The Gospel of John: a commentary & meditation 
"They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots"

Scripture: John 19:23-27

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was  without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24 so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfil the scripture, "They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots." 25 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag'dalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" 27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Meditation: It was Roman custom for four soldiers to accompany the criminal to the place of crucifixion.  The four soldiers who crucified Jesus divided his garments among themselves. A Jewish man would typically wear five items of clothing: shoes, turban, girdle, tunic, and outer robe.  The soldiers gambled to see who would win the prize of the fifth article, in this case a seamless garment that had been woven all in one piece. This seamless garment was likely given to Jesus as a gift from his mother, since it was customary for Jewish mothers to make such a garment for their sons as a last gift before they entered the world on their own. Cutting it into four pieces would have made it useless. John makes a special point to tell us that this was in fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy (Psalm 22:18).  John was also likely making a reference to the seamless tunic worn by the high priest in the Temple service (Exodus 28:31-32; Exodus 39:27-29). The priest stood as mediator or liaison (the Hebrew word literally means "bridge-builder") between God and humankind. He offered sacrifice for the sins of the people.  Jesus is the perfect High Priest who opens the way for all to enter into the presence of God by offering the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world (see Hebrews 5).

At the cross of Jesus were four women who loved him. It would be natural for his mother to be present. What grief and pain must have pierced her heart as she watched her son die on the cross. Simeon had foretold great suffering for her when her infant son was presented in the Temple (Luke 2:35). Along with Mary were three other women. Mary's sister, Salome was the mother of the disciples James and John (Mk.15:40; Matt.27:56).  She was rebuked by Jesus when she asked him to give her sons the chief places in his kingdom. She was humble enough to both receive his rebuke and to follow him to the cross.  Mary Magdalene was especially grateful that Jesus had freed her from a demon-possesed life. She would not leave him even in his death and she would be the first to return to the tomb after the Sabbath.  We do not know much about the fourth woman, Mary of Clophas, who came to support the other women and to be with Jesus in his last agony.

Jesus does not forget those who are with him in his passion.  When he recognizes his mother standing at the foot of the cross he immediately takes concern for her welfare and instructs John to take her as his own mother. And he asks Mary to accept John as her own son. Mary was completely united with her son in his divine mission.  She is the first Christian because she accepted the gospel and gave her "yes" to God's plan of redemption.  She followed her son to the cross and she prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all the disciples at Pentecost.  She is a model for us of faith and obedience, hope and perseverance, and love and fidelity.  Are you ready to take up your cross and follow the Lord Jesus in his way of love and sacrifice?

"Lord Jesus, you loved your own to the end.  Give me the courage to take up my cross each day in humble obedience to your will and in gratitude and love for your willing sacrifice for my sake." 

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(c) 2001 Don Schwager