The Embarrassment and Beauty of Easter

Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, medieval illustration from the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th century)When my daughter Grace was a toddler, she loved to take baths. What she loved even more was to get out, get dried off a little and then run around the house: a naked, beautiful little maniac. And I don’t think she is alone. I have a lot of friends with kids and I doubt I have ever seen one of them not go completely bonkers with excitement when mom or dad let’s them prance around in the nude.

I guess it’s the combination of being scrubbed clean and not knowing any better that makes racing through the living room in your birthday suit so amazing. And funny.

Unfortunately (I guess), there comes a point when that kind of behavior is no longer cute. My brothers and I could be naked when we were little all we wanted. It was a different story once we hit middle school (well, long before that actually). My dad was a professor at the University of Wyoming and sometimes he’d take us to play basketball at one of the gyms. I remember walking through the locker rooms and there’d be old guys hanging out all over the place, literally. I would look straight down at the floor the whole time, thinking this is perhaps the most shameful place on the planet.

What happens? Why does something that is so amazing and beautiful like a naked baby, turn into this shameful thing, naked old guys?

Actually, I think the answer is pretty simple: sin. Sin is what ruined nakedness for us. Back in the Garden, Adam and Eve didn’t need any clothes. They were without sin and in their innocence there was no shame to it. Once sin entered, the first thing that happened was shame at their nakedness. God made them some clothes.

Which brings me to Easter.

I have always seen pictures of the crucifixion where Jesus is covered by a loin cloth. But when I read the Bible (and it seems most scholars agree, but there is always debate), Jesus was naked. This was typical of Roman executions, for the very simple reason that they wanted to make the death of the guilty as shameful as possible.

And that would do it.

The only thing is that Jesus wasn’t guilty, we were. And so his death was humiliating and embarrassing because he bore our sin, our shame. But it was also beautiful, because he was innocent and his death brings us, in a sense, back to the Garden, back into a right relationship with God.

At first, I thought it was a bit unnecessary that Jesus be stripped, his clothing divided among them, but the more I think about it, I am not sure that it could have been any other way. I think his nakedness retrieves an innocence for us that we lost long ago. His carrying of our shame allows us, in some way, to be open, to let us others see us in our most vulnerable state.

But unless you’re two, we still need you to put on clothes if you want to run around in the living room while company is over. Just to be clear on that.

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