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John 19:31-33, NIV31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews 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.
April 28, 2012It was all over now except to get the bodies down from the crosses. The soldiers knew how to speed up the process. To make sure their victims were dead, they broke their legs. It had to do with the breathing process while hanging from the cross, and heaving themselves upwards to catch a breath. They couldn't do this if their legs were broken. Was the breaking of legs a blessing or an added brutality?
When the soldiers came to Jesus, they knew he was already dead and did not need to break his legs. Why is this important enough to include in the Gospel account? Because of the scriptures in verse 36.
There are so many ironies. The day of preparation for worship and for learning the holy scriptures. The special Sabbath that was a part of the week-long Passover Festival. All this holy stuff--activities, habits and rituals. In the midst of it all they crucified the Son of God! And it didn't bother their collective conscience.
However, don't mar our religious formalities by leaving dead bodies in public view at the start of the Sabbath. They could kill, they just couldn't leave the bodies hang after sundown! This is so ugly. Such a strange sense of what is right and what is wrong.
John 19:34-37, NIV34 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."
April 29, 2012Instead of breaking the legs of Jesus, someone gave him a swift whack into the side of his body. Was it just to make sure Jesus was dead? Did a soldier do it simply because he could? With no constraints on their behavior, maybe one of them was just making sport, fooling around, letting off stream.
Those who were watching had a surprise coming. Both blood and water issued from the side of Jesus. The footnote in my study Bible explains that the spear must have pierced the pericardium (holding watery fluid) and the heart. Not an everyday occurrence; bystanders took notice.
Believers saw God's hand in this. They found verses in the ancientScriptures which foretold exactly what had happened. Even after his death, Jesus was fulfilling the ancient prophesies.
John 19:38-42, NIV38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. 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.
April 30, 2012We notice that everything about this crucifixion was done with Pilate's permission. Checking in with the Roman governor before doing anything must have been loathsome. But people do what the situation requires.
Several factors are coming together now. Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and respected citizen, was a secret disciple. Something about the death of Jesus made him go public with his beliefs. Nicodemus had similar credentials to those of Joseph. We first met him in John chapter 3, when he came to see Jesus one night under cover of darkness.
Suddenly both of these men are charged up and they join forces to give Jesus a respectable burial. It was more than adequate. It was a rich man's burial, complete with a brand new tomb. And an abundance of spices to cover the bruised and massively battered body. Who owned the tomb and how much it cost were not their concern. Rich men can buy anything.
Preparing a dead body for burial was usually women's work. But here Joseph and Nicodemus take the strips of linen and wrap the body with the myrrh and aloes. Their fears have been replaced with bold initiative, maybe even gentle and loving actions.
I cheer for Joseph of Arimathea and for Nicodemus. They finally exposed what was in their hearts. Everyone could see their loving devotion to Jesus and they didn't care who saw them. With the smell of the spices on their hands, stains on their clothing, sore muscles and dirty feet, they were going to be late for the traditional Passover rituals. In fact, because they had touched a dead body, they would not be allowed to participate at all. They were "unclean." Unclean yet fully alive!
Jewish people who believed in Jesus were rejected by the respectable community. Which is why these two men kept their interest in Jesus a secret. To be excluded from one's peers is a hurtful and lonely prospect. By preparing Jesus for burial, they had crossed a line over which they could never return. They had finally experienced the eternal life Jesus had spoken so much about, and at the same time they lost the life they had always known.
Jesus had talked about that one time. He said, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever who loses his life for my sake will find it." --Matthew 10:39