Summary: A message that examines the spiritual truth that Christ was unclothed so that we might be clothed upon.
Introduction: Today we continue our studies through the most exciting but also the most dreadful story in all the Word of God - the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I started off with the idea of comparing the four soldiers of verses 23-24, and the four saints (women) of verses 25-27. But as I considered what verse 23 tells us I could not escape the fact that a message needed to be preached on the humiliation of Jesus Christ on the cross. We need to be reminded of the terrible personal cost that Jesus bore willingly for us in going to the cross of Calvary. We already know about the crown of thorns, the strips, the cursings, the rejections, and the pain of having the nails driven into His blessed hands and feet. But I believe it very important for us to rivet our eyes on another aspect of the cross - Jesus’ humiliation. I trust that when this message is finished we will each have a greater appreciation for what Jesus, God’s Son, did for us that day on Calvary’s hill. Every detail of what He did for us bears our utmost attention.
We consider the matter of clothing to be very mundane, everyday, very this-worldly; there’s nothing spiritual about clothes. Everybody wears them, some in a catchy fashion and others not, some in the latest styles and others - well, we say they’re clothes come from the dark ages. Certainly it’s an interesting subject, as styles keep changing,. As far as styles go, though, as Christians we understand that there are limitations in what we may wear and how. For we all know that public exhibitionism is not what the Lord desires to see in His people; on the contrary. It’s exactly that truth that makes us raise our eyebrows when we read our text. For it’s said here that "the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments." We imagine Christ on the cross girded with some sort of a loin cloth; that’s how He is presented in many pictures and in the imagination of many. But that’s a wrong presentation; the practice of the Romans was to strip every last shred of clothing from off those who were being crucified, and the gospel writers give us no reason to think that an exception was made for our Saviour. "They...took His garments," John writes. And that means nothing else than that Jesus Christ hung naked on the cross.
Why might that be? Why does the apostle John, as he relates the account of Jesus’ crucifixion on that terrible day of so long ago, tell us this detail? Is it not too embarrassing for public mention?
We find the notion of a naked Christ embarrassing, even offensive. Certainly it does not strike us as material fitting for a sermon. The Lord God, however, has seen fit to have His only dear Son hang unclothed on the cross -why?- So that the good news of Christ’s work on the cross might be driven home to us the more pointedly. In a culture that has a fixation on clothing and how to display nakedness while being dressed, I proclaim to you the gospel of Christ’s nakedness on the cross.
The theme of this message is this: God stripped His Son naked on the cross so that He might cloth us royally in His righteousness. There are two points to this message: the curse of Christ’s nakedness, and the blessing of Christ’s nakedness.
I. The Curse Of Christ’s Nakedness
1. The custom of stripping the condemned
We know the events surrounding our text. Jesus had been taken to Pilate, unjustly sentenced, handed over to the Jews for crucifixion. Pilate had an inscription with the charge against Jesus printed on a board and nailed to the top of the cross: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." The soldiers dug the hole for the pole, fastened the criminal onto it, then maneuvered the pole to the hole and with a thud dropped it into it. There He hung now, "the King of the Jews."
That being done, there wasn’t much else for the soldiers to do. With the actual crucifixion finished, all that remained was guarding the cross against rescue attempts until the criminal was dead. And that could take any number of hours.
The boredom of waiting was compensated somewhat by the law of the empire that the soldiers attending the cross could divide among themselves whatever material goods the criminals took with them to their cross. The criminals were lost men; whatever they had they would no longer need anyway, including their clothing. Besides, being the rejects that they were, nothing was lost by humiliating them before the public eye. Psalm 22:17b says, “they look and stare upon me.” So it was that the soldiers, after they had crucified Jesus, pulled from Him His clothes and sportingly set about dividing it amongst themselves.