This experience must have been one of the most harrowing to the feelings of CHRIST because of
His purity and the dignity of His manhood. "They stripped him," says Matthew. Naked He came
from His mother's womb and naked He hangs on the tree.
The first Adam experienced physical and moral nakedness in Paradise by his transgression. The
second Adam took upon Him the likeness of sinful flesh and therefore the shame of our
nakedness was His also.
The Word was made flesh and men beheld His glory -- and stared on His shame -- yet this, too,
was His glory. The CHRIST of GOD was stripped. This was His utmost humiliation. Stripped
that we might be clothed with white raiment, with His righteousness, and when unclothed by
death not be found naked.
All Roman writers on the method of crucifixion agree that the victim nailed to the cross was
stripped naked. The Jews, we are told, granted a loin cloth to their culprits, and conventional art
has done the same in portraying the dreadful scene. Nevertheless, we must add to the piteous
picture this last and most horrible of all humiliations. The stripping off of the veil of privacy and
modesty which the very saints have feared in their martyrdoms and from which some shrank in
agony -- this CHRIST endured for us. What Christian women suffered in the Armenian
massacres included this bitterness also, more bitter than death. Godiva of Coventry "all clad in
chastisy" still felt each crevice in every wall gazing at her. So JESUS suffered. And we who
have ourselves put these lurid tints in the painting must not pass it by with indifference.
"When JESUS came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
When JESUS came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Still JESUS cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And JESUS crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary."
There are two aspects to the horror of crucifixion, physical pain and mental suffering -- the
agony of the body and the agony of the soul.
The merciless scourging,
the nailing of hands and feet,
the thirst of fever,
the throb of tortured muscles bearing the weight of a broken body and longing for release.
Rejected of His own,
reckoned with sinners,
stripped of His raiment,
cursed of men,
mocked by His companions in suffering,
a great supernatural darkness closing in on the scene.
His bitter cry proved to all, and for all time, that the sufferings of His soul were the soul of His
"Ye that pass by, behold the Man!
The Man of Grief condemned for you,
The Lamb of GOD for sinners slain,
Weeping to Calvary pursue.
His sacred limbs they stretch, they tear
With nails they fasten to the wood;
His sacred limbs exposed and bare,
Or only covered with His blood."
Three thoughts challenge our attention as we meditate on this aspect of CHRIST's death. He was
unveiled to the uttermost on the Cross; the world still strips JESUS CHRIST and then divides
His garments, casting lots; the Christian too must be stripped on his cross as we once stripped
Him. A penetrative thinker once said, "You cannot love JESUS with impunity; you cannot meet
the Cross with impunity; whether you accept it or shirk it the encounter leaves a wound." Surely
this is the result of meditating on this unveiling of JESUS.
The deepest meaning of the Incarnation is seen on Calvary.
To Paul this was the climax of CHRIST's humiliation. "
And being found in fashion as a man,
Above His head Pilate's mocking superscription, KING OF THE JEWS. A King without the
purple, His throne a Cross, and beneath it soldiers parting His garments and casting lots over His
How can any one after this be ashamed of JESUS, or crucify Him afresh and put Him to an open
The scene was also prophetic. For over nineteen centuries CHRIST has been crucified afresh and
put on an open shame:
"This thing; a multitude of worthy folk
Took recreation, watched a certain group
Of soldiery intent upon a game, --
How first they wrangled, but soon fell to play,
Threw dice -- the best diversion in the world.
A word in your ear -- they are not casting lots,
ay, with that gesture quaint and cry uncouth,
For the coat of One murdered an hour ago!"
What are the garments of JESUS? "
Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art
All the marvellous beauty of nature, therefore, in His creation -- His seamless robe of splendour
and majesty. Science and art can only discover and contemplate or imitate the beauty and order
which were in nature from the beginning because CHRIST put them there. Every red sunset is
"the coat of One murdered an hour ago."
There is not a single fine art -- painting, sculpture, music, architecture -- that is not finer because
of the influence of the life and death of JESUS. Yet how often the artist and the musician have
stripped Him of His robes for their own inspiration and then left Him hanging naked and
despised. Darwin's "Origin of Species" tries to explain man's origin and place in nature but
ignores the Son of Man. How about the origin of JESUS? There is a world beyond the visible
and tangible to which science has no key and no access. When we have stripped creation from
the CREATOR by explaining all its laws without Him, are we the richer or the poorer? There
goes the man, they may have said in Jerusalem, who wears the seamless robe of the Nazarene!
But did he know the way to His heart?
Pure science has no place for moral values. "If we adopt sincerely and wholly the popular
conceptions of science," says James T. Adams, "we really destroy all values in human life. The
arts are already beginning to show this deteriorating influence. In fiction, for example, of what
use to write of character if there is no such thing, if personality is a myth, if freedom of action is
a dream, and if all we are is merely a succession of states of mind having as little significance as
a glow of phosphorescence over decaying wood?"
And philosophy, too, has stripped JESUS. The philosophers, wisely or unwisely, discuss the very
questions He came to answer and to which He is the answer, and then leave Him out of their
A recent text-book widely used in American colleges is entitled "Problems of Modern
Philosophy," and the book in its 575 pages makes no reference whatever to JESUS CHRIST.
Yet He came to answer the fundamental questions of philosophy:
whence are we,
why are we here,
what is our true nature,
whither is our goal,
what is life,
what is death,
why the mystery of pain,
and what is the hope of humanity?
Spinoza, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kant, Huxley, Spencer, Bergson and the rest, are they not casting
lots over His seamless robe?
Modern ethics strips JESUS of the Sermon on the Mount, but refuses to climb Calvary.
Those who have never entered Gethsemane and witnessed its agony speak glibly of an Elder
Brother and a universal Fatherhood. They know not its cost.
The new Theology, Modern Hinduism, the new Islam and Modern Judaism all eagerly covet and
claim the ethics of JESUS but they deny His Deity. All that is beautiful and true and noble found
in these new religions and philosophies are after all the borrowed garments. "
Then the soldiers,
No wonder that the Fathers of the Greek Church in their liturgy of the Passion, after they have
recounted all the particular pains of our Saviour and by every one of them called for mercy, close
with this petition: By Thine unknown sorrows and sufferings felt by Thee on the Cross but not
distinctly known by us, have mercy on us and save us."
We need that prayer. The Christian, too, is stripped on his cross, as He was on His. The disciple
is not above his MASTER. Men always see us as we are when we mount our cross. Tribulation
worketh experience. Over that awful bridge of death nothing but the naked personality can pass.
Carlyle portrays mankind all one, and startlingly alike, when stripped of clothing and ornament
-- the tags of honour and office and the pride of place that make our distinctions. Now there is
nothing that reveals inner character more than suffering. Fire separates. Crucifixion reveals.
There they hang; JESUS, Gestas and Desmas, each on his own cross and side by side. One dead
in sin, one dead to sin, the third the death of sin. A blasphemer, a believer, a Saviour. One died,
and lost his life, one found his life, One gave His life. On the Cross GOD and men see us as we
are. Death strips us of everything but our inner soul. All self-hiding drapery is gone. When we
stand before the judgment seat we stand naked. "
Naked came I out of my mothers womb, and