Yesterday we opened Genesis 2 and saw how shame entered the world. But the story didn’t end there. Before Adam and Eve are sent out from the Garden, we come across this tender comment:
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them (Gen. 3:21).
Their crude attempts to cover up with leaves were inadequate, so God lovingly restored their dignity by clothing them Himself.
Animals had to be killed before Adam and Eve could wear their skins. God, then, made the first sacrifice in the world—and He did it to give Adam and Eve a covering to remove their shame.
Later, God Himself would become the sacrifice.
The Sacrifice to End Our Shame
Where can anything be found more paradoxical than this? This death was the most shameful of all, the most accursed. . . . This was no ordinary death (John Chrysostom, Homily on Philippians, 8.2.5–11).
When God became a man, He embraced shame in the most dramatic possible way. Philippians 2:8 is pregnant with awe: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (emphasis added).
Within the purposeful plan of God, Jesus lived and died within a shame and honor society. The Jews of His day and the earliest Christian converts were keenly aware of the design of the cross—to humiliate.
It wasn’t like the crucifixes and paintings we see. The Passion was rated R and didn’t come close to depicting the violent degradation of Roman crucifixion. Jesus was disfigured into a pulp, past recognition. He was stripped. He was cursed by a venomous crowd of people He loved. Even the Father deserted His own Son before Jesus breathed His last (Matt. 27:46).
Shame was stripping away every earthly support that Jesus had: his friends gave way in shaming abandonment; his reputation gave way in shaming mockery; his decency gave way in shaming nakedness; his comfort gave way in shaming torture. His glorious dignity gave way to the utterly undignified, degrading reflexes of grunting and groaning and screeching (John Piper, “What Does It Mean for Jesus to Despise Shame).
And all of this had been prophesied long ago:
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:3–4, emphasis added).
The NLT puts it this way, “He was despised, and we did not care.” Read Isaiah 53’s full passage on the suffering servant, and listen for the echoes of shame. We’re told that He was:
- Full of grief
- Not esteemed
- Cursed by God
- Full of anguish
Jesus bore the shame of the cross so that you could know freedom and honor.
John 8:36 declares it with finality and power: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
And there’s more. You need to read 1 Peter 2—all of it. Here’s just one section, verses 9–10, to take your breath away:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Let your weary spirit marinate in those life-altering words. It sounds too good to be true, but every word is reality.
God could have stopped short at just taking away our guilt, and He still would have been unfathomably loving and kind. But He didn’t stop there.
He replaces our shame with honor. He swaps our bondage to sin with freedom. He’s loved us before time, and He’s chosen us. He’s set us aside for the greatest joy of all—the joy of knowing Him. And He says that we belong to Him. Him! We belong to God Himself now. Jesus’ shame on the cross made it possible for us to call Him Father. He calls us His children—and not only His children, but His beloved children. Could you even imagine higher honor and favor than this?
If you have never experienced God’s cleaning forgiveness, I would ask you to prayerfully consider the words of Jesus in Revelation 3:18. He was speaking to a church that thought they knew Him—a group of people who thought they were spiritually “rich” and “well-clothed.” If you’re reading this and longing to know the joy described above, Jesus offers you the same words of grace and hope: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”
Call out to Him in faith for His righteous covering, and He will never turn you away.
Psalm 34 is one of my favorite Psalms in the Bible, and I think these precious words are a fitting way to close this post:
I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed (vv. 4–5).