Scripture Passage: John 19: 23-25a
23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says, ‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ 25And that is what the soldiers did.
This tenth station of the Via Dolorosa recalls that the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothing and gambled for his robe near where Jesus was to be crucified. Visitors can peer into a Latin chapel through a special window. This station is disconcerting, to say the least. Keep in mind that Jesus was Jewish and, as a Jew, had been taught that it was a disgrace to be seen naked. This would have been the ultimate disgrace. Jesus, stripped of his humanness and his very dignity, is being prepared for crucifixion.
Dignity is a strange thing. We think of it as something that we humans can bestow or take away from each other at will. And, yet, dignity by its very definition is described as innate. It is a gift from God, a gift of our humanity, so removing it from another is essentially depriving them of something that has not only been given to them but is part of them. So stripping Jesus of his garments was the way that his tormenters removed his dignity, the way that they made him something less than human, the way that they, in their minds, put him in some way beneath humanity, in some way less than themselves.
Sadly, there are ways that we continue to strip others of their dignity, ways that we over and over again strip humanity of the gifts that God has bestowed. And it’s not limited to physical stripping, although we as a people are guilty of that over and over again as we allow that to happen to others. Putting someone in a place of humiliation, a place where they can no longer be who they are called to be does the same thing. Anytime that we become so convinced of our “rightness”, of our position of being above others, anytime that we misuse and abuse conceived power over others, anytime that we refuse to accept others because they are different than what we think they should be, we have again stripped the garments of Christ from our world.
And yet, Jesus was seemingly passive as the soldiers stripped away at his garments and bared his nakedness for all to see. Maybe it was because he knew, he knew that he was being stripped of his humanness. This is the turning point. This is the way that one prepares oneself, by stripping away at the things that get in the way. This is the final hour. The cross is being prepared and Jesus along with it.
So on this Lenten journey, let us allow ourselves to be stripped of those things that get in the way, let us allow ourselves to be humbled that we might be open to receive the Divine into our lives.
Grace and Peace,