soldiers gambled on the hill of prompt payment and I am as ridiculous as they if I should play with wine now, and parade with clothing, and bandy to and fro the dollars of the rich without having earned in my soul and spirit a true appreciation of the great problem of the Suretyship. That problem alone can teach a seriousness of life; without it all decent people are but dickerers and gamblers who thoughtlessly finger the clothing of God; they are but pitiable rafflers all.

This is a kind of world-view, but it justifies itself overagainst the spectacle of the naked Christ. We can hear a voice coming from the cross, and the voice has in it a dominating irony. This voice says to all arrogant men (and Paul also appreciated some of the irony later):[1] Now ye are full, now ye are rich; ye have reigned as kings without me. Even unto this present hour I hunger, and thirst, and am naked. Mark this: so the naked Christ speaks to all those who would pay by means of their money: You are rich and are full, and can get along without Me; you can clothe yourselves without Me, but I suffered thirst and was naked; and you who do not allow Me to clothe you with the cloak of my righteousness remain pitiable, naked, and miserable in all eternity, for you, O man, are really the one who was disrobed on Golgotha.

[1] 1Co_4:8-14.

Again, then, inscribe the figure of a fish over His head on the cross. But think in that connection of the fish which carried a coin in his head, and think of a miracle which shook heaven and earth, a miracle as great as the crowing of the cock,[2] as great as all the miracles together.

[2] Christ on Trial, Chapter 10, pp. 212-213.

Draw the figure of a fish over His head, and say to Paul: What I have written, that have I written.

Jesus is very tired and He says quietly and reluctantly: Have I need of madmen? Come instead as a believing one, as a fool to the world, but as a wise person to God. And then say that you want to draw the figure of a fish for all time on that beam of the cross, not as a monogram but as a sign of His wonder-working power. Look carefully then at that beam inscribed with the figure of the wonder-fish, and look carefully upon His naked death, upon His essential nakedness, and you will say to those who ask about it: I am the soldier who removed His clothes: He has taken all my clothes from me, and has put me, naked and cold, on display before the universe.

Never before did I feel so deeply ashamed of myself. Nevertheless, blessed be His hand. He did no gambling. He was in His rights. He acted justly and mercifully. A cloak has been prepared for me, a chiton of righteousness, and white clothes and palm branches for His, for my, triumphal tour through Jerusalem.

Just wait, soldiers, the Lord Himself will presently put new clothes on the second Adam. Just wait till Sunday morning, till Easter morning. Nor will any beast have to be killed for that clothing. All animals, and the whole creation will rejoice on Easter day looking forward to the day when the children of God will be clothed.