"40And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also." (Matthew 5: 40)
When we read these passages from the Sermon on the Mount, understanding that Jesus was presenting the pathway to earn righteousness as an impossible one (Matthew 19: 26).
If someone takes away our coat, why would we want to give them our cloak, too?
How many frivolous lawsuits do we find prevalent in our society today? Most of these legal actions are bitter attempts to stifle competition or punish other people for personal reasons.
What is Jesus talking about, and what point was He trying to bring across to His disciples?
Man needs more than the coat he wears for the weather. He needs the robe of righteousness, which the prophets foretold:
"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." (Isaiah 61: 10)
"3Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. 4And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. 5And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by." (Zechariah 3: 3-5)
We cannot earn this righteousness, but can and must receive it as a gift, and a gift which we receive over and over:
"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5: 17)
When it comes to the law, that is the Ten Commandments, none of us measure up in any way. The Psalms already declares this reality:
". The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." (Psalm 14: 1)"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good." (Psalm 53: 1)
And even this stern reality:
"And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." (Psalm 143: 2)
Paul later writes:
"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." (Romans 3: 19)
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3: 23)
Even more shocking for some people, the law was never designed to make men holy, but rather to bring out their sin:
"Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:" (Romans 5: 20)
Now, while Jesus was outlining the standards for discipleship, He would later do for us what we cannot for ourselves
Consider what happened to Jesus on the night of His trial and then crucifixion:
"27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. 28And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. 29And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. 31And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him." (Matthew 27: 27-31)
Jesus was not just stripped in front of an entire praetorium of soldiers, mind you, but they spat upon Him, too. Not just one or two soldiers, mind you, but at least one hundred!
Even when the Romans gave Jesus back His original clothes, they ultimately took them back and gambled for the, right under His feet as He hung on the Cross:
"And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take." (Mark 15: 24)
"35And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." (Matthew 27: 35)
Can you imagine not only being put to death, but the cruelty of your tormentors are gambling for your clothes, right in front of you?
Jesus endured all of this shame for you and me.
Not only were those clothes taken, but Jesus also gave up another robe, one which we now receive through His death and resurrection:
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5: 21)
Because of His death, we receive His life and standing, at the right hand of God the Father:
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: " (Ephesians 2: 4-8)
He gave up His coat and His royal cloak of righteousness for you and me.
Do not read the Sermon on the Mount with the idea that you can put His precepts into practice. Magnifying the law to its pristine, impossible standard, He brings all of us to the end of ourselves, that in our lives He can do all things:
"And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible." (Mark 10: 27)
Paul expounded on this wonderful exchange:
"31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8: 31-32)
Give up your self-righteousness, and let Jesus clothe you in full!