The Great Exchange

John 19:23-24

23 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.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

“They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.”
So this is what the soldiers did.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Back in November I preached a sermon entitled “Dining at the Table of the King.”  In the introduction to that message I talked a little bit about what life in Naples, Florida was like when we lived there and how we found ourselves dining at some rather fancy, shmancy restaurants and country clubs.  I told you about one of those clubs in particular called the Royal Poinciana Club where one night Marilyn and I ended up on the dance floor in front of all these extravagantly wealthy, high society people after our hostess, whose name was Dot, found out that we liked to polka and unbeknownst to us requested that the live band play one for us.  This morning I want to share with you another story about that same country club that made us realize that things down in Naples were going to be quite different than what we were normally accustomed to in small town, Midwest America.  In fact, we learned that lesson the very 1stnight we were there as Dot invited us to be her guests for dinner at the Royal Poinciana Club.

She picked us up at our motel in order to take us there and I don’t think we had gone even a few blocks when she looked at me with this surprised expression on her face and said, “Oh, Pastor, you don’t have a coat on.  They won’t let you in to the club without one.”  Well, even though our moving van had not yet arrived with all of our clothes, I guess it was only by the grace of God that I’d had the foresight to pack a sport coat just in case I needed it.  So we went back to the motel and got it so that I could gain access to the club and enjoy dinner there that night.

Since then, there have been many times when I’ve wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t brought my sport coat along.  Would I actually have been denied entrance into that club?  Possibly.  But I think something else would have happened.  At least this is what I’ve heard goes on in situations like that.  I think when we got to the club, Dot would have explained my predicament to the maitre d’ and he would have looked me over and sized me up and then gone back into a cloakroom where they kept extra sport coats for just these types of circumstances and he would have given me one to wear.  Now granted, it may not have fit perfectly.  It might have been lime-green or bright red in color, it might have been plaid or striped, but at least it would have gotten me in to the club so that I could enjoy dinner there.

Well, did you know that you and I have been invited to a dinner, not at the Royal Poinciana Club of Naples, but a place far more beautiful and elegant than that?  We heard about it before in our Gospel reading where Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come.”  So we have been invited to join our King, God himself, at the banquet halls of heaven for a feast that will far out-do and far outshine the best we could ever experience this side of heaven.  And if you’re anything like I was that 1st night at the Royal Poinciana Club in Naples, you might think you’ll feel just a little out of place at this banquet, a little unworthy of being permitted to dine at such an extravagant and upscale establishment.

So this morning I want to share with you 2 things that God does for us to make it possible for us to be a part of this heavenly banquet and then 1 thing that he will do for us once we are there that will absolutely blow your mind.  So let’s get started, shall we?  The first thing God does for us is He provides us with the necessary clothes to gain entrance to this banquet.  And that clothes consists not of a sport coat, but of a robe, and not just any old robe.  No, we’re talking here about a very special robe that belongs to Jesus.

Now Scripture tells us very little about the clothes that Jesus wore when he walked this earth.  We know what his cousin John the Baptist wore.  Remember what it was?  He wore a garment made of camel’s hair.  We know what the Jewish religious leaders wore because their clothing was specifically prescribed in the Law of Moses.  But we’re told nothing about Jesus’ clothes until the time of his crucifixion.  And in our text we are informed that he had a garment, a robe, if you will, that “was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” 

This garment must have been one of Jesus’ finest possessions because we’re told that the Roman soldiers gambled for it.  But something I didn’t know until I worked on this sermon is that Jewish tradition called for a mother to make such a robe for her son and present it to him as a going away gift when he left home.  Now we don’t know for certain that Mary did that for Jesus, but we do know that this was a very special piece of clothing.  Again, we’re told that it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

Now I find that description to be very significant and noteworthy because the Bible often times describes our character, our behavior in terms of the clothes we wear.  For example, in 1 Peter 5:5 we are told to clothe ourselves with humility.  And in Colossians 3:12 the Apostle Paul writes:  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  So garments can symbolize a person’s character, and that’s what we see happening here with Jesus.  Like this robe, Jesus’ character was seamless.  Complete.  Unified.  A picture of uninterrupted perfection.

And my friends, it is that particular robe of unparalleled perfection and righteousness that God actually offers to us in order that we might gain access to his heavenly banquet.  And there’s only one way that it can become ours.  And that is by receiving it as a gift, something that happens the very moment the Holy Spirit brings us to saving faith in Jesus and leads us to trust in his death on the cross as the full and complete payment for our sins.  Once we are a believer in Christ, we can say with Isaiah in our Old Testament lesson before:  “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.”

But not only does God provide us with the proper clothing for his wedding banquet, he alsopays our entrance fee.  He buys our ticket, if you will.  He picks up the tab.  Whenever we went with Dot to her club in Naples, and there would be many times we did so after that first night, the waiter would eventually bring the bill to our table when we were finished.  But he never presented it to me.  Instead, he always gave it to Dot and she always signed on the dotted line and paid it in full.  That’s what Jesus did for us at the cross.  But in order for him to do that, he had to remove his seamless robe of perfection and assume a different robe – what we might call the robe of indignity.

This robe consisted of the indignity of betrayal, as one of his closest companions turned against him and sold him into the hands of the enemy for the price of a slave.  It consisted of the indignity of denial, as the leader of the disciples, Simon Peter, openly and vehemently denied any association with Jesus when he was questioned about it in the courtyard of the high priest’s palace.  It consisted of the indignity of nakedness as according to Roman custom Jesus was stripped of all his clothes and crucified in that shameful manner before his own mother and friends and followers.  It consisted of the indignity of failure as for those 6 humiliating, pain-filled hours that he hung on the cross, it appeared as though the religious leaders were the victors and Jesus was the biggest failure and loser of all time.  But worst of all, this robe consisted of the indignity of sin for Jesus was literally clothed with your sin and my sin on the cross.  I Peter 2:24 puts it this way:  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”  And in Isaiah 53:6 we’re told:  “The LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Now I want you to think for just a moment about what that meant for Jesus.  Since he bore the sin of the murderer, the adulterer, and the rapist on the cross, he felt and received the punishment that the murderer, the adulterer, and the rapist deserved from God’s perspective.  Though he never lied or cheated, on the cross he was treated as though he was the greatest liar and cheater of all time.  Though he never injected mind-altering drugs into his body or polluted his mind or his soul with the pornographic pictures that are so prevalent on the internet these days, though he never verbally or physically abused someone, though he never sexually molested a young child, though he never spewed forth a single word of profanity from his lips, at the cross he was treated and punished by his Father as though he was guilty of all those things and much, much more.  But all of that was necessary in order to make it possible for unworthy, undeserving sinners like you and me to gain access to this eternal heavenly banquet.

Now I know that all I’ve shared with you this morning about God providing us with the proper clothing and paying our way to this banquet is mind-boggling enough.  But what I’m about to share with you right now, my friends, is even more brain-blowing and far transcends our ability to comprehend.  And that is what Jesus tells us in Luke 12:37.  Once we arrive at this banquet, which again I remind you is only possible because he has made it possible, but once we are there Jesus says, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.”

I can hardly read that verse without a tremor in my voice and a tear in my eye because there’s a part of me – a huge part of me – that wants to cry out, “No way, Jesus!  There is absolutely no way that I’m going to let you serve me and wait on me at this banquet.  You’ve done enough for me already.  You lived for me; you died for me; you rose for me.  It’s time for me to serve you.”  And you know what, my friends?  That’s true.  It is time for us to serve him.  In the light of all that he’s done for us and all that he’s made possible for us, doesn’t he deserve more from us than just a token of appreciation that we toss his way in this one hour of worship each week, if even that much?  As important as this time of worship is, doesn’t he deserve the best that we can give him every moment of every day?

After all, it wasn’t enough for him to merely prepare a feast for us.  It wasn’t enough for him to invite us to this feast.  It wasn’t enough for him to reserve a seat for us at this feast. He went much farther when he underwent the great exchange and he offered us his seamless robe of perfection to wear to this feast and then covered the cost for us by assuming our robes of sin.  Put simply, he gave you the best he had.  The question is, will you now do the same for him?