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Jesus’ Clothing.  John 19.18-24

Scripture Reading:


Merry, Merry!

Just got my Nativity set out, and of course, while I love to arrange each piece—the shepherds, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, a cow, a donkey, even a camel—it is the baby Jesus who I adore.  Looking at the tiny porcelain figure clad in a sweet blanket, I realize that it probably bears no resemblance to the swaddling clothes Jesus would have worn that Christmas night so long ago. 

But it got me thinking . . . hmm . . . wonder what happened to the Savior’s swaddling cloths?  Who packed up Jesus’ baby clothes?  Throughout the Gospels, there is scant mention of Jesus’ clothing at all, but each time, the mention is significant.  Think of it—there was the time the sick woman lunged at Jesus’ feet as he walked through the market place, just touching the hem of his garment, and she was healed.  There was the time in the Upper Room, which we recently considered in John 13. “What is Jesus doing?”… Jesus removes his outer garment, ready to go to work, washing the dirty feet of his disciples before the Passover meal. In so doing, he models leadership coupled with humility and a servant’s heart.

And now, Jesus is on the cross.  The trials--three religious, three civil--have been a mockery, but Jesus himself decides his own fate—he was not really in the hands of these foolish men!  After all, Jesus was born to die.  And so, Pilate has him flogged; a crown of thorns has been thrust into his scalp, and the cross is put on his back for him to carry out of town to the place of his execution.  Jesus’ garments are no doubt bloodied from the lacerated skin on his shoulders, back and buttocks.  Oh, my Jesus! 

John makes no mention of Jesus being nailed to the cross, only that he is in the middle of two criminals whose crosses are raised on the hillside that late morning.  Pilate makes sure that all can read the sign that is nailed above Jesus’ head--“Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews”—Pilate has it written in three languages.  ‘Ever wonder why, the three languages?  Were thousands of people of different ethnicities going to pass by those hours while Jesus was dying? 

John writes, “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.  But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to tone another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.”  Ah, another mention of Jesus’ clothing.  I mean seriously, when you think about this scene, it is ludicrous.  Jesus is above them, dying a torturous death—and these two-bit, bloodthirsty Roman soldiers are dividing his garments among themselves … for what, bragging rights? 

Jesus’ tunic stands out from the other garments—it is seamless; that is to say, it is woven from top to bottom.  Your attention?  That is the precise description of the linen tunic that the high priest wore.1  ‘Coincidence? Perhaps, but not likely, when you consider that the function of the priest was to be the mediator between God and his people.  Paul captured this, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Also, not a coincidence David had prophesied a thousand years earlier that this is how it would happen in his prophetic psalm about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ: his garments would be divided, but the tunic would go to the man who won at dice, so to speak.3

Truly, it seems Scripture never mentions Jesus’ clothing without great significance attached.  I am filled with wonder and awe at the great love and brilliance of God, conveyed in his Word.  Amen.



1Insight about the priest’s garment from William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: Gospel of John

21 Timothy 2.5

3Psalm 22.18

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