Greetings, everybody! God’s grace and peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ, and welcome to Tuesday’s edition of EDiBS. Thanks so much for being here today as we open our Bibles together for the next few minutes, where today we’ll be continuing our look into the nineteenth chapter of the gospel according to John. We’re in a deeply emotional and consequential portion of Scripture right now, and I know we’ll all be richly blessed as we come under the authority of God’s Word and the power of His Spirit. Let’s pray and begin.
Lord Jesus Christ, we remember from the Psalmist that Your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. As we study today, guide and lead us in your holy and precious ways. Show us your power and your love. We praise you in this moment, and bowing before you, we bless your Name. Thank you for your goodness and mercy which follows us all the days of our lives, and grant now your blessing as we open the Scriptures. In your strong and saving name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, we come to two famous scenes, famous snapshots, surrounding our Lord’s death. Our focus: the soldiers and the women.
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.[d] But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words – and to be sure, the way our minds and our memories work as human beings, never was there a truer statement. Since that’s the case, I’d like us to take some time today and fix our attention on two pictures that we have been given in God’s Word here in John 19. They’re famous pictures, as I said a moment ago, and they are both incredibly expressive and incredibly impactful. Each of them has something with which to touch us and teach us.
The first picture is that of the Roman soldiers as they gamble for our Lord’s clothing. This opening scene in the passage is a powerful one because it provides us with yet another ironic picture in this gospel: a picture of men who divide our Lord’s clothing among themselves equally so as to be fair with one another. And since the last piece, the undergarment, is too nice to divide (it would be a shame to ruin it, after all) they cast lots to see who gets it. It’s an eerily civilized action coming from a group of men who have just pounded spikes into the hands and feet of Jesus. When we think of the soldiers, it seems to us that their behavior is appalling and callous, a graphic display of how completely degenerate they are. And yet let’s remember that as soldiers serving Rome, this is all in a day’s work. Crucifixion is part of their regular detail, like KP or guard duty or anything else. These men are veterans of scenes like this, and so though it seems a terrible thing to you and me, they’re on the clock, and being on the clock they also have a right to the spoils of their assignment.
In truth though, we have to ask the question: is their indifference to the cross really very far removed from our indifference to the cross? Is their casual camaraderie at the foot of Calvary that alien to the manner in which we often discount our bleeding Savior as we come together with friends? We accuse these men of barbarism and disinterest and faithlessness – but though many of us name Christ as our Savior and our Lord, perhaps we suffer at times from the same sense of familiarity and nonchalance that is on display here. When I see this picture, I many times see myself – and when I do, I am reminded all over again of just why it is that Jesus came to die for me.
Incidentally, one thing we certainly want to mention here regarding the soldiers and their gambling is that it is yet another detailed fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy concerning the death of our Lord Jesus. Taken directly from Psalm 22, it is another graphic display of the accuracy and integrity of God’s Word; where things written hundreds of years before their occurrence are borne out by the events of the crucifixion. John, we can see, was actually in the vicinity of the cross when this took place and was an eyewitness of the event – and his testimony is a thus a powerful reminder for us that the Bible provides in many cases first-hand historical accountings of things that really happened. There is much more in this first picture to talk about, but for the moment, let’s move on to picture number two.
The second picture, as you can see, is a very different one from the first. Instead of gambling soldiers, this portrait is one of grieving women. In it are three Marys: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. This picture is astounding first of all because it reminds us that aside from John, the only followers of Jesus who are prominent at the crucifixion in any of the gospel accounts are the women. They faithfully stick by when others have fled. They are a beautiful picture of what it means to remain steadfast, regardless of circumstances and regardless of personal cost or danger. We would all do well to pray. “Lord, give me the faith of the faithful women of Calvary!” But this picture is a powerful one not simply because of the display of faithfulness by the women; it is powerful especially because of the display of faithfulness by Jesus. In His deepest moment of abject pain and suffering, He thinks not of Himself, but of His mother and her welfare. Don’t you love the tenderness here? Addressing her in the same way He did three years before when He performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, Jesus looks at Mary and says, “Dear Woman, here is your son.” Dear Woman. From beginning to end, He has honored His mother...and now He will continue to do so, assuring that she is provided for by John. Why John? Remember, our Lord’s other brothers are walking in unbelief at the moment and have not yet come to believe in Him as Savior of the world. Thus, Jesus charges His dear friend with the task of caring for her in His name, in His power, and in accordance with His will.
Wrapping up for the day, two very different pictures from the cross; two very strong messages; two very important points of application. Which one resonates with you the most? Why is that the case? I’d love to hear what you think and how this passage speaks to your heart.
As always, I invite you to stay with us in the days ahead – we are beginning to see our way to the end of this gospel account, and the next couple of weeks are sure to be a great conclusion to an eventful accounting of our Lord’s life, His ministry, His death — and coming up, especially His resurrection. Have a terrific day everyone, and be sure to join me back here tomorrow as we look to the Lord to lead us through His Word. God bless you, and I’ll see you soon!