Do you remember the fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes?” It was published in April of 1837 by Hans Christian Andersen. It described an emperor who cared for nothing but his own appearance. He hired two tailors who promised him the finest suit of clothes, which would be made from a stupendous fabric—invisible to anyone who was unfit for his position in society, or “just hopelessly stupid.”
It turns out that the emperor himself could not see the fabric, but he pretended he did out of pride. When the clothes we’re finished, the tailors “acted” like they were dressing the emperor, but in reality, he just stood there in his underwear. A gallant procession was held, and he and his government officials all acted like they could see the new clothes; none of them let on that they couldn’t, for fear that they all would appear unfit for their positions or just plain stupid! As the parade marched on, finally a young boy shouted out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”
Truth be known, the story was not just a children’s fairy tale. While still at the printers, it is said that Andersen changed the original ending, which just involved the parade, by adding the part about the child blowing the whistle. Most literary scholars agree that his reason was to satirize the hypocrisy of the society and show that even a child could see through the lies. In fact, it is said that a similar thing took place when he was but a child. While standing in a crowd with his mother, waiting to see King Frederick VI, he shouted, upon seeing him, “Oh, he’s nothing more than a human being!” His mother tried to stifle him by crying, “Have you gone mad, child?” But it was too late; the truth had already been blurted out—this world is full of hypocrisy and snobbery; full of claims to be something that it is not! Our society claims to be just fine, and anybody who says differently is considered a crackpot. The fact is, this society, as it spirals out of control, is proving it has no answers—absolutely clueless. Headlines declare the chaos—murderous Somali pirates have massacred four Americans as they traveled the world by boat and delivered Bibles. Civil unrest is erupting in country after country against their ruthless dictators. Gasoline prices skyrocket as the fighting in Libya continues days without end. Gigantic earthquakes and tsunamis have led to nuclear nightmares. Quick fixes and band-aid approaches are all the world can muster; only God as the real answers that last!
The Bible predicted such lawlessness, self-focus, and cataclysmic events in the last of times. People all over this world—and even in the Church—are insisting that they clothe themselves with their own desires and ways of thinking. Praise God— throughout the Scriptures, we find the call to be clothed with God—His way! For example, what was Adam and Eve’s answer to their clothing dilemma? Genesis 3:7 tells us, that due to their sin, “…the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Fig leaves would only be a quick fix—they would not last. But God had a different solution—”Unto Adam also and unto his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (vs. 21) Out of love and mercy, God killed some of His own creation and made clothes that would last—an awesome picture of His plan for salvation through the Cross and the blood of Jesus.
All of the way through the Scriptures, clothes and coverings point to the ultimate covering of the Holy Spirit. When the priesthood was established, it was absolutely essential, and repeated often, that these special men of God were to wear, “fine twined linen,” (Exodus 28: 5,6,8, etc.) It is also explicitly mentioned that there was to be no wool used, as wool would be too warm and cause the men to sweat. And that sweat would be evidence of self-effort and work done in the flesh—not in the Spirit. When young David desired to fight the Philistine giant Goliath, King Saul wanted him to be clothed in the king’s own battle armor. 1 Samuel 17:39 tells us, “…And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.” In other words, they wouldn’t work—they would show a dependence upon the machinery of war, and not on the Spirit of God. Moments later, David said to the giant, “…Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.” (vs. 45) A child, clothed in the Holy Spirit, would tell it like it is!
One of the most powerful examples of this is found in the story of Elijah and Elisha. As Elijah was about to be carried away in a fiery chariot, he asked his companion, Elisha, what would be his greatest desire? Elisha said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” (2 Kings 2:9b) As the chariot took Elijah away into the heavens, his mantle—or cloak—fell upon Elisha, and he was indeed wrapped in a double portion. Sir Robert Grant, in his hymn, “O Worship the King,” writes, “Established it fast, by a changeless decree. And ’round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.” We are told the Spirit came mightily upon Samson, Saul, and David, with only the latter taking it seriously, and the other two casting the mantle aside to their destruction. Jesus Himself is actually the epitome of taking this clothing seriously.
At His birth, the shepherds were told, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12) A naked, newborn baby, protected from the elements with strips of cloth, swathing His body and keeping Him warm and safe. Yes, it would start with a baby—a young child would tell it like it is! Later in His ministry, He was transfigured before three of His disciples—”…His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2b) Moments later, God would declare His opinion—”This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” (vs. 5b) But that was God’s opinion; man had another idea. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders formed the intent of murder—kill Jesus before His truth exposed their lies. With intense abuse and torture, “They stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe,” (Mt. 27:28) but ending the mockery by giving Him His old clothes.
Once at Calvary, “…they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.” (vs. 35; Psalm 22:18) There he hung—totally nude; the Romans did not even allow for the “dignity” of a loin cloth to “swaddle” His body. After Jesus’ cataclysmic death—in that very moment—no one at the foot of the Cross would see things as they really were, except a few soldiers. Yes, “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” (vs. 54) Just before dusk, “…when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre…” (vss. 57-60)
Clean linen cloth! Yes, an obvious reference to the priesthood I mentioned earlier—no sweat! Being the great High Priest in the Book of Hebrews, Jesus would do absolutely nothing out of self-effort or pride. It doesn’t matter how man sees it, fooling himself with his own ideas about what is really important in life. What really matters is how God sees it all—His creation, His call, His majesty, His Son—”Hear ye Him!” In the end, it will all go His way! And that it did, and that it will—three days after the Cross, the angel of the Lord rolled back the hindrance to seeing things as they really are—the stone—and revealed that Jesus had been gloriously raised from the dead. To prove it, the angel’s, “…countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow.” (28:3) Now all the world could see the truth of it—no more could anyone live in a fairy tale world, doing their best to keep God out of it—not honestly, that is! Many try, but it won’t cut it in the end—it is just plain stupid! Lawlessness and self-focus will be vanquished in the end, and all who hold to such are unfit. How will He be seen then?—”…clothed with a garment down to the foot…His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they were burned in a furnace…and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” (Revelation 1:13-16) Listen, my friends, it’s not a fairy tale—the Emperor really does have new clothes, and He wants to share them with you!