Summary: Four Soldiers were at the foot of the cross, but they were not repenting, but gambling! Why? Because they were distracted by Duty, Desires, and Deception.
Easter is coming earlier this year and I have been thinking about the cross. This morning, I would like to look at four men whose names we are not given. They are the four soldiers that gambled for Jesus’ clothes.
One of the mysteries of the crucifixion is that there were so many who were there who did not recognize who Jesus is. The Sanhedrin recognized Him as dangerous, but not as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Pilate recognized Him as guiltless, but not as the Holy One of Israel. The crowd recognized Him as the son of Mary, but not as the Son of God.
But how did the soldiers not recognize that Jesus was different from all of the other criminals they had crucified. Jesus did not curse, threaten, or even resist. He went as a lamb to the slaughter. No one who is about to have iron stacks driven into his hands and feet does so without a fight, but Jesus did! No one who is being tortured shows love for his tormentors, but Jesus did! No one who is about to crucified does so without begging for mercy, but Jesus did! Why couldn’t these men see who Jesus really was?
I. They were Distracted by Duty
It was their duty to crucify criminals. It was not their responsibility to judge if the man was innocent or guilty. It was not their place to get to know the condemned. Their job was to execute them, and they did so without mercy or compassion. The death was to be as painful and as slow as possible, and these men had been trained to accomplish this. They were professionals. They had a job to perform and they did it and did it well.
I wonder how many people are sitting, this morning, in our church that are as close as these men were to the cross, but are distracted by all that they have to do. We have jobs to perform, food to put on the table, church responsibilities, family members to take care of, and on and on and on …. Life is hectic and demands so much from us. This is a trap of the devil! If he can get us too busy doing good things or things we have to do instead of caring for our own souls, then he has us.
I am reminded of Adventure’s in Odyssey’s program “Pilgrim’s Progress Revisited” in which Christian is distracted by Ms. Busywork. It is her design to get Christian so busy that he stops journeying towards heaven. I wish that this was only a storyline, and not real life; but we all know how busy we are.
I am going to say something that may surprise you. The soldiers most likely committed no sin in crucifying Jesus. They were executed a condemned prisoner. They probably had no idea who Jesus was. They had executed several “false messiahs” before. This, to them, was just another one of those crackpots. Just as there is no sin in serving as a correctional officer who is involved in the execution of an innocent individual, I do not believe that these men will be responsible for their involvement in our Lord’s crucifixion.
I said that to say this: there may be no sin in your job, your hobbies, etc.; but if it keeps you from serving God, you’d better take notice. You may have to make some difficult decisions. You may have to take a painful road, but if it will take you to heaven, it will be worth it.
II. They were Distracted by Desires
Another reason that the soldiers did not get under the blood was that they were distracted by their desires. They each wanted Jesus’ garments. I doubt that there was anything special about the robe. These men were entitled to it, but they were supposed to share it. So they gambled for the privilege of owning Jesus’ garment. I wonder how much that garment would be worth today?
There is nothing wrong with wanting something if that thing is not sinful. The problem is when we want something so much that we become distracted from our spiritual needs because we are spending so much time trying to get things.
We live in a culture that bases success on how much money you have, how big and fancy your house is, how luxurious you car is, and so forth. I am not certain if this is true or not, but I have heard that Elvis was asked to return to his Christian heritage. It is claimed that Elvis said that he would as soon as he made one more million. He died before he ever got that opportunity.
I am reminded of the story Jesus told of the man who had a stellar year in his farming industry. The crops had been excellent and profitable. He decided, not to think of his soul or the needs of those around him, but to tear down his old barns and build bigger barns. He was making plans for retirement, but God required of him, that night, his soul. Furthermore, God called him a fool. If you are living for this world and its goods, God thinks you are foolish. The old cliché is still true, “Heaven will be cheap at any price.”