We have a small reproduction of Minerva Teichert’s Christ in a Red Robe hanging in our home. I have been thinking about this in preparation for Easter this year.
Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?
I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with me…1
This imagery of the red robed Savior was later used by John in his prophecies to describe the Messiah’s return. A red robed Christ returning to put things right calls to my mind the blood of lambs spread on door posts, mocking red robes cast over Jesus’s lacerated back, and the wine at the Last Supper. Rather than an object of Roman mockery, John’s prophesied red robes2 are a sign of triumph.
More than a decade ago I served a two year mission in Peru. At one time I lived in a small farming community on the outskirts of Ica where people worked wine presses during harvest season. It was a communal activity where a group would gather grapes into a large tub and crush them under their feet. For a few days the result would be grape juice (suitable for us Mormon missionaries to drink), and then it would ferment into a style of wine that is probably fairly similar to the wine of Jesus’ day.
Christ trod the wine press alone, this laborious task was not something he could do with anyone else. Although he was strengthened by an angel in Gethsemane he could not share the weight of our sin and suffering with anybody.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep…
I am the good shepherd,and know my sheep, and am known of mine…
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.3
Christ was the only person capable of taking upon himself our sins and rising from the dead. The lonely task grew only lonelier as it proceeded. The disciples could not keep from sleeping, he was then betrayed by one friend and abandoned by the rest. The comfort of loved ones was replaced by the torture and jeers of enemies until, finally, Christ felt the apparent retreat of his Heavenly Father while hanging on the cross. This is what it means to tread the wine press alone. I imagine the day we see our Savior clothed in red we will better understand what he did for us, the price he paid in blood and agony.
On the cross, he said, “It is finished”,4 but in reality he never stopped. His atoning experience gave Christ the ability to reach all of us in the depths of whatever experience we may be in, whether it is our own fault or not.
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.5
Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou was well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.6
This is what Easter means to me.