What Jesus Did! 'The Gamble' — Luke 23:32-34

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with [Jesus]. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified — one on his right and one on his left.

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

— Luke 23:32-34 NLT

Key Thought

The facts in this passage are plain, but we still can be amazed at the incredibly simple and brief account of Jesus' actual crucifixion. After the extensive account Luke has given of Jesus' personal preparation and his efforts to prepare his disciples, the culmination of Jesus' sacrifice is stated simply: "they nailed him to the cross." However, there are also other aspects of this account. There is the obvious gamble of the soldiers trying to win the clothes of the crucified Jesus. Also, three other implicit "gambles" are part of this passage:
  1. The "gamble" made by the religious leaders and the crowd, symbolized by crucifying Jesus between two criminals — a gamble that Jesus is not the Son of God, but a criminal worthy of crucifixion.
  2. The "gamble" of Jesus, personified by Jesus' words of forgiveness toward those who hated him and killed him — a gamble that his sacrificial and forgiving death would somehow touch our hearts and win us to himself.
  3. What we do with this story is our "gamble." Do we believe that Jesus is God's Son, our Savior, the Messiah sent from God, and our Lord? If we do, then we will base the rest of our lives on this conviction and will have the Holy Spirit to confirm our conviction. [1] But having heard this story, having been brought to the cross of Jesus, we are forced to make a choice; we are forced to "gamble" our lives on either following Jesus or rejecting him. There is no middle ground.
[1] 1 Corinthians 1:21-22.

Today's Prayer

Father, I believe that your love and grace have been powerfully demonstrated by Jesus' death on the cross. I gladly entrust my life to this love and grace, believing that Jesus is your Son, the Messiah of Israel's hopes, my Savior, and the Lord of all. I do not consider the investment of my life in this story to be a gamble, but instead, I believe that this story is the basis of my confident hope for a bright future with you. In Jesus' name, I offer my thanks and praise for this indescribable gift. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Joshua 24:14-21
  • Acts 2:36-40
  • Acts 4:10-12

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Illustration

Illustration of Luke 23:32-34 NLT — "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing."

About This Devotional

What Jesus Did! is a series of one-year devotional guides through each gospel, using one short scripture passage each day and following the Gospel in sequential order. Each devotional consists of a scripture passage and a reflection and a prayer which open up the day's scripture and show how it challenges you to live for Jesus.

What Jesus Did! is written by Phil Ware and is available in book form.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.