John 19:23, 24
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat…
Notice this circumstance -
I. As ILLUSTRATIVE OF CERTAIN THINGS WITH REGARD TO THE CRUCIFIERS AND THE CRUCIFIED.
1. With regard to the crucifiers.
(1) Their utter want of common delicacy. The first thing they did in executing the sentence was to strip the culprit of every rag of clothes, and hang him on the cross in a state of nudity. This reveals on the part of the patrons of this custom utter lack of delicacy, and grossness and barbarity of taste. They were willing to gratify the most morbid tastes, most animal passions, and lowest curiosity of an excited and thoughtless mob. The Romans were not the first nor the last to manifest these qualities with regard to the execution of criminals. Till very recently our executions were much of the same style. Thousands went to see the last struggles of a criminal with very much the same feelings as they would go to see a bull-fight, and many of them very much worse in the sight of God than he who was hung. But, thanks to our advanced Christian civilization, this has passed away. Our executions are now performed in private, with as much decency, and as little pain to the culprit as possible, thus recognizing the sacredness of life, even that of the meanest, most worthless and injurious. It is to be hoped that life will soon become more sacred still in accordance with the merciful spirit of the dispensation under which we live.
(2) Their refined cruelty. It was not enough for the Crucified to bear all the torture of the cross, but also be had to bear all the shame and indignities of nakedness. To some, doubtless, who were sunk in the deepest physical and spiritual debauchery, it was not so painful, but by the pure soul of Jesus it must have been keenly felt. There was no consideration shown in his case. He was not exempted from a single item in the catalogue of indignities, nor from a single ignominy in the program of shame; but rather to the contrary, these were lengthened by the voluntary contributions of a servile crowd. The crucifiers of Jesus were as refined in their cruelty as they were coarse in their tastes, and as minute in their indignities as they were lax in their sense of common delicacy.
2. In relation to the crucified One. It indicates:
(1) The simplicity of his dress. Only the common costume of a poor Galilaean. Jesus did not go in for fashion and finery in dress anymore than for luxuries in diet; but in all he was characterized by simplicity. In one sense this was strange, too, that he who paints the lily and rose in the richest hues, and the bird's wing in the most fantastic colors, should be himself clothed in the simple dress of a poor artisan! But, in another sense, this is not strange; it is generally the case with true greatness. He was sufficiently glorious in himself. It is not the garment, but he who wears it.
(2) The poverty of his circumstances. When his worldly affairs were wound up they consisted in a humble dress. When this was divided all was divided, he possessed in this world, He had no houses, money, nor land to be confiscated by the government, and to enrich the imperial treasury, only the robe and the tunic, and these probably the gifts of some kind friend, the latter, perhaps, woven by the tender hands of his mother, or by Magdalene, as the original device and gift of love for an original and Divine kindness. This is very affecting and significant, that he who was in the world, and the world was made by him, should leave without any of it. He who made the world could alone be satisfied to leave it thus. He was.
(3) His more than human submissiveness in suffering. When deprived of his garments he made no complaint, no request to be spared this indignity. One would naturally expect that he would ask this favor, and say, "I am willing to suffer even unto death, but let me die in my clothes." But not a word or a murmur. "As a lamb he was brought to the slaughter," and all for us. He was stripped that we may be clothed, became naked that we may be robed in spotless white.
II. AS AN ACT OF SELFISH RAPACITY. "The soldiers," etc.
1. They were inspired by the love of sordid gain. Every base principle in existence was represented on Golgotha that day. All the vultures of hell hovered over the cross ready to descend on their respective prey. And among the dark groups was the love of gain ready for his garments. It cared for nothing else.
2. This was confirmed by habit and custom. The clothes of the victim were their fee for the execution. It was not such a profitable job then as it is now. But you will find people willing to do anything for a little worldly advantage. They will hang you for your clothes; they will murder you physically or morally, which is worse still, for the attainment of a little selfish end. His own disciple sold him for thirty pieces of silver: why, then, should we wonder at these rough and ignorant soldiers crucifying him for his garments? And this demon of selfish gain was sanctioned by law.
3. It was done with great haste. As soon as he was crucified, before he was dead, they hastened to divide his garments under his very eyes. In this they are typical of a good many more. The love of gain is ever in haste. The votaries of selfishness are ever in a hurry. As soon as the victim is safe in the grip of affliction, they begin to search for the keys. The grave is opened before almost he has breathed his last.
4. The division is just and fair. This is one redeeming quality in the affair. Rather than spoil the vest, they cast lots for it. This probably arose from selfishness, each one hoping it would be his; but, if selfish, it was wise, and an example to many in dividing the spoil. It is better to cast lots or leave a thing alone, than render it worthless. There is some honor amongst thieves, yes, more than among many men of higher standing. "The children of this world are wiser," etc.
III. AS THE FULFILMENT OF SCRIPTURE. "That the Scripture," etc.
1. Christ was the great Subject of ancient Scripture. His incarnation, character, and many incidents of his life and death were foretold centuries before he made his appearance. Many of the prophets described him as if he were really present to them. David, the great anti-type of the Messiah, was often so inspired that he personified him, and related facts as if they had actually happened in his own experience, whereas they related entirely to the coming King. Such was his reference to the parting of his garment.
2. In the life and death of Christ the ancient Scripture was literally fulfilled. Even in the division of his garment.
(1) In this the soldiers were unconscious agents. Nothing could be remoter from their knowledge and consciousness than that they fulfilled any Scripture.
(2) In this they only carried out their own contract, and fulfilled their own designs. There was no secret and supernatural influence brought to bear upon them, so that their actions may fit with ancient prophecy; but ancient prophecy was a true reading of future events, and was proved by these events as they occurred.
(3) Through these unconscious agents the Scripture was fulfilled.
3. This literal fulfillment of ancient Scripture was a remarkable proof of the Messiahship of Jesus - that he was the Divine One promised of old, and with whom the old dispensation was in travail. Even the division of his garment testified to his identity and the Divinity of his mission; and these soldiers bore unconscious testimony to his Messiahship.
1. Everything connected with true greatness becomes interesting. The birthplace of a great man, the house in which he afterwards lived, the chair in which he sat, and the staff he carried. The garments of Jesus are full of interest, especially the seamless vest. The disposal of even his garments is not passed unnoticed.
2. The garments of Jesus fell into thoughtless hands. One is almost curious as to who had the pieces of the robe, and who had the seamless tunic. What an exchange! The vest once worn by the Son of God was afterwards worn by a thoughtless soldier. It was well that none of his garments fell to his friends; if so, there would be a danger of idolatry.
3. The garments of Jesus lost their virtue when he ceased to wear them. The outer robe, the hem of which was so healing to faith, was so no more. The virtue was not in the garment, but in the wearer. He gave greatness and virtue to everything connected with him.
4. Let us arrange our affairs as far as we can ere we die, and leave the rest to the lottery of events, which is ever under Divine control. It matters but little to us what will become of our garments after we finish with them. If we have them as long as we require them, we should feel thankful. - B.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.