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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Text:LD 41 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: John 19:16b-24; 1 Timothy 2:1-10
Songs: Ps. 15:1,2; Ps. 119:41,42, 22:1,5,6; Hy. 21:4,7; Hy. 47:7,8,10
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

1. The need for clothes
2. The Lord Jesus unclothed
3. The Christian's clothes

1. The last earthly thing you would want to give up is your clothing. Without clothing you have no place in society. Without clothing you stand naked and exposed before all. You could not go to school, or work, or shopping, or church. You could not visit friends. You could not do anything. If you had no clothing, you would stay locked in your room. You lose your place in public. Without clothing you have no place within the community of people.

King David wrote about that in Psalm 22. In Psalm 22 King David wrote about how he had suffered the prolonged and vicious attacks of an enemy. We do not know what the circumstances were. Perhaps he wrote it during one of the times he was being hounded by Saul. It does not matter when he wrote it. Let us listen to what he said. As he describes the vicious attack of his enemy he said first in the vv 7-8:

7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8 "He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him."

The he continue describing his suffering at the hands of cruel me in the vv 12ff.

12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

As he describes his suffering, comparing his enemies to wild bulls, fierce lions and vicious dogs, the last thing he complains about is that his clothes were stolen from him. He was left naked. That's his last complaint. That was the worst of it all. For when you are naked, you have no place whatsoever left in human society. Bad enough that he was being beaten to the point of broken bones. Bad enough that he was stabbed and cut with knives and swords. But the worst of it was that his clothes were taken from him. The worst of it was the shame of having his nakedness exposed for all to see.

We do not need to read very far into scripture to discover why clothes are necessary. They are, first of all, not necessary to protect one from the cold or heat, but to cover shame and make it possible for us to live in society. Originally, clothes were not necessary. We read at the end of Genesis 2 that Adam and Eve, the man and his wife, were both naked, and they felt no shame. The human body is part of God's good and pure creation. Every part of the human body is part of God's good and pure creation. As long as they could look God in the eye, they could look each other in the eye and feel no shame though they were naked.

When our first parents sinned, it all changed. They could no longer look God in the eye, but they ran and hid and they felt shame before each other. They made coverings for themselves out of fig leaves. When God asked Adam why he had hidden from him, Adam said: Because I was naked.

Sin devours and ruins all of life. It especially ruins the best things. It devours the very source of life. It reaches right to the fountains of life, the organs from which life flows, and goes to work with devastating precision.

In his grace, and to make life possible, God made clothes for Adam and Eve. Gen. 3:21 says that the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Ever since then, people have been wearing clothes. Clothing is necessary and makes society possible.

2. The clothes that made it possible for the Lord Jesus, the Son of God who came to live among us, to walk and live within human society were taken from him. It was part of his Good Friday suffering. We read the horrible account in John 19. The soldiers that crucified Jesus took his clothes from him. All his clothes, even the robe he wore as undergarments. It was all taken from him. There he was, on the cross, naked, exposed for all to see. No place left for him on earth.

John referred to the suffering of King David and David's account of it in Psalm 22. David's suffering was in anticipation of the suffering of his great son, Jesus Christ. John quoted what King David had written in Psalm 22:18, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." John said that the Lord Jesus died naked on the cross in order that this scripture might be fulfilled. The Lord Jesus died naked on the cross in order to bear to the fullest human shame. He went right to the beginning, to man's predicament. When our first parents sinned, the first thing they felt was shame. They needed to cover up their bodies.

When Jesus hung naked on the cross, he went all the way back to the beginning of our shame. He let himself be subjected to our original shame. He suffered our disgrace. The shame, the panic, the degradation you would feel if you were cast naked into the public arena—the Lord Jesus underwent that. Nothing worse had ever happened. The Lord of glory had his clothes removed from his body. Stolen from him. And naked he was hoisted and nailed to the cross. He was not given even a fig leaf behind which to hide.

As a naked man has no place in society, so the man Jesus was excluded from the human community.

Not only was he excluded from human society; he was also excluded from the church. Christ came to save his people. For several years he ministered within the church of that day, preaching, teaching, healing, raising the dead. But they did not appreciate his call to repentance nor his claim to be the Son of God who came to save them from their sins. And so the leaders of the church had him arrested and delivered up to the Roman authorities to be crucified. To die naked. A naked person cannot move around freely within the communion of saints any more than within human society at large. It cannot be done. It would be shameful. The church by shouting: "Crucify him!" knowing that it would mean he would be stripped of his clothes in public was saying there was no room for him in the church. Away with him.

Not only that, but as a naked man bearing the sin of man—man who could not look God in the eye without clothes covering his nakedness—he was excluded from divine company as well. As a naked man, bearing all the shame and disgrace of man, God averted his eyes from him. Jesus could no longer look God in the eye. It grew dark at high noon. God removed the light of the sun. And then the Lord Jesus quoted another text from Psalm 22: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

God the Father forsook the naked Jesus hanging on the cross. No place left for Jesus, either on earth (neither in the world nor the church) nor in heaven. And so while he was on the cross he descended into hell. Into hell where those who reject and hate God will suffer an eternity of shame. No place left for him but hell.

The Lord Jesus did this to save you. Even though the Lord Jesus felt all the shame you would feel if you were naked on public display, he let it happen to save you. To save you from shame. We must avert our eyes from God no less than did our first parents. We must avert our eyes from each other no less than did Adam and Eve. Jesus took all that shame upon himself. Our shame descended upon him wave after wave. He died clothed in the shame of our nakedness. He died so that you would not need to be cast naked into the shame of eternal hell.

And now to make life possible within both human society and the church, he gives us clothes.

3. The Christian's clothes.

Because Jesus died naked on the cross, we need to be very careful how we dress. To dress provocatively is to show disdain for the work of Christ on the cross. To wear the bare minimum that one can get away with is to show a lack of appreciation for what Christ has done for you. To wear inappropriately revealing clothing is to think little of Christ death on the cross. It is to strip him once again of his clothes and subject him again to his former shame.

The near nakedness that you see on the Hollywood red carpets, at the Oscar award nights, (where people flaunt various parts of their bodies) is a shame in the Biblical sense of the world. The shame is that they have no shame anymore. It's a rejection of Christ.

The only place for nakedness in this dispensation (beside the shower) is the marriage bed—like a little bit of pre-fall Eden that God left man and wife.

We need to be careful how we dress when we are in public. How we clothe ourselves. The gospel of Christ's death on the cross calls us to dress modestly. We need to show our thankfulness to Christ in how we dress. It is particularly the 7th commandment that teaches us how to show that particular thankfulness. The 7th commandment that calls us to sexual purity and holiness teaches us to be modest in how we dress.

We read in 1 Tim 2 that we are to dress modestly, with decency and propriety. There is no place in the Christian's closet for provocative clothing. It is not proper. We are called to propriety—to "properness."

By the same token, for wealthy people to show off their wealth by wearing the most expensive clothing and jewelry and having the most elaborate hairdos is just as immodest and just as inappropriate for a Christian as shameless clothing. That is condemned just as much as indecent dress. In 1 Peter 3, Peter warns against ostentation (showing off) when it comes to how people dress themselves.

There is a direct relationship between the clothes we wear and the death of our Saviour on the cross. Christ died also for our clothing. And so we need to dress carefully and thoughtfully with our Saviour in mind.

Do not take any of this as a suggestion that the minister is trying to impose a certain style of dress. Not at all. There is nothing wrong with stylishness in how you dress. And styles change. Even the black suits the minister wears change from suit to suit. The number of buttons, the width of the lapels and the tie, whether or not he wears a vest under the jacket—that changes from suit to suit and season to season. There is nothing wrong with changing styles in clothing. It's wonderful—even Christ-honouring—to dress nicely. To wear your best, e.g., when you come to church. That honours Christ whom we come to worship. We may dress differently according to personal likes and dislikes. What suits the one does not suit the other. We do not all need to dress the same like some of the sects insist upon. If you visit Amish country or the Prairie provinces, you may see members of the sects—Amish, Hutterite—where everyone dresses alike. Nowhere does scripture call for that.

And the way you dress for a day at the beach is, of course, going to be different from the way you dress when you come to church. The way you dress for a day of work around the house is going to be different from how you dress when you go to school or the office. Of course, there's no question about that. But undergirding it all is the call to modesty. Whether you are at church or school, at the beach or work, the gospel of Jesus Christ and the 7th commandment calls us to modesty.

Male or female, old and young, we need to ask ourselves the question: Am I honouring Christ in how I dress? Or am I, by wearing immodest or showy clothing bringing dishonour to my Saviour who died shamefully naked for me on the cross?

There's a huge role for parents in this. Parents need to guide their children and young people in this regard. Our children are growing up in a culture bombarded with sexual images. A culture at one time both over-stimulated and completely desensitized. My heart goes out the young mother trying to guide her little children safely past the magazines at the checkout of the drug or grocery story. It can't be easy. Our children need our help and advice.

As you help and advise your children and young people, do not approach the matter legalistically. Rather, point to your mutual Saviour. Relate the matter of choice and styles of clothing to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Then the arguments about how long or how short, or tight or loose, will largely disappear. They will seem silly. And together we will live out of thankfulness to Christ. We will do all to his glory. We will shop for our clothes for the glory of God. We will dress for church, for school, for work, for the beach out of thankfulness to Christ and for the glory of God. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2009, Rev. George van Popta

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