Recently I read “The Robe”, (1942) written by Lloyd C. Douglas. I had heard about the book for years, but never took the opportunity to read it. Finally, the time came. Here’s a synopsis of the story: A Roman soldier, Marcellus, wins Christ's robe as a gambling prize. He then sets forth on a quest to find the truth about the Nazarene's robe - a quest that reaches to the very roots and heart of Christianity and is set against the vividly limned background of ancient Rome. Here is a timeless story of adventure, faith, and romance, a tale of spiritual longing and ultimate redemption.
In this novel, the story of Jesus begins with his last week on earth. Marcellus happens to be in Jerusalem when Jesus is tried and his contingent of soldiers is assigned the duty of putting Jesus to death. Marcellus struggles with his assignment and suffers for it afterwards.
What struck me in reading this book was how Marcellus (and his slave, Demetrius) grew in knowing who Jesus was. Those who followed Jesus told the story slowly and cautiously. They gaged how a person was receiving the message – was it safe to tell them more? Jesus’ followers were so convinced that Jesus was the Son of God, that they told the story with great caution. In spite of the cautious retelling of the story of Jesus – people came to believe and were faithful followers of Jesus.
Do I want others to know Jesus as thoroughly as I do? Or am I telling the story too quickly so that others respond with ‘Oh well, it’s just another story.’ The story of Jesus, as portrayed in “The Robe”, is one that quietly retells his actions and motives. It begs me to reread the gospels and see again who Jesus is – and why I follow him.
One doesn’t always have spiritual experiences reading a novel – this time I did. I had to stop reading at points to review how I am following Jesus. Was my allegiance to him stronger than the day I believed? I trust so.
Thinking about knowing Jesus and continuing to know him is not always at the front of my thought processes. I know Jesus … but am I willing to avail myself of more of what Jesus is? It’s not that Jesus waits to dispense more of himself to me – it’s that I must long for what Jesus is and discover what He has already made available to me. Like Marcellus and Demetrius – sitting at the feet of those who know Jesus intimately is always beneficial to those listening with open hearts. Suddenly the truth of Jesus becomes new again. And I love him in a new way. I invite you to seek to know Jesus again.
With Paul I want to say: “… I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. … that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8