A young man seemed surprised to learn recently that Jesus came to earth to die. He asked if God worked from a timeline, if he accomplished everything within a timeframe that he had set. Yes, God had an eternal purpose and plan and he fulfilled it “when the appropriate time had come” Galatians 4.4.
That plan was set before the creation of the world. (See Ephesians 1.4; 1 Peter 1.20.) So in the Old Testament we can see the Lord making promises and predictions of what — and who — would come. There are so many predictions that prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ is one of the great evidences for the inspiration of the Bible.
Psalm 22 contains several verses that pertain to Jesus’ crucifixion. (It is the most cited Psalm in the New Testament.) Verse 18 is one of these verses.
“They are dividing up my clothes among themselves; they are rolling dice for my garments.”
John’s gospel states that this is exactly what happened at the cross.
Now when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, and the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.) So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.” This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.” So the soldiers did these things, John 19.23-24.
This was not an event that could have been staged by Jesus or by his disciples. It shows that God knew what would happen. It reveals that God took human cruelty and injustice and from them brought forth human salvation in the cross. It reminds us that God is sovereign — he is in control of all things. He does everything to accomplish his will and bless as many people as possible.
At the foot of the cross, people are still gambling for illicit gain. They are still untouched by the blood that freely flows from Jesus’ side. The continue to carry on as if God had never entered history and had left mankind to its own devices.
While people are dividing up clothes and nations and families, Jesus is uniting them. In John 19.24-25, Jesus unites his best friend John and his mother. Jesus offers forgiveness and freedom from greed and selfishness. Jesus offers the way back to God.
This is what Jesus came to earth to accomplish. And he finished what the heavenly Father gave him to do. “It is finished.” Now, God’s timeframe is for us to confess him today and obey him forever.