What Jesus Did! 'The Gamble' — Matthew 27:35-37

Thursday, December 16, 2021

After they had nailed [Jesus] to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. A sign was fastened above Jesus' head, announcing the charge against him. It read: "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
— Matthew 27:35-37 NLT

Key Thought

They gambled with dice (literally, "cast lots") for Jesus' clothes as he bled and died on the cross in front of a mocking mob and in unspeakable agony. How does that strike you? Repulsively, repugnantly, despicably cruel!

Think about it a minute or two longer. Those who reject Jesus' death today are gambling with higher stakes and rejecting greater evidence.

These soldiers were not gambling just for Jesus' clothes; they were also gambling that he was just another piece of criminal scum that it was their job to execute. So as they were partners in this brutality, they were gambling that what others had told them about Jesus was correct — that he wasn't the Christ, wasn't the Son of God, wasn't the King of the Jews, and wasn't their Savior. But what evidence did they have to believe Jesus? Very little, until the crucifixion scene was finished and Jesus breathed his last words. Then, after seeing the things that had transpired, one of the soldiers had seen another set of facts and decided, "This man truly was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:54)

Those who reject Jesus today, not only reject the judgment of this soldier, but also the transformation of the frightened and hidden disciples who did not expect his resurrection and then became world-beaters after they had seen their resurrected Lord. They reject the testimony of millions of believers over the centuries. They reject the witness of Scripture, which has gone through countless attempts to silence and eradicate its message, but has endured to inspire more and more believers.

Jesus died for sinners. Jesus died for you. Jesus died for me. Every time we take these words lightly or outright reject them, we are gambling that Jesus' death wasn't God's work and our salvation. It makes the soldiers' wager seem pretty tame, doesn't it?

Today's Prayer

Father, I confess that I have sometimes not appreciated the enormity of what your Son endured at Calvary. I have not always been gripped with everything that was at stake as he suffered and died. But now, as I see what was done to him and the calloused way in which he was treated in his death, I am shocked and horrified. I realize more now what was at stake when Jesus went to the cross and bore my sin so I can be your righteousness. With all my heart, I want to live the rest of my life scorning sin and rejoicing in your grace. In Jesus' name, I offer my thanks and praise. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
  • Matthew 27:51-54
  • Acts 24:24-26


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Illustration of Matthew 27:35-37 NLT — "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."

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.