Matthew 27:33-36 says, “And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there.”
Before Jesus is nailed to the cross, he is stripped of the last possession he will ever own, his clothing. Clothing in this society, much like our society, is much more than just a piece of cloth. Clothing is a necessary part of our world, and to take it away means more than to just take away a possession, it takes away Jesus’ social status. Through taking away his clothing, the guards strip Jesus from his human dignity. Why? The guards cast lots to see who would be able to take home the garment and sell it for their own gain. In the Gospel of John, they go on to describe the piece of cloth as seamless and woven in one piece describing a piece of clothing that had immense cost at that time. Jesus, like so many people, is stripped from their human dignity in order for another person to make a profit. How often is that prevalent in our own society? Whether it be through the criminal justice system utilizing slave labor, or those being forced to work long hours without being able to make a living wage, both near and far we continue to see our current systems stripping people of human dignity.
The Gospel of Mark includes the famous inscription placed above Jesus’ head “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. This inscription, meant to belittle Jesus and his followers, has become a symbol of Jesus’ eventual ascendance. Christ became a King, someone known and worshiped by so many in our society, without leading a revolt, without picking up a sword, but by willingly laying down his life for ours. For taking on this suffering so that we may know him better. He is the original non-violent revolutionary that so many have followed after him. Willingly making this sacrifice and living with his indignity, Jesus serves as a reminder of all the others stripped of their human dignity every single day.
When have we not acknowledged the human dignity of others?
How do we respond to those who try to take our human dignity and belittle us?
Lord Jesus, you were stripped of your garments, exposed to shame, cast out of society. You took upon yourself the shame of Adam, and you healed it. You also take upon yourself the sufferings and the needs of the poor, the outcasts of our world. And in this very way you fulfil the words of the prophets. This is how you bring meaning into apparent meaninglessness. This is how you make us realize that your Father holds you, us, and the whole world in his hands. Give us a profound respect for humans at every stage of their existence, and in all the situations in which we encounter them. Clothe us in the light of your grace. In your name, we pray… amen.