What wonderful words of salvation we heard from Isaiah this evening: He has covered me with the robe of righteousness. In a few words Isaiah tells us that the Christian faith is something we wear and not something we earn. In the original Hebrew, the word translated as righteous shares the same root as the name Yeshua - the Hebrew pronunciation of Jesus. The robe of righteousness is the robe of Jesus - not the robe belonging to Jesus, but the robe that is Jesus Himself.
Through the Holy Spirit's gift of faith, Jesus clothes us in Himself. When God the Father looks at us, He sees Jesus. Jesus is our righteousness and salvation.
Receiving righteousness and salvation never looks like payday; it looks more like a wedding. Isaiah puts it this way: He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
How else could we attend the wedding we're headed for? Certainly not like the wedding crasher in the parable: [Matthew 22:12] [The king] said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. How embarrassing and how deadly to try to pass off our own garments as the robe of Jesus. We know that our own righteousness is a polluted garment - a bio hazard. Jesus Christ is the only robe that can get us into the wedding.
Isaiah tells us that this robe of righteousness is a reason for rejoicing. Paul encourages us to [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18] "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you?" Our salvation is indeed a great reason for rejoicing. So why don't we? Why don't we greatly rejoice in the LORD? Why don't we rejoice that we are wrapped in Jesus?
One problem is that we can't detect the robe of salvation with our earthly senses. It is something that we receive through the Holy Spirit's gift of faith. Therefore, the water of Baptism looks and feels like ordinary water. The elements on the altar look and taste like ordinary bread and wine. The words we hear sound like reading from any other book. The ground doesn't shake when Christ wraps us in Himself. Even though the angels rejoice, we don't see them or hear them. We possess Jesus Christ by faith and not by sight.
Faith is not something that appeals to our sinful nature. The Word of God says we wear Jesus and that should be enough to make us rejoice. Never the less, our sinful nature always wants something more. Our sinful nature wants to be the tailor and adjust Jesus to fit our expectations. Our sinful nature wants to be in control. Our sinful nature wants to be responsible for pulling on the robe of salvation and making it fit.
Of course that is what got us into trouble in the first place. Our sinful nature wants to be in control. We want things to be the way we want them instead of the way that is best. Since we don't know the way that is best we really can't be responsible for pulling on that robe and making it fit. If we try to do that ourselves, we will get it wrong.
If that is the case, then how does the righteous one get to me? How do I end up wearing Him like a wedding garment? How do I end up blameless?
God will do it. God the Lord will clothe you in Himself, by clothing Himself in you. That's the incarnation. This is not God possessing a man for a while. The Son of God did not take on humanity in Bethlehem and then give it up on the cross.
Instead, the Son of God took on humanity as the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus Christ in the womb of the Virgin Mary. From the moment of conception Jesus Christ is both true man and true God. The single fertilized egg in Mary's womb is God. The baby in the manger is God. The man dying on the cross is God. The Son of God was, is, and will forever be both God and man. That is how God dresses us in Himself.
As we consider the incarnation - the fact that God took on humanity in Jesus Christ, we have questions. As we examine ourselves carefully we must admit that there is more to us than our humanity. We have attachments - baggage if you will. We are not only human, but we are also sinful. What happens to our sin when Jesus clothes Himself in our humanity?
Jesus not only clothed Himself in our humanity, but He clothed Himself in our sin. He Himself had no sin, but He humiliated Himself to take on our sin. In this way, Jesus became the greatest sinner of all in the eyes of God the Father for He wrapped Himself in the sins of the whole world. The humiliation of the Christ lies not in the incarnation of the Son of God, but in the fact that the incarnate Son of God took all our sins onto Himself. There is nothing humiliating in being human, but there is everything humiliating in taking on humanity's sin.
One of the reasons God the Lord took our humanity into himself was to make Himself killable - to make Himself a ransom. He took on our humanity in order to heal our brokenhearted humanity, our captive humanity, our humanity bound by sin, our humanity in mourning, our humanity in ashes. And so [Colossians 2:9] in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily - in Him who came wrapped in swaddling clothes - in Him who was bound and scourged and wrapped in our scarlet robe of shame - in Him who wore a priestly headdress made of thorns - in Him who was captive, forsaken, and crucified - in Him who wore our grave-clothes. In Christ, God became man and wrapped Himself in our sin. In this way, the incarnate God wrapped us in Himself and made us holy in God's sight.
Now God wraps us in the blessings of His incarnations and His humiliation. He wraps us in the blessings of his exaltation. Just as Jesus was humiliated in His incarnation, so He is also exalted in that same incarnation. He is exalted in His resurrection, the proclamation of His victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil, His ascension, and in His future return. Just as Jesus rose in a bodily resurrection so shall we all rise in our bodies and those who believe in the incarnate God will join Him in heaven forever.
Jesus is the man who is God. He Himself is the robe of righteousness and He dresses us in Himself. He prepares His church as a bride dressed in precious jewels. We are His precious jewels - His pearls of great price for which He sold everything even his own life. He exults in us. He rejoices over us with loud singing!
And so we too can sing. We can sing of God incarnate. We can sing of the incarnate God wrapping Himself in the shame of our sin. We can sing of the incarnate God risen from the dead and preparing a place for us. We can sing of the incarnate God who is with us until the end of the age. We can rejoice in the incarnate God - in who He is and in what He has done for us. Our rejoicing will be imperfect here, but one day it will be perfect as we join with angels and archangels and all the hosts of heaven as we sing of Him and of His salvation. Amen
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