GNB 70

August 5, 2022


“Finally, be strong in the Lord; His mighty power is with us. Put on the full armor of God. In doing so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Rather, it is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God. When the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground; and after you have done everything, you will be able to stand.” (Ephesians 6.10-13)


It is said that Mark Twain, noted American author, coined the phrase “clothes make the man” in the 1880s. But, most people don’t know that is not all he had to say on the subject of the influence on ourselves and others which clothes have. He went on to say, “Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Well, I guess it all depends on what one means by influence. A naked person walking down the street would certainly create some kind of response in others. We have not become so dulled in our thinking or believe nudity is so commonplace that we would not have some thought precipitating some action. We come into the world naked and we take nothing with us to the “Pearly Gates” when we leave. That is a surmise, of course. But, it is one that bears some allegorical reflection. Again, I refer to the impetus of these reflections on “clothed in righteousness” which was Jesus on the cross. We call the cross, even include the descriptor in the hymn called “The Old Rugged Cross,” the emblem of suffering and shame. It was a victimizing tool used by the Romans, in particular, to bring humiliation to a person even in death. Crucifixion robbed a person of what little dignity and pride they might have had left. They were exposed to the elements and any wondering eye. They were left with no ability to hide, to hide themselves or escape being seen for who they had been judged to be. Hold that thought for a moment if you will and then read the following passage of scripture.

Pilate also had a notice posted on the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city. It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but only that He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

Let’s say this first off, Pilate had no real desire to execute Jesus. For all his corruption, he recognized Jesus as a man being manipulated by a people (specifically the Sanhedrin and the Chief High Priest) to serve their own purpose. Let me say it this way, Pilate saw that they were covering up a multitude of their sins by placing the blame on Jesus. He was their scapegoat. If you know of the practice of the Day of Atonement, there is a part of it where two goats were brought before the Chief High Priest. Lots were cast as to which would represent the people before God and which one would represent the sins of the people of God. Even now, my mind cannot stop thinking about the irony of the gospel in what the Chief Priests did on that day of Jesus’ crucifixion. And Jesus anticipated it with teachings that had fuller meaning for those who heard them and understood the application that He meant. The goat “chosen” to represent the sins of the people of God was led out into the wilderness and deposited in a forsaken place. The meaning was “to carry away the sins of the people” so that “out of sight would be out of mind.” The ‘scape’-goat was essentially possessed by the sins of the people and wore them to wander in sin the rest of its life. The goat would fall prey and die, unwillingly and unwittingly, by the decree of the Chief Priest. (I would ask you to read Matthew 12.43ff to see how Jesus saw the fate of Jewish leadership with such a practice; it was not a pretty picture!) Jesus was their scapegoat. He was not sacrificed inside the Temple nor was He crucified within the city walls. It was close enough that the scene could be seen from the Temple and visited by anyone, especially the reviling leaders with a short walk. But, Pilate had the last word “I have written what I have written.” That meant his ruling was immutable and unchangeable. What had he written on the sign which the Jewish leadership disputed? How they must have hated and been disgusted at the sight of what Pilate had decreed. How they must have known exactly what he was saying with what he was saying. It was an emblem of “shame and detest” as Rome executed “The King of the Jews” battered, beaten, bruised, bleeding out, naked and helpless. Not only would they have wanted to think “God does not bleed” but “God wouldn’t be caught dead parading around in all his glory;” the shame of nudity and the exposure of private parts. Since they couldn’t cover it up, they instead fully turned against Him and denied Him completely. In doing so they became blind guides, covering their eyes to the truth of the matter as Pilate had declared for all the world to see. He left it for the world to decide what to make of it. He hated the Jewish players and this was his way of keeping them under his control. Little wonder why Jesus pleaded with His Father to “forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” Hear the echo of Joseph’s declaration to his brothers as he called them out in their sinful thinking only then to be rescued by the very one they “left for dead,” saying “What you intended for evil, God has worked it all together for good.” The entire scenario is “clothed in righteousness” bearing witness to the power of faith, hope and love which God has for His people.

Let me reiterate “His people.” Who would they be? Let 2 Chronicles 7.14 speak to that question as God declares “My people, those who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face. They shall [repent] turn from their wicked ways. That is when I will hear from heaven, [listening] I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.” It isn’t just anyone and it isn’t going to be everyone. There is a blatant truth that cannot be missed. While Jesus died for the sins of the world in all of its generations, including those generations which have not yet been born, salvation’s completing work separates “the sheep (God’s people) from the goats (those who deny they are God’s people.)” Without being judgmental, mighty ones of God, stop and consider the sadness that ought to be experienced in the life of the believer when you hear someone deny God, deny Christ and deny the Holy Spirit. I pray grace for them and that the covering of salvation be put on as a cloak to cover themselves from harm. Perhaps that 11:59 confession of sin and profession of faith is validated for many; that is God’s choice. But I fear that the midnight hour will find many unprepared (as those five foolish virgins who did not tend their lamps) and are left in the dark of eternal death or dying forever in the absence of God’s mercy and grace which benefits them even now as He rains/reigns over the just and the unjust. Jesus would add definition to “My people” by saying “If you follow My commands and love one another, then you are My disciples and will be known as such by those in the world.” He also said, “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges Me before all people, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before all people, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10.31-34) Mighty ones of God, followers of the way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only begotten Son, our spiritual clothes truly “make the person.” Our nakedness, the recognized guilt and shame, is removed and we are clothed in that “robe and a crown” of the gospel of spirit and truth. Jesus will recognize us by what we have put on because we will have put on Christ and become melded into Him by the Holy Spirit. Those who merely “throw something on at the last minute with the hope of covering up” will be seen and exposed for who and what they are. It is far past high time to get into the spiritual apparel business. In our obedience to the Great Commission, we are called to go out and make disciples. We do not make disciples by putting “signs over their heads” but by leading them in the life of righteousness by our example. We are, after all, the true priesthood of all believers. We are the ones who accept Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, having made Him our Lord and Savior and head of our lives and our cause which is God’s will not ours be done. We will not drive Him out into the wilderness to bear our shame. We will join with Him wherever He may go so that we may give effort to reclaiming that which is lost so that it can be found.

Mighty ones, there is perhaps more truth in the words of Samuel Clement, aka Mark Twain, than we know: “Clothes make the person but nakedness will have no influence.”


Father, we wrap ourselves in Your love and are clothed in spirit and in truth. Let us bear witness gladly and gratefully to the mercy and goodness which You have shown us in Jesus the Christ. Bless our ministry of word and deed which declares the glory of Your promise to forgive and bless those who are Your people. We know that the gospel of salvation is a sword which divides and separates those who are Your people from those who will say they are Your people. Those who are are clothed in righteousness having put on justice, mercy, humility and the full armor of God so they may go into all the world and make disciples of Him who gave His life not as our scapegoat but as the blessed Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It is in His name we live, serve and pray. AMEN.

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