Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. -John 20:1-18 (NRSV)
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. -Colossians 3:14 (NRSV)
My husband and I have a seven-month-old grandson. He is such a delightful, inquisitive, and sweet-tempered child. Because he is our first grandchild, and the first grandchild of his other grandparents, and the first nephew of his parents’ siblings, he has received lots of attention and is never in short supply of toys or items of clothing.
Have you noticed that most of the clothing for babies professes loyalty – or at least some connection – to members of their families? Our Jack has onesies, sleepers, and shirts that offer identification markers like “Mommy’s Little Darling” or “Daddy’s First Mate.” Yesterday, he was wearing one that said “Best Nephew Ever.” (He also has one that says “Cute Like My Uncle” from the same person.)
I was struck by the reference in John 20 to the laying aside of the cloths that wrapped Jesus’ body as they were discovered by the disciples upon entering the tomb. I especially wondered about the connection to the instruction by Paul in Colossians 3:14 to “above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
What is the importance of clothing, figuratively speaking? Were the cloths left behind by Jesus to serve primarily as evidence of his resurrection? Or were they now insufficient or incapable of representing who he was (is) following the resurrection? We are often intrigued about his glorified body. What does that look like? How different is it from the body he had previously inhabited, since some people could recognize him, but usually only after he spoke to them or shared a meal with them?
Without any fancy printing, Jesus’s appearance offered, in a unique way, a message identifying his connection to God who raised him from the dead.
This leads me to wonder: what kinds of “clothing” are you and I wearing? Is there a distinctiveness about us that bears the message of the resurrective power and love of God?
Certainly many seek to bear public witness to the power of God within them by wearing T-shirts with phrases identifying them as followers of Christ. There is probably some merit to that, but only if the rest of their witness continually takes on deeper evidence of God’s resurrected power within them.
Jack is outgrowing his clothes at a very fast rate, as all thriving infants do. And just as he gets new clothing that fits his physical growth more appropriately, we see a parallel there for us as Christ-followers. The very reason I write this is because of the nature of the message to which our “clothing” (or our outer natures) need to testify. If Paul had only written “put on clothing that tells everyone the truth (as you see it)” or “put on clothing that tells people what they ought to do,” it wouldn’t require a resurrection power living within us. That would only need a set of religious ideals.
No, Paul is instead stretching us to move into new sets of clothing continuously. Just as the cloths Jesus wore before his resurrection no longer fit his new reality, neither do we get to stay the same as that resurrective power becomes more and more the reality of our own lives. Paul purposefully stated that we are to “be clothed with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” I’m sure you’ve discovered that to be a never-ending quest, as I have. There will never be a time in this life where we do not need to be stretched to experience a deeper, richer love for God and neighbor. Just when we think we are pretty loving people, new challenges come our way which test the limits we have put on love.
So let’s be clothed with love, and be ready to grow into larger sizes of “clothing” that exhibit more love, in more situations, to more people, in more ways than we have done before. Because that is what sanctification or transformation into Christ-likeness is all about. Love that is continually fed by God’s power knows no limits. We get to be clothed in ways that illustrate that loving, transformative power in messages beyond phrases, but with the loving impact of service, kindness, humility, and grace. As that happens increasingly, our relationship to the One who resides in us is unmistakable.
Christ the Lord is Risen! He is Risen indeed!