Fulfillment and Mercy

“And crucifying him, they divided his garments by casting lots.”

(Matthew 27:35)

“And they crucified him and they divided his garments by casting lots for them — what each should take.”

(Mark 15:24)

“And Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided his garments by casting lots.”

(Luke 23:34)

“Now the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments and separated them out four ways, with each soldier getting a part — and even his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven from the top to the bottom. They said to each other, ‘Let us not split it, but take lots for it to see whose it will be.” This was in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled that said, ‘They divided my garments amongst themselves and for my clothing they cast lots.’ Therefore, it was the soldiers who did these things.”

(John 19:23-24)

And thus Psalm 22:18 is fulfilled in the actions of these Roman soldiers. Once again, just as with Pilate, the Sovereign God’s will is established — in this case, as indicated in a psalm written by King David more than a thousand years before the events that Psalm 22 describes.

There are two added things that must be noted. The first is that there is no description of the horror of the crucifixion process. This does not mean that the process was not horrifying, it was and the people who read these Gospel accounts well knew the horrors associated with the process. Yet, it seems that in modern times, preachers are often want to go into great and gory detail about the horror of the cross because it tugs on people’s heart-strings. Yet tugged heart-strings and manipulated emotions does not regenerate a person, it simply coerces them. And so, pastors and teachers, we would do wise not to make more of an account than the Bible makes of that same account. The Bible simply mentions that our Lord was crucified and then moves on to matters that are theologically more pressing; such should be our approach as well.

The second point that must be noted is Jesus’ attitude toward the circus that was taking place around him. While most people would revile their tormenters from the cross, here Jesus blesses them by offering them forgiveness for their actions. Does this mean that these people are redeemed? No. Not at all. It means that Our Lord offered them a moment of grace because they did not and could not comprehend the immensity of what it is that they were doing. Here stands as a reminder of Romans 5:8 that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We are no less guilty than these soldiers who fixed him to the cross.

And thus, shall we not also show grace to those who persecute us? Look up Matthew 5:44 before you answer that question hastily. Does that mean that we must just roll over and allow evil people to do what they want? No, we are called to stand for justice. Yet even in cases such as this, mercy is offered to those of the world who are blind and deaf to that which is right and true.

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