Date: April 4, 1943
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. They said, therefore, among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it whose it shall be, that the Scripture might be fulfilled which saith, They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots. These things, therefore, the soldiers did. – John 19:23-24
Lord Jesus, Our Only Savior:
At Calvary those who crucified Thee took away even Thy garments, and today likewise men would strip Thee of all Thy blessings, remove Thine atoning love, deprive Thee of the glorious truth that Thou art our true and eternal God. O send us Thy Holy Spirit, who can give us the courage required to confess Thee as the only and last Hope of our decaying world! Show us more clearly every day that the call of this hour is for sincere repentance and wholehearted return to God! Grant us a soul-deep sorrow for our own sins and an immovable trust in the mercies and merits Thou didst secure for us through Thy death of unspeakable agonies on the cross! Fortify with this faith the defenders of our cause at home and abroad! Shield these young men and women against destruction and spiritual death! Let our armies and navies come home soon, precious Savior, with victory for righteousness and peace for all nations! Lead masses in our country to Thy Father and make us a humble, penitent people whose trust is only in God, whose desire is only exalting righteousness! We ask this in Thine ever-blessed name, O Jesus! Amen.
ONE of the most lavish and luxury-loving kings in history was the monarch who ruled France 250 years ago, Louis XIV. He played with gold as though it were sand. In a single building enterprise he erected Versailles Palace at a cost of $200,000,000. His outstanding extravagance, however, was showered on his own clothing. At his wedding he was arrayed in rare velvet embroidered with precious metals, covered with jewels, and prepared at a cost of over $1,000,000. As he grew older, his wild spending increased; and during public audiences he was often clad in a costume valued at more than $12,000,000.
By contrast, I ask you now to think of another King. His throne was a cross planted on a lonely hill; His diadem a crown of cutting thorns. He had no palace, for though “the earth was His and the fullness thereof,” He claimed not an inch of it; when He died, He was buried in a borrowed tomb. That French ruler might tax his subjects until, hungry, oppressed, barefooted, they were driven to despair; but this King, our King—may every one of you have the faith which enables you to say, “My King”!—Jesus Christ, Son of the all-merciful God and Savior of a sin-stricken world, gave His life to save and glorify His redeemed. His realm, far from collapsing, is constantly increasing in eternal triumph. While Louis was bedecked in sinful splendor, Jesus refused all robes of royalty—the ermine and crimson, the gold and silver, as well as the rare jewels and precious gems that were rightfully His. When He died He left no wardrobe, only the few articles of clothing he wore to His crucifixion. Now, as every page of Scripture is crowded with powerful messages for our unbelieving, unrepenting world, so this record can teach us all some personal lessons. Let us, then, behold the garments of Golgotha, especially
THE REDEEMER’S ROBE
and study their meaning as described in our text, Saint John, chapter nineteen, verses twenty-three and twenty-four: “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. They said, therefore, among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it whose it shall be, that the Scripture might be fulfilled which saith, They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots. These things, therefore, the soldiers did.”
THE SAVIOR’S APPAREL WAS LARGELY COMMON CLOTH
To make death by crucifixion even more shameful, the victim was first stripped and then nailed to the cross. Our Lord was no exception. At Calvary He, God’s Son of all glory, was crucified naked. Well might the earth have swallowed alive the degenerates who tore the clothing from the innocent, unresisting Savior. Well might a flash of lightning have flattened those blasphemers to the ground forever. Not even the few garments, the last earthly possession, could remain His. The hatred and cruelty of His enemies would rob Him of everything. So completely did Jesus permit Himself to be humiliated and disgraced when He atoned for your sins and paid their total penalty with exposure, anguish, God-forsakenness, and death!
Clothes cost relatively more in those days than now, and soldiers were accustomed to keep the apparel of every crucified criminal as a sort of ghastly payment for the execution. So the four legionaries stationed beneath the cross divided the Savior’s clothing among themselves, casting lots (“throwing dice,” we would say today) to see who would win this article or that piece of fabric.
It is not a pleasing scene, this picture of the soldiers beneath the cross; but as we study the Lenten account, we ought to be impressed by the fact that American men in arms throughout the world are confronted by temptations to similar sins. Those guards at Golgotha, during the six hours of the crucifixion, viciously attacked the Son of God. They did not know that they had nailed the Lord of Life to the timbers of death; and today many of our soldiers likewise do not know Jesus. An instructor in a government training school writes: “The thing that burdens me is that there are 500 pre-aviation cadets here, and I will venture to say that less than 10 percent know Jesus. . . . From what kind of homes did these boys come? Continue to exhort mothers and fathers of our military boys to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. It is hard for boys who come from unchristian homes to realize that they need a Redeemer, and it is harder still to bring Jesus to boys whose folks played at religion. . . . Oh, tell every army chaplain who goes out that what our soldiers need is someone who can tell them of a personal Savior and show them how to find Him!”
As Pilate’s soldiers hurled blasphemies at the crucified Christ, so military life still has the same tendency to make men abuse His holy, precious name! This day of national danger is the time to be prayerful, not profane, to speak with reverence, not cursing. Willful misuse of the divine name can prolong this struggle and increase our casualty lists. Soldiers of America, make David’s prayer your deep petition as you ask, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer!”
The company of legionaries at Calvary also tried to while away those six slow hours with wine, just as millions in America—soldiers and civilians—are trying to drink away the present hostilities. This war will never be won with whisky or at cocktail bars. Increasing drunkenness can delay the victory. Though people may smile indulgently at intoxication, God’s Word warns plainly that drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Read 1 Corinthians 6:10 carefully!
Finally we see the soldiers gambling—another vice in present-day army life. It may sound out of place and date to call gambling a “vice,” when newspapers feature it in their comic strips; when certain American cities thrive on its income; when even churches run raffles and plead for bingo; when the Government itself purchases 750,000 pairs of dice to build morale in the Army, and when a Congressman introduces a bill for a national lottery. All this cannot change the fact that gambling is a destructive evil, condemned alike by God’s Law and man’s. It promotes the desire to live without work, to gain at the expense of others; it has always been connected with fraud, cheating, immorality. It has caused indescribable suffering within many homes, as your letters reveal; it has left children improperly clothed and underfed, wives neglected, families burdened with misery. Christian citizens should rid their communities of all slot machines, punch boards, bingo parties; for gambling, even in its simplest forms, is the devil’s device.
Though the soldiers played a sorry role at the crucifixion, one military man proved himself the exception. He was the centurion, the officer in charge who remained at Calvary—and glorified the Savior. Beholding Jesus with eyes of faith, he exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!” What an example for many of you in the Army and Navy! A word in behalf of Christ from you may have greater power than you realize. Use that influence! Commissioned officers of our fighting forces, follow that centurion! Don’t be ashamed of Jesus! Testify openly to His power and love!
As we look once more at the Redeemer’s apparel strewn on the ground between the four gambling soldiers, we see that it is the common clothing of the Palestinian workman. He might have worn the choicest products of the loom; the gold of Sheba and Seba was His. Large diamonds, precious pearls were stored in the treasuries of His earth. Yet He spurned all this and chose the garb of a lowly servant. As He walked the Palestinian highways and byways, nothing in His garb attracted the multitudes. He was so unknown to the leaders that they had to secure a traitor to identify Him.
We dare not lose sight of this truth for the hard years before us. Jesus, even by His dress, showed that He was a Friend of the poor, a Companion of the afflicted; and unless God is unusually merciful to us, there will be plenty of poor and afflicted during the postwar readjustment. I cannot sufficiently warn you against the promises, sometimes made in the name of statesmanship and often in the name of religion, that, when this struggle is over, we shall enter a period of unparalleled prosperity, with money, work, food, and happiness for everyone on earth. No man knows what the future may bring; but just as assuredly, no man should dangle before the eyes of a peace-starved world unfounded hopes of wealth and progress; especially when these predictions are built on purely human specifications and advanced in entire disregard of God. Thousands may make more than the much-discussed $25,000 a year during war times, but millions in the United States have never made twenty-five dollars real profit a year. They want a Savior who understands their needs, who knows what it means to be poor; and here is Jesus whose clothes proved that He was the Man for the masses, the Man for all classes.
When rabid Communists try to inflame workers by preaching that Christianity is capitalistic, without sympathy for laborers, that it works hand-in-glove with moneyed interests, we who love Jesus point to the Savior and demand of the atheists, “Have you ever produced one leader as humble, as poor, as ‘all things to all men’ as Jesus?” Let us be on guard for the years ahead! We must follow Christ’s self-denial and self-sacrifice, rejecting completely the goal of establishing wealthy, powerful congregations. For what is a church profited if it has millions of dollars in real estate and investments, while men and women are dying every second of the day without knowing the Lord? What advantage has a religious group if its legacies and investments tower into the tens of millions, yet it does not use these funds for calling sinners to repentance? The clothing of the crucified Savior appeals to us, asking Christians all over the world to emphasize the Redeemer’s marvelous love in humbling Himself to become a true man among men, to live with us in poverty and privation, and to grant us the vision of service and sacrifice for our fellow men.
THE SAVIOR’S APPAREL WAS PREDICTED
Only one piece of the Savior’s clothing was unusual, His “coat,” or, as we say today, His robe, which was “without seam, woven from the top throughout.” To cut it into four pieces would destroy its value. So once more the dice rolled as the soldiers gambled for this prize.
The Gospel records do not tell us who won the robe, but according to conflicting traditions it has been preserved, wholly or partially, in various European cities, where credulous throngs bow before it. Many of these relics cannot be genuine, and to worship them is idolatrous. Do not place your reliance on anything manmade! Put your whole trust always, completely, only, in Christ! Keep the Savior’s warning in mind, “God is a spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth,” not with charms and superstition! The Lord wants your crushed, repentant, trusting heart directed solely to Him.
Nor could that robe in itself exert miraculous power. A new book, Lloyd Douglas’ The Robe, a best seller, pictures it as a marvelous garment which brought peace and healing to those who touched it. No robe in itself can ever do that. If you accept Jesus as your only but all-sufficient Savior, you need not touch anything to receive His blessing. Without rites or rituals, penances or privations, our Lord, always “nigh unto all them . . . that call upon Him in truth,” can mightily help you. Today, as nineteen centuries ago, He can heal you if it be His will. He can help you in any suffering or sorrow, family trouble, or business difficulty. He can richly comfort you in any affliction, grant you peace and joy instead of tears and trials; and—blessed Redeemer that He is—you can always come to Him directly, without reliance on robes or relics. He is yours by faith and faith alone.
The mention of this seamless garment is not accidental, since the very robe for which the coarse Roman soldiers gambled had been seen a thousand years before by David. Saint John says pointedly in our text that the soldiers cast lots “that the Scripture might be fulfilled”—and these are the prophetic words of the Twenty-second Psalm, “They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots.”
What a marvelous volume our Bible is, when in scores of similar passages it predicts such minute details centuries in advance and with absolute certainty! This fact of fulfilled prophecy alone should convince skeptics and unbelievers that the Bible is God’s Word, the absolute Truth. Do you know another volume which can forecast clearly what the distant years will bring? But Scripture, because it comes from God, who plans the programs of the years, has exactly foretold the future in hundreds of passages. I challenge anyone to prove that a single Biblical prediction concerning the rise and fall of ancient empires, the destruction of proud cities, the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, has ever been exposed as false.
Is not this the faultless Book for our disturbed, distracted day, when military experts are unable to foretell with assurance what will happen next year; when millions, particularly our military youth, do not know what may occur tomorrow? For assurance and guidance forget fortune tellers! Turn away from crystal-gazers! Renounce astrologers! Spurn every spiritist medium! Go back to the Bible!
Because Scripture assures us that “all the promises of God in Him [Christ] are yea, and in Him amen,” we have within the covers of Holy Writ the guarantee of comfort, which must be fulfilled as unfailingly as Old Testament predictions were realized at Calvary. If the ancient prophecies that Jesus would be crucified with sinners; that His hands and feet would be pierced; that He would be mocked and derided by the very transgressors whom He had come to save; that He would die on the cross; that His lifeless body would be buried in the tomb of a rich friend; that in all this He was atoning, as Isaiah states eleven times in his faith-filled fifty-third chapter, for our sins, suffering for our iniquities, substituting for every one of us, dying His death so that we could live in His life—if these precious pledges foretold the truth for the past, then accept the Bible confidently for your future! Trust it with all your heart! When our Lord promises, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” realize that, though your life may be restless and storm-tossed, in the Savior you can assuredly find calm and quiet! When Scripture declares, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” take that glorious word, “whosoever,” at its full face value! Thank God that no man can ever keep you from Christ, no matter how cruelly you may be cut off from other blessings! Rejoice because your redemption is not a hit-or-miss proposition, not a vague uncertainty, nor a remote possibility, but Heaven’s own truth, a reality firmer than the foundations of the world!
Are you haunted by the sorrow of war, tormented by questions concerning the safety of your beloved ones? Have you accompanied your husband or son to the railroad station during these last days to bid him a brave farewell as he left for camp, wondering whether he would ever see you again? The Bible, with its completed promise, is the Book for you; for it offers the Christ of all comfort, who consoles those who are His, “I will not leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Since in such relatively small matters as the casting of lots for a seamless robe the Bible promises were fulfilled at Calvary, will you not believe that in the incomparably greater issues concerning your soul, which, Jesus declared, is worth more than all the world, His assurance of salvation and sustaining love will be surely realized? “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but” His “Word,” the wondrous pledge of grace, full and free, “shall not pass away.”
What a warning also in the fact that these gambling soldiers proved the divine power and truth of Scripture! Every threat of God’s punishment on unbelief will likewise be carried out. You may doubt and deny the Bible’s prediction of doom for the unforgiven sinner, but “be not deceived; God is not mocked.” The blackened ruins of ancient cities, destroyed in harmony with Bible prophecy, cry out that the Almighty will judge all unbelief; that it is impossible to escape the long reach of divine justice; that every sinner, no matter how wealthy, influential, important he may seem to be, must pay, and pay fully, here and hereafter for every unremoved transgression of Heaven’s Law. If nothing has ever been able to put the fear of the Lord firmly into your heart, stop for a moment to see how exactly the Old Testament forecasts were accomplished to the letter; and then draw the conclusion that, if Scripture is faultlessly correct concerning a piece of clothing, how unquestionable must be its warnings concerning your eternity, when it thunders out this sentence upon all who reject Christ: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die!” “He that believeth not shall be damned!”
The Bible, with its fulfilled prophecy, is the one Book for these years of war and weariness; but to exert its heavenly force, it must be studied, followed as never before. Because it can mightily strengthen the nation—and we need spiritual fortifying as much as military defense—we should obey its request for a repentant nation by getting down on our knees before the Almighty in genuine sorrow over our thanklessness and pride. When Scripture asks for a godly people walking in the Lord’s ways, let us work and pray that the forces of lust, the grasping of greed, the worship of might, be checked and masses be brought back to Christ, in whom is the only help they can ever know!
We need the Bible in our homes, where altogether too frequently it becomes the forgotten Book, with family devotions—may God forgive us!—falling into steady discard. Yet if home religion has decreased, assaults on domestic morality have increased. Social workers and parents write disturbed letters complaining that their daughters, fourteen, thirteen, even twelve years old, stay out until early morning in questionable company. Cases of youthful alcoholism and immorality have soared to unprecedented heights. Over in England a star performer of the British Broadcasting Corporation, a University of London professor, says the idea of man having one wife is unsatisfactory. Marriage laws ought to be altered, he suggests, so that a husband can live in polygamy with a number of wives. From now on you will hear repeated suggestions of this kind, and many will try to practice successive polygamy, indulging in one divorce after the other. Only Scripture can be an effective check against such attacks. Put the family Bible back into any home, and that household will be blessed by Christ’s presence!
We want God’s Word and its power for our own souls. Chaplain Willard with the United States marines on the Solomon Islands reports: “Three men in my regiment have been saved from wounds and death because they loved the Book. . . . I urge them to carry it with them into battle. One of the New Testaments stopped a Japanese twenty-five-caliber bullet which went through to the back cover. Two other Testaments prevented their owners from being seriously wounded by Japanese shrapnel.” Scripture will do much more than stop bullets. It will help stop sin and the legions of hell. The Bible, through your faith in Christ, can save your soul for eternity.
THE SAVIOR’S APPAREL WAS BLOOD-STAINED
Look at that robe once more, and you will find it marked not by beautiful design and embroidery but by heavy blotches! What are those sodden spots, those deep stains? Their crimson color betrays them. They are Christ’s dark, red blood!
Throughout history blood has been regarded as a sign of suffering; and never has this vital fluid otherwise marked such harrowing and soul-deep anguish. That scarlet dripped from Christ’s thorn-cut, wounded head, from His scourged back, the same blood which spurted from His hands and feet when they were crushed to the cross, which trickled down the cross, dropped into little pools or sank into Calvary’s soil—all in anguish of soul and body such as human eyes have never otherwise beheld.
Today we associate blood with crime; and again, never has any iniquity been as shocking as the injustice which made Jesus bleed. He was perfectly innocent. Even malice and perjury could invent no real charge against Him. Yet despite His utter sinlessness, His blood was spilled under the lash and on the cross in the supercrime of the ages. True, innocent people have sometimes been sentenced to death, as wrong has repeatedly triumphed over right; yet the worst miscarriage of justice is not to be compared with this gruesome murder at Golgotha. For it is not ordinary blood which stains His robe and marks His cross. Though you examine it under the microscope and find that it is human blood with the usual plasma and corpuscles, yet you must know it is the blood of Jesus Christ; and He who shed it—oh, accept this glorious truth!—is a true man, yet indescribably more: He is your God.
Blood has also become a sign of help and hope. Lives are saved by transfusion; and in the marvelous progress of medical science blood plasma has been used to preserve thousands of wounded. After the war authorities plan vast plasma banks with first-aid stations throughout the country as a means of sustaining many thousands of lives. God bless their effort, but God give us the faith to realize that the blood which stained this robe and spotted the cross can save far more than men’s bodies! It can rescue our souls from ruin. In the Old Testament men sought forgiveness of their sins in the blood of sacrificial animals, slain on sacred altars, for God’s Word had declared, “It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” But Golgotha and the cross gave the world a new and final atoning blood. Because our Lord went to Calvary, because He shed His blood there for the full and free atonement of all human transgressions, we have the peerless promise of God’s truth, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” Every crimson stain on that robe, every red drop oozing from the Savior’s five wounds, is proof divine that God loved you, hardened and hopeless in your iniquities though you may be; loved you, sought you in your misery and anguish, even though men spurn you and friends forsake you; He planned your rescue and ransom, not by simply forgetting your sins (your heavenly Father is too holy for that), not by permitting you to work off your sentence and atone for your wrongs (since no one can pay for the enormity and multitude of his own sins), not by accepting the prayers and good works of some saint or morally superior person (for the Scripture warns, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother nor give to God a ransom for him”), but by providing a Savior from sin, a Substitute to bear your iniquities. By the marvel of His mercy God, our faithful, loving Father, in the sacrifice for which angels will eternally chant His praise—how our mortal minds stagger at the very thought!—sent His own Son to shed His blood and die for the redemption of all sinners. Those crimson marks on the robe, those stains on the cross, are thus a pledge to you that you are saved.
“The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”—That triumphant truth is the only hope you can ever have, and it is a positive statement. “The blood of Jesus Christ” is mentioned thirty-seven times in the New Testament. Remove it from the sacred record, and the race is ruined. Believe its power; teach it; preach it; exalt it; and God will mightily be with you! For as one drop of the precious blood can cleanse a world of sinners, so you alone, with faith in the atoning love, can defeat a world arrayed against you.
What, then, is the message of the Redeemer’s robe for which the soldiers cast lots? What, indeed, if not God the Father’s own appeal that you stop gambling with your soul, risking your salvation by postponing your acceptance of Christ? Jesus no longer wears that gory robe. In His eternal majesty He is now clothed in the radiance of dazzling purity and power. If you would see Him in that celestial beauty; if heaven is to be your home; if you want an eternity with your loved ones who have died in the Lord, then confess your sins now! Fall on your knees to cry out that you are hopelessly lost; that you are altogether unworthy; that you deserve nothing but rejection; that you plead for mercy, not merit; for redemption, not reward; for pardon, not payment; that above everything else in this world you want to be cleansed by the Savior’s blood! Then from the throne of never-ending mercy He will speak peace into your soul as He declares, “This is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Then all the filthy rags of your own unrighteousness will be gone. Your spotted garments of sin will disappear, and the Christ of Calvary will clothe you with His holiness. To that end may our constant, contrite prayer, addressed to the Savior of the blood-stained robe, ask: O Jesus, robe us forever in Thy blood-bought righteousness! Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.