Mark 15:24 “And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.”

The New Testament pays some attention to the clothes that Jesus wore at each stage of his life. At his birth he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the stable. It was all a sign of his humiliation; he was put down to sleep in one of the mangers into which the hay was thrown for animal fodder. The place where the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head was raised up off the floor – safe from the attack of rats while Mary and Joseph slept in the darkness. Seeing him in his swaddling bands, and lying in that feeding trough, other humble people – the shepherds – received the sign that a Saviour had come who was suitable for them, the very one who’d been announced to them by the angel.

Then throughout Jesus’ ministry there was nothing that distinguished the clothes he wore from anybody else. John the Baptist wore a very severe garb, but Jesus’ clothes were like everyone else’s, attire suitable for weddings, other garments for sleeping, and clothes for walking long distances. During the day a Jew would wear five articles of clothing – the inner robe, the outer cloak, the sandals, the girdle or wide belt, and a turban, and that was what the Saviour would have worn – though in the pictures of him which artists have drawn they rarely portray him as wearing anything on his head. The soldiers had already crowned him with thorns.

Then on the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus’ “clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mark 9:3). The glory that was his as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, burst forth, and this phenomenal transformation affected the very clothes he’d put on. His glory shone through the form that he’d taken in incarnation

Then on the cross, during his anathema, Christ was disrobed. The evil action of men was also his Father’s will as God was saying in effect, “This shall be the sign, you will find your Surety stripped of all his clothes, hanging on a cross while men gamble for the robe.” Then in the sepulchre our Lord wore grave clothes, but these were discarded and left behind in the tomb, because during his resurrection he dressed himself in the kind of clothes which a gardener or a traveller might wear. Finally at the right hand of God the glorified and reigning Christ is “dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest” (Rev. 1:13). So there are a number of references to the clothing of the Lord Christ.

Today we are considering the fact that our Lord was stripped of his clothes on Golgotha and that men gambled for his robe. Noah’s son Ham was condemned for his coarse gazing at the nakedness of his father, and we too would be judged if we became prurient, but God himself is commanding us, “Look unto him, the one who is lifted up.” We must survey the wondrous cross if we would be clothed in Jesus’ righteousness for ever.


There were four soldiers in the execution squad who escorted Jesus to Golgotha preceded by a servant carrying the placard which announced his offence. A centurion was in charge of them. These soldiers had as a perk for this wretched work the possessions of the condemned men. The criminals might have hidden something valuable in their underclothes, and so they were strip searched. Whatever the soldiers found became the loot of the execution squad. The centurion who was in charge seems to have had other things on his mind rather than thinking about the poor legacy left by these three men. He was that serious-minded man who regarded everything that day. As it ended he said of Jesus, “Surely this was a righteous man.”

There are those who believe that the disrobing of Christ was not complete, that he was allowed to retain some of his garments, but I don’t think it is possible to maintain that position, though it might be more preferable to all our sensitivities. To make the shame of crucifixion as great as possible the crucified person was customarily stripped of all he wore. We don’t want even to think about this. We sympathise with John the Baptist saying, “I’m not worthy to undo the laces on Jesus’ sandals.” Next time you tie the laces of your Nikes you say to yourself, “I am unworthy to do the meanest thing for Jesus.” Then how could we dare approach him seeing him stripped bare? But the question is not what the apostle John who loved him could bear to see as he stood at the foot of the cross. Let’s not think of that.

Jesus comes to us today to humble us because we are the proudest group of men and women. By nature we all thought we could save ourselves and it is a terrible blow to our pride to realise that this particular dying is the only thing under heaven that could save us. So this once crucified Saviour comes to us today; the Lamb of God is here; the one who has been made sin for us stands before us to serve us by giving us pardon for sin and eternal life. You think of the ladies in waiting in Buckingham Palace and the equerries who wait on the Prince of Wales. How are they dressed? Very smartly, in tailor made outfits. How does Jesus stand before us? Naked, his whole back a bloody wound, a crown of thorns on his head, nails driven through his hands and his feet and he is coming to wait on us. He stands before us offering us heaven’s glory. There is no other way, he says, than by him and yet he seems utterly unfit to untie the laces of our shoes. Have you seen it? You will never cry for the garments of Christ’s righteousness to clothe you unless you have been humbled by this Christ, until you say,

“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.
Naked come to Thee for dress, helpless look to Thee for grace,
Foul I to Thy fountain fly, Wash me Saviour or I die.”

Do you mean every word of that when you sing it? Yes, you say. Then you are a Christian. And what can bring about that conviction more effectively than the realisation that a naked Saviour nailed to a cross propitiating the wrath of a sin-hating God is the only one who can save you? Survey the shameful cross of the Bible, not the sentimental crosses of the beautiful Old Masters with Jesus wearing the neatly tied towel around his loins on a green hill far away. No. There can be nothing but shame and horror on Golgotha wherever I look because my sin is shameful and horrible. My Lord has let his enemies humiliate him when they nailed him naked to the tree between two other naked men mocking him and gambling for his clothes.

It is only when you look steadily at that, and acknowledge that this is the only way you can be reconciled to God, the only way your ugly dirty sins can be forgiven, only by this can you discover yourselves, and only thus can you discover the God of grace. You come in faith to Calvary and there you discover in this naked crucified Saviour your God.

A Christian offered to a student a booklet concerning God’s forgiveness of sins through Christ, but she refused to accept it. She said. “I don’t believe I’m a sinner. If I believed that it would lead to guilt; and guilt to anger; and anger to feelings of inadequacy which would make me an inappropriate human being.” “But have ever done anything wrong?” the Christian asked her. She hesitated before saying yes. “Then weren’t you guilty of doing those wrong things?” he pressed her, “and isn’t it better to acknowledge your guilt than to do wrong things and say, ‘but I’m not guilty.’?” Isn’t a person who confesses they are guilty of doing wrong things a more appropriate human being than a person who does wrong things and protests that they are fine?” What if king David had arranged the murder of Uriah but refused to accept his guilt for what he had done? The Lord Jesus can deal with any guilt we bring to him. Even if we have sinned greater than king David the Lord will pardon those who confess their guilt to him. It is then we become appropriate and all round human beings.


There is but one answer and that is because he is our substitute. Christ is being punished by this nakedness and it is not for his own crimes for he had none. You remember that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were naked and unashamed before they sinned. There was a purity and innocence about them. They knew nothing of lust or guilt, but one of the effects of the fall was not only that they’d become conscious of their nakedness but that they were ashamed of it and embarrassed by it. They’d been conscious that they were as naked as any creature God had made, but they hadn’t been fazed by having no clothes. When God the supreme Artist, created the human body he made the most climactic and beautiful of his creations, something a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honour. Man and woman were not covered by clothing, but then the Fall had this immediate effect of distorting the whole psychology of Adam and Eve so that they were ashamed of themselves and their nakedness. They couldn’t handle this development. They were conscious of strange, devilish, sinister influences opposed to God that had taken over their lives. Now their nakedness was a form of pain to Adam and Eve as it was a form of pain to Christ on the cross.

God clothed them. God’s provision of protective clothing for Adam and Eve was through his own great grace. It wasn’t simply to keep the sun from smiting them by day or to keep them warm by night. It was not some step up to a more highly developed life but an inherent part of God protecting them from certain sins by his grace. Clothing is God’s thoughtful gift to us. Nudity is not simply a return to primitive barbarism but it is to become a victim of retrogression; it is to reject the offered grace of God. I am saying that clothes are a gift of God’s common grace. Immediately man fell God began to temper the curse. He made clothes for our first parents, and thus God hampered sin and restricted it. He wouldn’t have this world become a hell. It was a sphere in which his people would live and preach his gospel. God makes human life possible so that in the fulness of time the seed of the woman might come to redeem us by his naked death on Calvary .

It is a sign of the moral decline of our day that this week’s local paper splashed over its front cover the fact that two of Aberystwyth’s hotels have applied for licences for strip-shows to be performed, since a club has already made such an application. “It won’t be every night of the week,” they say. How gratifying! Never before in the thousand year history of this community has this happened. How much will that strengthen marriage and make husbands and wives more loving and faithful?

Have you ever considered how remarkable it is that in the New Testament we meet a divine Saviour who is clothed? Why does he need to be clothed? He has taken a human body and human nature and a reasonable soul. He is here in the world of men and he is identifying with sinners, yet he’s not sinning. He is not capable of sinning, and he is not ashamed of who or what he is. Jesus is not embarrassed by his own nakedness. He perfectly accepts his own body, and loves it and thanks God for it as it is. There is in him no shame at all. The Lord Jesus was not like those exhibitionist naked ramblers who have again walked naked from Land’s End to John O’Groats being arrested and fined many times on their journey – as the press tells us. How pathetic and utterly misguided and slimy it all seems.

The Son of God was clothed, and part of the reason he was clothed was because he identified himself with sinners. He stood in solidarity with sinful men and women. But the fact that he wore clothes to cover a body that had been prepared and given to him by God says this; when he came into this world the divine glory that belonged to him was eclipsed. He is God the Son, eternal, infinite and unchangeable in all he is and does. When he became man and took a true body and a reasonable soul he didn’t lay aside his glory. However, he did veil it; he was eclipsing his glory.

Let us be accurate on that point. Jesus laid aside nothing, and yet he veiled everything. He became man, taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient to death even the accursed death of the cross, and yet the full deity was there – eclipsed – all the time, never more so than here, where he is hanging naked between two naked criminals, with a crowd of men and women watching him. Here is Mary’s boy child; here is the seed of the woman. He is the incarnate Son of God exposed to the hatred of sinners. The squaddies stripped Jesus simply because that is how it was; that was the penalty of crucifixion; they all had to suffer it. All the soldiers thought was, “Here are three crucified criminals getting what they deserved,” but God himself is in this sinful action – not in the sin of the action. He is allowing Jesus to feel the consequence of his decision made in eternity to become our Saviour. If there was pain when the Son waved farewell to his Father and placed his feet on the clouds of heaven and set out on his journey to Bethlehem that pain was nothing compared to what Christ must have felt on Golgotha . He humbled himself not only to the swaddling clothes of a stable but to death even the naked death of the cross.

How could God clothe a rebel like Adam? Was that fair? Adam was the one who opened the floodgates of sin and death which drowned the world. Why should God clothe him? How could he? Where is the justice of that? Only because one day God would strip bare the second Adam. Man’s clothing represents God’s grace, but on Golgotha all grace must depart from Christ. When the wife of God’s prophet Hosea, Lo-ruhamah, became a virtual prostitute the judgment of God was, “I will strip her naked.” God put her to shame; her punishment fitted the crime, but Christ had done no crime and his Father knew that full well. Then why is Jesus allowed to be punished like this? The answer is that this is a part of the exhaustive penalty of our sin. Jesus is to be spared nothing at all because we are to be spared everything. He is to be despised and humiliated that we might lift up our heads. He is treated as the worst of sinners that the chief of sinners who believes in him might be saved. No punishment was too shameful for him as he stood before God answering for our guilt. The Son of God must now die naked. He must consciously and self-consciously accept and endure the shame of the nakedness which is part and parcel of the lost in hell. What do you think men and women wear in hell? Do you think they wear their favourite jeans and trainers and T-shirts? Do you think there is fashion in hell? Do you think sinners there strut their stuff? Do you think there is a Saturday night parade from one corner of hell to another to another? I tell you there is not. There is simply eternal naked despair, and that is what Christ bore on Golgotha . That lost life, which all the condemned will know, Christ knew there. The terrors of the last day were all focussed on that central cross and none was excepted. The disrobing of the Saviour was part of the shame of hell as he hung on Golgotha , that bare and barren hill. The hill was bare, but Jesus was completely naked – naked and exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

The apostle talks about the cross as an offence to the unbelieving world of his day. When he preached Christ crucified it was a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. It was the weakness and folly of the God he served not to save his own Son from such an end. Paul’s hearers couldn’t understand how any God could choose such a shameful and cruel and despised way of making himself known and bringing sinners to heaven. So on Golgotha the well dressed priests and all the Jews could either bite their lips and silently weep or laugh him to scorn. We know what they did. “Look at the naked ‘King of kings’! See the nude ‘Son of God’! Look at that shameful criminal nailed up there!” And so they taunted him and scorned him for hours, and thus have sinners done ever since. From time to time eruptions of persecution break out against true Christians and they burn believers alive, or they hang, draw and quarter them, or they tie them to stakes at sea and see them slowly drown. The most fiendish schemes of causing the greatest pain to Christ’s people are constantly being devised. Disciples are no greater than their Lord.

When God took the clothes from the Son and nailed him to a cross then Jesus could no longer move freely through the world doing good. He couldn’t move from Golgotha , hour after hour, in such torture, bearing shame and rude scoffing Jesus was nailed to the spot. And when we have to look at him there we pour contempt on all our pride. John the Baptist said, “I’m not worthy to untie his laces.” We say, “See how he has humbled himself. He has made himself one who is unworthy and unable to untie the laces of my shoes. Adam could hide behind the bushes in his shame; he was able to do so – “Eve, come here, I see a hedge big enough for both of us. Come, let’s hide behind it from the eyes of the Lord!” What Adam could do the last Adam couldn’t do. The spikes prevented Christ hiding his nakedness. There is no escape from the judgment he has to bear. No hiding place on Golgotha for the Son of God. He is lower than Adam. That cross, I say, is the only way in the universe that you can be redeemed from your empty way of life that you’ve picked up from this whole generation, so besotted by sex and nakedness. Naked sinners of Aberystwyth, come to Christ! “I will spread my garments over you,” he says. He won’t spread some mini-skirt to cover some of your sins but a broad robe, a white raiment to cover all your defilement as he calls you to himself. This is the righteous clothing that he takes, with which he covers everyone who comes to him confessing their nakedness.


“Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.” (v.24). Christ’s clothing wasn’t taken and dumped in Gehenna, the rubbish dump of Jerusalem in the valley of Hinnom . That is where the naked bodies of the two other criminals would be thrown to be torn apart by wild dogs. The soldiers took all the clothing from the three men and divided it amongst themselves. From the several accounts in the gospels we see that there were some disproportionate heaps of clothes. In the first there were the general garments of the three men in four piles, and then set apart from those there was Christ’s own coat. In other words there was the heaps of cloaks, girdles, sandals and the two headcoverings that the other criminals wore. Then there was the undergarment which was Jesus’.

It has become a romantic garment, the subject of a famous book and film called The Robe. But we know nothing at all of its cut and colour and fabric or anything about its destiny, only that certainly in time moth and decay destroyed it. There is no relic of it in existence today and if there were it could only destroy men’s trust in the living Christ alone not strengthen it. As it was Jesus’ undergarment it couldn’t be seen, and I can’t pretend I know any more than you about its material or pattern or hue. What we are told is that the garments were shared among the men in four equal parts, and then there was this coat of Jesus which they kept separate. John is the gospel writer who tells us most about it, “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom” (Jn. 19:23).

Did this mean that it was expensive? We know that it was seamless. I suppose it must have come like that from the loom. If it was at no point sewed together did that make this robe especially valuable? I don’t think that was the case. Certainly every village had its weaver, and every weaver could make a large piece of cloth suitable for an under-garment. I don’t think we have the confidence to say that it was a rich and striking coat. I don’t think that the health and wealth heretics can get any joy in defending purchasing their one thousand pound suits from this humble garment of our Saviour’s. There was a simple reason for this robe being set apart from the others. The other clothes weren’t much of a prize. They were worth precious little – girdles and sandals and turbans. They were good enough to be given to a leper colony, but here in the coat of Jesus was the only piece that amounted to anything.

That was all our Saviour left. It wasn’t much was it? When he was born in a stable he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and put down to sleep in a manger. He was just as poor when he went out of the world. When the soldiers stripped him they didn’t discover a money belt. Judas kept all the money, such as it was. Jesus has been kindly and lovingly treated throughout his ministry. Godly women had waited upon him, washed and dried his clothes and made food for him; one woman had poured expensive perfumed oil over him anointing him and filling a house with the scent of its fragrance, but by the end of his days Jesus had given everything away. “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite will I withhold.”

So the soldiers would not tear this garment into four – any more than you would tear a child’s coat that you found in a charity shop and given half to one daughter and another half to the other. A garment, like a ball, is one; it is ruined if you cut it up. So the soldiers hit on the plan of gambling for it. There under the gaze of Christ they shouted and cheered themselves on as they drew lots for his robe.

Dr S.M. Lockeridge famously reminds us of the King who is the one hanging on the centre cross. “Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He’s the wellspring of wisdom. He’s the master of the mighty. He’s the captain of the conquerors. He’s the head of the heroes. He’s the leader of the legislatures. He’s the overseer of the overcomers. He’s the governor of governors. He’s the prince of princes. He’s the King of kings and He’s the Lord of lords. That’s my King. His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you . . . but He’s indescribable. He is indescribable. That’s my King.”

This King has the right of requisition. Because of his office he can make demands; he can lay claim on a beast of burden, and on an upper room for a Passover meal, but all this is now taken from him. All the good will which he once had is far from Golgotha . They remove his clothes and throw them on a heap along with the criminals’ clothes. O how different it was a week earlier when the rich took off their clothes and threw them in the dust for Jesus’ donkey to walk on. Now the rights of this king are mocked. Even the centurion doesn’t bother to ask whether there’s anything in the heap worth his attention. The clothes are divided into four heaps not five, and they decide they will draw lots for the robe. Did they bring out the dice? Whatever way they decided there was a lottery held on Golgotha while the naked Christ hung there. What satanic mockery! We are declaring to the world, that there is one place of perfect justice on this planet and it is Calvary . There the holy one is justly condemned for all our sins. Because of Calvary God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. What place can luck and chance have in this place, under the eyes of the Saviour? Who does the lottery reward? Not the most worthy; it is all a matter of chance. To set your hopes on winning the lottery is to try to stand at the end of the rainbow. Come away! On Christ, the solid rock please stand! All other ground is sinking sand! This is how Christ’s week ended. It began with him laying claim to transport and a meeting place, and it ends with his eyes fixed on soldiers raffling his clothes.

The Lord Christ is dying in agony on Golgotha but men are more concerned with the lottery! Nothing has changed. Isn’t that why sinners need the gospel? A Christian who worked in industrial evangelism had permission to speak for ten minutes in a works canteen to a hundred men and afterwards answer their questions. He presented the gospel to them and then a workman got up with his objection. “We don’t need religion. We have everything we want. We have a decent wage; a good trade union system; good industrial relations; good recreational facilities; good health care; good pension. We don’t even have to clear or wash up after this meal. What on earth do we want with a gospel?” A large notice on the wall had caught the Christian’s eye as he was speaking and now he drew attention to it. “Look at those words,” he said, “Twelve hundred knives and forks have been stolen from this canteen during the past month. In the future those using the canteen must bring their own cutlery.” That’s why you need good news of the forgiveness of sins, because there’s a bunch of thieves in this room, and no thief will inherit the kingdom of God, but God – who knows who the thieves are – invites those who have stolen and repent of their sinning to come to him and he promises to forgive them and welcome them to heaven.”

God the Son has come but men are more excited about gambling and getting something for nothing than thinking about the one who raised the dead and preached the Sermon on the Mount. Remember that this is the King of Kings hanging here, and what does S.M. Lockeridge famously preach about him? “He always has been and he always will be. I’m talking about the fact that he had no predecessor and he’ll have no successor. There’s nobody before him and there’ll be nobody after him. You can’t impeach him and he’s not going to resign. That’s my King! That’s my King!” There was once a time when he was asked to pay the temple tax and he sent Peter to cast a net into the sea. The apostle caught a solitary fish in whose mouth was a coin which paid the temple tax exactly. The King showed his power over his creation, and this King’s life is like his robe, it is seamless. Who can measure the greatness of his humiliation? On Golgotha this naked King is nailed to the spot and forced to watch them gambling for his clothes. When he was born the magi came from the east and gave him gold and frankincense and myrrh. When he dies the soldiers from the west come and strip him of everything he possesses. Where is the God who loves him? Where is the King’s Father who can provide a money-laden fish at the throwing of a net? Where are the miracles here? Where is the power of heaven now? There are no gift-bearers on Golgotha ; there are plunderers. This is the day of the looters and the King is being relieved of everything he possesses.

Though once Christ had been rich yet he became poor. Born in a stable, he was poor. Raised in a carpenter’s home, he was poor. Foxes had holes and the birds of the air their nests, but he was poor. He had nowhere to lay his head. Dying naked on a cross, he was poor. How did he become poor? By giving his obedience to God for us. More, he gave his body to God for us. More, he gave his sufferings to God for us. More, he gave himself to God for us. Everything he had, everything single bit of the Son of God he gave to his Father for our redemption. He gave up every right, and every entitlement, and everything glorious and great. He gave it all to God, and that is redemption. That is its price; that is salvation. There is nothing left to pay because the infinite immeasurable Son of God gave everything that he was, and so all the debt has been cancelled; every payment has been made; he has taken responsibility for the liability of all who belong to him. Full atonement has been made. His people are clothed by his nakedness.

This is the Scriptural way. This is what the Bible said would happen and it did. Psalm 22 and verse 18, “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” The King will be plundered one day, says David in that psalm. God will let his clothes be raffled off. He was announced as a King; he was promised a crown, but in the end they even strip him of his underclothes and leave him die naked. Who is he? Your Messiah O Israel ! It is he. The great clother of the Universe who spreads the stars across the heavens, and who will wrap up the firmament as a garment – he is the one who is stripped naked. Emperor Ceasar Augustus has robbed God’s holy child Jesus of his swaddling clothes.

Yes, we’ve done this! We sinners! I stripped Christ and hung him there. My sinful hands did it. Is the shame of the torturer greater than the one being tortured? Far greater. So my shame is far greater than his who hung there so terribly exposed. What hope can there be for me? Is there any? Much every way. This great King once said to his disciples that this is the way the sons of the King behave; “if a sinner takes from you your coat then you give him your robe also.” Christ hears the shouts of the gamblers; he sees the triumph of the man who won his robe. He knows his name; he knows all about him, that he is the soldier who rudely and roughly stripped him of his clothes at the point of a sword. “That soldier took all my garments from me and then nailed me to the cross. Never before did I feel such shame.”

Yet this great King does not call for an angel to come from heaven with a fiery sword and kill him. He lets the soldier take it. Christ goes the second mile. He doesn’t call for lightning from heaven to smite him. He has prayed for these men, “Father forgive those who strip me and disdain me and gambol for my clothes for they know not what they do.” The King verified the words he himself had preached. He was completely faithful to his own demand.

Fix you eyes on him. Fasten your sight on Christ. Survey him. Look unto him and be saved. Woe to us if we see his nakedness and yet do not believe in God. Now you are rich! Now you are full! Now you are clothed in sumptuous clothes. You are the men and women of fashion. You live like lords without Christ the King. Then look away sinner; turn from Jesus and see the gate of hell opening. Do you see a glimpse of those writhing naked bodies in their black despair? Then quickly look again at my king. Has he been made naked in vain? Is he not the Word clothed with divine power? Then hear his invitations. Go to him and he will give you rest.

Come, you who are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. And he will heal and clothe you; for your despair he will provide joy. He will anoint your eyes with a wonder drug, and his eye ointment will enable you to see God’s glory in the one who hangs there on the cross. What folly in the eyes of the world, but what wisdom in the eyes of God, to make Jesus Christ your only plea. Save me for Christ’s sake, or I die and join the legions in naked hell for ever. Clothe me with your righteousness and forgive me my sins for Jesus’ sake. None who ever prayed that prayer were turned away.

23rd October 2005 GEOFF THOMAS