John had known him long years ago, before ever His name became a household word. He had often seen Him in His peasant, homespun, seamless robe. He had seen Him at work in the carpenter's shop, every saw cut, joint, and decoration a masterpiece. He had caught a glimpse of the glory that was His on the Holy mount. But there had never been anything like this, the vision glorious on the Patmos Isle. He fell at His feet as dead. He tries to tell us what he saw, tries to translate into human speech the marvels and mysteries of heaven. The best he can do is to fall back on symbols. There were ten separate details that were impressed upon his soul.
First, John saw the Lord as the unknowable One. So much about Him was concealed. "He was clothed," John says, "with a garment down to the foot."
John remembered the robe that Jesus wore the day that He was crucified. That robe had been flung over His shoulders and back, wet with His blood from the thongs of the scourge. The soldiers rolled their dice to see who would have it as his prize.
Out attention is drawn to the garment, the seamless robe Jesus wore when He was crucified. There were five articles of dress—the headpiece, the sandals, the outer covering, the girdle, and the seamless robe, which was of more value than all the rest. There were four soldiers assigned to each cross. They had stood stolidly by as Christ was scourged. They had laughed with derision as Christ was mocked, in an imitation robe and wearing a crown of thorns.
But now the horseplay was over. The mocking purple was snatched away and His own clothes tossed to Him. He put on the robe. Blood from the scourging stained it. Perhaps John could remember the first time Jesus put it on, a present from His mother, perhaps, or an aunt, or a friend. John would certainly remember this last time He put it on, over His tortured body, in Pilate's judgment hall.
Our attention is drawn to the gamblers. The four soldiers assigned to Christ's cross made short work of the shoes, the girdle, the headgear, and the outer covering. But what about the robe? It was too valuable to be torn into pieces and divided up. So they found their dice and gambled for it. So careless, so callous is this world toward the Son of God.
But then after all, there was the goal. For this very act of gambling was of God. It is the subject of prophecy (Ps. 22:18) and of history (Matt. 27:35). Doubtless the winning soldier cleansed the robe, and stuffed it into his bag. Then he marched off with it into oblivion. And it is a good thing he did, or an apostate church in a later age would have made a relic of it, put it in a shrine, and fabricated legends of its imagined healing power. It would be venerated and worshiped, thus displacing God's Son.
Some 730 years before, Isaiah described another robe, one not worn, as yet, on earth. He tells us that the Messiah will come striding up from Edom, His garment red with blood from treading out the vintage where the grapes of wrath were stored (Isa. 63:1-3).
But John saw beyond all this. In the first of ten awesome sights, he saw the Savior once again arrayed in a robe. All he saw was His head, His hands, and His feet. The robe concealed the rest. That all-concealing robe reminds us of how little we know of Him.
What did He do between His birth and His baptism? We do not know. What did He do day by day, hour by hour, in the years of His ministry? We do not know. The Gospels themselves are mere fragments, hardly more than memos. John's, for instance, devotes half of its length to the events of one week. Only thirty-six miracles are recorded in the Gospels. He performed thousands.
The seamless robe He wore here spoke symbolically of humanity. There is something very human about a man wearing a robe. The robe John saw concealed most of the all-mysterious person of the now ascended Son of the living God. There is so much more about Him yet to be revealed. The book of Revelation is the "Apocalypse," the "unveiling" of Jesus Christ. But when we reach the end of it and John puts down his pen, we still feel that there remains much more to be said. Our few short years of time enable us to merely touch the hem of that garment down to the foot. It will take us all eternity to know Him as we ought.