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A God Exposed

March 27, 2019
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

How things have changed. Naked once meant “innocent, selfless, and perfect.” The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed, Moses records at the end of Genesis 2. Different from guilt, shame includes an unhealthy preoccupation with oneself. That Adam and his wife were unashamed though they were naked makes sense because they didn’t have that level of self-awareness that comes from sinful, selfish navel-gazing. But then, as soon as they sinned, their eyes were opened to a new reality. Sure, they knew good and evil, knowledge their Creator had withheld purely for their good. But now … they see that they are naked. Exposed. Vulnerable. And now, when their eyes incline toward themselves for the first time, they are ashamed. “Look at me,” Adam thinks. “Look at me,” his wife muses. But each is too preoccupied with him- or herself to notice the nakedness of the other. Sin does exactly that; it curves our gaze inward upon ourselves.

What could they do? Hide themselves, they hoped. Fig leaves hastily stitched together before their flight into the garden away from their Creator—that was their choice of garb. But fig leaves cannot hide sin. They cannot hide guilt. So, after God exposes the pair in their ashamed hiding, elicits their acknowledgment of sin (though not the confession or repentance thereof), and doles out the curses to the two and the serpent, He then upgrades their wardrobes from bloodless fig leaves … to garments made from skin. And so they learn quickly that God was not wrong in threatening death at the moment that they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But He mercifully stayed their executions by shedding the blood of whatever innocent animal He took the skin from to cover the sin and shame of the man and woman. Their nakedness would be covered at the cost of an even deeper nakedness, for what could be more exposed than an animal stripped of its skin? And so the first death, the first bloodshed, happened at the hands of the Creator Himself, to grant to these rebels the luxury of hiding their shame behind the innocence of another creature.

Though you’re not wont to admit it, this is the true nature of sin. You want to hide it behind pious-seeming fig leaves, but these won’t do. No matter what you do to delete your browsing history, you can’t hide your shame or obscure your guilt from the eyes of an all-knowing God. No matter how you try to couch your gossip in thinly veiled requests to “pray for her,” those words remain reputation-damaging slander against your neighbor and render you guilty before a Holy God. Even if you call it “just getting what’s rightfully yours,” it’s still greed. Excuses why you can’t make it to the week-after-week Sunday morning Divine Service don’t allow you to receive the gifts that God delivers there. And they can’t hide your sin. That everyone else does it is a flimsy fig leaf. Repent of these and all other fig-leaf attempts to hide your sin and trick yourself into thinking you’re blameless. Sin can only be covered with skin.

No one knows what that animal was in the garden from which the Creator peeled its innocent hide in order to hide the exposed and vulnerable parts of Adam and his wife. But, given the way in which immature ovine offspring are often selected to be sacrifices on Passover, in the tabernacle, in the temple, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that the first animal to die, flayed to stave off death for mankind, was a lamb.

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, John the Baptist declares of Jesus. Behold, the fulfillment of every lamb with its throat slit to render it a sacrifice in the temple. Behold, the fulfillment of every Passover lamb roasted and completely consumed the night before God brought His people out of slavery. Behold, the Lamb who is not actually a lamb but a man. Behold God with skin.

Behold the Man scourged by the Roman soldiers with their evil flagrum, designed to shred the skin from the back of the whipped one, tearing away flesh so deep that the internal organs are nearly exposed. Behold the man on whose head the soldiers pressed the crown woven of thorns to ridicule Him as a madman with His belief in being King. Behold the Man on whom they drape a soldier’s dirty purple robe to intensify the jest. Behold the Man whom Pilate brought forth to say, “This is no king!” Here is God, with skin, clothed in the mockery of sinful men.

Behold the Man who, when He was nailed to the cross, was stripped naked; yes, contrary to pious paintings and portrayals, the Man was naked on the cross. Behold the Man whose clothes the soldiers divided amongst themselves. Behold the Man for whose seamless tunic the godless gambled. Behold the Man, God with skin, whose skin is shamefully exposed for all passersby to mock. Behold the naked God.

Behold the Man who will bear your sin and shame. Behold the Man who will suffer in your place. Behold the Man whose nakedness answers for Adam’s. Behold the Man … naked and unashamed, with nothing to hide, with no sin of His own to garb in raiment and rationalization. Behold the Man stripped bare … to bear your sins. All of them. The ones you try to hide and obscure, the ones you pretend are not there, the ones that cause you the greatest shame. All of them hang there on the cross with this Man, this God, Jesus, naked and flayed and dying … for you.

Behold the Man, stripped naked so He might clothe you in new skin. Behold the Man who will hide your sin with His own righteousness. Behold the Man who gives you Himself to wear. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Behold the Man in whose washing of Holy Baptism you are clothed in the incomparable perfection of His own righteousness. Wear His raiment. Wear Him. Your sin is gone, your shame removed, your guilt dissipated. Behold the Man who covers your sin with His own skin.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.