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God’s Word for You

Psalm 22:18 They cast lots for my clothing

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 5, 2023

18 They divide my garments among them
  and cast lots for my clothing.

This verse suggests that at one time or another, enemies may have ransacked David’s house and stolen whatever they could find, or else enemies plundered his camp when he was elsewhere fighting. Another possibility is that, like “the doe of the morning,” he had to bolt away from danger sometimes to save the lives of his troops and himself, and enemies took whatever David left behind. Anyone who has ever had something stolen knows that you feel helpless, that you get angry, and that hopefully you learn a lesson about security. But whatever lessons David learned when bad guys ripped him off and stole from him, the Holy Spirit has seen fit to use these words to be literally fulfilled as a prophecy of the crucifixion. Matthew tells us: “After they had crucified him, they divided his clothing among themselves by casting lots” (Matthew 27:35). And John says, “They took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier. They also took his tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it. Instead, let’s cast lots to see who gets it.’ This was so that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: ‘They divided my garments among them and cast lost for my clothing’” (John 19:23-24).

Many of the Roman soldiers were avid gamblers. Casting lots to divide plunder or make decisions is an ancient custom (Job 6:27; Joel 3:3; Obadiah 1:11; Esther 3:7; Proverbs 16:33; Sirach 14:15). It doesn’t surprise us that the soldiers played dice for Jesus’ clothes. How this was done is not really that important (Lenski gives some interesting examples in his Matthew commentary, page 1108). Each victim of crucifixion was treated as if they were already dead. Since they would have no need for their clothes anymore, the soldiers gambled for them. It would further demoralize a man to see his guards trying on his shirt and cloak and shoes as he died.

Jesus said nothing about this. The women who watched said nothing about this. John, the only apostle we know of who was present (John 19:26-27), said nothing about this. The soldiers were not considered to be thieves, at least by the Romans.

Here we have another part of Christ’s state of humiliation. The steps of ministry that include his humiliation are just as we confess them in the Apostles’ Creed: “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” Paul explains that this was a completely voluntary humiliation. It was not imposed upon him but done of his own free will: “He made himself nothing… he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8). So as Christ set aside his divine power and allowed himself to suffer and be the victim that he came to be, we see that he was also victimized, just as he expected to be. He had said, “They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified” (Matthew 20:18). And in Mark he says: “The Gentiles will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him” (Mark 10:34).

This last little offense, the taking of his clothes and the gambling for their possession was one more indignity, one more piece of mockery, one last spit of sin and spite from the devil. But for all of this oppression and of all the weight of sin laid upon this holy Victim’s head, Christ endured it all for our sake. His very name gives the reason. “Jesus,” which means “the Lord saves,” and “Christ,” which means “anointed one.” Here was the anointed Lord, who came to save, and who did save each one of us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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