In Mark 5 Jesus faces a demoniac infested with a legion of demons. The man was completely out of his mind and was devoid of all ability to think logically. One of the ways we know this is his lack of clothing. Illogical wardrobe choices typically indicate darkness in the mind and heart.
Luke tells us the demoniac was “from the city,” which implies he had something of a normal life before Legion possessed him. This normal life certainly involved wearing clothes.
But while under demonic influence, we read, “for a long time he had worn no clothes” (Luke 8:27). Part of his insanity involved a continual streaking through the hills. We know his nudity was part of his insanity because just after Jesus cast out the demons, one of the first things the man did was get dressed. His mind returned to him, and he quickly noticed his embarrassing lack of attire.
Fig Leaves and Dead Animals
After Adam and Eve fell into sin, wearing clothing became a part of life in a fallen world. Indeed, the Lord himself clothed them, mercifully, as they exited the Garden of Eden: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).
When they were naked in the garden before the fall, their lack of clothing represented their condition of moral neutrality. In other words, they were in a position where they could choose to obey God or not to obey God. After they chose to disobey, they immediately sought to clothe themselves to cover their shame. The first wardrobe consisted solely of fig leaves. Once God had confronted and cursed them for their choice, he clothed them with the animal skins.
Both fig leaves and animal skins are dead. In fact, most all the clothes people have worn since then come from dead things, whether plants or animals. People wear that which represents what we are. We wear death because we are dead in our sins and trespasses. The refusal to dress is, therefore, a refusal to acknowledge our sin and depravity before the Lord. Those who throw aside their clothing and present their nakedness to the world are, in a sense, denying that they have fallen into sin.
One confirmation of this theology of clothing comes when we study the future state of God’s saints. The apostle John observed the clothing of glorified saints in this vision:
Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.
These glorious white robes worn by God’s people are symbolic of being clothed in the living righteousness of Christ. They represent the moral condition of glorified saints as people who no longer sin against God.
But as for now, in this age of wearing our death, when a person refuses to wear clothing in public (or stares lustfully at those who do), it is an outright refusal to acknowledge the fall of humanity into sin. It is a way of saying, “I am my own moral authority.”
Awkward Trip to Grandpa’s Grave
The demoniac was either near naked or completely naked and worried none about offending the sensibilities of the people around him. Imagine attempting to visit the tomb of your deceased grandfather in order to pay your respects, when suddenly this naked, screaming lunatic approaches you. Matthew indicates that he and his fellow demoniac were “so fierce that no one could pass that way” (8:29). That would be a very disturbing visit to grandpa’s grave!
The demons infesting this man warped his ability to think logically. Darkness so frequently does this to the minds and hearts that succumb to its magnetic influence. It leads a person eventually to the graveyard, among the tombs crying out.
Jesus Stripped in Our Place
But the demoniac wasn’t the only naked man we read about in the New Testament:
Matthew 27:29-31 And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
The Romans usually stripped the condemned naked before crucifixion. The soldiers made the entire process as humiliating as possible, not even granting the condemned the dignity of a loincloth (paintings and movies of the crucifixion likely get this wrong every time, but its good they do).
Why is this significant? Because Christ was “made him to be sin” though he “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was stripped naked so that the demoniac could be clothed with righteousness. Jesus was utterly humiliated so that the demoniac might be granted sanity, dignity, and a white robe. Jesus willingly took upon himself the full punishment sin deserves (even becoming sin), so that the demon-possessed sinner might be clothed and free. He did the same for you and me.
Note: This post is adapted from the forthcoming book, Drowning Swine.