Wednesday, March 27, 2019
I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.
How things have changed. Naked once meant “innocent, selfless, and perfect.” At the end of Genesis 2, Moses writes, the man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame. We all know that guilt is different from shame, because shame includes an unhealthy preoccupation with oneself. In chapter two of Genesis, Adam and his wife were unashamed even though they were naked which makes sense because they didn’t have that level of self-awareness that comes from sinful, selfish belly button-gazing. But then, as soon as they sinned, their eyes were opened to a new reality. Sure, they were made aware of good and evil, knowledge God had withheld from them simply for their own good. But now they realize that they’re naked. Exposed. Vulnerable. And when their eyes look to themselves for the first time, they’re ashamed. They’re now too preoccupied with themselves to notice the nakedness of the other. Sin does that; it twists our eyes to upon ourselves.
What could they do? Hide themselves, that was the plan. Fig leaves quickly stitched together before running into the garden away from their Creator. But fig leaves can’t hide sin and guilt. So, after God calls them out from their hiding, tries to get them to acknowledge and even to confess their sins, and when they pass the buck, He curses them and the serpent, He then upgrades their wardrobes from bloodless fig leaves to garments made from skin. And so, they learn quickly that God wasn’t wrong in threatening death the moment they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He mercifully didn’t execute them, but he did shed the blood of whatever innocent animal from which He took the skin to cover the sin and shame of the man and woman.
Their nakedness would be covered at the cost of an even deeper nakedness, and think about it, what is more exposed than an animal stripped of its skin? And so, the first death, the first bloodshed, happened at the hands of God Himself, to give these rebels the luxury of hiding their shame behind the innocence of another creature.
Though you won’t admit it, this is the true nature of sin. No matter what you do to delete your browsing history, you can’t hide your shame or cover up your guilt from the eyes of an all-knowing God. Even if you call it “just getting what’s rightfully yours,” it’s still greed. Excuses, like why you can’t make it to the Sunday morning Divine Service, still don’t allow you to receive the gifts God gives us. And they can’t hide your sin. And just because everyone else does it, it’s still a flimsy fig leaf.
Sin can only be covered with skin. The bible does not tells us so no one really knows what animal from in the garden that God peeled its hide in order to hide the exposed and vulnerable parts of Adam and his wife. But, given the way in which less than a year-old offspring were often selected to be sacrifices on Passover, in the tabernacle, in the temple, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that the first animal to die, stripped of its skin to prevent death for mankind, was a lamb.
Remember the words of John the Baptist declared when speaking of Jesus in John 1:29, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Behold, the fulfillment of every lamb with its throat slit to render it a sacrifice in the temple. Behold, the fulfillment of every Passover lamb roasted and completely consumed the night before God brought His people out of slavery. Behold, the Lamb who is not actually a lamb but a man. Behold God with skin.
Behold the man beaten by the Roman soldiers with their whips, designed to shred the skin from the back of the one being whipped, tearing away flesh so deep that the internal organs are nearly exposed. Behold the man on whose head the soldiers pressed the crown woven of thorns to ridicule Him as a madman with His belief in being King. Behold the man on whom they drape a soldier’s dirty purple robe to intensify the joke. Behold the man whom Pilate brought forth to say, “Here is the man!” Pilate doesn’t call Him a king, until the sixth hour and Says to the Jews. “Here is your king!” So, here is God, with skin, clothed in the mockery of sinful men.
Behold the man who, when He was nailed to the cross, was stripped naked. Behold the man whose clothes the soldiers divided amongst themselves. Behold the man for whose seamless tunic the godless gambled. Behold the man, God with skin, whose skin is shamefully exposed for all passersby to mock. Behold the naked God.
Behold the man who will bear your sin and shame. Behold the man who will suffer in your place. Behold the man whose nakedness answers for Adam’s. Behold the man naked and unashamed, with nothing to hide, with no sin of His own. Behold the man stripped bare to bear your own sins. All of them. The ones you try to hide and obscure, the ones you pretend aren’t there, the ones that cause you the greatest shame. All of them hang there on the cross with this man, this God, Jesus, naked and dying for you.
Behold the man, stripped naked so He might clothe you in new skin. Behold the man who will hide your sin with His own righteousness. Behold the man who gives you Himself to wear. For as many of you as were Baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Behold the man in whose washing of Holy Baptism you are clothed in the incomparable perfection of His own righteousness. Behold the man who covers your sin with His own skin. Wear His clothing. Wear Him. Your sin is gone, your shame removed, your guilt obliterated. Behold the man!