“Robe, signet ring, sandals”
Today’s text comes from the lectionary reading, and it is about the prodigal son. I have already preached from this text some time last year. I am a firm believer of God speaking to us through the given text, so I was not sure whether I should preach from the same text I once preached. But soon God gave me the prompting to preach from this text and helped me to read this text from the perspective of Christ’s suffering, –how his sacrifice restored us to the fullest once again of our status as children of God. In this Lenten season, I pray that we all come to understand God’s love toward us through His Son, Jesus the Christ.
Before we go any further, let us focus on the pitiful state of humans after we humans estranged away from God. As we all know, this younger son of the father left his father’s home and went away to a foreign country, –the country where there was no food, the country of severe famine. If we leave God’s bosom, living on our own, we would live in starvation not having the real food but having only those things that pigs eat. Not only he ate with pigs, being a companion with pigs, but also he ate the pig’s pods. What does that mean? Pigs are an unclean animal in the Bible, demon’s abode/residence. Remember? The legion of demons went into a herd of pigs in Matthew 8:30-37. If we leave God, we are in the company of demons, eating with demons, hang out with demons and eating of demons. Humans do not eat pig’s food; it is dirty. But in demon’s world, there is no difference between clean and unclean, sacred and profane, sanctity and depravity. Humans and animals are not differentiated in their dignity. We, humans, talk about human dignity because humans are created in the image of God, but we do not talk about pig’s dignity or dog’s dignity. In the demonic world, humans and animals are at the same level. There is no honoring the sanctity of marriage or the sacredness of God when we leave God’s bosom. Recently I saw a video clip which was showing a man marrying a dog, –a man in the tuxedo and a dog in a bridal dress. Engaging in group sex, husband and wife together joining clubs of swapping sex partners, while doing drugs and/or drinking alcohols at parties, having sex with just anyone one meets there. These are the things practiced everywhere around us among those who hang out with demons. It does not matter whether it is a girl or a boy or an animal, as long as one can satisfy their depraved and perverted sense of pleasure, one tries anything or anybody. That is what is going on in the demonic world!
In that far away country from God, the younger had lost everything: his dignity as a free man, the authority coming with his sonship, and his social status or recognition in the society. He was plunged to the level of an animal, being naked in shame and indignity, and had no status in the human world; he was a pig keeper, a company of pigs.
This prodigal son came to his senses, had the longing for God, missed everything what he once had and was; he was a son of the father who had every good thing he can ever desire. He decided to come back home. But do you know that this father whose younger son left him never let him go? His house door had been always open for the younger son to come back to him. Even from the far distance, he was able to spot him because his heart was always after his younger son, looking and looking to see whether his son is coming back. When the father finally spotted him, he ran to him, greeted him with a kiss and ordered the celebration. The father ordered the servants to bring the best robe and clothed him with it on his naked body.
Why do I say that this younger son’s body was naked? The Scripture often describes our behavior as the clothes we wear. Peter urges us to be “clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5). In other words, garments can symbolize the behaviors that produce the character in us. Apart from God, humans are steeped in sin engaging in depraved and sinful behaviors which are resulted in shame and indignity. In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve sinned, they realized that they were naked and felt shameful because their robes were removed, the robe of righteousness, –being right with God. This prodigal son, who wandered around far away from his father’s home, had lost his robe while being steeped in sin. His body was naked in shame and indignity. On his naked body, the father clothed him with the best robe he had in his house. It is the robe of Jesus, the best robe in the kingdom of God is given to us, the sinners. The robe of Jesus is “seamless” and “woven from the top” to bottom.
In John 19: 23-24, “They divided His clothes among the four of them. They also took His robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said, ‘Let’s not tear it but throw dice to see who gets it’.” The robe of Jesus is “Seamless and woven from the top” What does it mean?
“Like his garment, Jesus’ character was seamless, coordinated, and whole. He was like His robe: unbroken perfection.”
“Woven… from the top.” Jesus wasn’t led by His own mind; He was led by the mind of His Father. “The Son can do nothing on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” John 5:19. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge.” — John 5:30
The character of Jesus was a seamless fabric woven from Heaven to earth… from God’s thoughts in heaven to Jesus’ thoughts on earth. From God’s actions in heaven to Jesus’ actions on earth. From God’s word to Jesus’ word. All one piece. The character of God is love. “God is love!” That is the one sentence we can describe God. God clothed us with his love. We are no longer naked in shame and indignity, but we are clothed with God’s love, declared as righteous before God, with honor and dignity. Because Christ took off his robe of seamless perfection and became naked on the cross in our place. In shame and indignity, In his nakedness, Jesus was nailed his both hands for what we have done with our hands in sin. His feet were nailed on the cross for our wandering off with our feet in demonic places. He was nailed in shame and indignity being naked for our failures and sins so that we can be clothed in the best robe God provides for us.
The question is whether we keep the best robe as such on ourselves, whether we are of the character of love as God is. We are to love as we are clothed with the love of God. We are to practice the love of God in our daily living. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Secondly, the father put his signet ring on the younger son’s finger. Ancient kings used signet rings to designate authority, honor, or ownership. Official documents were sealed with the signet ring of the king to prove it was his word. As such it represented authority. Anyone that the King would give that ring to, had his authority. Whatever they said or did, it was as if the King himself had declared it. Therefore, by putting a ring on his finger, the father was declaring that the prodigal son was his son representing his authority.
Jesus gave his signet ring to his disciples. Jesus gave His name as their authority in carrying out the great commission. His name is the signet ring for us to use.
You and I have been given that authority as followers of Christ. The question is whether we are using our signet ring, executing our authority on earth. If the enemy has come against us, do we invoke the authority of the name of Jesus? God has given us authority over demonic powers, sicknesses, and diseases. But do we exercise our authority over Satan’s power? If we need something to accomplish within His will, use our God-given authority through Jesus. If we are children of the King of Kings, then, we have to act like one. We shouldn’t live our lives with a “defeated mindset”. We should have a victorious, overcoming attitude because that’s what we have been given.
Thirdly, the father gave sandals for his feet for the younger son. In ancient time, slaves wore no sandals. Shoes were indicators of their social standing, whether they are high born or not one can tell by the kind of shoes they wore. Without shoes means “defame” and “dishonor”. In the context that everyday event was to be seen as worshipping the glory of God, including putting on sandals, Jewish people were never to go out wearing shabby or worn out shoes. Walking barefoot symbolically mean one of three states: the lack of social status, an act of humility in repentance, or being in the Divine presence. A common punishment or judgment was being forced to go without shoes. In this light, giving sandals to the younger son means that the younger son regained his social status being saved from punishment or judgment inflicted on him. Wearing sandals on his feet, he was prepared to walk in the ways of holiness among godly people holding his head towards God, and ready to spread the gospel. “… with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:15). Jesus’ feet were nailed barefooted in our place on the cross. Because of his suffering, we regained our shoes. The question is whether we walk in the holiness of God, whether we spread the gospel. Let us meditate on Christ’s suffering in light of restoring our broken relationship with God!