Most people think I’ve been more of a reader in my lifetime than facts would support, especially of fiction. I’ve read many of the classics, but I don’t tend to read much in that genre anymore, unless it is historical fiction. I always feel like there are so many historically true events that I still don’t know enough about that I don’t have time to deal with “just a story.”
But in any event, I know the best writers are those who build a complicated storyline with all sorts of threads and details; and then, as you work toward the end, all of those seemingly unconnected pieces are revealed to come together in the most wonderful way.
The Bible is like this – even though written by dozens of authors … though of course they were all united by the common inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s passage tells John’s accounting of the crucifixion, and it brings together dozens of threads from the Scriptures – more details than we could begin to identify in this brief devotional. I’ll just mention a few …
Jesus is carrying his own cross to the place of the skull – a rock formation just outside Jerusalem that appears much like a skull. The image of the sacrifice carrying the wooden implement of his execution harks back to the Old Testament account of Isaac carrying the sticks for the sacrifice with his father Abraham. Where were they going? Where was this place of offering that God led them? Almost certainly it was to this very place where the true lamb – the true sacrifice – would give his life for the sin of the world.
This place is “outside the city.” The sin offering on the Day of Atonement – the blood being used for the covering on the mercy seat in the most holy place – had the carcass of the sacrifice taken out the camp. The writer to the Hebrews (13:11-13) picks up on this theme – “The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.”
Christ Jesus was crucified in the midst of two criminals. It would not have had to be that way, but it was, and like everything else it fulfills a passage written hundreds of years earlier in Isaiah 53:12 – “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
The nakedness on the cross, and the division of his garments – all of this was foretold in Psalm 22 – “All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
But all of this is not a crafted story, that is, in the sense of a fictional piece of art and literature. Rather it is the story of stories – God’s Big Story, as we’ve often talked about it at Tri-State Fellowship. Jesus was the King of the Jews – and though rejected by his own, his sacrifice on the cross is the payment for the sin of all throughout all of time.
How can we not trust in one who has created this true story of life – of life eternal … that we who are lost may be found and reconnected to the True Shepherd. What a magnificent story the Scriptures present – one that is timeless and bottomless and boundless.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
“They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
So this is what the soldiers did.
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.