THE GARMENTS OF DEITY
It is perhaps well known that garments in Scripture speak of character. It is therefore interesting to consider the garments of the Saviour with a view to meditations on His life and ministry, and a study of the great fundamentals touching the glory of His Person. All His garments are fragrant with memories of Himself, whether the swaddling bands of His infancy, or the coat that was without seam, the purple robe of mockery, the grave clothes in which they finally wrapped Him, or the other garments which He wore during the days of His flesh.
However, in Ps.104.1,2 it is said of Him, “Thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment.” Here we look back before Bethlehem and the incarnation. In the dateless, timeless past, in the ‘uncalendared’ days of eternity, He Who voluntarily became Man to be our Saviour, was robed in light. “His train filled the temple” Isa.6.1. His glory filled the holiness of the heavens and every intelligent being there acclaimed His inscrutable greatness. Seraphim and cherubim veiled their faces while myriads of angelic beings hastened to do His bidding, and the Scriptures confirm that it was indeed the glory of the Lord Jesus that Isaiah saw in his awful vision, Jn.12.41. He wore the garment of light, covered with honour and majesty.
- Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
- In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
- Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
- Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.
(Walter C. Smith)
Well did the writer, in the same hymn, conclude: “’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee”.
The truth of our Lord’s Deity is assailed on every hand. It has always been so, since the beginning, and the earliest New Testament writers had to defend and emphasise it. But the Saviour wears titles which are the titles of Godhood; He exercises attributes which are the prerogative of Deity alone, and He accepts honours which can be ascribed only to One Who is God. It is somewhat difficult to understand how anyone with an open, honest mind can read even the two Scriptures already referred to and still deny that Jesus is God, Isa.6.1; Jn.12.41.
Note that the title “Son of God” infers and implies a relationship within the circle of Divine Persons and has ever been seen by Jew and Moslem alike to be a claim to Deity, Jn.5.18. They told Pilate, “By our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” Jn.19.7. The relationship of the Son to the Father is unique and eternal. He alone is the Son of the Father in a timeless intimacy which makes Him the Only Begotten. He is the Son ever in the bosom of the Father. Though He came by incarnation into our world yet He never left the Father’s bosom, and though He was, by grace, found in fashion as a Man, yet that word is always true, “Who, being in the form of God” Jn.1.18; Phil.2.6.
He is Immanuel, God with us. He is the Ancient of Days, the Father of eternity Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, Mic.5.2. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending. He is the Word, the revelation of God to men, and He is the great “I AM”, without beginning of days or end of life. He is both the root and the offspring of David, so that king David might well have said, as John Baptist did, “After me cometh a Man which is preferred before me: for He was before me” Jn.1.30. He is eternal, inscrutable, and incomparable; He is God!
During His lifetime Jesus exercised the attributes of Deity. Omnipotence and omniscience belong to God alone. Omnipotence is all-power and omniscience is all-knowledge. The Saviour had both. As the omnipotent One He made water wine, He calmed the winds and waves with a word, and He walked on the troubled waters. He once bade a fish bring a coin to Peter; He multiplied bread and fish, the harvest of land and sea, to feed the multitudes, and He withered a barren fig tree with a word. He healed leprosy, palsy, blindness, and deafness. He made the dumb to speak, He delivered from demon possession, He healed all manner of diseases, He cured the incurable, and even death itself had to obey Him. He was omnipotent indeed.
- The deep, the demons, and the dead,
- Were subject to the word He said,
- Unveiling thus His power and might
- To exercise His Godhead right.
In His omniscience He knew all things. How often He answered the unspoken reasonings in the hearts of the scribes, saying, “Why reason ye these things in your hearts?” Mk.2.8. On His last evening with His disciples He revealed His knowledge of all things. “Jesus knew that His hour was come.” “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God.” “He knew who should betray Him.” “I know whom I have chosen” Jn.13.1,3,11,18. He knew too, what His enemies were planning. On His last journey to Jerusalem He knew what lay before Him. He knew about the garden, the betrayal and the arrest, the house of Caiaphas, Peter’s denial, the judgment hall and Golgotha; thorns, nails, thirst and spear. In His omniscience He knew it all, yet nevertheless set His face determinedly to go to Jerusalem, Lk.19.51.
All this was evidence of His Deity. He therefore had a right to accept honours that were due to God alone. “My Lord and my God” said Thomas, and the Saviour accepted that. All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father, He had taught them. He had expounded to them a five-fold equality of the Father and the Son, John chapter 5.
Eight times throughout our Bible Jesus is directly called God.
- “His Name shall be called … the mighty God” Isa.9.6;
- “His Name Emmanuel … God with us” Matt.1.23;
- “The Word was God” Jn.1.1;
- “My Lord and my God” Jn.20.28;
- “Who is God over all, blessed for ever” Rom.9.5, J.N.D.;
- “Our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” Titus 2.13, R.V., J.N.D.;
- “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever” Heb.1.8; Ps.45.6;
- “His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God” 1Jn.5.20.
Some things are too big for our tiny human intellects. Sometimes we can but bow in wonder, and worship. How can we understand that the omnipotent should become dependent? That the Son of the Father should become the Son of Mary? That the Ancient of Days should become an Infant in time? Yet this is what we shall find as we continue to consider the garments that He wore. “What manner of Man is this?”
GARMENTS OF HUMANITY
The humanity of the Lord Jesus is as real and as true as is His Deity. But what wondrous grace is this, and what mighty, incomprehensible condescension, that He Who is God should for us become a Man.
- Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
- Hail, Incarnate Deity!
From that scene of light, robed in honour and majesty, the Son of the Father came forth to be wrapped in swaddling bands as the firstborn Son of a Jewish maiden. The miracle of His conception is not to be pried into. We are neither asked to understand it or explain it, but to believe it. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son” Isa.7.14; Matt.1.23. “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” Gal.4.4.
Bethlehem is a Divine blending of sovereignty, simplicity, and mystery. In the plan and purpose of God it was the decree of a Caesar in Rome which brought Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was a long and hazardous journey, especially for a maiden carrying her child, as Mary was, but the prophet had predicted Bethlehem in the land of Juda as the birthplace of the promised Messiah, and so it must be, Mic.5.2; Matt.2.6. Sovereignty therefore arranged it so and when the child was born all was in accord with the prophetic word.
What simplicity there was! A baby, a manger bed, and swaddling clothes! No palace, no royal welcome from earth’s great ones, and no regal splendour. “A child is born” Isa.9.6. Mary brought Him forth; Joseph stood by; shepherds came to see the babe, and in these, the most humble of circumstances, there began on earth the story of a life that was to bring inestimable pleasure to the heart of God.
The mystery of the incarnation is the wonder of God manifested in flesh. We bow in worship as we acknowledge with the apostle, “Without controversy, great is the mystery …” 1Tim.3.16. He was “seen of angels.” How they must have looked upon Him Whom they had known only in the unveiled splendour of Deity, now become so approachable in a body of flesh and blood. It was indeed the beginning of a life of incomparable moral glory, to be lived in Galilee, Judea, and Samaria.
The uniqueness of the Saviour’s birth was in perfect keeping with the uniqueness of the holy Manhood which it introduced. For thirty wondrous years He would live in the defilement of Nazareth, but remain undefiled. For three years and more He would minister among men who would oppose His every word and deed, and criticise His every movement, and still He would be constant and perfect in all His ways. He did not sin, not because He would not sin, but because He could not sin. His was an impeccable Manhood. Impeccable means “no ability to sin”.
This inability to sin is proven by several considerations. How could He sin Who was “altogether lovely” S of S.5.16? There was nothing in His loveliness which would respond to sin or to sinful suggestions. He alone among men could say to His critics, “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” Jn.8.46. How could He sin Who, although truly Man, was, nevertheless, God? In one holy and indivisible personality, Godhood and Manhood were His indivisibly. In becoming Man He never ceased to be God and it is always true that God cannot be tempted with evil, Jms.1.13. It matters not if this be God enthroned in the high heavens or God dwelling in Nazareth, for the character of Divine Persons can never change. How could this Man sin therefore, Who is God incarnate?
Sometimes however, it is argued that if He were really and truly Man then surely He could have been tempted and He could have sinned. Those who advance this argument have not thought it through, for the question must then be asked, “Is He not still a real Man?” By their reasoning does this mean that the Man in the glory is still vulnerable and liable to sin because He is a Man? Every adoring heart will recoil from such a thought.
Yet still the argument will be pressed that Heb.4.14 does clearly say that He was in all points tempted like as we are. The word “tempted” must be understood in a two-fold way. Sometimes it implies an attempt at seduction to sin, an appeal to the sinful tendencies of our fallen nature. Men in the flesh are all too aware that this is so often the case with them. If the believer is so tempted, but resists the temptation, refusing to yield to sin, then this is to his credit. But he has been tempted nevertheless. Not so our Lord Jesus. As we have already seen, there was nothing in Him to respond to the evil suggestions which so often reach the hearts of other men.
“Tempted”, therefore has another meaning. When God tempted Abraham, Gen.22.1, it was certainly not with any evil intent. It was to test and prove the patriarch. The Saviour was so tested and tried. He suffered hunger and thirst, loneliness and disappointment, grief and pain. He was misrepresented and misunderstood; He was falsely accused and unjustly condemned. It is likely too, that in early life He suffered bereavement, in the death of Joseph. So the writer to the Hebrews qualifies his words and says, “apart from sin”. He was in all points, apart from sin, tempted like as we are.
Then it must be remembered, as has already been emphasised, that our Lord’s Manhood was unique. He had something that we do not have and we have something that He did not have. We have fallen natures, inherited from Adam. He did not. He was God. We are not. As has often been said, and so aptly, “He was as much a man as I am, but He was not such a man as I am.”
So the little One wrapped in swaddling clothes was indeed wearing the garments of humanity, beginning life on earth apparently as many another Jewish infant. It is touching to remember the purpose of the swaddling bands. They were firmly wrapped around the tiny body of the new-born to give to it a feeling of security, a sense that it was being safely held. What mystery is this! The omnipotent One wrapped in swaddling bands! The Almighty lying in a manger! He Who was sustaining the mighty globe, Who was maintaining the heavenly bodies in their ordained orbits, now in a body of flesh and blood and being held securely in the arms of a gentle maid from Nazareth. We say like the Psalmist, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” Ps.139.6.
- No less almighty at His birth
- Than on the throne supreme;
- His shoulders held up heaven and earth
- While Mary held up Him.
We bow in wonder. A Divine Person has been in our world. “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” Ps.8.4. It was a visitation which took Him from Bethlehem to Golgotha, from the manger to the cross.
THE GARMENT OF MYSTERY
The robe for which men gambled at Calvary was “seamless”. The soldiers recognised the value and the beauty of this seamless garment and said, “Let us not rend it” Jn.19.24. There was a unity which must not be spoiled, and in symbol we may see that inexplicable, indivisible unity of the human and the Divine in the Person of our Lord Jesus. It has often been pointed out that this truth is, in a special way, the theme of the writings of the apostle John, who so intimately and so personally knew and loved the Saviour. John has bequeathed to us, by inspiration, his Gospel, his three Epistles, and his Revelation. In his Gospel he demonstrates that the Man of Galilee was God. In his letters he shows us that it was indeed God Who became Man. In his Revelation he proves the ultimate triumph of Him Who is both God and Man.
Of this wondrous blending of Godhood and Manhood in one glorious Person we must say, “Let us not rend it”! We dare not coldly analyse or segregate these two aspects of our Lord’s Person. Such irreverent, academic prying into such holiness would be akin to lifting the lid of the ark of the covenant, a deed which brought severe judgment on the men of Bethshemesh so long ago, 1Sam.6.19. Our Saviour is God; our Saviour is Man. It is a holy mystery, incomprehensible. Like the men with the seamless robe we say again, “Let us not rend it”!
How carefully then do the Gospels preserve this unity. It seems that wherever we are given a glimpse of our Lord’s humanity there is invariably, and at once, a reminder of His Deity. This is, as has already been suggested, particularly so in the Gospel according to John. This blessed Man never ceased to be God.
How human was our Lord Jesus in accepting an invitation to the wedding in Cana. With His mother and His disciples He graciously deigned to be there as a guest. But it was in these lowly circumstances that He chose to manifest His glory in that first miracle of making the water wine. His last recorded miracle in John’s Gospel had similar connotations. The sisters at Bethany were in sorrow. Their brother Lazarus had died. The Saviour, in the reality of His manhood, saw them weeping and He wept with them. It has been said, “The tears of God in the eyes of a Man!” What evidence that His holy Manhood was real! Jesus wept! But this weeping Man is God, and in just a little while He calls forth the dead from the grave, and death must obey Him. Humanity and Deity! Blessed truth; “let us not rend it”!
Again, is not this a picture of true Manhood, to see Him wearied with His journey and resting on the well at Sychar? He was hungry too, and thirsty, asking for a drink and waiting for His disciples to bring food from the town. How real was this humanity, when He was recognised by the woman of Samaria only as “a Jew”? But as the conversation continues she realises that this Stranger is no ordinary Jew. With Divine insight and all-knowledge He reveals her heart. He knows her past and her present. He knows all about her. This hungry, thirsty, tired Man is God. He can meet her need fully. He is the Christ, and the Saviour of the world: He is God and Man. It is a glorious truth; “Let us not rend it”!
It was some time later that the Jews said of Him, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” Jn.6.42. And again, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” Jn.7.15. What glimpses are these, of Him Who had lived simply among them for thirty years in Nazareth. He was, to them, but the son of the carpenter. He was not a man of learning like their scribes and lawyers but He was truly Man. Yet, they had to marvel at His ability to teach the things of God, and He Who was to them the son of Joseph, fed five thousand of them with five loaves and two small fishes. Some said, “He is a good Man” Jn.7.12. He was, of course, but why did they not recognise that He was God? We who acknowledge both His Manhood and His Godhood have learned a great truth indeed; “Let us not rend it”!
After a lengthy discourse concerning His relationship with the Father, they said to Him, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil”. How they despised His Manhood. In great grace He replied simply, “I have not a devil” Jn.8.48,49. Why did He not answer the Samaritan charge? Were there Samaritans within hearing whom He would not offend? He then proceeded to tell them of His greatness, saying, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day … Before Abraham was, I am”. They argued with the Man but failed to recognise that this Man was God. The Man of Galilee was, in fact, the God of Abraham! What a truth! A mystery perhaps, but “let us not rend it”!
It was a man who had been blind from birth, but whose sight had been miraculously restored, who spoke of the Saviour as “a Man that is called Jesus” Jn.9.11. It was all that he knew at the time. “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” Jesus asked him later. In simplicity and sincerity he replied, “Who is He Lord, that I might believe?” Jesus made Himself known and the poor man acknowledged, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped Him. The Man called Jesus was the Son of God. Truly, the Man from Nazareth was God. Precious truth; “let us not rend it”!
Was that not an instance of His real Manhood, when He could enjoy the hospitality of the home in Bethany? They made Him welcome and He appreciated that. He sat at their table and shared a meal with them and Mary poured her spikenard upon Him in true acknowledgement of all that He was. The chief priests consulted together how they might put both Him and Lazarus to death. Next day He rode into Jerusalem on a colt the foal of an ass. Why did they not recognise that this was an unbroken colt on which never a man had sat before, and yet it carried Him calmly into the city? The dumb ass knew more than they! The Lord of creation sat upon it. Why could they not see that this was the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy, Zech.9.9? The Man on the colt was the God for Whom they had waited, but they failed to see. How could a Man be God? His people believe it, even when they cannot understand.
“Behold the Man” said Pilate. “Behold your God” said the prophet, Isa.40.9. Yet both the Roman governor and the prophet of Israel were calling attention to the same Person. “Let us not rend it”, this Divine mystery, but let us sing:
- In Thee, most perfectly expressed,
- The Father’s glories shine,
- Of the full Deity possessed,
- Eternally Divine.
- True image of the Infinite,
- Whose essence is concealed;
- Brightness of uncreated light,
- The heart of God revealed.
- But the high mysteries of His name
- An angel’s grasp transcend;
- The Father only (glorious claim!)
- The Son can comprehend.
GARMENTS OF MERCY
She only touched the hem of His garment,
As to His side she stole,
Amid the crowd that gathered around Him,
And straightway she was whole.
Oh, touch the hem of His garment
And thou too shalt be free!
His saving power, this very hour
Shall give new life to thee!
(George F. Root)
So His people delight to sing as they make known the gospel of His grace. Garments of mercy indeed, when the touch of a poor woman in distress brought immediate relief to her! It has ever been, to evangelists, a most apt picture of the simplicity of salvation through faith in Christ.
For twelve long years this woman had suffered. Like the prodigal of the parable, she had “spent all” Lk.8.43; 15.14. He, however, had spent all in pursuit of pleasure while she had spent all in search of healing. Twelve years of vain searching had left her helpless, hopeless, and penniless. Men had failed her. Physicians could not help, and although Luke the doctor does not say so, others tell us that after many visits to many physicians, and spending all that she had, she “was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse” Mk.5.26.
That must have been a happy day in the home of Jairus, the ruler of the local synagogue, when his wife was safely delivered of her child. It was a daughter, a little girl whose name we do not know. How Jairus and his wife must have watched the child grow. They would see her development year by year as time sped past. But it was just when Jairus’ daughter was born that this poor woman began to be ill, and as that little girl lived in the joy of young life and grew towards womanhood, the woman was slowly dying. Her very life-blood was haemorrhaging away. Mark calls it her plague, Mk.5.29. Life was difficult and death was certain, and men could not help. She had begun to die just when Jairus’ daughter began to live. What weariness must have been hers! What constant sorrow! It is easy to envisage many tears.
What a sad but true picture she is of the sinner. Incurably helpless! Life slowly, but surely, ebbing away with none to help. Facing death daily without hope, and no true enjoyment of life even while it lasts. It is a miserable condition, and more so when there is no human aid available or possible. Perhaps a realisation of this hopelessness is the sinner’s first step on the way to the Saviour.
Then one day there came a glimmer of hope into her misery. She heard of Jesus, Mk.5.27. What did she hear? Did they tell her that He had healed Peter’s wife’s mother of a fever; that he had cleansed lepers; that He had made a palsied man walk again; that He had delivered men from demons and cured many others of different diseases? Did they tell her that He had miraculously calmed a storm on the sea of Galilee with just a word? And did she now begin to hope that if Jesus could do all this, then perhaps He could calm the storm in her little life? How she must have longed for the day when He would come to her district. She would go to Him for the healing that earthly physicians could not give her.
That glad day came, and, no doubt filled with hope, she made her way out to see Him. But the crowds were thronging Him. He was there, somewhere in the midst, He Who was her only hope. The crowds must not keep her from Him. People must not rob her of the possibility of help. With determination she made her way through the crowd, pressing nearer and nearer to Him. “If I may touch but His clothes” she said, “I shall be whole.” It was the simple childlike faith of an anxious heart, convinced that what He had done for others, He could do for her.
At last, within reach now, she stretched out her hand, touched the hem of His garment, and her confidence was rewarded with immediate healing. Her plague was gone, her issue of blood was stanched at once. It was a touch of faith and the Saviour turned to face her. “Who touched Me?” He asked. It was a strange question, the disciples thought, for the multitudes were thronging around Him in the street, all pressing upon Him. Many were touching Him. “And sayest Thou, Who touched Me?” they asked. But someone had touched Him with a touch that was different! Of course He knew it all, but He was encouraging the woman to come and tell. She did. She came with fear and trembling and fell down before Him and told Him all the truth. She must have told the whole story of her plague, her long fruitless search for healing. She boldly “declared unto Him before all the people for what cause she had touched Him, and how she was healed immediately” Lk.8.47. How this woman would have appreciated those words:
- Oh, leave it all with Jesus, drooping soul!
- Tell not half thy story, but the whole:
- Worlds on worlds are hanging on His hand,
- Life and death are waiting His command;
- Yet His tender bosom makes thee room:
- Oh, come home!
(Ellen H. Willis)
In kind and tender tones Jesus comforted her. He assured her that her faith had made her whole and He bade her to go in peace. What a story she had to tell now! How the neighbours would listen! Twelve long years of debilitating illness; disappointment after disappointment from so many doctors; and now; just a touch of faith, and she was healed.
This border of His garment, was it adorned with the ribband of blue in accordance with Num.15.38? That had been commanded for the children of Israel “throughout their generations”. All Jews wore them and it is therefore reasonable to assume that the hem of the Saviour’s garment was indeed laced with that ribband of blue. It was a distinguishing feature of Jewish dress. Is this indeed how that woman of Samaria recognised that He was a Jew?
The purpose of the ribband of blue was that the children of Israel might look upon this deep blue in the fringes of their garments and be reminded of the heavenly origin of the commandments of the Lord, Num.15.39. This woman touched the hem of the garment of Him Whose whole life was a fulfilment of the law. But is this not grace indeed, that the very garment which bore the symbol of the law became to the touch of faith a garment of mercy? So have we reached out to Him in faith, and though “cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,” mercy has received us in Jesus, and we have peace.
To Him we say, “All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia” Ps.45.8, but how particularly fragrant they were to the woman who touched.
GARMENTS OF MAJESTY
The holy mount! So Peter calls it as he remembers the transfiguration. We were eyewitnesses of His majesty, he recalls. They had seen the King and they had been given a preview of kingdom glory. They were privileged men, these three, Peter, James, and John. The Saviour had earlier announced to them again that soon He would suffer and die, rejected by the nation, but now He will permit them to see His glory, the glory of the kingdom that was to come. It was “after six days” say Matthew and Mark; “after eight days” Luke says. There is no discrepancy for Matthew and Mark count the intervening days and Luke includes the two days at the beginning and the ending of that week.
Matthew and Mark both record that Jesus had taken them up into a high mountain apart. Contextually and geographically it was probably one of the spurs of Mount Hermon. At the commencement of His ministry the devil had taken Jesus up into an exceeding high mountain, Matt.4.8, and from that vantage point had offered Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, in exchange for His homage. Surely Satan knew that this glory already belonged to our Lord. In patience He could wait, and now, three years later, on another mountain, with the close of His ministry in view, He allows these favoured disciples to catch a glimpse of that glory.
He was transfigured. His personal glory shone out. “His face did shine as the sun” and even His garments became radiant, Matt.17.2. Centuries earlier Moses had climbed the mount with three men and as he came down, his face shone. That was a reflected glory which even a thin veil could conceal, Ex.34.29-35; 2Cor.3.13. But no veil could hide the glory of Him Who is the effulgence of glory Heb.1.3, and His garments radiated with the splendour.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this effect on the Saviour’s garments. Together they say that His raiment was “white as the light,” “white and glistering,” “white as snow”. Mark adds that they were whiter than any fuller on earth could make them. A fuller was one who dressed cloth, a launderer skilled in the art of either dyeing or bleaching. Not the most efficient fuller could have produced the whiteness with which the garments of Jesus shone on that mount. In a little while coarse men would callously strip these garments from Him. Undoubtedly, they would then be stained with blood. But now they were glorious, alight and alive, as it were, with the glory of Him Who wore them. Galilean homespun they might be, the garments of One Who came from a carpenter’s home in Nazareth, but Jesus of Nazareth was the Lord of glory, and now that glory which was His personally, inherently, and eternally, shone out through His raiment. It is touching to remember that these were the garments of mercy whose border that poor woman reached out to touch for healing. They are now garments of majesty.
Two men from heaven join the three men of the earth to see that glory. Heaven is in accord with all that is about to happen. Moses and Elijah talk with the Saviour, but only Luke reveals the theme of their conversation. They speak of His approaching death, calling it “His decease, [His exodus] which He should accomplish at Jerusalem”. The approaching events were all in the hands of sovereignty. He Himself was ordering all. It was fitting that Moses and Elijah should be there. Moses had led the people through the waters of the Red Sea, Ex.14.22. Elijah had passed through Jordan, 1Kgs.2.8. But for both Moses and Elijah those waters had been miraculously parted, so that they passed through on dry ground. It would not be so for Him with Whom they now talked. He would be deluged in a flood of suffering and sorrow. Nevertheless, it would be an accomplishment, and He would ultimately triumph in resurrection.
The law and the prophets had together predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, and so it was indeed appropriate that Moses and Elijah should converse with the Christ on this holy mount. Moses had his Mount Sinai. Elijah had his Mount Carmel. This was different. This would be known ever afterwards by the saints as “the mount of transfiguration,” where the garments of majesty had been ablaze with Messiah’s glory.
As for Peter, James, and John, sadly, they slept, until a bright cloud descended and overshadowed them. This was no ordinary cloud. It was, says Peter, “the excellent glory” 2Pet.1.17. Doubtless it was the Shechinah, the cloud that had descended on Sinai, Ex.19.16, the cloud that had covered the tent of the congregation and that had led the children of Israel on their wilderness way, Ex.40.34-38. This was the symbol of the awful Presence. It was the glory cloud, and the disciples were afraid. Now it was fitting that the law and the prophets should withdraw, so that none should be seen but Jesus only. He must be supreme and solitary in His glory. Then came a voice out of the cloud confirming this. “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight; hear Him” Matt.17.5, J.N.D.
For the second time the Father has, from an opened heaven, expressed His delight in His Son. Formerly it had been at the commencement of the Saviour’s ministry, no doubt in retrospect of thirty years of holy living in Nazareth. Like a tender plant Jesus had lived for God’s pleasure in a parched and barren ground. He brought delight to God when there was little else in Israel for Him. There was plenty of ceremony and ritual and religious activity, but there was corruption and defilement too. In the midst of it all Jesus had lived for God’s glory. Then, looking back over those thirty years, the Father had spoken of His delight in His Son. Now, on the holy mount, the commendation is the same. Three years of busy ministry have come and gone. Throughout those years, with all the opposition of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, and the adversity of scribes, rulers, and elders, He had lived impeccably, and served faithfully as the perfect Servant of Jehovah. Looking back over those years of busy public ministry, the Father again expresses His delight.
Now, however, a further word is added, “Hear ye Him”. Peter had proposed three tabernacles and staying there in the glory, but it was neither the time nor the place. Jesus knew that, and so the Father says, “Hear ye Him”. The Saviour is, after all, the Word. He is God’s message to men. He will convey the mind and will of God perfectly to those who will hear Him. And so He speaks, charging them that they should tell no man of the vision that they had seen, until after He was risen from the dead. How well He knew that He had already been rejected. The day of visitation had all but ended. Israel had failed to recognise her Messiah, and not until He was risen would His disciples again preach His Messiahship to that nation. They must now leave this mount of glory and make their way to Jerusalem and to Golgotha.
These three favoured men never forgot that sight of glory! Peter confirms that in his second epistle, written maybe forty years later. What an encouragement and stay it must have been to them. James was to become an early martyr. Peter was to be the bold spokesman of the day of Pentecost. John was to be exiled, and then live on and on until the close of the century. The memory of the garments white and glistering, like the glory itself, would never fade.
THE GARMENT OF HUMILITY
For three years and more our Lord had been teaching His disciples the secret of true greatness. It must not be with them as it was in the world. In the world men would strive and conspire for power, and by almost any means, fair or foul, would seek to attain their aims to be greatest. In the kingdom it was not so. To be truly great in the spiritual realm one would have to become little. To be greatest, one would have to become least.
It is sad, that on His last evening with them, in the very shadow of His cross, these men should dispute among themselves as to which of them was the greatest, Lk.22.24. How slow they were to learn or perhaps they were unwilling. In the sadness of that upper room the Saviour will now demonstrate to them, in such a practical way, just Who really was the greatest.
The little company had walked across the dusty Kidron valley from the Mount of Olives to the Mount Zion where all the residences with upper rooms were located. It is a wearying walk in the heat of the day, and how welcome it would have been if there had been someone there to attend to the bathing of their feet, as was the custom. Had they been guests in another man’s house then a servant would have been summoned immediately and at once the refreshing basin of water would have been brought and the necessary courtesy attended to.
But these men were not another man’s guests. They were a little company of friends who had borrowed the room for the evening. There was no servant in attendance. Who then would stoop to bathe the feet of the others?
The basin was there, and a pitcher of water. The towel was there, a slave’s apron, probably hanging on a peg on the wall. As the basin, the water, and the towel waited, all that was needed was for someone who was great enough to become little enough to wear the apron, go down on his knees, and wash the feet of his colleagues and friends. But none moved.
Doubtless each man would have his reason for not attending to the task which waited. It was such a menial task indeed. Did Peter think to himself, “Well, after all, I am the eldest, it is not really up to me”? Did others think, “We knew the Master before Peter did, and we brought him to Him. Are not we therefore greater”? Whatever their individual reasons may have been for not rising from the table, no one did. The Saviour waited for them. Had they but realised it, He was giving them opportunity to become great, but they missed it.
Then, in the full and conscious knowledge of His own greatness as the Son, into Whose hands the Father had committed everything, and equally in the knowledge of His past, present, and future glory, He vacated His seat and walked toward the towel. He laid aside His outer garment; He took the towel and wrapped it about Him. He poured the water into the basin, and began to wash the feet of His disciples.
- Girded to serve the Lord of Glory stands,
- The basin and the towel in His hands;
- Pours out the water, bondman-like, and then
- He stoops to wash the feet of fallen men.
What an amazing spectacle it was: the Lord of glory upon His knees, in meekness bathing the feet of His followers. There can be no doubt that even the feet of Judas Iscariot the traitor, were gently bathed by the tender hands of Christ in that Upper Room! The towel, the slave’s apron, had become a garment of humility, but He wore it in splendour on that last evening and showed them by example Who really was the greatest among them.
During the days of His sojourn with them, the Saviour had taught them humility, and He had illustrated it. In answer to their question, “Who is the greatest?” He had once taken a little child and set him in the midst of them, Matt.18.1-4, and had exhorted them to childlikeness if they wanted to be truly great. It has been said by another that “the greatness of voluntary humility is a greater greatness than official greatness”! But it is not easy for the natural man to accept this, and so, repeatedly, our Lord had to teach His disciples this principle of the kingdom, that true greatness was humility and humility was true greatness.
Humility was perhaps a despised word until Jesus came. The Pharaohs of Egypt, the kings of Babylon, the princes of Persia, and the Caesars of Rome, had no time for humility. To them greatness was power, and power was greatness. Humility was equated with subservience. Meekness was weakness. Then He came Who could say, “I am meek and lowly,” and He was the greatest!
Of course, the swaddling bands of His nativity were garments of humility at the beginning, as were the humble garments of the Carpenter from Nazareth Who had moved in gracious ministry among men. It was humility indeed when He humbled Himself and was found in fashion as a Man. It was an immeasurable stoop of condescension. But this, in His last hours in the Upper Room, was the supreme example of humility. The Master wearing the apron of a slave! The Lord of all girded with the towel of the servant!
Perhaps it is not to be wondered at that Peter should object. “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” he asks in amazement. “Thou shalt never wash my feet”, he protests. The pronouns are emphatic “Thou!” “My feet!” Poor Peter! How often, like so many of us, he said the wrong thing. The Saviour explains, and then adds, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you”. The word “example” is elsewhere rendered “pattern”, Heb.9.23. He had given them a pattern on which they should model themselves as His disciples. The servant was not greater than his Lord. They would be blessed indeed if they would follow His example of humility, for this was the very greatness to which they aspired.
The principle has not changed. Paul exhorts, in that great treatise on the Saviour’s condescension, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”; “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” Phil.2.5,3. “I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” 2Cor.10.1. What a happy company is that, where the only strife is for the lowest place! There the brethren have learned from the example of the Greatest that the way up is really the way down!
Would’st thou be chief? Then lowly serve.
Would’st thou go up? Go down.
But go as low as e’re you will
The Highest has been lower still.
Oh for grace to follow the example of Him Who voluntarily wore the slave’s apron, the garment of humility!
THE GARMENT OF MOCKERY
The Saviour is now on His way to the cross and it is Matthew who writes, “they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe” Matt.27.28. Mark says, “they clothed Him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head, and began to salute Him, Hail, King of the Jews” Mk.15.17. John records that “they put on Him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews!” Jn.19.2,3. It was indeed a robe of mockery, this purple robe. If it was, as many think, a cast-off faded tunic of some Roman soldier, then the original brighter scarlet of the officer’s cloak may have faded to a purplish hue. Others suggest that the term “purple” was, of old, a general description for all shades of red, shades which would vary from scarlet to purple according to the texture of the cloth and the direction and intensity of the light shed upon them. Whichever is true, every believer knows of course, that there can be no discrepancy. Everything harmonises when the full story is known.
The purple robe was but a part of their mockery of our Lord’s Kingship. It was associated with a crown, a sceptre, anointing and homage. Every king wore a crown, and so they platted a crown of thorns and put it on His head. He wore it with dignity. Although intended for His dishonour, it was in fact, a Victor’s crown. It has endeared Him to those who love Him, and with deep affection His people sing:
- O head once filled with bruises,
- Oppressed with pain and scorn;
- O’erwhelmed with sore abuses,
- Mocked with a crown of thorn.
All kings had sceptres too. They were symbols of rule, emblems of authority and power. So they gave Him a mocking sceptre, a reed in His right hand. He carried it patiently, knowing, as they did not, that one day He would wield a rod of iron and break His enemies in pieces like as if they were but a potter’s vessel, Ps.2.8. Then, callously, they took the reed and smote Him on the thorn-crowned head, cruelly beating the thorns into His brow. He remained silent, uncomplaining in it all. As Peter later writes, “When He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not” 1Pet.2.23.
The anointing was shameful. Matthew records, “And they spit upon Him” Matt.27.30. So had they done also in the house of Caiaphas, “then did they spit in His face” Matt.26.67. It was a despicable thing and Jew and Gentile alike were guilty of this contempt of the Son of God. Mock homage then followed as they bowed the knee and hailed Him King of the Jews.
But to return to the purple robe. It was early morning, and the Saviour stood silently before the governor who weakly protested to the people that he could find no fault in Him. “Then came Jesus forth,” John records, “wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe” and then, Pilate’s well known cry. Did it pierce the morning air? “Ecce-Homo”! “Behold the Man”! What a sight that was! The King of glory crowned with thorns and robed in mocking purple.
Roman soldiers, of course, were not expected to know that to succeeding generations of Christians there would be a tender, yet powerful, significance in this robe of purple. Many centuries earlier Jehovah had given instructions to His earthly people Israel regarding the building of a tabernacle in the wilderness. This was a portable structure which was carried by the people as they journeyed towards Canaan. There were many vessels and pieces of furniture which had to be transported with due care and reverence, and explicit directions were given concerning these. The largest of all the tabernacle pieces was the great brazen altar, the altar of burnt offering. On this altar the various sacrifices were consumed while the smoke of the burning ascended in a sweet savour to God.
This great altar foreshadowed Calvary and that one supreme sacrifice and offering which would fulfil and make obsolete all that had gone before, “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” Heb.10.10. As the altar of burnt offering, with all its typical significance, was being carried in the wilderness by the Levites, it was covered with a purple cloth, which was spread upon it, Num.4.13.
How accurate was this ancient type! Covered with a purple cloth, the altar stained with the blood of many victims! Now, in the closing chapters of the Gospels, the Saviour of Whom the altar spoke, is covered with a purple robe, and is on His way to the place of sacrifice. Perhaps He alone, in that vast crowd, remembered the purple cloth which covered the brazen altar.
Then, says Mark, “When they had mocked Him, they took off the purple from Him, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him” Mk.15.20. Whatever happened to that purple robe we do not know. Likely it would now be cast aside as being irrelevant. But believers in the Lord Jesus see the significance of it, and see too, the meaning of that word of the Psalmist, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee” Ps.76.10. Pagan Roman soldiers covering the Man of Calvary with a purple cloth on His way to the cross! Well did those heavenly visitors on the mount of transfiguration speak of His exodus which He would accomplish. He was, Himself, arranging the details of His departure out of the world. He was ordering everything, even to the wearing of that purple cloak in which He was presented by Pilate to the people.
Is this the Saviour’s last earthly garment until loved ones will wrap Him in linen grave clothes at the end of the dark day of crucifixion? Soon they will, at Calvary, take His own garments from Him, and gamble for them at the foot of His cross. Meanwhile, that purple robe lies discarded somewhere. It has served its purpose, and in spite of the evil intentions of men He wore it with honour. The patience and dignity with which He endured the mockery has made Him so precious to His people. In their quiet meditations they envisage Him standing there with Pilate, wearing the purple robe and the crown of thorns, and they love Him the more for all that He has endured. They follow Him with reverent step to the place of His crucifixion and death and they sing as they worship:
- O Jesus Lord, how can it be,
- That Thou should’st give Thy life for me?
- To bear the cross and agony,
- In that dread hour on Calvary!
- O Calvary! dark Calvary!
- Where Jesus gave Himself for me,
- O Calvary! blest Calvary!
- ’Twas there my Saviour died for me.
(W. McK. Darwood)
THE GARMENTS OF PROPHECY
One thousand years before the Saviour was born, the Psalmist, by inspiration, had prophesied concerning His garments. This prophecy was fulfilled literally and accurately at the cross, when the soldiers parted His garments among them, casting lots what each man should take, Ps.22.18; Matt.27.35; Mk.15.24; Jn.19.24. John is very explicit about the fulfilment of Scripture, and writes, “That the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, “They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots”.
Such is the detailed accuracy of the Holy Scriptures, that these ancient writings should take notice of, and make specific predictions concerning, the very clothing of Jesus the Messiah. The accurate fulfilment of such prophecies is, for the believer, sufficient confirmation of the God-breathed character of the Word, so that Peter says, “We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” 2Pet.1.19. As other translators render it, “We have a word of prophecy made more sure”, J.N.D.; R.S.V.; A.S.V. The fulfilment of the prophetic word assures its reliability and authenticity for us.
Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that this word of the Psalmist was unconsciously fulfilled by pagan Romans, who must have had no knowledge whatsoever of the Scripture which they were fulfilling. That there were four soldiers is confirmed by John, who, at the same time, confirms that Jesus wore five pieces of clothing, Jn.19.23. Apparently it was a recognised prerequisite of the soldiers involved in the actual crucifixion that they were entitled to the clothing of the victims, as personal spoil. That they should gamble for this as the Saviour suffered was callous in the extreme. In the very shadow of His cross they must have thrown dice, or in some other fashion gambled for the allotment of the various garments. A comparison of the parallel passages will confirm that they cast lots for each of the garments and not only for the seamless robe which John mentions specifically, as in Mk.15.24; Jn.19.23,24.
But what were these pieces of clothing which He wore, and which were the subjects of Old Testament prophecy: sandals, an under garment or body coat, an outer garment, a girdle or sash, a headpiece? We shall observe that these are the five most likely pieces of clothing that Jesus wore. They were all the simple homespun garments of His native Galilee. There was no pretentiousness with Him.
Of course there were His sandals. John Baptist made particular reference to the Saviour’s shoes and the word translated “shoes” in the Gospel records, is, literally, “a sandal, a sole fastened to the foot with thongs” (Strong 5266). The Baptist speaks of the “latchet” of His shoes, Mk.1.7. The latchet is, in fact, the leather thong or tie with which the sandals were bound to the feet. There is no doubt that our Lord Jesus, in wondrous grace, wore the sandals which were worn by the common people. In these sandals He traversed many, many miles, in Judea, in Galilee, and in Samaria. In these He walked by the lakeside and on the mountainside, on the roads, in the streets, and in the meadows, so that we may say with the prophet, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace” Isa.52.7. And for these sandals of His they gambled. Who wore them after Him? Would they be forever, to someone, a painful reminder of the suffering Man upon the centre cross at Calvary?
The seamless robe, mentioned only and specifically by John, was a body coat, an undergarment. It was, says Strong, a vestment worn next to the skin (5509). Other garments, created with seams, were of sections and fringes which might easily have been separated if necessary, but this robe, without a seam throughout, could not have been so divided without affecting its value and beauty. It is interesting to note, and even Josephus the historian remarks upon it, that the robe of the ephod worn by the high priest of Israel appears to have been similarly woven. Josephus writes, “This vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and sides, but it was one long vestment, so woven as to have an aperture for the neck. It was also parted where the hands were to come out” (Antiq. 3.161). It was “all of blue,” with a reinforced band around the opening for the head, “that it be not rent” Ex.28.31,32, “that it should not rend” Ex.39.22,23. Was this high priestly garment an early foreshadowing of our Lord’s seamless robe? The soldiers said, “Let us not rend it,” and they gambled for it as for the other garments.
Then there was the outer garment. When, in the upper room, our Lord laid aside His garments to wash the feet of His disciples, it was, of course, His outer garment and girdle of which He divested Himself. The word signifies “an outer cloak or mantle” and it is touching to remember that when, two days earlier, Mary of Bethany had anointed Him with her spikenard, it was inevitable that some of her precious fragrance should have fallen on this outer garment. Such was the lingering concentrated perfume of spikenard that now, as the soldiers handled the Saviour’s cloak, it must still have been fragrant with Mary’s appreciation of Him. What a contrast! A woman’s tenderness in anointing Him and the soldiers’ callousness in crucifying Him and casting lots for His garments while He suffered.
Another usual piece of clothing was the girdle. The outer cloak being of a loose and flowing nature, it was necessary at times that it should be held firmly about the loins with the girdle. It is, of course, an obvious and beautiful reminder to us that our Lord was the faithful Servant of Jehovah, constantly engaged in busy service. No man ever served men like He did, Who was never the Servant of men but the Servant of God. It seems so suitable that He should wear the girdle. He did gird Himself with that linen towel in the upper room too, and today He is girded again, but with a golden girdle of sovereignty, Rev.1.13. However, the girdle for which the soldiers gambled was part of the daily and customary clothing worn by the men of Galilee.
A headpiece would have completed our Lord’s garments. The head-dress was an essential in the heat of the eastern sun, but now as the Saviour hangs on the tree, He is bereft of all protection from that morning sun. For three hours until noon He hung uncovered in those blazing rays while unfeeling men, indifferent to His physical pain, cast lots and apportioned out His garments among them.
Sandals, outer cloak, girdle and headpiece, were duly divided as spoil. Then the robe without seam became the special subject of their gambling, until some one of them eventually obtained it. None of these Romans would have known that these were the garments of a prophetic word some one thousand years old, Ps.22.18.
My Lord has garments so wondrous fine,
And myrrh their texture fills;
Its fragrance reaches this heart of mine,
With joy my being thrills.
THE GARMENTS OF PURITY
Those were highly privileged men who were chosen to handle the holy body of the Lord Jesus in death, and attend reverently to His burial. To Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus was committed the tender task of preparing the body of the Saviour for interment, and this involved wrapping Him in His last earthly garments, the linen grave clothes.
The enemies of Jesus had never intended it to be like this, for they had appointed His grave with the wicked, Isa.53.9, J.N.D. As they had numbered Him with transgressors in His death, crucifying Him with malefactors, so would they have buried Him with them in some communal grave. Divine sovereignty, however, had ordered it otherwise. It was as if the hand of God was raised to them, just as it was to the mighty ocean, saying, “Hitherto … but no further” Job 38.11. In longsuffering God had remained silent, viewing all that men did to His Son, but there was a limit, and now He took the burial of the Saviour out of their hands completely. Neither the rough and careless hands of Romans nor the irreverent hands of unbelieving Jews must be allowed to handle the sacred body.
Joseph, the rich man, became a beggar! He went boldly to Pilate, and, as Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record, he begged the body of Jesus, Matt.27.58; Mk.15.43; Lk.23.52. It was indeed a courageous and bold thing to do, for such an action would identify him with Jesus. Pilate must surely have wondered! Two honourable counsellors interested in the body of the crucified Nazarene? Members of the Sanhedrin! Notable men of position and standing in the Jewish community! Now, if it had been Simon Peter, or James and John, or some other of those disciples, perhaps he could have understood it; but Joseph, and Nicodemus? However, he duly granted custody of the body and the two counsellors hastened to attend to the burial before the sun went down.
It was evening as they made the final preparations. Nicodemus brought the embalming spices, a mixture of myrrh and aloes. It was a heavy burden which he brought to the tomb, “about an hundred pound weight, Jn.19.39. This “pound” was the “litra“, the equivalent of twelve ounces (Strong 3046). It was therefore quite a weight that Nicodemus carried, seventy-five pounds (34kg.) of spices.
They brought also, a roll of linen with which to enwrap the body of the Lord. The word used by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, signifies “fine linen,” a costly material in which the bodies of the dead were wrapped by those who could afford to buy such. This was to be the Saviour’s last garment. In the sovereignty of God, the Carpenter was to be given the burial of an emperor!
But the first duty would be to gently remove the holy body from the cross. How carefully and reverently they must have withdrawn the coarse nails from His hands and feet. With what mingled feelings would they have handled the sacred burden and lifted Him down from the tree. How gently indeed, as if afraid to cause any more pain to a body already beyond pain. Together, silently, these two counsellors bore the lifeless form of the Prince of Life from the cross to the tomb. That resting-place was a new tomb, whether intended for Joseph himself and his family, or prepared in anticipation of the inevitable death of Jesus, we cannot tell, but the sepulchre was there, nigh at hand, in the place where Jesus had been crucified. It was now given freely by Joseph as a burial place for the Saviour. Little did he know that his gift would be appreciated, but accepted only as a loan, to be returned to him in three days time, with interest. And such interest! The name of Joseph of Arimathea is inscribed indelibly in the pages of each of the four Gospels.
The body of the Saviour, having been carried to the tomb, must now be wrapped in the linen. Joseph and Nicodemus would attend to this delicate and sacred duty, while some of the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee watched from a discreet distance, beholding how His body was laid.
As the linen was being wound around the body the powdered spices would be sprinkled between the white folds of the cloth. If it should be objected that it would not be physically possible to enclose seventy-five pounds of spices in the linen wrappings, indeed this may be so. It is often pointed out, however, that at the burial of king Asa in 2Chr.16.14, they made a bed of spices on which to lay his body in the sepulchre, and so it may well have been in the case of our Lord. It will be remembered that after His birth wise men from the east brought myrrh and frankincense. Now, at His burial, others bring myrrh and aloes.
- Spices most sweet they chose;
- Aloes they brought, and myrrh;
- Wound Him with these in linen clothes,
- Gave Him a sepulchre.
This was a new and undefiled sepulchre in which they laid Him, and this was fine linen, clean and white, with which they wrapped Him. All is in keeping with His purity. For thirty-three years the Saviour had lived sinlessly, and although He had suffered as a Sin-Bearer, nevertheless He was always personally pure. Notice that it is more than once said of the sin offering of those earlier days, “It is most holy unto the LORD” Ex.30.10; Lev.6.25. He Who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities had neither transgressions nor iniquities of His own and the conditions of His burial must be in accord with His holy life.
There was, however, yet another purpose for these garments of purity. They were to become the silent witnesses to the miracle of the resurrection of the crucified Lord. Three days after the burial, on the first day of the week, early in the morning, Mary Magdalene finds the stone rolled away from the sepulchre, and fearing that the sacred body had been stolen, she hastily finds Peter and John who come at once to the sepulchre. Three times it is said of these two disciples that they saw the linen clothes “lying” Jn.20.3-8. Note that this word “lying” is unnecessary if there is no significance in what Peter and John saw. Why therefore does it not simply say that they saw the linen clothes? The grave clothes of the Saviour had been wondrously vacated and left undisturbed, lying as they had been wound around Him, but lying flat because of the weight of the spices in the folds. The napkin however, that had been about His head, was still in its convolutions, still rolled and bearing the same shape as when it had been around His head. There would not have been sufficient weight of spices in the napkin to depress it like the grave clothes. It was in a place by itself too, on the upper ledge where the Saviour’s head had rested while the body lay on the lower bed of the tomb.
These garments of purity had become evidence of a miracle. They had not been unwrapped and cast aside. They had not been folded either, and laid down in an orderly fashion. They had just been vacated. The Saviour was alive and the tomb was empty except for the linen witnesses, bearing their powerful testimony.
GARMENTS OF DIGNITY
The days of our Lord’s sojourning on earth are now finished, and in the opening chapter of the Revelation John sees Him as He had never seen Him before. Not now swaddling bands or slave’s apron or purple robe, but a garment down to the feet, a robe of certain dignity and glory. He had worn the garments of a lowly humanity, and a gracious humility, and an awful mockery, but all is changed now and the Man in the glory is differently attired.
It is fitting that the Revelation should commence with a sight of the risen Lord in glory, “clothed with a garment reaching to the feet and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle” Rev.1.13, J.N.D. The Son of Man is seen walking in the midst of the seven golden lamps and the picture is of dignified humanity and priestly beauty mingled with sovereignty. He is Lord of the churches, the Master of assemblies, and to Him alone they are responsible while He alone has both the right and the ability to deal appropriately with their varying needs and conditions.
The lamps are golden. They are precious to Him, bearing light for Him in a dark and murky world. He knows their individual problems for He lived in the same world in testimony for His Father. “Candlesticks”, as in the beloved K.J.V. does not adequately convey the meaning. To quote W. E. Vine, “There is no mention of a candle. The figure of that which feeds upon its own substance to provide its light would be utterly inappropriate. A lamp is supplied by oil, which in its symbolism is figurative of the Holy Spirit.” The heavy responsibility of bearing testimony in the world for Him is dependent therefore upon the ministry of a risen Man in the glory and the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit on earth.
Both individually and collectively believers are to be light-bearers in the world, Matt.5.14; Phil.2.15. The Lord Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world” Jn.9.5, but now He is no more in the world and His people must bear light in His absence. The lamps among which He walks are the symbols of local churches or assemblies, gatherings of the saints diffusing light for Him in their various localities.
The trailing robe is doubtless a priestly garment. The golden girdle, however, is not bound about the loins for service in the customary manner, but is girt about the breasts after the fashion of potentates and rulers and in keeping with calm and dignified movement. Here then, in the garment and the girdle, are the symbols of the gracious, but authoritative, priestly ministry of Him Who walks in the midst of the churches. Christ is both priestly and princely. As Seiss comments, “In former times, and to this day in some sections of the world, the long trailing robe is the token of dignity and honour.” He adds that in the Son of Man “it must describe personal qualities, official dignity, and celestial majesty, at which we may well bow down in the deepest reverence.”
There is a similarity with, but yet a difference from, the garments of Aaron in Exodus chapter 28. Those robes of Israel’s high priest were for glory and for beauty, and so indeed it is here. But Aaron’s girdle was only intertwined with gold whereas our Lord’s girdle is all of gold. This is not vested authority. It is the authority of a personal, intrinsic sovereignty which belongs to Him alone. The lamps encircle Him and He walks in the midst of them. In His omniscience He sees and knows all, and He deals with each company accordingly, in keeping with His perfect knowledge of every condition.
What variety there was in these seven assemblies! What greatness of need, which only omniscience could see and only omnipotence could meet! The problem at Ephesus was not that of Smyrna. The condition in Pergamos was not the same as that in Thyatira. Neither were the circumstances in Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea alike. Only the Son of Man in priestly glory could accurately assess the need of each church, and so minister to meet that need.
Yet it is interesting to note that with all the differences of conditions and circumstances, demanding a variety of ministry from the Lord, there is one message which appears in each and every letter. Indeed, after the appropriate introduction of Himself to the church, this is the opening phrase in each letter. To every assembly He says simply, “I know!” In what a varied manner would this message appeal to each individual company, sometimes bringing comfort, sometimes encouragement, but sometimes solemn rebuke. To think that He knows all must surely still affect the feelings and the behaviour of His people.
The heart of Ephesus had strayed from Him. There had once been a better love, but their affections had waned. Outwardly things appeared fine. Men could see their works, their labour, their patience, and endurance. They could not, and did not, condone evil things or evil men. They were orthodox both in doctrine and practice. But the Master says, “I know”! He could see the heart. They had fallen from first love and His message calls them back to Himself for a renewal of those bridal affections of which Paul had written to them in an earlier letter, Eph.5.25-32.
The need at Smyrna was different. Here was a little company suffering persecution and martyrdoms for His sake. There was material poverty, and much affliction, and there was more to come, and to them also, as to Ephesus, He says, “I know”. But this knowledge was not academic. He knew, experientially, what they were passing through. He had been there. What comfort would this bring to them, that He knew, He “Who became dead, and lived” Rev.2.8, J.N.D.
Pergamos was different again, but still He begins by saying, “I know”. He knew the difficulties of bearing testimony in Pergamos. Satan’s very throne was there. They too, like Smyrna, had had their martyrs. But they had false teachers in their midst and they were being tolerant of these and their pernicious doctrines. Fundamentally they were sound in themselves, holding fast His name and not denying His faith, but the teachers of error must not be tolerated. Evil doctrines would lead to a condoning of evil practice. Doctrinal evil would breed moral evil. They must judge these men and if they did not then the Lord Himself would do so.
Thyatira seems to have plumbed the depths of departure, and once again He says, “I know”. He knew, of course, that there was in their midst works and love, faith and service, and patient endurance. But He knew too that there was evil there. There was one among them who was seducing the saints, leading them astray into grievous immorality. There must be judgment of such. Yet, for the comfort of a faithful remnant, He knew about them too, and encouraged them to hold fast.
So the story of the testimony continues. Sardis reveals a certain recovery from Thyatira and Philadelphia indicates a further recovery from out of Sardis, while at Laodicea there is a lukewarmness which is nauseous. I know! I know! I know! The message is the same to all. Still today the risen Lord walks in the midst. The glorified Man with the trailing robe of dignity still sees every condition among His people, and still He says, “I know”!
GARMENTS OF VICTORY
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength? … Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger … and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment” Isa.63.1-3.
An otherwise beautiful hymn has mistakenly interpreted these words as describing the Saviour’s return from Golgotha, His garments stained with the blood of His cross, but the verses have no reference to Calvary at all, or to the sufferings of Christ. They are prophetic still, looking to a future day and to our Lord’s triumph at His return in power and glory. As the peaceful kingdom of Solomon was introduced in judgment, and was established only after the removal of Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei, so will the setting up of the kingdom of the Prince of peace be preceded by the destruction of the King’s enemies. Adonijah was a usurper. Joab was a murderer. Shimei cursed king David. They were a trinity of evil and had to be removed before Solomon’s kingdom could be established. These verses in Isaiah chapter 63 portray, in graphic symbolism, the awfulness of the destruction of the enemies of David’s greater Son, the Heir to the throne, to the land, and to the world, prior to the setting up of His millennial kingdom.
There is at once, however, a perceived problem. Zechariah predicts that the coming King will set His feet upon the Mount of Olives, Zech.14.4. Rev.16.16 identifies the battlefield as being Armageddon. Here, in Isaiah chapter 63, the victorious King is returning from Edom. The apparent difficulty is that Armageddon is north, in Galilee. Edom is in the south, below Israel’s southern border, at the foot of the Dead Sea, with Bozrah as its capital city. Olivet lies between, in Judea, on the east of Jerusalem. To where then will the King come? Where will the final battle be fought? Where exactly will His enemies be destroyed?
There is, of course, no discrepancy. There cannot be in the inspired Word. It may well be that the King will come initially to the Mount of Olives. From this mount He ascended to heaven, and at this mount His angels promised that in like manner He would come again. But the enemies of God and the gospel are not at all confined to this area. By Divine intervention the armies of those who oppose Him will be gathered together at Megiddo, and there be crushed. Some, perhaps fleeing, will be pursued to Edom and Bozrah, so that, for the whole length of the land the King will travel in triumph, from Megiddo through Olivet to Edom and from Edom through Olivet to Megiddo.
In Rev.14.20, again in awful symbolism, there will be blood to the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. These are not exactly furlongs as we know them, but rather the Greek stadia. As Seiss remarks, “A river of human blood 160 miles in length, and up to the bridles of the horses in depth, tells the awful story.” From Edom to Esdraelon the land will flow with the blood of the King’s enemies. It is “the great winepress of the wrath of God” Rev.14.19.
The figure of the winepress is therefore common to both Isaiah and the Revelation. The vintage was an event of great significance and ceremony in the east. The harvested grapes were put into the winepress, or wine vat. They were then trampled out, sometimes ceremonially and joyfully to the strains of music, until the grape juice flowed from them to be collected in the vat. As may well be imagined, the garments of those who trod them out were stained with the blood of the grapes. Such is the symbolism used here and the people familiar with the custom of the vintage would easily recognise the meaning.
Messiah will come. His enemies, and the enemies of His ancient people will then have had their day. For too long they have raged against the Lord and against His anointed. They have broken the cords of Divine restraint and have scorned the Almighty. For centuries the voice of rebellion has reverberated throughout the land of Israel and the world, but now “the Lord will have them in derision” and “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh” Ps.2.4.
Doubtless Jerusalem will be in the very heart of it all, but the battle will rage from Megiddo to Bozrah. Megiddo is, at the one and same time, a city, a hill, a valley, and a plain. Armageddon, or Har Megiddo, has been the battlefield of the ages. Men of almost every age and every nation have fought at Megiddo. It has a commanding position, an abundant water supply, and rich pastures, all of which have made it a notorious battleground. Canaanites and Philistines, Jews and Egyptians, Chaldeans and Persians, Greeks and Romans, Moslems and Crusaders, Turks and Arabs, and the British too, have all fought here. Here Deborah and Barak fought the Canaanites. Here Gideon fought the Midianites. King Saul was slain here, and Ahaziah, and good king Josiah. This vast plain has a history of strife, but the final battle has yet to be fought.
The armies of the nations will be gathered there. The western bloc, the armies of the beast of Revelation chapter 13 will be there. The great Northern Confederacy, Russia and her satellites, will be gathered too. The kings of the east will cross the Euphrates in the might of their great numbers, and the king of the south, will move northward, the wealth of his oil reserves giving him his power.
Poor Israel will be in the centre of opposing powers. Humanly speaking the little land could be overrun and the tiny nation at last crushed out of existence, but the promises which Jehovah made to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to David, must be fulfilled. At the crucial moment Messiah will come. The sign of the coming of the Son of Man appears in the heavens and those blocs of nations, formerly enemies of each other, now unite to become allies against the Lord and His anointed.
The battle will not be prolonged. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” 2Thess.1.7,8. From Megiddo to Bozrah He will triumph. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” He replies personally, “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save” Isa.63.1. Metaphorically His garments are stained with the blood of His enemies. He has trampled them like grapes in a winepress and their blood, sprinkled on His garments, has stained all His raiment.
The blood-stained robes of the Conqueror are garments of victory. Now He can, and will, enter on His reign of peace and rule from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. He has rightfully exchanged the purple robe of mockery for the royal robe of victory and He will now reign supreme.
- And when He comes in bright array,
- And leads the conquering line,
- It will be glory then to say,
- That He’s a Friend of mine!
(John H. Sammis)
GARMENTS OF GLORY
“He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood … on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” Rev.19.13,16.
This great chapter is introduced with four hallelujahs. They are the only hallelujahs in the New Testament, which indicates the greatness of the event. The King is coming, and the hallelujahs are His heralds announcing His advent.
It was kind of God to entrust the writing of Revelation chapter 19 to the man who wrote John chapter 19. In that chapter in John’s Gospel, Pilate had called, “Behold your King,” and the same cry is so appropriate in Revelation chapter 19. But in John chapter 19 the apostle had seen the King in shame, falsely accused and derided. The King had been crowned with thorns and robed in mocking purple. He had been tried and unjustly condemned by a Roman governor. John had seen Him nailed to a cross, bereft of His garments and called by Pilate, “The King of the Jews”. In Revelation chapter 19 things are different. “Behold your King!” He comes now in garments of glory, adorned with many diadems, to be acknowledged by all as King of kings and Lord of lords.
This chapter synchronises with other great chapters, such as Isaiah chapter 63, Psalm 24, Matthew chapter 25. These chapters focus on differing aspects of the King’s advent and its relevance to Israel and to the nations, but Revelation chapter 19 occupies us with the King Himself, the glory of His Person. When Gabriel announced to Mary the miraculous conception and birth of her child, he said, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” Lk.1.26-33. Now we are to see the fulfilment of that word. “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” Rev.11.15.
For the second time in the Revelation heaven is opened. Earlier, in chapter 4, it had been opened to call John up into glory. From his sad and lonely exile and from the barrenness of Patmos he had been transported into the opened heaven. It is a picture of the rapture of the saints, called away from the scene of their earthly pilgrimage to be with Him Whom they have loved. It is, in symbol, the call of the Bride to the Father’s house and to the marriage of the Lamb.
Now the Bride is seen again, in company with her Bridegroom as together they come out to be manifested to the world. It is the day of the gladness of His heart, S of S.3.11, and this is part of the reason for the four hallelujahs. They mark the joy and the preciousness of the occasion for Him.
The Bride is suitably arrayed in wedding garments. She wears the finest of fine linen, clean and white. It is symbolic, denoting the righteousnesses of the saints, who have loved the Saviour, and lived for Him, and waited for Him and for this day. The Bride has a righteousness by imputation, and she has too, a righteousness of practical living while absent from Him, her Beloved.
Attention is now drawn to the King’s vesture. The sight is akin to Isaiah chapter 63, in that His garments are stained with blood. But also on His vesture His royal name and title are written. The blood of His enemies and the greatness of His name combine to make His vesture radiant with glory.
A problem arises in that the King’s garments are here stained with blood prior to any engagement with His enemies. This has led some to believe that this is His own blood, the blood of the cross. But such interpretation is error; there is no reference to Calvary here. As in Isaiah chapter 63 this is the blood of His foes. Others think that the description is anticipatory, looking ahead to the certain victory. However, this is not the first time that the King has engaged in battle with the enemies of the Lord, and perhaps there may be an allusion to past triumphs. Was He not the Captain of the Lord’s hosts, with drawn sword, Who appeared to Joshua? Josh.5.14,15. Was it not He Who “in the ancient days, in the generations of old, cut Rahab (Egypt) and wounded the dragon”? Isa.51.9. And has He not already brought to nought the might of those earlier empires, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome? The King is already a proven Warrior and Conqueror and now He comes with the memorials of former triumphs upon His vesture. The mighty empire of the beast and His confederates is now about to be vanquished as were the others.
The King has many names and titles. The beast has an array of names too, but they are names of blasphemy, Rev.13.1; 17.3. The names of the Lord Jesus are all glorious. He has of course, a name that no man knows but He Himself. It is both futile and irreverent to speculate. We must bow in wonder and in adoration before Him of Whom He said Himself, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father” Matt.11.27. He has glories inscrutable and unknowable so that His saints delight to sing:
- But the high mysteries of His name
- An angel’s grasp transcend.
- The Father only, glorious claim,
- The Son can comprehend.
He is called “Faithful and True”. What a rebuke to men when He comes again! For three busy years of ministry the Faithful and True had brought the glad tidings to them. Why did they not believe Him? Why did they so callously reject Him Who in faithfulness and truth had delivered the gospel to them?
Not only so, but “His name is called The Word of God.” He is God’s Word, God’s only Word, His last Word, to men. He is the Alpha and the Omega. God has nothing to say outside of Him. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” Jn.1.1. All things were made by Him and yet, in wondrous grace, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, Jn.1.14. For thirty-three years He was the full expression of the character and heart of God in our world. Why did they not receive Him? When He comes in power and glory He will bear this name, “The Word of God,” a reminder to men of the glory of the One Whom they rejected.
Then, on His vesture and on His thigh, that great name is written, “King of kings and Lord of lords”. It was usual for the sword to be carried on the thigh, Ps.45.3. Here the Conqueror’s sword proceeds out of His mouth. It is the sword of His powerful Word, and on His thigh He bears the name which portrays His rights to the kingdom. “King of kings”! He is the Son of David, Heir to the throne. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. “He must reign”, says Paul, 1Cor.15.25.
And so, from the swaddling bands of true humanity, and the linen towel of real humility, and the purple robe of mockery, to the blood-stained garments of victory, we trace the pathway of our Beloved back to the glory from whence He came, and then to the throne. But wherever, however, we view Him, we must say, “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia” Ps.45.8. The fragrance of the ivory palaces is ever and always upon Him Whom we love.