John continues his narrative in sparse but well-chosen words:
And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull,
which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him,
one on either side, and Jesus in the center.
For the soldiers it was all just another day’s duty. They were hardened to the sight of blood and unmoved by the suffering of the guilty. Guilt and innocence were not their business; their job was killing those whom others judged worthy of death. Some of the soldiers had seen Jesus in action teaching, working miracles, and healing sick people with a touch. Those soldiers decided not to trouble themselves about how such a man as He should end up here at the Place of the Skull.
Pilate hated what he had done as much as he hated the Jews. In what can be seen as a passive aggressive protest, Pilate ordered a sign to posted on the cross above Jesus’ head:
JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS
When the leaders who incited this injustice read this sign, they protested to Pilate but it was a useless protest.
“Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”
Pilate had had enough of them and would not allow the subject to be opened.
“What I have written, I have written.”
Unable to stop the shameful treatment of an innocent man, Pilate watched as the soldiers drove Jesus with whips and threatening swords, bearing His cross to the place of execution. This ominous rock formation resembling a human skull was to be the scene of the demise of three men, two guilty and one innocent. Unable to reconcile these things, we learn from other sources that Pilate washed his hands of the matter and retreated into his chamber.
The skillful, practiced soldiers made quick work of the three crucifixions at that horrible place and soon three bleeding men were lifted to the sky to pay for sins; two of them paying for their own deeds and one of them paying for yours and mine.
Their duty done, these wards of Rome took the clothes of the crucified ones as prizes rightly theirs. They separated their spoils into four equal piles except for the seamless robe of Jesus. It would have been a shame to tear such a fine robe.
“They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be…”
Tossing dice to see who might take it home as a memento of this duty, they gambled for its possession. This fulfilled an ancient prophecy:
“They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”
John does not tell us if any of the elders or disciples who must have known this prophecy took note of this event. The soldier who won the game took the robe Jesus had worn and closely inspected it. This was the outer garment of the miracle worker who fell just one miracle short. It was stained with blood from the scourge but those stains would wash away. He felt richer for this prize and won the envy of his fellows.
The soldiers waited for the crucified ones to suffer enough for them to finish the job with clubs and spears. It was all so routine for them. There was no indication that these crucifixions would be memorable in any way.
And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”‘” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.
Lord Jesus, You were faithful to the end of that mockery of a trial. You will judge all someday but on that morning You submitted to the judgement of Pilate. There was so much at stake! Redemption for sinners, victory for those embattled, healing for those who are sick or injured, and eternal life for those sentenced to eternal death. I rejoice that Your story did not end on that hill. You gave Your life for me and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, You took it up again, no longer reduced to a human life, but expanded back to a divine one. Such a story! Such a truth! Thank You, Lord. Amen.
Calvary Proves His Love for Me
Words and Music: Steve and J. D. Phifer
1. There are times when I just cannot feel
God’s love way down inside.
So I run to the Book and there I read
How Jesus, my Lord, was crucified.
And Calvary proves His love for me.
Why should I ever doubt Him?
I will place my trust in Christ, you see,
For Calvary proves His love for me.
2. Who can say what will tomorrow bring?
Our eyes may flood with tears.
Let us look to the Christ of Calvary.
His love will cast out our every fear.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.