Gambling With Eternity
Gambling: When the Stakes Get Crazy
Right on schedule, a group of men show up for work: jocks, tough, buff, competitive. As co-workers they began that day with the usual joking and razzing of one another. Though they made fun of each other, there was a bond between them from hours spent together. They also shared the mutual love for gambling.
Their job, however, was not what you'd call average. Daily these men would deal with nails, wood, spears, whips...and blood. They are soldiers. Soldiers in the most powerful regime in the history of the world. Well trained, focused, hard. And on this day, the task was clear: Kill the man named Jesus who claims to be God.
So, with militaristic accuracy they carried out their orders. After stripping Jesus of everything but a linen cloth, they began. One nail driven into his left arm, another nail for his right, and still a third to pierce through his feet and into the fibers of the wood. Then in one joint effort, they hoisted the heavy wood, now bearing a man, and dropped the base of it into a hole.
Job done. Yet glancing at the sun overhead, they had hours still before the end of their workday. "What should we do to pass the time?" one soldier asks another. "I don't know," his friend replies. "His clothes! Let's throw dice to see who gets them!" You could sense the instant approval of a great idea -- gambling on the job.
So they huddled. Like Las Vegas Texas-hold 'em world champions they sat at the table and were ready to beat the others. In an intense moment the soldiers place their bets and with one throw and a huge adrenaline rush, it was over. One winner, and many losers.
What a shocking and interesting mix. On the cross behind their shoulders hung a not-very-ordinary man in agony, yet who was acutely aware of them, and of many others. While they lightened him of his clothes, he was receiving the weight of their sins, and paying the penalty for them. It was a enormously historic moment, and these guys were oblivious, just having fun throwing dice. And you can understand how that could happen. Three guys being crucified. A regular day at work.
These soldiers gambled for something pretty insignificant...a few garments. There are different levels of gambling.
Have you ever thought about gambling with something more significant? Take your life for example. It's pretty normal to wonder once in a while...what would happen if you died right now. Are you willing to gamble with that one?
Back at the scene of the gambling soldiers, more was happening right then. There was a pretty intense conversation going on. In addition to Jesus, two other men were being crucified on either side of Jesus. Both were criminals (this was capital punishment). One of them couldn't care less about what would happen after he died. He insulted and baited Jesus, along with the rest of the crowd. But the other criminal was silent, lost in serious thought. It became obvious to him that Jesus was anything but a criminal. He may have thought about all that he heard about Jesus.... how he befriended the outsider, the prostitutes, the thieves. And how Jesus offered even them forgiveness and eternal life. It was a risk finding out if Jesus might accept him also. Yet his destiny was worth the gamble. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," he says to Jesus.
And Jesus replied, "Today you will be with me in paradise."
I love the straightforwardness about Jesus. He tells us we don't have to gamble with our eternal home. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."1 He invites us to know him, so that we can know for 100% sure that the moment we die, we are going to heaven. It's like sitting at the card table, but being able to see everyone else's cards. There's no gamble, because he tells you, if you have me, you have eternal life.
It all focuses on Jesus.
Remember the gambling soldiers? Something very odd happened towards the end of Jesus' crucifixion. They were waiting for the death of each man on the three crosses, so that they could take them down and be done for the day. But something caught their attention. It was when Jesus cried out to the Father. Something about how Jesus called to his Father caused one of the soldiers to see Jesus in an entirely different way, concluding out loud, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"
One of the reasons Jesus was on the cross was because of the way he infuriated the religious leaders. He told them point blank, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."2
Do you ever struggle over the question of death? If there is a heaven and hell, they are God's to give. He's offering us everything. "He who hath the Son, hath eternal life."
Is it worth five minutes to find out more about Jesus and why he says he can give you eternal life? Here's a quick article that lays it all out: Beyond Blind Faith.