Casting Lots for Jesus’ Robe
The last part of Luke 23:34 reads, “And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” Luke records this immediately after telling us about Jesus’ word about forgiveness, thus linking Jesus’ forgiveness with the garment being dispensed to those that He was forgiving.
Jesus’ robe was symbolic of the salvation that He was bringing to the world. Isaiah 61:10 says,
10 … I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation [yesha], He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness…
The “garments of salvation” are the garments of Yeshua (Jesus), because yesha is the root word (verb) of the proper noun, Yeshua.
Furthermore, the fact that the soldiers cast lots depicts the two goats for whom the lots were cast in Lev. 16:8,
8 And Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord [Yahweh] and the other lot for the scapegoat [Azazel].
Those soldiers who were casting lots for His garment were acting out the role of Aaron the high priest. They could do this, only because they were acting on behalf of Caiaphas, the current high priest who was a direct descendant of Aaron. The soldiers acted as representatives of the high priest when they crucified Jesus and when they cast lots.
The Day of Atonement Connection
We have already noted that Jesus was crucified outside the gate near the Miphkad altar where the red heifer had been burned and its ashes were being stored (Num. 19:2-4). Although Jesus was crucified as the Passover Lamb, He was fulfilling the prophecy of the red heifer as well.
In those days there was a bridge from the eastern gate to that altar on the Mount of Olives. It was built upon two layers of arches across the Kidron Valley.
In the time of Jesus, there was a double-tiered arched bridge supporting a roadway which led from this eastern gate of the Temple to the top of the Mount of Olives. That double tiered arched bridge was built by the priests to span the Kidron Ravine. This bridge was constructed by the priests for sacerdotal purposes and it was known as the Bridge of the Red Heifer. It connected the single gate in the eastern wall of the Court of the Gentiles with a sanctified road that led up to a Third Altar of the Temple located near the summit of the Mount of Olives. It is this altar referred to by the Book of Hebrews [Heb. 13:10-13] that was associated with the crucifixion of Jesus.
The same article shows a drawing (below) of this arched bridge over the Kidron Valley, based on the description in Mishnah Parah 3:6.
On the Day of Atonement the first goat was led over this bridge on his way to the temple to be killed. Later, the second goat was led over this bridge on his way to the wilderness. So we see how many streams of prophecy converged when Jesus was crucified. He was the Passover lamb, the red heifer, and the two goats on the Day of Atonement—all at the same time.
The high priest in the temple offered the blood of the first goat upon the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place at the ninth hour of the day—the time when Jesus died on the cross at Passover. Upon emerging from the temple, he shouted to the people, “Don’t touch me; don’t touch me,” for he did not want to be rendered unclean before the ceremony was finished. He then washed his hands and then said, “It is finished.” From then on, men could touch him.
It is interesting that his words on the Day of Atonement are used in the gospel narratives. After Jesus’ resurrection, He told Mary “touch me not” (John 20:17 KJV), because He had not yet ascended to sprinkle His blood on the mercy seat in heaven. Also, when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He was repeating what the high priest said after concluding the ceremony of the first goat on the Day of Atonement.
As for the second goat, the high priest imputed all the sins of the people to that goat and then walked through the crowd saying many times, “Behold, Israel, your sin is being removed from you as far as the east is from the west!” (Psalm 103:12). The people responded, “Take him away, take him away!” This second goat was then led through the gate, crossing the bridge, going past the Miphkad altar, and on into the wilderness to remove sin from the people.
So when the people at Jesus’ trial shouted, “Away with Him, away with Him” (John 19:15), they were duplicating the scene from the Day of Atonement in regard to the second goat.
The Red Cord
On the Day of Atonement, the high priest was accustomed to wrapping a red cord around the head of the second goat. Toward the end of the ceremony, he would cut off a piece of that cord and hang it on the temple door. When the cord turned white on its own accord, the work was finished (Isaiah 1:18), and the priest sat down on a chair set up on the platform outside the door of the temple.
When Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, He did not have a red cord on His head, but did have a crown of thorns, as we will see. The blood from his head simulated the red cord. There is also a statement from the Talmud in regard to the destruction of Jerusalem, which says,
The Rabbis taught that forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple the lot did not come up in the [high priest’s] right hand nor did the tongue of scarlet wool become white…. (Tractate Yoma 39b)
Christians have explained the meaning of this phenomenon to show that Jesus’ death on the cross removed sin and that the red cord was no longer necessary, since animal sacrifices had then ceased. Secondly, they said, it ceased to turn white, because the Jewish rejection of Jesus meant that their sins were not forgiven on the Day of Atonement. That is, their sins remained “as scarlet” (Isaiah 1:18).
Rabbi Singer wrote a lengthy article attempting to counter the Christian argument. Part of his argument states,
This is a preposterous notion. In fact, if evangelicals wish to engage in this sophomoric approach, a far more congruous argument could be made here using their same line of reasoning. We can, utilizing the same course of logic, conclude that the reason the scarlet strip of wool did not turn white was due to the fact that masses of wayward Jews had followed the false messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, rather than attributing the reason for the scarlet strip of wool not turning white to the rejection of Jesus, it can be more steadily asserted that the reason this transformation didn’t occur was due to the fact that many Jewish people had shamefully embraced Christianity. In fact, such an interpretation would be far more consistent with the whole of the Talmud.
Rabbi Singer’s second argument is:
The second point, however, presents a far more serious problem for Christian apologists. If in fact, as the “Hebrew-Christian” insisted, the reason that the scarlet wool strip did not turn white was “because Jesus was the final atonement,” and there was thus no longer any need for animal sacrifices, why then are the same animal sacrifices coming back? Christians have very little room to maneuver on this matter, because the Bible is quite clear that the animal sacrificial system will be restored in the messianic age…. Clearly, God has not done away with them as evidenced by the fact that these elaborate Temple rituals [in Ezekiel 43-44] will be restored with the advent of the messiah.
Rabbi Singer does not dispute the text of the Talmud which says that the red cord ceased to turn white around the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. His argument focuses fully on the interpretation of this phenomenon, giving the Jewish perspective. He attributes it to the fact that so many Jews considered Jesus to be the Messiah, and he says that animal sacrifices were not replaced by a greater sacrifice. In other words, God ceased to forgive Judah because they did not sufficiently suppress Christianity!
The fact is, modern evangelical Christianity has indeed taught that animal sacrifices will be reintroduced when a third temple is built in Jerusalem. I have talked to preachers who insist that Ezekiel 43 and 44 are to be interpreted according to the Old Covenant, rather than in light of the New. The Scofield Bible note on Ezekiel 43:19 says,
Doubtless these offerings will be memorial, looking back to the cross, as the offerings under the old covenant were anticipatory, looking forward to the cross. In neither case have animal sacrifices power to put away sin.
Scofield believed that God would institute animal sacrifices in the messianic age as a “memorial,” though not actually having “power to put away sin.” Even so, the view lends credence to Rabbi Singer’s argument, because Scofield agreed that animal sacrifices would indeed be brought back. Indeed, the Jews have every intention of performing animal sacrifices in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, and they do not see it as a mere “memorial” of what was done in times past.
The book of Hebrews says nothing of such future memorials, arguing that the old has been replaced by the new. Why would God want people to remember a system of worship that was fatally flawed from the start? There is no need to remember a sacrificial system that could never remove sin. Heb. 8:7 says,
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
It was for this very reason that the New Covenant was necessary. Heb. 8:13 concludes,
13 When He said, “a new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
If God wants men to remember, or memorialize, the Old Covenant and its “obsolete” system of worship in the Age to come, how could it possibly “disappear”? Further, Heb. 10:1-4 says,
1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshippers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had conscious-ness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
In past times, yearly a “reminder of sins” was necessary because of their ineffectiveness in taking away sins. If God were to reintroduce animal sacrifices in the future as a “memorial,” its purpose would run contrary to that of the New Covenant. The whole point of the passage above is to show that we do not need such a “memorial” any more, “because the worshippers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins.” In other words, we no longer have a constant sense of guilt, because the blood of the perfect Sacrifice has resolved the problem.
Thus, Scofield’s view falls apart in light of the book of Hebrews. Animal sacrifices cannot be re-established apart from the Old Covenant being renewed. Animal sacrifices were memorials under the Old Covenant, but such yearly memorials were obsolete under the New.
Passover and the Day of Atonement
So we see how the Passover, wherein Christ the Lamb was killed, was the main prophecy being fulfilled, but at the same time on a secondary level we also see elements of the Day of Atonement being referenced in the gospel narrative. This was necessary because the Day of Atonement involved two goats, picturing both the first and the second work of Christ. The Passover Lamb was also the first goat.
On the Day of Atonement the two goats foreshadowed the relationship between these two feast days.
Jesus’ Garment Not Torn
The soldiers cast lots, not for the robe which had been given to Him by Herod, but rather His own robe (Mark 15:20). All four of the gospel writers mention this, but John alone tells us how it fulfilled prophecy. John 19:23, 24 says,
23 The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. 24 They said therefore to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”
This was a quotation from the messianic prophecy in Psalm 22:18,
18 They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
We also see from Exodus 28:32 that the high priest’s garment was to be made in such a way “that it may not be torn.” The gospel writers thus show the contrast between Jesus and Caiaphas. When Jesus responded to the high priest’s adjuration to speak the truth, the high priest believed that Jesus spoke blasphemy, and so he tore his robe (Mark 14:63). He tore it needlessly, because Jesus had spoken the truth as adjured, and so in doing this, Caiaphas violated the law.
The priestly garment in prophecy represented salvation and the righteousness of saints. To tear one’s robe in the presence of blasphemy represents the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is not forgiven in this age or in the age to come. One’s salvation is “torn,” so to speak. Hence, Jesus’ “garment of salvation” remained intact and not torn, for He was dying to save all of mankind. On the other hand, the high priest’s robe was torn in the face of truth, so the reverse is true. The high priest of the Old Covenant was unable to procure salvation to the world.
John says that Jesus’ outer garments were divided four ways, one for each of the four soldiers. Four is the number of the earth, or the material creation. The four soldiers in this case represent the entire creation, to whom the garments of salvation are given through the death of Jesus on the cross.