A Soldier  Matthew 27:35-36; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34-37; John 19:23-25

Tonight’s guest is a little bit of a mystery. He is one of the soldiers who were there at the cross and crucified Jesus.  These soldiers, including this soldier, rolled dice while Jesus was dying.

The soldiers who did the actual crucifying got to split up the garments of the unfortunate victim. You might call it a little added bonus for serving on an otherwise gruesome detail. In the best of times, crucifixion was a messy, bloody, unpleasant business. No one would complain about the soldiers rolling dice for the clothes of a murderer or a thief or a terrorist.  But Jesus was different.

As the long series of trials had shown, Jesus had not committed a crime. He didn’t deserve to die, and certainly not by crucifixion. Yet here he was, the rabbi from Nazareth, the miracle-working teacher of God’s truth, the one they called the “King of the Jews,” who was in fact the Son of God.

As he hung on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, beaten, bruised and bloody, every breath an agony, the soldiers cast lots for his clothes. After the soldiers divided the main part of his clothing, they decided to cast lots for his tunic. The fact that it was seamless, woven from top to bottom in one piece, means that it was a valuable piece of clothing. Such a garment would be ruined by dividing it, which is why the soldiers cast lots.

This act also fulfilled Psalm 22:18, “They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing.” Did the Roman soldiers know they were fulfilling Scripture? Of course not. They were merely doing what soldiers do sometimes: rolling dice to decide the winner. But even in that tiny detail we see the Holy Spirit at work. Although man’s cruelty was in full bloom that day at Calvary, nothing happened apart from God’s plan. When the Father determined that his Son should die, he even arranged the rolling of the dice for Jesus’ tunic.

Though hated by the rulers, he is loved by his Father who oversees every detail of his Son’s death. Stripped of all his earthly possessions, he is not stripped of his Father’s care.  What seems to be the cluttered rush of events turns out to be the plan of God unfolding to bring salvation to the world. Even the soldiers gambling for Christ’s tunic fit into the divine plan.  He was stripped of everything that we might be clothed in his righteousness. Let’s here from this soldier. . .

Come on dice! Baby needs a new pair of shoes! By heavens, the tunic's mine! Sorry boys, better luck next execution.

Look at this tunic. Not a seam. Woven from top to bottom. This is the best thing I've ever won at one of these executions.  It belongs... excuse me, belonged, to that man on the central cross. Jesus of Nazareth is His name. He's a king. Says so right on the board, 'Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.' "Oh, don't worry about my gambling buddies. We all took some of Jesus' clothing.

None of us will go home empty-handed.  Rufus took His sandals; Alexander took His cloak; Antonio took His head scarf. (You know, I'm a little concerned about Antonio! After he nailed this Jesus to the cross, he's been acting a bit different...looking at this, Jesus in a rather inquisitive manner. Maybe it's the weather. The sky has been pitch black for some time and still no rain. Rather eerie. Come to think of it, Antonio hasn't been much fun at our parties lately. Oh well, we'll throw him a party Sunday and cheer the old man up.)  Oh, I was telling you about the clothing! I took the girdle.  But this tunic was too good to rip into four parts. Sure, glad we gambled for it; even happier that I won it!

Just think, I'll be wearing the robe of a king! I'll wash it out... remove some of the blood stains, and then I'll be the king.

Some king he was! Well, life is just a gamble. Some win and some lose.

Take me for instance--I've been a winner all my life. Born and raised in the slums of Rome. What a pigpen! Most of my former buddies are in prison. Not me! I'm too lucky. I played my cards right. I joined the legions of Caesar and got out of that hellhole. Now I'll be wearing a king's robe! The boy from the slums wearing the robe of a king. Now that's the luck of a winner.  Can’t say the same about this Jesus. He’s a loser.  Tried to be a king. You know, He almost made it. What a following He had up to a week ago. The Man was a great speaker. I listened to him a few times myself. I found myself enthralled by His words of love and forgiveness.

That's foreign talk to me. From the day I was conceived, it's been dog-eat-dog. Love is something I pay for; forgiveness is something I've never experienced. Look at Caesar. He's tough, not forgiving and he rules the world.

Maybe that's His downfall?! He should have been tough. Jesus could have been tough. Why, I saw Him do a few things that were absolutely amazing.

Now don't laugh at me when I tell you this. I know I’ve been drinking; I have to drink to be able to take these executions!  Don't laugh at me, but once when I was listening to Him with thousands of other people, He told His disciples to feed us all. All of us listening suddenly realized that it was past dinner.  The disciples were perplexed. They didn't have enough food or money to buy food for all of us.  One of the disciples brought a little boy forward. The little one had several loaves of bread and a few fish. Now don't laugh when I tell you this, but Jesus said some prayer, and then fed all of us from those little fish and loaves of bread. I don't know how He did it.  All I know is that I saw Him do it!

If He has some kind of supernatural power, He should use it now! He should use it to escape this death!

He's a loser. Yet, He didn't look like it five days ago. We were called out on alert last Sunday. Looked like a riot might develop. Jesus was riding into town on a donkey.  Even  on that donkey, He looked like a. ng... every inch of Him. Thousands of people were spreading their cloaks and palm branches in His path, waving and shouting: Hosanna! Blessed be the king who comes in the Name of the Lord!

But He lost. He lost His bid for power. Where are all the palm branch wavers now? They're all gone. They've run away, all of them.

You know what? Those people are the real losers. They thought Jesus would rule over them in love and forgiveness. Why, I understand they even believed that He was God; that He would give them life in some sort of Paradise after

they died!

Well, they gambled on Him, and they lost, poor devils. This coming Sunday, they'll think back to their palm branch waving, and they'll cry. They thought they had God. They gambled and lost!


Life is no gamble. There are no such things as luck or fate or chance. For the Christian, life is a certainty. We live in the joyful certainty of Christ's empowering presence on this earth. We live in the certainty that our Lord will grant us a perfect and eternal life when this life is ended.

Lent reminds us of the great certainty of our Lord’s triumph over sin and Satan, over eternal damnation.

Lent points us to the day of triumph, the Easter Resurrection of our Lord Jesus... and our own resurrection through the victory of Christ.

During this holy season of Lent, write this indelible truth upon your heart, "Because Christ suffered and died ... and rose again, we too shall live forever with Him in perpetual victory!''

"Hey soldier! Yes, you, the one with the tunic! Wait until Sunday, and you'll see who really the winner is!''