You may have heard about the $656 Mega Millions Jackpot this past week. Only one of the three winners from three different states has yet to produce a winning ticket. However, this is not unusual. Often, winners will lie low as they assemble a team of attorneys and financial planners so they can come up with the right plan to handle their sudden windfall.
Yet, when there’s a lot of money to claim, strange things can happen. This latest record-breaking jackpot is no exception. For instance, one man mistakenly thought he had won this lottery. As a result, he called his mom to celebrate the news. She was so excited that she contacted the press. Sadly, son and mother were not only extremely disappointed to find out they were victims of a cruel practical joke, but also they had both been humiliated by the media circus their false claim had produced.
Then, there’s the curious case of Mirlande Wilson, a 37 year old McDonald’s employee in Baltimore. On Wednesday, she held a press conference to say she was one of the winners. However, her lawyer informed those in attendance that Wilson didn’t know the current whereabouts of the ticket.
Gambling is a practice that transcends time and culture. Consequently, it shouldn’t surprise us that we find it at the Cross. Four bored soldiers chose to pass their time away rolling dice for Jesus’ clothes as He hung there dying—dying for them. To them, Jesus was entertainment. He was just another criminal who was getting what He deserved.
But, those who read the Gospel accounts with an open mind today can pick up on the irony of the divinely inspired writers. While Jesus, God clothed in humanity, hangs on a wooden cross, ignorant and callous soldiers, oblivious to His true identity, gamble for His garments. Moreover, a crowd of well-informed religious types have gleefully gathered to rid the earth of the very One their people had anxiously waited two millennia to arrive.
In this scene, we see humanity at its worst. We witness the absolute depths of human depravity. In a word, we see people as God sees people. It’s as if God pulls back the curtain so we can observe the inner workings of heaven. For a brief moment, we begin to understand who Jesus really is, what He did for us and why we should risk everything to follow Him.
But, then we close our eyes to this sacred thought as we calculate what it will cost us. We worry about our reputation as we ask what people will think of us. At best, we wonder if we will be labeled a fanatic. At worst, we fear that following Jesus will cost us what we treasure most.
Thankfully, Jesus’ Passion also affords us an opportunity to see humanity at its best. All four Gospels provide us with a sterling example of one who having witnessed this entire scene, promptly wagered everything on a dead man who hung limply on a cross.
Today on Easter Sunday, we’re going to take a closer look at a minor character in the Passion story who took a major gamble on Jesus. When Joseph of Arimathea boldly asked Pilate for Jesus’ dead body, he went public with his faith for the first time. Neither this aristocratic man, nor any of Jesus’ followers anticipated a resurrection two days later. In that moment, Joseph risked his privileged status to give the One he loved a proper burial. Joseph teaches us that we lose nothing if we place everything on Jesus!
This article is an excerpt of my Easter sermon in Luke 23:50-24:12. All are welcome to join us for worship every Sunday @ 10:30 am. Lighthouse Community Baptist Church is located at 22 Pequot Trail in Pawcatuck.