When was the last time you wondered where Jesus got his clothing for Easter morning? I can’t recall ever wondering about that until just recently. I was writing my essay, Slouching Towards Emmaus and Some Nonsense Along the Way, and I was recalling a long-forgotten discussion that took place in a Saigon restaurant in 1965.

As I thought about it, the question seemed like one a child might ask, ever so innocently. I did find a humorous anecdote on the web about a Sunday school class where a wonderfully naïve kid suggested that Amazon could have delivered new cloths to Jesus by Sunday if he ordered them on Friday.

. . . if Jesus’ body became mechanically transparent ( à la John Jackson), we must expect Jesus to once again become mechanically non-transparent lest he walk right out of his clothes.

Certainly, the great classical artists painting the post-Resurrection scenes must have considered the question. How to paint the Noli Me Tangere, the time when the resurrected Jesus encountered Mary Magdalen in the garden and the moment he said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father?”  Rembrandt has Jesus wearing a large broad-brimmed sun hat, perhaps as a disguise to explain why Mary didn’t recognize him.  Duccio di Buoninsegna has him in red and blue robes with gold threads. Others have him in purple, crimson, or brilliant white.

If the post-Resurrection stories are true at some level, and I believe they are, we must wonder, even if we only imagine Jesus draped in white cloth, where did he get such clothes to wear?

If Jesus dematerialized — as some shroudies contemplate and others actually believe — then when he rematerialized in the tomb or later outside the tomb amongst his followers, did he return to what we might describe as a visual and touchable reality, fully dressed or at least carrying something to put on?

On the other hand, if Jesus’ body became mechanically transparent ( à la Jackson: a variation on dematerialization) so that the Shroud passed through his body, we must expect Jesus to once again become mechanically non-transparent lest he walk right out of his Easter clothes.

For the uninitiated who might come across this blog posting, let me explain: In seeking to understand how the images were formed, some Shroud researchers have tried to imagine the Resurrection of Jesus as a physical process which emitted radiation that caused a change in the appearance of the fibers of the cloth, such that it created a picture. What is proposed here is, of course, pseudo-scientific. It must be so for one simple reason; it depends on a miracle to generate, stimulate or facilitate a “natural” reaction. There can be no way to know if a miracle does that unless scientists can duplicate a miracle in the lab.

The title of a 2014 paper written by John Jackson perhaps says it all: Is the image on the Shroud due to a process heretofore unknown to modern science?  That is a fair suggestion posing as a question. However, this quotation from the paper (Section 3.2, second paragraph) makes it seem bizarre:

The concept of a cloth falling into the underlying body region and receiving an image, in essence, requires that two separate assumptions be made. First, we must assume that the body becomes mechanically “transparent” to its physical surroundings and, second, that a stimulus is generated that records the passage of the cloth through the body region onto the cloth as an image.

We are in philosophical deep water. 1) Might a natural process depend on a miracle?  2) Might a miracle depend on the natural process?  Wow!!!

Other possibilities:

  1. We can suppose that the post-Resurrection appearances are non-physical apparitions, spiritual encounters or even hallucinations. Clothing is probably not considered.
  2. We can think,, they are metaphorical narratives meant to represent a spiritual experience that cannot be easily described, or mere fiction intended to persuade. Similarly, clothing is probably not considered.
  3. Or we can recognize that the Resurrection is what I call a full miracle,  an event that has no dependency on nature and of which nature knows nothing. This, I believe, is classical and theologically sound, though scholars such as Augustine of Hippo and C. S. Lewis, both semi-naturalists, might disagree. But assuming, I’m right, clothing, as with time, place, and circumstance is integrally part of the whole miracle — we might think of this as clothing from a heavenly wardrobe.

“Christ Appears to Mary Magdalene as a Gardener” (detail), ca. 1503–1504, England. Fol. 134v, Vaux Passional (Peniarth 482D), National Library of Wales.