Monday, November 28, 2016

The Cross: Death and Burial of Christ (John 19:17-42)

John gets through the events of the cross fairly quickly. In just a handful of verses or sentences each, he details the events of Jesus’ death and burial often using the perspective of other people around the event.

Pilate and the Jewish Leaders: (17-22)

Pilate and the leaders bicker over the nature of Jesus’ crime. Pilate has a sign made declaring Jesus to be the King of the Jews, but the leaders want it to state that He only claimed to be such. Pilate isn’t interested in “defending the truth” or anything so insightful. He is just tweaking the Jewish leaders for forcing his hand in a case where he saw no crime. However, this is just the first of many circumstances where John sees the hand of God. Jesus is indeed the King, and the Jewish leaders’ efforts to get Him killed inadvertently declared that fact.

The Soldiers who crucified Christ: (23-25a)

The soldiers who carried out the crucifixion also play into God’s plan. They divide Jesus’ things in a way that fulfill a passage in Psalms that reads as a precise prophecy of what Jesus experienced.

His mother and disciples: (25b-27)

The women among His followers were there at the cross, mourning and likely in shock at this unexpected (for them) turn of events. Jesus shows His love for His mother by entrusting her care to the disciple whom He loved. In this way, John also reveals that he was an eye witness to all of these events.

Christ’s Death: (28-30)

Jesus fulfills another prophetic Psalm by requesting a drink. After being given some vinegar, He surrenders to death. This was unusual for a crucifixion, as most people persisted for hours or days suffering on a cross.

Proof of death: (31-37)

John gives us proofs of Jesus’ death. First he recounts how he saw the soldiers pierce Jesus with a spear when they found Him dead sooner than expected. If there were any doubts that Jesus had died (as we will soon see could have been claimed) this event would silence them. John points out more fulfilled prophecy here as well.

His secret followers make good: (38-42)

Finally, John tells us about Joseph and Nicodemus. They were followers of Jesus, but in secret out of fear of the religious leaders (a group to which they belonged). In a curious decision, they choose to reveal their sympathies with Jesus and His Gospel now that He has been killed. It would seem that that would be the worst possible time to align oneself with a cause, right as it had apparently been squashed. What had they learned from Jesus? Had their deeper insight into Scripture given them some reason for hope? In any case, they take His body and prepare it for burial, wrapping it in 75 pounds of oil-soaked cloths. This can be seen as further proof of Jesus’ death. If he had survived the beating, crucifixion, and stabbing, he likely would not live through multiple days wrapped in a complete-body-cast.

Jesus has been killed, but thankfully the story does not end here. Were it so we would not be reading His story today.

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