'I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.' (Revelation 1:12-13)
I’d never really thought about what the glorified Jesus was wearing in the book of Revelation. He has two simple items of clothing on – a robe and a golden sash. The golden sash, in particular, is intriguing and worth thinking about in a little more depth. The word ζώνην (zoneen) is sometimes translated as 'belt', but verse 13 clearly indicates that it was worn across the body. The sash has a priestly significance in the Old Testament but more interestingly was worn by those with authority in the king’s court - in a rather obscure passage in Isaiah 22 we read about a man called Eliakim son of Hilkiah who Isaiah prophesies will replace a man called Shebna as king Hezekiah's representative;
“In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. (Isaiah 22:20-22).
The inference of the passage is that the sash was a sign of kingly authority and the reference to Eliakim’s shoulder seems to reinforce the idea that it was worn on the shoulder, across the body, joining at the hip. Perhaps one of the most well known passages in the Old Testament carries the same image;
‘For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ (Isaiah 9:6)
It is curious why the translators have chosen to translate שִׁכְמ֑וֹ as ‘his shoulders’, when more properly it translates ‘his shoulder’. Here the suggestion is not so much that Jesus, the child to which the passage is referring, will have to carry the weight of something on his shoulders, but that he carries the mark of kingdom authority across his shoulder – the golden sash!
If we are to serve as ministers of the new covenant, we too must be ‘dressed for service’ (Luke 12:35) and just like Jesus wear the sash of authority. Whilst we struggle to feel worthy or able, the truth is we must get comfortable with the idea that, in Christ, kingdom authority has been delegated to us. This is the authority with which Jesus sent out the twelve in Matthew 10, and the seventy-two in Luke 10 – it is also the same authority with which he commissions his disciples with the words ‘Go into all the world’ (Matthew 28) – that commission, in Christ, is ours.