The Death and Burial of Jesus – John 19:28-42

Throughout the gospel of John, you may recall other events that John has not chosen to include. John is selecting his material to go along with the particular themes he is developing. Not all the trials details were included, nor does John give all of the “seven words from the cross.”  In today’s reading, we see what are known as the fifth and sixth statements – about thirsting, and the pronouncement that his work is finished.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus, even at the very end, is focused on fulfilling all of the prophesies of Scripture. And here with the vinegar he fulfills Psalm 69:21, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

The hyssop branch being used continues the Passover theme, as this sturdy branch was used to mark the door frames … from Exodus 12:22, Take a branch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and apply to the top of the doorframe and the two side posts some of the blood that is in the basin. Not one of you is to go out the door of his house until morning.”  And we may also recall it being used in David’s Psalm of contrition (51:7), “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Notice that Jesus does not say that he is finished, but that IT is finished – the work of redemption that he was sent to accomplish.

31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

The breaking of legs of crucifixion victims hastened their deaths in several physiological ways, including an inability to push upward and breathe. In 1968, the skeletal remains of a crucified person were found, and the legs were broken. This fulfilled another prophecy (Exodus 12:46; Num. 9:12; Psalm 34:20).

The piercing of the side by the sword – witnessed by the writer, John – gave testimony to the full humanity of Jesus Christ. By the time this gospel was written, the Gnostic movement was a current problem in the early church – denying the physical reality of Christ and claiming he was a sort of mystical, phantom, angelic figure that merely appeared human. Of course, for Christ to be a true and final sacrifice for us, it was necessary that he be fully man, yet without sin. This piercing also fulfilled detailed Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 12:10, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Some of the other gospel accounts give us a fuller picture of this Joseph of Arimathea – from a town about 20 miles distant. He was wealthy, and though a member of the Sanhedrin, he was described by Luke as “a good and upright man who had not consented to their decision.” He was also secretly a disciple of Jesus in this context where being an open follower was rather dangerous.

So this Joseph, along with Nicodemus, take the body of Jesus and use about 75 pounds of spices on it – rather excessive and costly. And they bury Jesus in a newly hewn tomb nearby – one that Matthew records was for Joseph personally. This too fulfilled another prophecy that though despised, he would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9). These details of the preparation and wrapping show that there is no possibility of someone who had just “swooned” and that the coolness of the grave would revive him to be able to push open the stone, etc., etc… all rumors from that day until now.

So Nicodemus and Joseph are fellows who arrived a bit late to the party of the followers of Jesus … but they got there. Doing what they did was dangerous and without any merit for personal gain.

Being identified with Christ is often costly. People daily in our world pay the martyr’s price for faith. Being so despised is normal. Our easy life for Christ in America is the exception more than the rule. It may not always be that way; and there may be a time when life circumstances will call us to be a modern Joseph or Nicodemus.

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God – The Greatest Story Writer Ever – John 19:17-27

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.

John 19:17-27

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.

Crucified by Political Pressure and Expediency – John 19:1-16

The ebb and flow of my life into and out of political circles has allowed me at times to see and hear some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on within what is truly an often ugly world.

“Whipping” the vote is not an action limited to one party, but being on the inside of a minority party, I would hear from my own guys about what was really going on “on the other side.”  There were times when it would seem that some of them would vote with us on a particular moral matter – as personally they agreed with our position and were convinced by the truth of the argument. But when their leadership realized they were critical swing votes hanging in the balance, they were called in, sat down, and read the riot act as to what would happen to them if they did not “go along with the team” and vote against their personal convictions. They were told they had NO future to ever hold any positions of influence or leadership, and that they would not be supported at all in future primaries or elections, etc.  Ultimately, the pressure was too much to bear, and they would cave in to it and vote opposite their personal beliefs.

This is essentially what happens to Pontius Pilate. He never comes to a point of truly believing that Jesus is guilty of a capital offense. But the Jews knew how to up the pressure. When their desire to see blood was not satiated by the horrors of a Roman flogging (that often did kill people), they pressed for crucifixion – a death generally reserved for the worst criminals, especially revolutionaries.

The Jewish argument was essentially that if Pilate allowed Jesus to go free, he was not a friend of Caesar … and that was scary. The current Caesar – Tiberius – was a sickly, violent, whacky guy not known for patience with uprisings. With Pilate facing the choice of following conviction to save some Jew he had no prior connection with, or having news of a riotous and ugly event in Jerusalem getting to the ears of Tiberius … well, Jesus was now headed for the cross. And of course, all of this was in the larger picture well within the sovereign hands of God.

John records some ironic statements (which he liked doing – like mentioning how Caiaphas said it was better for one person to die for the nation). Here in this passage we see the chief priests claiming they had no king but Caesar (a ridiculous statement given their values and beliefs), and we see Pilate calling Jesus the King of the Jews (which of course Christ is, though neither Pilate nor the religious establishment believed such a thing).

It was American essayist Charles Dudley Warner who wrote “politics makes strange bedfellows.”  Never was that more true than in the crucifixion of Christ … and our sins contributed to the crowed bed.

Jesus Sentenced to Be Crucified

19 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.