What About the Soldiers?

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 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.

24 “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 that said,

“They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.”

So this is what the soldiers did. John 19:16-24

What was it like for these soldiers accompanying Jesus to the cross and watching Him die? Presumably they had witnessed other deaths similar to this. We know that they mocked Him and mistreated Him, and they gambled away his clothing. Of course they were unknowingly fulfilling Scripture, and their story would be told millions of times each year. Who were they? What did they think about this man? They were following orders as good soldiers do.

What did they think about after their encounter with the man on the cross? Were these the same men who stood watch over the tomb believing that His disciples would steal the body?

I am convinced their lives were changed forever. History tells us that Pontius Pilate washed his hands obsessively trying to remove the rhetorical blood on his hands. He knew he didn’t do the right thing, and he was the one who ultimately made the decision to send Christ to the cross. But what about these soldiers? How much did they realize what was going on or was it just part of their mundane routine?

We know some of the trauma His disciples went through while standing there watching Him die, but what about the soldiers? Dutifully following orders, gambling away a condemned man’s clothing, hoping it would end soon so they could get back to their other duties.

On this Easter weekend, we can approach the cross in these similar ways. We can go through the motions of reading a few Easter texts from Scripture or we can ponder its meaning. That cross and the man who died on it changed the world. Quite literally. Mankind would never be the same again.

And that’s the point, isn’t it?

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