Two small cubes carved from bone. Worn smooth from repeated use and valuable to break a watch’s boredom. The roll of the dice had gained many a coveted possession for Quentus. Sturdy sandals. Thick cloaks. Sharp daggers.
His job was to strip the criminals of their possessions. And strip them he did—piling the loot at the edge of the crucifixion mound. The soldiers would mentally tag what they wanted and then wait for a break so they might roll their dice and enjoy their luck. This was one of the few perks of this nasty job—a minimal bonus for the extra hours and effort waiting for these condemned people to die.
Today the plundering had resulted in a paltry offering of less than desirable pieces. The men on duty gave the pile a cursory glance. Out of spiteful boredom they jabbed and smacked the impaled feet of the crucified for their meager contributions to the gamblers’ pot.
Quentus stared at the pile. One piece caught his eye. Most likely only he recognized its value because he had held and examined it. A plain undergarment. Nondescript at first glance, but it was seamless—woven as one piece from top to bottom. Why would a man condemned to death by crucifixion have this kind of garment? Had he stolen it? Or had someone given it to him? Someone who loved him—Quentus felt the twinge of jealousy and pushed it down.
Who was this man?
Quentus shook the dice in his hand. The other guards were nervous—the sky was eerily dark at a time when the sun should have been at its zenith. Muttering and cursing they made gestures and signs to ward off bad omens. He found their wary superstitions humorous and contradictory to their usual bold and crass ways. The dice were warm in Quentus’ hand. He squatted in the rocky soil and brushed a circle clear of debris. The others joined him.
One at a time they cast their lots. * The highest roll would take the seamless garment, and for some odd reason Quentus realized he wanted it. He peered up and the garment’s owner looked directly at him. Quentus felt pierced, and he didn’t like the feeling. He could not look away from this man. This was a convicted man who the Jewish leaders wanted dead before their religious Sabbath began. But he and his guard had discussed this man. In all their years of carrying out these grisly executions never had they encountered one like this man. He had been different from the very beginning.
At this man’s expense his men had enjoyed an entertaining diversion. They had heard rumored mumblings that the man was a prophet and a healer. Quickly they had devised a plan—blindfolding him and taunting him to prophesy and tell them which one hit him. Quentus, himself, had cuffed the man in the ear and sneered. “Who am I? Who’s hitting you? Tell me.” Fear skirted around Quentus as he wondered if the man recognized any of their voices.
What fate had put that man on this cross on this particular day? What choices had he made to have him nailed to its crossbeam? Quentus was a Roman citizen. He would never have to endure this type of execution, but what roll of dice caused him to be born to his Roman parents instead of here in this far country to Jews? What stars had aligned to bring this man before him to this destiny?
At last Quentus looked away. He could not hold the man’s gaze. The dice lay scattered on the ground before him. Fate, however, was against him today. He had rolled the lowest; he must forfeit the seamless garment. Quentus felt a stab of foreign regret. He scooped up his knuckle-bone dice and turned and walked away. Fate was a fickle thing he had heard someone say.
Fate didn’t lead Jesus to the cross.
Destiny, as an entity, did not nail him there.
The stars’ alignment did not destine Jesus’ execution.
A roll of the dice did not determine his end.
Randomness was not involved in this course of events.
A weighed and measured choice was made.
This course of events was planned, choreographed and orchestrated.
God’s redemption for his people, for us, was not left to chance.
Our redemption was not a random afterthought, quickly thrown together to try and fix the problem. Our redemption was a ransom paid by a man who knew what he was doing before he ever came to live among us. No trick of fate or chance unfolded that forced Jesus’ hand. He didn’t make a last minute decision.
Understand, my friends, the dice were weighted.
They were weighted in our favor.
God weighted the dice in our favor at Jesus’ expense.