The prayer shawl of holiness
Jewish law required the men to wear a prayer shawl for prayers and worship, and often times, men wore their prayer shawls daily. Jesus would have had such a shawl, called a tallit. It's like a square poncho, complete with fringe, tassels and blue trim. The tallit symbolized the religious faith, and men were to wear it to remember God's laws and commandments. It represented the intention to be spiritual, and to be holy. It also signified the intention to communicate with God.
The meaning and significance of the word "holy" is sometimes difficult to grasp. Holiness denotes sacredness, a setting apart from all else to be pure, the absence of sinful thoughts and evil deeds. The word may also evoke the emotions of fear, awe and respect: if we regard holiness is not of Earth, but of Heaven. Another aspect of holiness is wholeness, for the two words come from the same root word. Holiness helps to define the integrity of a person, because holiness involves all aspects of of a person's being. No part of us is meant to be lacking. When Jesus recounted the greatest commandment; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind"; (Luke 10:27 NIV) He involved all aspects of our humanity. In other words, we are to love God with our whole being, to the best of our abilities. This commandment of love calls for godliness, holiness and righteousness in every part of us, in the form of purity throughout, contributing to the concept of wholeness and integrity.
When Jesus came to earth, His spirit and soul were still fully holy and divine. Yet, at the same time, in His form as a man, He was wholly human. While Jesus possessed a divinely unique personality and character, and He was not lacking in any respect. The concept of a man also being God is mysterious; but God chose to show Himself in this unexpected way - personally. Jesus was holy as both man and God, whereas it is impossible for us to be holy on our own. There must be an involvement with God for our holiness to transpire. The sinful nature and temporary existence of man prevents holiness, but while it is impossible for man to be holy, it is possible to inherit the gift of holiness when receiving the Holy Spirit. (Luke 18:27)
Jesus was able to live a perfectly holy life as a human on earth; despite the Devil's attempts to mislead Him. Because He remained steadfast to God's plan throughout His life, death and resurrection, He defeated sin and the works of the Devil in a way that only God could, and thereby is able to reconcile us to Himself. As a result, if we accept and believe in what Jesus did, we can receive this piece of clothing called a prayer shawl offered through Christ. We can stand before God as pure and holy "new-borns", able to approach God in prayer with the status of "forgiven", and move forward to live a righteous new life by the cleansing of sin through the Holy Spirit. The church, or the body of Christ, is made a spotless and radiant bride for Christ.
While God's gift of righteousness and holiness as a prayer shawl is offered freely, a person must want what it represents in order to wear it; in much the same way that putting on a military uniform signifies acceptance of the military code of conduct. Even as God on earth, Jesus did not take the prayer shawl lightly. As this symbolic piece of clothing required, He studied the Scriptures and Jewish law carefully and memorized it. The Gospels tell how He knew and understood those Scriptures. Even as a child He amazed the scholars in the temple in Jerusalem with His insight. (Luke 2:46-47) He studied and cited Scripture to rebuke and deny the Devil's temptations in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-10) He spoke and taught the Scriptures. (Matthew 13:14-15) He rebuked the Pharisees with verses from Isaiah. (Matthew 15:7-9) It may be that the Scriptures were so deeply ingrained in His being that He quoted part of Psalm 22 even on the cross. (Mark 15:34)
During His ministry, Jesus constantly moved from location to location, teaching the crowds here and there, healing the sick and training His disciples. Nevertheless, He also needed to withdraw from all the activity to pray. Prayer formed an integral and effective part of Jesus' private life. Before starting the ministry, He stayed forty days in the wilderness, praying and also fasting. (Matthew 4:1-2) Often, after teaching, He would go off alone to pray. (Matthew 14:23) He prayed for His disciples and followers at the Last Supper. (John 17:20) He prayed earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane, and also told His disciples to pray. (Luke 22:39-41) God wants to hear from us as much as we need to honor His brilliance and beseech His support.
As a man, Jesus modeled the perfect, holy life. He studied the Law and the Scriptures, fasted and prayed, and obeyed God's will. Jesus really needed no material prayer shawl to represent His spiritual nature, but as a follower of Jewish customs, He would have worn one. Following His example, let every believer adorn himself with the well-fitting holiness that new life in Jesus brings, and pray in earnest for its fruition.