1998-06-04 - They Cast Lots
The Cross Series, Part 42
John 19:23-24 The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. 24 They said therefore to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots."
This is one of the most quoted verses in the entire Bible. The irony of the single thought of Jesus naked and dying for the sins of the world, suffering in incredible agony under the spiritual and physical trial, while representatives of humanity gamble for His one worldly possession brings home two things deeply. The irony is tragic and is so poignant it can almost be touched.
The first facet of the scene is the horrible indignity the Creator of the Universe suffered at the hands of humanity. It was common for the soldiers to split the goods a prisoner would bring to the cross. This was nothing unique in that regard. But it is the complete lack of feeling for a condemned man that amazes me. Some of the prisoners had probably not been guilty of the crimes they had been convicted of that sentenced them here to die. Some would be debatable as Freedom Fighters against Rome. Still others were as guilty as the two men who were crucified with Jesus. Others were beaten and scourged. But we have already seen that the Master was beaten beyond recognition by the soldiers and the crowd along the way. The army of the enemy doubtless stirred the rage of the crowd against Jesus. The Lord held His matchless power at bay, the Armies of Heaven were never called to defend the second person of the Trinity.
The second facet holds the irony. As Jesus allowed the nails to hold his mortally-wounded body to the tree, He was taking on our sin. He was becoming guilt for us. The sinless blood of the Lamb of God was being poured out to cleanse the ones who had wounded Him. The only way that mankind, you and me, could be redeemed from the path of disobedience Adam and Eve had chosen was to stand in our place and take the punishment we rightfully deserved. The price had to be paid. Our guilt was exonerated as we beat Him. Our sins were taken on by the Lord as we nailed Him to the cross. While we held no thought or care at all for His pain, He had our redemption in mind. Who were the real prisoners, and who was it that was in grave need?
For the guards who cast lots for Jesus' seamless garment, it was just part of the day. The man beside them was a condemned criminal, already as good as dead. The dividing of the man's possessions was another trivial part of another trivial day. The events of the next few hours would undoubtedly change their minds as the sky goes dark at noon. But they could not know that they had already become a check mark on the list. Their actions had been foretold more than a millennia ago.
Ps 22:16-18 For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; 18 They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
Both Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 are amazing pictures of the crucifixion of Jesus. Both were written before the Phoenicians had developed crucifixion or Rome was much more than a city-state in the hills of what would be Italy if even that. This means that in the moment when the events of the moment had gone beyond all reach, God was still in control. Jesus came to this world to pay for our sins knowing the horrible, wrenching cost He would have to pay to redeem us. That only shows us one more thing. Since the cost was known, Jesus considered us to be worth that dreadful price and He came.
Is this the Jesus Who you have been searching for? If you're afraid that you've done too much, that God would never forgive you, He has this promise:
John 6:37-40 "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
He will not turn His back on you. You have His word on it. The price has been paid. You may not understand it all right now. All you have to know is that Jesus loved you enough to come and do these things to reach you. Ask Him to forgive you and to be your Savior. Please write to any of us if you have any questions at all. You can reach all of us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Freedom beyond your greatest hope is a prayer away.
Lord Jesus, give the ones who are struggling with this decision the courage to step out and trust You. Move aside the arguments and fears that they may have. Let them see the hope that we have in You. Help us, Your children, to show the world Your reality in the changes in our lives, how we handle struggles and the simple joy we know. Make us harbor lights to bring them in from the storm. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.