Before we talk about the dice, we should go back and think about the context and the background of these events. First, just like us, like you and me, Jesus was born with nothing. We may joke about our “birthday suit,” but the fact remains, we are born with nothing and we will leave this world with nothing. Having said that, one astute confirmand once suggested that we are born with sin, which is also correct, but I would say that is not something we would want to boast about. Now, the fact that we are born with nothing and we will leave this world with nothing could make for a great sermon on stewardship, that everything we have in this world is not really ours, but is on loan to us from God, but relax, that is not our emphasis this evening.
What Jesus “owned,” if you will, while on this earth was the clothes on His back. Now, we remember that Jesus is God, true God and so He, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit created the world out of nothing, so really, everything is Jesus anyway. But from a truly human stand point, while living in this world, on this earth, Jesus owned nothing. And having mentioned that we are born in sin, actually we are conceived and born in sin, Jesus was not conceived and born in sin. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit making Him truly God and conceived and born perfect and holy.
Interestingly enough, even though Jesus owned nothing, you may have noticed that He never concerned Himself about His physical needs. Certainly Jesus lived His life as He preached, that is that God takes care of His world and His people, including the birds of the air, the grass in the field, and us. So, even though Jesus owned nothing, except the clothes on His back and even though He owned no place to live, He was not concerned about His physical needs, because His physical needs were tended to by those He taught and discipled. Their response of faith was to care for their teacher.
So, what is it about the dice and the dividing of the clothes? First there is the implicate meaning of the dividing of these clothes, that is the very fact that Jesus’ clothes were divide among the soldiers. We are not told how many soldiers there were, nor how many pieces of clothes Jesus was wearing, simply that they divided His clothes, all except one piece of clothing.
The one piece of clothing that was not divided was the main wrap which Jesus wore. It was one large piece of material which is best owned as a whole not divide. This one main wrap was too valuable to tear apart and divide, so rather than tear it apart and divide it, it was decided to let “chance” decide who would get it. So, either translation works well, that of lots being cast or drawn or dice being cast to see who would own the large cloth, the whole undivided large piece of cloth.
So, Jesus’ clothes were divided which means that Jesus was left, as uncomfortable for us as it may be, to die naked on the cross. Jesus was left in all His shame, or rather in all our shame, having taken our sins upon Himself. Now I know that we never see a crucifix with Jesus naked on the cross, mostly because we cannot handle this fact. But the fact remains, the punishment of crucifixion was intended to be the most cruel and shameful form of punishment and so as we see Jesus’ clothes being divvied up we know that He was put to death in all His shame with our sins and all our shame.
Just as He came into this world, so Jesus was dying and leaving this world with nothing. You might remember that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ disciples deserted Him. While He was on the cross He remembered His mother and gave her to John to care for her. Later Jesus cries out as God the Father forsakes Him. And now here He is friendless, motherless and fatherless and in our shame we turn our heads and leave Him as well, not wanting to look on Him.
Jesus, He who was born and lived in perfection, never sinning, not even once, freely and actively took our sins upon Himself. He who knew no sin became sin for us. He was slapped. He was beaten. He was mocked. He was spit upon. And now He has been stripped naked and nailed to a cross, the worst form of punishment. He was innocent, yet He took our sins and suffered for them, for us, in our place.
Jesus was leaving this world as He had entered, with nothing. The only difference is that He entered in perfection and now He was dying in our sins.
What does this mean? Please understand that these men were not gambling. Gambling is putting up something you have against something someone else has in order to take from them something they really do not want to give to you, just as you really do not want to give what you are putting up to lose. These men were simply dividing property that was not theirs and their means for dividing the property was a means of chance, casting lots or dice, or perhaps drawing straws.
Greater love can noone have than this, that one would lay down his life for another and that is what we are seeing this evening, no greater love than the love Jesus has for us, for each and everyone of us. Jesus loves us so much. Jesus loves you so much. Jesus created us to love us. Jesus shows His love for us. Jesus, true God, gave up the glory that was His in heaven, in order to be born unto this world, except that unlike us who are conceived and born in sin, He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and thus was born in perfection. Jesus lived a perfect life, obeying all of God’s laws and commands perfectly, including His command to be perfect. Jesus lived perfectly for us in our place as our substitute, because we cannot live in such a way. Jesus fulfilled all of God’s promises and prophecies perfectly. And then He took our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times upon Himself and suffered for all sin. He suffered physical punishment and most importantly He suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty of hell for us in our place.
Jesus suffered and died in all humility, in all shame, naked and alone on the cross. Crucifixion was the worst form of punishment and was intended for the worst criminals as a punishment and as a warning against others so that they would not commit the same crime. Crucifixion was capital punishment and the worst form. There was nothing humane about it.
Again, Jesus was leaving this world as He had entered, with nothing. The only difference is that He entered in perfection and now He was dying in our sins. And because of Jesus, this order is the opposite of each one of us who are conceived and born in sin, and by faith in Jesus we leave this world in perfection, His perfection.
Jesus suffered and died for all. But we know the whole story, we know the rest of the story, death and the grave had no hold over Him. On the third day Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil. He rose and showed Himself to be alive. After showing Himself to be alive for forty days He ascended, returning to the place from which He had descended, returning to the glory that was His.
As we see the dice we are reminded of what a great God we have, what a loving God we have, a God who gave up everything for us, because of His great love for us. God loves us so much. God loves you so much. God created us to love us and even when we have sinned, He is always there to forgive us. Jesus’ death purchased forgiveness for us and for all. So, having been forgiven we start over, and with His help we live lives of faith. We live lives which say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.