Mark 15:21-27 (ESV)
And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.  And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull).  And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.  And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.  And it was the third hour when they crucified him.  And the inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews."  And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.
Simon of Cyrene… the father of Alexander and Rufus. Lots of names that perhaps mean little to us. I don’t think they meant little to those listening to Peter as Mark jotted notes. These were names of men known to the early Christian community. Peter was saying go talk to Alexander, talk to Rufus, they’ll tell you, their father was there, he carried the cross. These names tie the events concretely to history. They do so even today. People think all this stuff was made up, it wasn’t. but the way to the truth of it is not through a microscope or a telescope. It isn’t that faith is unscientific, quite the opposite really, it is that it isn’t biology or astronomy, it is history. History is a science, it is a science of its own, and sometimes it makes use of what is known about biology and astronomy. You aren’t going to find the answer to whether or not these events happened by looking in a microscope, you have to use the appropriate science which is historical investigation. Doing this the names become quite important as is made known in the book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.”
Well they crucified him. That is they put him on the cross. Then they waited for him to die. He had been stripped of his clothes. They cast lots for them. I sometimes wonder if this is where the aversion to gambling comes in for Christianity. Gambling is one of those things that has a long history of being maligned in the Christian church, and I can never quite figure out why. You really can’t find any prohibition of it in scripture. It was part of Jewish piety stemming from the Old Testament to gamble on certain holy days, which leads me to suspect that Jesus himself gambled with his friends. Growing up it was an activity forbidden in my house. My dad didn’t want us brothers gambling against each other. I think mostly because the one time we did gamble it led to a fight between us, when I actually tried to collect my winnings. Dad did make my brother pay up, about the same time he grounded us for breaking a rule we didn’t know existed, or maybe it was for fighting… fun days. It does illustrate though that gambling can be problematic. It isn’t so much the game but when you find yourself drawing six shooters… well you have a problem. So it can be a wise decision to stay away from gambling, and if you have a problem you need to seek help. But this is a lot like alcohol in that manner. We don’t ban what scripture hasn’t. But if you can’t seem to drink without getting drunk and losing control, waking up in stranger’s beds and other things, then quit. And yes it may at times play on greed. But we can’t go making up rules and laws applying to everyone what God has remained silent on. Even if it does remind us of what the soldiers did for the clothes of our savior.
They gambled for them, threw dice in modern parlance. His robe was nice. If Jesus was around today, one might think he was wearing jeans with a bejeweled butt. I jest, but seriously guys, I understand women doing this, but really, dudes? Have we lost all respect for the masculine? Is there that much estrogen in the water? Go buy a pair of Carharts and dress like a real man, at least French dandies knew how to where a proper suit. Suits, what happened to those? That is a masculine way to dress up, and when you carry a violin case while wearing one, no one talks back. A suit makes the violin masculine! Well enough of that digression. Jesus was wearing some nice clothes. Most likely they were a gift. I think about that at times though.
Clothing and personal piety are not easily divorced from each other. People make up a lot of rules regarding what should and should not be worn, and this isn’t just about what people wear to church. I understand moms and dads not wanting their daughters to dress in such provocative ways that boys are prone to objectify them, or get wrong impressions about them. I do think parents ought to exercise a little caution in explaining this to their children. It can also lead to a self righteousness, and a guilt complex very harmful in the long run. But then I don’t have a daughter.
More problematic is I often hear people thinking that dressing nice, putting on make up, and other such things are pretentious and “People should just like me for who I am.” This is ironic, because I find such a statement to be rather pretentious. On the one hand you can’t be bothered to make yourself presentable by doing your hair, on the other hand you think I should like you for who you are? Dressing nice isn’t just about you, it is about showing respect to others too. There is just as much vanity, perhaps more, in dressing like a slob and expecting people to look past it, as there is in expecting people to love you because you are dressed nice despite your attitude.
Jesus also accepted the robe. Something to that too. He didn’t think it too good a gift. He accepted it graciously, he wore it. He didn’t think he was being pretentious in doing so. He didn’t have that kind of pride in himself. Man can a guy mine some law out of this!
Finally, he died though, and he did so on behalf of our sins, even as he died for the sins of the robbers he was crucified with, one on each side. He died for their sins. This is true even if one rejected that gift in his own pride. I suppose that is it. We can have our pride or we can have forgiveness and the gift of faith. Perhaps it seems to ask a lot. But ask yourself, what did the pride of that robber get him? Nothing more than it will get you. Salvation is all gift.