“When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes,
dividing them into four shares, one for each of them,
with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless,
woven in one piece from top to bottom.
“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another.
“Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said,
“They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
So this is what the soldiers did.”
Who would have thought that the blood-stained garments of a convicted criminal would have had any value to a Roman soldier. Yet they obviously did. When they came to the undergarment instead of cutting it up with a piece for each of them they drew lots to decide who would get it.
John is strangely specific in his description at this point – “This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” Barclay tells us that “this is the precise description of the linen tunic which the High Priest wore.” So here is a quiet reference to the high priestly ministry of Jesus – the perfect High Priest through whom people could come into the presence of God themselves. John starts His Gospel with the Word made flesh and draws it to a close with the eternal High Priest ministering to both God and man and enabling them to come together.
However, whilst these tremendously important events were taking place above their heads the soldiers were concerned only with their plunder and their gambling. Although they were professional soldiers in a foreign land they still in a way represent to us the indifference that exists in the world today. It bends its heads to the business of accumulation and is blind to the awesome expression of the love and grace of God which rises before us at this time.
This whole incident is made all the more pertinent by the value attached to it as a fulfilment of prophecy (Psalm 22:18). In all that was happening God’s hand can be discerned – even down to the disposal of the Saviour’s clothes.