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John 19:16-18, NIV16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. 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 Here they crucified him, and with him two others--one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
March 23, 2012I am amazed at how few words were used to recount the act of crucifixion. John simply tells us Jesus carried his own cross to the site. There they crucified Jesus along with two others, one on his left and one on his right. Was it because John did not like to think about that day? Did those few words say it all? We are left to use our imagination to fill in the details.
It says "finally Pilate handed Jesus over." Compared to our judicial system, Pilate worked very quickly. This is same day justice, or injustice. Pilate had Jesus in his custody all morning; now that the order was given, soldiers called the shots. What did a crucifixion do to the psyche of a soldier?
Jesus' time had come. John's entire gospel has built up to this point. "If I be lifted up I will draw all people to myself."
John 19:19-22, NIV19 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."
March 24, 2012In the battle between the religious authorities and Pilate, the former got everything they wanted that day, but Pilate got in the last jab. Jesus of Nazareth was a term of derision. so was the title, King of the Jews. The chief priests complained, but Pilate won this last round. He would not be dissuaded.
Aramaic was the language of the local Jews. Latin and Greek were spoken by foreigners. Jesus appeared so humbled, bruised, shamed and defeated, that anyone seeing him would scoff at the sign over his head. And they scoffed not only at the one on the cross, but at the Jews in general for having such a one come to an end like this. In his current state, Jesus was an embarrassment to all Jews everywhere. It was ridicule of the worst kind. Try as they might to distance themselves from Jesus, now in his death they were, to their shame, identified with him.
John 19:23-24, NIV23 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 which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."So this is what the soldiers did.
March 25, 2012More words are used to describe what happened to Jesus' clothing than were used to describe the crucifixion. It's always easier to talk about the extraneous. How easily we talk about the daily weather; how difficult it is to speak about weightier matters.
We learn the number of soldiers involved in the crucifixion that day. It was four, each one getting his share of Jesus' clothing. We also learn that Jesus had a seamless undergarment which was valued by the soldiers. They gambled to see whose it would be now that Jesus no longer needed it. Evidently the executioners were entitled to the spoils.
Although the soldiers didn't know it at the time, John claims they were fulfilling the ancient Scriptures. That quotation is part of Psalm 22, the passage Mark and Matthew noted that Jesus began to recite from the cross. The first line of that Psalm is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It's interesting that John didn't consider it important to inform us that Jesus said this "word from the cross", but he does consider it important to let us know the soldiers were fulfilling another part of that Psalm.
John 19:25-27, NIV25 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 his mother, "Dear 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.
March 26, 2012Mary has been experiencing a week of highs and lows, pleasant moments when she saw Jesus respected and admired and perplexing occasions when he was abused, hated and lied about. Now, things have descended into an abyss of horror, at least from Mary's perspective. Her firstborn son is not only dying, but dying a criminal's death at the hands of Roman soldiers. Did her mind go back . . . ? Did she search her mind for an explanation? All the pondering she had done--did any of those thoughts sustain her throughout this ordeal?
Mary was not alone. A sister was with her. So was Mary Magdalene. And the disciple, John. Others who still believed in Jesus may have preferred to remember him in his strength and deliberately stayed away from the humiliation of the cross. I ponder how Mary could stand it to watch as Jesus slowly inched his way toward a cruel death? How could she wait by the cross those long hours, keeping watch as her beloved son died in such agony. She would respond, "How could I not be there."
Jesus is nailed to the cross in a most tortuous way. Below Him are these few people who still believe in Him. When Jesus saw his motherthere, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son." Then he looked to the disciple and said, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
It's a tender moment. Soon it will be over. Her son will be only a precious memory. John doesn't say it, but I think there were many "I love you" sentiments passed up and down between those on the ground and the one on the cross. Also some comforting, strengthening words.
Mary had four other sons, so I always wondered about these verses. Why would Jesus give responsibility for his mother to his most loving disciple? Why didn't Jesus expect his brothers to assume that role?
Not until this Lenten season did I hear another explanation of this text. In keeping with the way John wrote his gospel, the words mother and son may have a much bigger meaning than what we are accustomed to. Suppose Jesus was looking ahead and seeing a new family, not based on blood lines, but on the faith we hold in our heart and soul.
Mary and John were together at the foot of the cross. They believed in Jesus, that he was sent from God to save his people and give them eternal life. Jesus, with these words from the cross, bound them together. But not only Mary and John. Figuratively all believers after them would belong to a new family, a new fellowship of believers that would comfort, strengthen, encourage, support and care for one another. Jesus was foreseeing a community of faith that is faithful to each other.
John 19:28-29, NIV 28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29 A jar of of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.
March 27, 2012Again, we may expect multiple layers of meaning attached to the words of Jesus. John made an assumption that Jesus spoke these words in order to fulfill scripture. Maybe so. Or Jesus had something more than physical thirst on his mind. Some people explain that Jesus mentioned being thirsty to reveal his human nature and that he suffered as any man would. Also, it's common for a dying person to be thirsty and want a drink.
I'm thinking back to the time Jesus spoke to the woman at the well and told her he had living water to give to her. Living water was like a spring of water welling up inside. If Jesus was thirsty, does that mean the well was dry?
Or maybe he was thirsting for righteousness as he alluded to in the Beatitudes. Everyone "thirsts" for something. What did Jesus thirst for throughout his life? Was he thirsting for the defeat of sin and death?
Here's something else I heard just this past Sunday in a sermon. The hyssop plant was a part of the first Passover. The blood of the lamb which marked the homes of the Israelites and saved them from the angel of death was smeared on the doorpost with hyssop. Hyssop was also used by God's people in the Old Testament in rites of healing and cleansing. It was symbolic for removing/defeating sin.
Who are the ones who offered Jesus the wine vinegar and brought the hyssop to the crucifixion? Was it the women already identified? And John? Were there others of the faithful who were present to the end? Maybe some who believed and hoped and prayed that Jesus would not die, that Jesus was too powerful to die, that God would not allow Jesus to die? Perhaps they were wanting to use the hyssop for healing and cleansing, while God was using it remind anyone who took notice that, in death, Jesus was removing/defeating the sins of the world.