Ps. 1; Ezek. 17:22-24; 2 Cor. 5:1-17; Mark 4:26-34
Naked, [W]e know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked (vv. 1-3).
Man’s nakedness in a sinful world is our problem from the Fall. When Adam and the woman sinned, they cast off their Divine covering. On believing Satan’s word, the man and woman were bereft of God’s righteousness; shamed by nakedness (Gen. 3:10).
To know good and evil apart from God, is knowledge of death inhering in us at God’s word. By abasing the “good” creation; death and the shame of glory’s loss drove Adam and the woman to hide from God in the Garden. St. Paul calls our bodies, destined for destruction, an “earthly tent” in which we groan over what was lost.
Christian and pagan art reflect man’s longing for restoration to spiritual innocence through male and female physicality. Michelangelo’s sculpture, “The David” captures this yearning and lost memory of what God intended for man’s form. “The David” locates man’s fleeting beauty frozen in marble, a single moment, envisioning intended by God for Adam in eternity.
Put aside Michelangelo’s vision of “perfectly” proportioned, virile, handsome David in his youth. Scripture confronts us with sin’s inheritance; the mocking shame of our nakedness destined for death’s bed cover.
David is on display in his last days (1 Kgs. 1:1-4); old and impotent, bearing the ravages of time, war, and the sin in which he was conceived (Ps. 51:5). David’s “earthly tent”, his body, was no longer vital or beautiful for seducing to adultery one such as Bathsheba. David’s “tent” was unraveling; he was weak, pallid, gamy, wizened, and suffering cold of poor circulation.
Israel’s elders searched-out a fleshly covering to comfort their dying king; and found Abishag; reputed the most beautiful young woman in Israel. She was recruited to lie with aged David and infuse him with her warmth; and perhaps the by-gone memory of Adam’s beautiful young woman, Eve, “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).
Abishag’s warming cover could not forestall David’s death and the shame of his grave’s dust cover. Neither did God spare Jesus, David’s greater son (Ps. 110:1), the naked shame of death’s destruction on account of sin.
The cross draws our eyes to another of Michelangelo’s visions, “The Pieta”; the Woman holding and beholding her dead son, fulfilling God’s prophecy, “I will surely multiply your distresses and your moanings. In distresses you will bear children (Gen. 3:16).
But in heaven, old creation memorials pass away, as do all human art and imagination, that cannot compare to God’s “house not made with hands” (2 Cor. 5:1b; cf. 2 Sam. 7:11b-13), the resurrected flesh of Jesus, God’s Temple prepared for our eternal dwelling.
Our dwelling in the new creation coming into being, is a righteous covering in the flesh of the woman’s Seed, who on the cross crushed the serpent’s head to be bruised for our iniquity (Gen. 3:15).
Satan lays claim on the world to be his house. Against this boast, Jesus declared himself, “the Stronger-man” come to invade and plunder Satan’s stronghold. Apart from release and entrance into Jesus’ house, escape from satanic bondage is impossible (Mk. 3:27; cf. 5:1 ff.).
From the Lord’s house, we proclaim the good news of Jesus naked and crucified; that in the Resurrection we are baptized into Jesus’ victory by Satan’s binding, releasing us to worship our true Prince.
Yet looking about, it doesn’t always seem so; sin, death and grave appear dominate. Today’s parables, “The Growing Seed” and “The Mustard Seed” explain. The church has only one job; again envisioned by Michelangelo’s “The Pieta”; the Woman, bearing Jesus crucified, Word of God, seeming insignificant Seed for sowing into the world.
Even as the church sleeps, suffers, and is concerned for the gospel, her Seed germinates, unseen in good soil; moving her Word to dominical growth by stages over satanic falsity. The Word planted in good soil produces automatically; first the shoot, next the ear, and finally the full grain in the ear; and we know not how (Mk. 4:27, 28).
If in this “time of the church”, we are unable to plumb the Word’s growth; nevertheless, we discern God’s power in bringing his new creation to fruition on the Last Day, when “the full grain in the ear” is revealed at the Judgment of Christ. In short, the reign of God comes of itself.
It may seem Satan continues, by sin, to hold human chattel; but Jesus, the Stronger-man, does not battle on worldly terms. God’s dominion is exerted by Jesus’ elevation on the cross, in utter naked shame and weakness to be our Divine righteous covering.
By death Jesus fulfilled the law’s demands in our place; Satan, hellish prosecutor, is defeated and bound to destruction for his blasphemous false charges that withhold God’s gospel word (cp. Mk. 3:29, 30). Sin, death, and grave are destroyed in Baptism’s water and Word. By Baptism we enter Jesus’ death, our righteous covering before God.
Following David’s death, the “Shulammite”, another name for Abishag (Song of Songs), betrothed Solomon, David’s son. The church is Jesus’ “Shulammite” clothed in the bridal dress of his righteousness, against whom the gates of hell will not prevail (Mt. 16:18).
The reign of God, by a planted mustard Seed (cf. Jn. 12:24) is revealed the power of God and the church’s expansive outreach to cover the sin of the world. Amen.