Skip Heitzig - John 19:23-42
- Buy this sermon
Father, we begin where we ought to begin, by talking to you, because this is your plan we're reading about. This is your truth. And you superintended the very writing of the documents that we are considering. And so, though John wrote it with his own pen, it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit will come and bring to your remembrance all things that I have spoken to you. We're reading that. And as we read his testimony, and as we make application to our own lives, as we understand with our own minds, even though some of us have read the Bible time and time again, bring a fresh word of encouragement to us, Lord, and a fresh word of appreciation as we consider this holy moment of our Savior on Calvary's cross. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Most everyone in the world is familiar with the image of the cross. It is iconic. It is literally an icon. People see a cross, and for many people around the world, it's not just a symbol of Christian belief. To some people, it's actually the symbol of Western civilization, which I've always found interesting because it began in the Middle East. As we told you, the cross as a implement of death, was invented by the Persians. But over time, because Christians have adopted it as a symbol, and we see it on churches and we see it at cemeteries, and we see it on people's necks, we get very used to it.
And because we're very used to it, we can sometimes disconnect from it. I grew up in a church where every Sunday I looked behind the altar where a huge crucifix was on the wall. A picture of Jesus dying on the cross, I still can see in my mind's eye that very crucifix from my upbringing. When I went home, right there in the hallway between my room and my brother's room, another crucifix on the wall. So I grew up seeing it, but it's been said familiarity can sometimes breed contempt. We just get used to it.
We even get used to the grim depictions in the scripture of Jesus' own death, as horrifying as that was. We find ourselves taken there by John at the foot of the cross in John, chapter 19. It was Oswald Chambers, some of you are familiar with his writings, who said, heaven is interested in the cross. Hell is terrified of the cross. Then he said, it's human beings that for the most part ignore its meaning.
We don't want to do that. In fact, we could look at tonight's Bible study as a preparation for next week when we take the Lord's supper communion. By that time, Lord willing, we're going to be in chapter 20, which is the Resurrection. So we can get our hearts primed, ready, and prepared by looking at this account in John, chapter 19.
Now just a little bit of backtracking. I told you the Persians invented it, and the Romans perfected it. The Romans took crucifixion and used it to execute what they regarded as the worst criminals in their culture, the very worst. First of all, all Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion. Only the people they called slaves, whom they also called non-persons, they really weren't Roman citizens, they really didn't have full person-hood in the empire, only slaves could be crucified.
And the crime had to be pretty serious. It was reserved for murderers, armed robbers, and insurrectionists, or those who would mount some kind of a rebellion against the Roman Empire. So you know the story. We have followed it through. Jesus has had six trials, three religious trials, and three civil trials, finally being sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate that we read last week in chapter 19. Jesus has already been in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the Garden of Gethsemane, as he prayed, the Bible tells us he sweat great drops of blood, a medical condition known as hematidrosis, where the tiny capillaries in the forehead can burst into the sweat glands.
And so as the person begins to sweat, it's mingled with blood. And it happens when people are under extremely high stress. So Jesus has lost blood and physical energy through that ordeal in the Garden of Gethsemane. He's betrayed by Judas. He goes through all of those trials. He stands before Pilate. Pilate, wanting to appease the crowd, commands that Jesus be scourged.
And that's where we begin our study last week. We talked about the Romans scourging, the flagellum that was used to tear open the back of the prisoner, to ready that prisoner for capital punishment, to weaken the prisoner. Then, Jesus, on the way to the place of execution, carried his cross. Not the entire cross, for the vertical pole was already being put in place at the place of execution, Golgatha, but the upper part, the crossbeam, the horizontal cross-beam known as the patibulum that weighed between 75 and 100 pounds, was placed on the prisoner's back, and Jesus carried that toward the place of execution.
He didn't make it all the way. He was already weakened by the ordeal, that he fell down a few times. And that patibulum, that upper beam, had to be carried by Simon from Cyrene. And so finally Jesus made it to the place of execution, we're told in verse 17. "And he, bearing his cross, went out to a place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgatha." The Latin is Calvarium.
That's where we get the term of this church, Calvary. It's funny, when I go to different places, they go oh, you're from cavalry. You go to that church. You're the pastor of that church cavalry. I said, no, we're not mounded guards on horses with swords. That's a cavalry. We are Calvary, the place of the skull. Calvarium is the place Jesus was executed. So our church is named after the place where Jesus paid the ultimate penalty for our sins.
Usually, the Romans wanted the victim to travel the longest possible route to the place of execution. Why? Because it was sort of a morbid parade. By carrying that cross the longest route to the place of execution, more people can see, here is what happens to anybody who defies Rome by being a murderer, an armed robber, or an insurrectionist. Jesus was none of those. And yet he traveled that route.
Now, when you go to Jerusalem, see, that was a statement of faith right there, when you go to Jerusalem, and by the way, you're going to make it either way, you know that right? If you don't make it in this life, one day you'll go and be part of it in the millennial kingdom. So you are going to Jerusalem. You are going to the Holy Land.
But it's always nice to have a comparison. It's always nice to have a before and after. So those of you who have been to Jerusalem, in the millennial kingdom it's going to look so vastly different that you'll be able to go, man, I remember when that didn't even exist, or when that was over there, and look how this place has changed.
You'll be able to appreciate the differences. So I would recommend you check it out as soon as you can. So anyway, they traveled the longest possible route. And when you go to Jerusalem, you will see a sign that is from the Antonia Fortress, the remains of where Pilate and his cavalries were. And the road that went from that praetorium where Jesus was sentenced to Golgatha is called the Via Dolorosa.
Many songs have been written about the name. But that is on the walls, Via Dolorosa, which some of you should find fascinating because it's Spanish. It's the way of sorrows in Spanish. And you're thinking, well I'm in Israel. They speak Hebrew here. And they speak Arabic in other parts of the city. It's not in English. It's in Spanish, until you realize that the whole 10th legion of Rome was from Spain and Pontius Pilate himself was Spanish. So you can have fun with that one.
So verse 17, "He bearing his cross, went out to a place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgatha, where they crucified him, and two others with him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center." Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. In putting that title on the cross, he is in a sense, coronating Jesus as King. Now one might wonder, why would pilot do this? He asked Jesus, are you a king? Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world. Pilate said, so you are a king then.
He said, if my kingdom were of this world, Jesus said, my servants would fight. But my kingdom is not of this world. Now the reason Pilate probably put this title on the cross was to anger the people who wanted Jesus killed, the chief priests, the religious people, the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas, Annas, all of these prime movers who were trying to get Jesus killed. They hated Jesus. They thought what he said and did was blasphemous. So as his final dig, I believe Pilate coronated Jesus King of the Jews. Then, many of the Jews read this title for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city. And it was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin.
Last week, we made mention that those three languages are important, Hebrew, the language of religion, Greek, the language of culture and education, Latin, the language of law and order, the language of Rome. Therefore, the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, do not write the King of the Jews, but that he said, I am the King of the Jews. So they were saying Pilate, we're your editors here. We want you to pull the sign off and just write above what you have written, this man said he was the King of the Jews.
Pilate answered, what I have written, I have written. Now here is a case where knowing some of the Greek tenses in the text can be helpful. So notice in verse 21, it says therefore the chief priest of the Jews said to Pilate, the word said is in the imperfect tense, meaning they said it, and they repeated it. They kept saying that.
But then notice in verse 22, Pilate answered, what I have written, I have written. That's put in the perfect tense. So here's a better translation for our understanding. The Jewish leaders said, and kept saying, and kept saying, and kept insisting, take that down. Don't write that, write that he said that he was that. And they kept hounding him to edit the statement.
But Pilate said, what I have written once and for all, I have written and will always be written. That's the idea. That's the force of the text. What I have written, I have written. And it will always be written, it will stand as written. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments and made four parts to each soldier, apart, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. So Jesus is lifted up on the cross. The sign is placed above him, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
It angers the religious people. Now backtrack a moment. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there is a group of people that came from the East looking for him. Remember their names, what we call them? The Magi, and they go to Jerusalem and they find Herod the Great. And they said, where is he who has been born the King of the Jews?
Interesting that people outside of Israel, all the way from effectively Iran, are in Jerusalem looking for the King of the Jews. Then, fast forward to the end of Jesus' life but before the crucifixion, he comes into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. And the people shout, Hosanna to the son of David, to the King of Israel. Magi acknowledged King of the Jews. Some of the people in Jerusalem, when he was coming in on that donkey a few days before this, acknowledged this is our King. Pilate now puts that up on the cross. But Jesus told Pilate, my kingdom is not of this world.
Now, that doesn't mean it's not going to be of this world. At that time, when Jesus came, he came to deal with sin. But he is coming a second time. And when he comes a second time, Revelation, chapter 19, John says, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and he who sat on it was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and he makes war. And he had a name written on his robe and on his thigh, King of kings, and the Lord of lords," not just the King of the Jews, but the King of everybody else, including the Jews. Now that's going to come. But here, he is dealing with the most important transaction ever, dealing with the sins of the world.
So that the place of crucifixion, we've just read that the soldiers took his garments, made four parts to each soldier, and also the tunic. Verse 24, they said, "Therefore among themselves, let us not tear it, but let's cast lots for it. Whose it shall be that the scripture might be fulfilled, which says, they divided my garments among them and for my clothing they cast lots."
When a person was convicted of a capital crime like this, and he was brought to the place of execution, every single thing that prisoner had, everything he owned, became the spoils of the Roman government. And so the soldiers typically would divvy up whatever that person brought to that place, whatever he owned, including his own clothes.
We know according to Roman tradition that there were four soldiers at the cross, because the unit assigned to an execution was called a quaternion. A quaternion, as the word implies, means four, so four soldiers. But the typical Jewish male had five articles of clothing, the outward coat or outward tunic, the inward tunic that lay close to the body, the belt, a head piece or a head scarf, and shoes.
So dividing them up in four left one piece out. And they decided that robe that is seamless, let's cast lots for it, not knowing that they were fulfilling a scripture out of Psalm 22, which is a fascinating text. And we may get to it in our series against all odds, because David, hundreds of years before crucifixion is even invented by the Persians, writes with more detail about crucifixion than any other place in holy writ, in scripture.
And so as the narrative goes, and as we see Jesus on the cross, John wants us to remember that this isn't some cosmic accident. This is something that was planned by God in advance. It was even prophesied in Psalm 22 to show us that God is completely in control.
Jesus is not a victim. Again, I remind you what he said, nobody takes my life from me. I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down and take it again.
So all of these events were carefully staged and prophecy was being fulfilled. They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Therefore the soldiers did these things.
Now you could divide the people at the foot of the cross into two groups. In fact, John sort of does that. He compares these soldiers with his followers. There are four unbelieving soldiers. But there are four believing women, plus one apostle. And that is John, the author of this gospel, four and four.
On the cross, Jesus uttered sayings called the seven words, or the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. He was put on the cross at 9:00 in the morning. From 9:00 in the morning till 12:00 noon, he uttered three things from the cross that is recorded.
First of all, and you have to put Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John together to get the whole picture of what he said, those seven sayings. But the first utterance out of his mouth, the first statement, the first word, was a word of forgiveness. There on the cross, his first statement is Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing.
Which must have arrested those soldiers who were looking up, they've never heard a man cry that who is being executed. They've killed many a prisoner. And most of them said, get me out of here. I didn't do it. I don't deserve this. This is wrong. This is a miscarriage of justice.
So it was strange for this prisoner's first words to be Father, forgive them. And it must not only have gotten the attention of that quaternion on of soldiers, but those two prisoners crucified on either side. Looking at that, I'm sure that they looked at him and thought, what did he just say? Father forgive them?
Because they're not thinking those thoughts, they think, there's a God up there, kill them. Roast them. Get them back and harder.
But Father, forgive them, I think was the hook that caused one of the prisoners to have hope well up inside of him as he looked toward Jesus. And as one cursed Jesus, the other said, hey, we deserve what we're getting. But this man has done nothing wrong. And then he said to him, Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom.
And then Jesus uttered the second statement from the cross, surely I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. The third statement Jesus made on the cross is the statement we read about here. He sees his mother at the foot of the cross, Mary, and says with John the Apostle, woman, behold your son. Son behold your mother.
And those words were uttered from 9:00 in the morning till around 12:00 noon. At 12:00 noon something happened. A darkness covered the land that was so significant and so pervasive, it is not only mentioned in scripture, but it is mentioned in some of the ancient Roman history books, a darkness that was profound, that covered the land.
During those hours of darkness, Jesus said nothing at all until finally, he broke the silence. And he uttered four more things. The first is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
The fifth statement was, "I thirst." We'll read about that. The sixth statement was, "It is finished." And the seventh statement, "Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit." And with that, Jesus died. He uttered those seven statements on the cross.
Verse 25, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother." We know her name is Mary, Miriam and his mother's sister. So that's the second woman. Third woman, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. So you've got four women at the cross, one dude.
They're outnumbered. Hey, where are those apostles? In his greatest hour of need, where is Peter? "Lord, even though all forsake you, I'll never forsake you."
OK, well where is he? He's not there. The only one there of the apostles is John.
It's amazing, really. When Jesus was doling out the food, thousands of people come. When Jesus preached the words, hundreds of people heard him. Unless it was a hard sermon, then a lot of people left.
When Jesus was at the hour of his sorrow, before his death in the upper room, there were 12 and then 11 as Judas left. In the garden, there were Peter, James, and John that Jesus took to a private place. But at the cross, only John.
You know, it's not that different today. How many people show up when you announce a prayer meeting? How many people show up when you announce a concert?
Jesus at the cross, surrounded by women, three of them named Mary. Just, that's interesting. There's Mary. And then oh, there's Mary. Oh, and there's Mary. So by now, can you figure out that Mary was a pretty common name back then?
In fact, if you tally them all up, there are six or seven Marys in the New Testament. It's just a very common name, named after Miriam, the sister of Moses in the Old Testament. It was very common.
So first of all, there is Mary, the mother of Jesus. And she's looking at her son dying on the cross. And no doubt, as she looked at Jesus up there, something came to her remembrance when Jesus was just an infant, and he was brought to the temple to be dedicated. And there was an old man named Simeon in the temple. Remember the story in Luke, chapter 2?
And what I love about Simeon is, God had told this old man that he wouldn't die until he saw the Lord's Messiah. So I just picture this old codger going through the temple every day, looking at young couples with their babies, just looking at them, just wondering, could that be the one? They'd be walking a little bit closer, waiting for the Holy Spirit to give an impression, like that's the one.
But every time, it's like no, that's not the one, not the one. But one day, Joseph and Mary walk in the temple with this little baby. And he looks over. His heart must skipped a beat. And he walked over to Joseph and Mary, and he probably said something to them that was unusual for them to hear. Could I hold your baby? Of course, Mary would size him up.
Is he stable enough to hold my baby? Would he drop my baby? He seems a little odd, but sane enough. And taking baby Jesus in his arms, he craned his head back and he said, now your servant could die in peace, Lord. For my eyes have beheld your salvation. And then he turned to Joseph and Mary. And he said, this child will be for the fall and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that will be spoken against, and a sword will pierce your own soul. Now Mary heard that and she probably had no idea what that meant.
It's like, give me my baby back now, please. OK, that was a weird dedication. Can you imagine if I had a baby dedication and just started praying for the baby, oh, and you guys are really be bummed out soon about what's going to happen. But I'll leave that for later. It's like, what? A sword's going to pierce my soul? What does that mean?
Now she gets it. Now she understands as she looks up. And she sees her son dying on that cross. A sword will pierce her own soul. So we are told when Jesus therefore, saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, that's John standing by, he said to his mother, woman, behold your son. And he said to the disciple, behold your mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.
Mary, from that day forward, was brought to John the Apostle's home. What happened to Mary? History tells us that Mary died 11 years later at age 59. Five, nine, in Jerusalem, John's second home.
Another tradition says that Mary traveled with John to Effisus. We know that John pastored there for a while, and that she died in Effisus. So there's two traditions.
We don't know which is which. One thing we know is true, she wasn't raised into heaven. She wasn't assumed into heaven. The Catholics have a doctrine called the Assumption of Mary, where they believe that Mary didn't die at all. That like Jesus, she was taken into heaven. Mary too, was taken miraculously into heaven.
They call that the Assumption of Mary. And I've always found that an appropriate designation, because that is quite an assumption to make. Because it's not founded on anything in the Bible, and it's not founded on history, nor even the tradition of the earliest church.
But John took her, cared for her. You know what's amazing to me? There's a lot of things that are amazing to me. Here's one amazing thing to me.
Suffering is all-consuming. If you have deep pain, you're not thinking about anybody else. You're thinking about yourself. You feel that pain.
I've been dealing with a chronic back condition, and when it flares up, it's just about all I can think about. It's very distracting. It takes your mind off every other thing and focuses that inwardly.
Here is Jesus during the most painful part of his life before his death, and he's concerned about somebody else. He's thinking about, how can I honor my mother and my father? How can I show honor to her?
This woman who birth me, I want to make sure that she is taken care of. I want to make sure that one of my own will look after her. So rather than thinking of himself, he's thinking about others.
Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing. That's thinking about others. Today you'll be with me in paradise. That's thinking about others.
Woman, behold your son. Son behold your mother. That's thinking about others, not even thinking about himself.
Now, he will say, I thirst. He will feel this pain. But, at this point, he is consumed with others.
From that hour, the disciple took her to his own home. Now just go back and notice the little list of women again. Second, after his mother was his mother's sister.
From other biblical accounts, we know her name is Salome, a.k.a. Mrs. Zebedee, the mother of James and John. Because we're told here that it's his mother's sister, that means that James and John were Jesus's cousins. Interesting FYI.
Then, Mary the wife of Clopus, no, we don't know who that is. Except some believe that this is the Clopus mentioned in Luke, chapter 24.
Remember the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? One was named Cleopas. Clopas is often a shortened version of the longer name, Cleopas. Clopas, sort of a nickname.
So it's believed by some that this is the wife of that disciple, not among the Twelve Apostles, but one of the followers of Jesus. And his wife was there at the cross.
And then finally, one of the most famous women in all the Bible, Mary Magdalene. Some of us, this last trip to Israel, had the rare privileage, it was the first time I got to see the archaeological digs of Magdala. I've seen them from the road.
But they have really dug down into the ancient synagogue that was there at the time of Jesus. And to sit around that synagogue on some of those original seats, you're sitting in a place where Jesus went, because he went to the synagogues around Galilee. It's quite a feeling.
It was amazing. But Mary was from this little town just a few miles northwest on the shore of Galilee from Tiberius, that city where the tetrarch reigned. Mary Magdalene was that notorious sinner.
The Bible says, out of her was cast how many demons? Remember? Seven demons, so she had a pretty gnarly background. She's the one probably Jesus referred to when he said, the one that has been forgiven much, the same loves much.
There she is at the foot of the cross showing love to Jesus. Now verse 28, "After this Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. Now a vessel full of wine was sitting there. They filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to his mouth."
This is the second time they offer him wine. The first time, Matthew 27 tells us he didn't accept it. Because the first time they were giving him wine mixed with gall. Gall was an analgesic, a pain reliever. It produced a narcotic effect, disassociating a person from the depth of their pain.
Jesus refused the medication. And why is that? Why wouldn't he say yeah, give me some pain killers? Because he was taking on himself our sin, the sin of the world.
He was in biblical parlance, drinking the cup of the wrath of God. And when he was drinking the cup of the wrath of God, he didn't want anything but the full measure of that wrath. He knew that he needed to embrace this and feel it all, because he was our substitute.
So he embraced and he drank the cup of the wrath of God. So he felt it all. Now toward the end of his crucifixion, he's about to dismiss his spirit. He says, I thirst.
Now he cries for it, because the effects of crucifixion, I don't need to go over them again, creates a burning, raging thirst. And so he said one word in Greek, the shortest statement on the cross, dipso, which is, I thirst, dipso.
And so they filled some hyssop. Now hyssop is a weed. It grows everywhere in Jerusalem as a long stalk, the fluffy end. And they could dip it in wine. It would soak. And then they could, like a sponge, and then they could lift it up so he could drink.
But hyssop, interestingly, if you have a Jewish background, you understand, wait a minute, hyssop was that plant at the passover that they were told to take hyssop and dip the blood of a lamb in it, and put it on the lentils and the doorpost of the homes so the death angel would pass over. That was hyssop.
During the moment Jesus is on the cross, thousands of lambs are being killed in the temple just down the hill. So it's interesting that out of Exodus 20, this hyssop used for the blood of the Lambs at Passover, there on Passover, Jesus was given this sour wine to drink.
Now sour wine was probably the cheap wine of legionnaires. Think Boone's Farm, you know, not a great brand. Just like, base stuff, just something that was easy to get a hold of back then.
They drank it. They had it. So it was when Jesus received the sour wine he said, it is finished. And bowing his head he gave up his spirit.
Now please notice the words, it is finished. He's not saying, I'm finished. It's all over. This is the end. Goodbye, cruel world. I'm done for.
He didn't say I'm finished. He'll be back. He didn't say we're finished. I've worked hard for this movement for years. But boys, this is. Women, this it. We're done. It's all over now. He said it is finished. It was a cry of victory, not defeat.
It's a single word in Greek, tetelestai. Now, tetelestai, that single word had an interesting set of uses. When a servant would fulfill his master's bidding, whatever it was, master said, do this or do that, and a servant completed that, he would go to his master and say tetelestai.
I finished what you told me to do. Jesus, being the servant of the father, the ultimate servant, this is so appropriate for him to say it's finished, because Jesus said, I have come to do the will of my Father and to finish his work. Now on the cross he could say, as a servant to the master, it is finished.
But it was also a word that the priests would use when they would inspect the lamb that you would bring to be sacrificed. Remember how they would look it over and make sure that it's without blemish and without spot? If it had no blemish and no spot, the priest would say, tetelestai, it's without blemish.
Again, it's an appropriate statement because Jesus, according to Peter, was the lamb without blemish and without spot, the perfect sacrifice. Tetelestai, the perfect lamb, as a priest, but the lamb offering himself, he could say tetelestai.
Third, it was used by artists. When an artist would make a work of art like a painting or a statue, when it was all done, he'd look from afar and go, tetelestai. It's completed. It's finished. It's done.
And you know, it's appropriate that Jesus said tetelestai in sense also, because when you read the Old Testament, you don't get a complete picture. You get a prediction here, a prediction there. You get a little bit of the story line. But in the New Testament, it all comes together.
And you step back from the plan of God and it's like, ah, what a work of art. What an intricately woven story. It is tetelestai. It is perfect.
And number four, it was used by merchants. When something was paid for, when it was finally paid in full, tetelestai can sometimes be translated, paid in full. I paid it all.
And so we sing, Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe. Sin had left its crimson stain, he washed me white as snow. Tetelestai, it's paid in full.
So on the cross, Jesus said, it is finished, not I am finished, not we are finished, it is finished, which means it's a completed work. We talk, and we've told you about the finished work of Jesus Christ before. You can't add to it. You can't take from it. Which means, when you try to add to it, you are insulting God.
When you try to say, well, God, I hope you will accept me. I'm going to try to be a really good boy so that you'll love me and accept me, and maybe one day I'll go to heaven by being a good person. How many times do you talk to people and you ask them, are you sure you're going to heaven? Well, I sure hope so. I'm working hard on it.
That's an insult to God. That's saying, what Jesus did on the cross wasn't enough, wasn't paid in full. Jesus said it is enough. That's what tetelestai is all about, paid in full. The picture is complete.
The servant has done the bidding of his master. It's all done. He said tetelestai, paid in full.
Therefore, verse 31, "Because it was the preparation day, that the body should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath was a high day, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs."
If crucifixion wasn't bad enough, once somebody died on a cross, and usually a victim lasted two to three days, Jesus, as we mentioned last week and left you hanging, after six hours, by 3 o'clock in the afternoon, Jesus was dead. But once the victim was on the cross, the Romans would, after a period of time, walk away and let that person stay on that cross for days until they suffocated.
Now the way crucifixion worked is because a person's arms are stretched high above them, and their feet are stapled down below them, it puts their lungs in a place where they can't get air or expel air. So they pull up on the spike, push up on the feet to take a breath in, push up again to let it out. Eventually paralysis sets in the pectoralis major muscles and you die of suffocation. But again, that could last for days.
The Romans, once that person died, let the bodies stay on the cross for days after that. So it could be for a week or two. So scavenger birds, dogs, would come in and tear at the flesh. And the stench would be horrible. That's how they did it. The problem is, it's Passover night. Lambs are being sacrificed. These religious folks want to get home and have the meal with their families.
So hypocritical, and that's because of a text in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy, chapter 21. I'll just read it to you. Deuteronomy 21, verse 22 and 23, "If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree. But you shall surely bury him that day so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. For he who is hanged occursed of God."
Now that's Jewish law, not Roman law. Romans kept them up there for days. But these Jews wanted to get the bodies down because it was according to their law. And they want to go home, have the body buried, celebrate the Passover, it's over.
So they ask, could you break the legs of the prisoners, which sounds horrible. But if you think about dying on a cross for two or three days, to have your legs be broken, now you can't pull up or push up to take in or let out a breath, so you die quickly. It's an act of mercy.
Instead of letting that person linger on hour after hour, day after day, it gets it over quickly. So they would die of suffocation, but quicker because they had no leverage to push up on. But when they came to Jesus, verse 33, "And they saw that he was already dead. They did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen", that's John, "has testified. And his testimony is true. And he knows that he is telling the truth so that you may believe. For these things were done that the scripture should be fulfilled. Not one of his bone shall be broken."
And again, another scripture says, they will look on him, whom they have pierced. When that sword went in the side of Jesus, and blood or water came out, John saw that as unusual. And he wanted to write about it and even say, look, I ain't lying.
I'm telling you the truth. I saw this. And I'm saying this so that you would believe. Why would he do that? What does that mean? A couple of things, number one, when John was writing his gospel and writing his epistles, there was a group that was emerging in the assemblies of the early church who said Jesus did not have a physical body.
They were called gnostics. You've heard of gnostics, gnosticism. So there's a group of gnostics called docetic gnostics. And docetism, or docetic gnosticism, is a belief that says, Jesus was not human. He did not have a real human body.
John goes, uh, false doctrine. I was there at the cross. I saw what happened. He was dead, and blood and water came out. That doesn't happen to spirits. That happens to human bodies.
The fact that water, though, came out with the blood is interesting because it shows, according to some medical experts, that Jesus died of cardiac failure. It is post-mortem evidence when you have that kind of gushing forth of fluid, serum, pericardial fluid, that the pericardium, that sac that surrounds the heart, because of the process of crucifixion, puts such pressure on the heart that Jesus died of heart failure. And what's interesting about this is, morticians call this the broken heart syndrome.
They have noted that when a person is under great stress like, they're older, and they find out that their husband or wife dies, that they will sometimes die soon thereafter. And it's of this kind of pressure in the heart. And they call it a broken heart syndrome.
I found that interesting because if this is post-mortem evidence the Jesus heart was crushed by the pericardial fluid, it would not be an inaccurate to say that Jesus died of a broken heart. I mean, imagine what he has been through, not just physically, but spiritually. The weight of all of the sins of humanity ever committed, past, present, future on him, experiencing the full measure of the wrath of Almighty God.
It took a toll on him physically, but also emotionally, spiritually. Separation from the father, he cried out my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? It would be accurate to say he died of a broken heart.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave him permission. And so he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who had first came to Jesus by night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 100 pounds.
Joseph of Arimathea is a believer, a secret believer. But he is mentioned in all four gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all mention Joseph of Arimathea. And they mention him only in the burial of Jesus. It was his tomb that Jesus will occupy. He is called a just man. He is called a righteous man in the New Testament. Matthew and Luke give him that designation. Luke says he was waiting for the Kingdom of God.
Now people, commentators, pastors, when we give sermons, we sometimes unfortunately like to take potshots at people in the biblical texts. And I've read and I've heard people say, well, Joseph of Arimathea was afraid of Jesus. He was afraid of testifying.
He was a timid, weak, almost inconsequential believer, denying the Lord almost. He was so afraid. Listen, he's a young believer. The Roman government, I mean, all of the disciples fled. At least Joseph came. Peter and the rest are locked up in an upper room. At least he came afterwards. Yeah, he was a secret disciple, but give him time to grow.
Let him off the hook. He'll grow up. He'll grow strong. And they say the same thing about Nicodemus. Nicodemus was the man, you remember, who came to Jesus by night, the pharisee.
And how many times have we heard people say, well, we came to Jesus by night because he was so afraid to come to Jesus during the day, and be seen that he was looking after Jesus. Not necessarily. It could be that Nicodemus had a busy schedule. It could be that he wanted alone time away from the crowds and nighttime was better for that.
The marvel isn't that he came to Jesus by night. The marvel is he came to Jesus at all. He was a religious leader, but he came. And now Joseph and Jesus come again. At the time that Jesus needs to be buried, they performed this last act of mercy. Somebody once said, a friend is somebody who comes in when the rest of the world has gone out. Everybody's left Jesus. These two men entered the scene and they take care of his body.
They took verse 40, "The body of Jesus, bound it in strips of linen with spices as was the custom of the Jews to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden. And in the garden a new tomb in which no one had been laid. So there they laid Jesus because the Jews' preparation day for the tomb was nearby." Now do you remember, I think it was last week, I told you that if you stood on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, and you looked out from the Damascus Gate, you could see a hill that looks like a skull?
And that is called Gordon's Calvary. I'll take you there when you go to Jerusalem this next year. Now, Gordon's Calvary, the reason it's called that is in 1842, a British general was standing on the Damascus Gate before the Arabs put that bus station there, looked out, and he saw in the mountain what looked like a skull. And it just fit the biblical description.
So they kind of snooped around there. And he bought the land. Today that land is still owned by a British corporation called the Garden Tomb Association. So they bought this land. And then they started excavating. And they excavated a cistern. You know what a cistern is? It's not like the female version of brethren. You have brethren and cistern.
A cistern is a big hole dug in the rock to hold water. And they found one of the largest cisterns in the entire country of Israel right there next to that skull. And they found a wine press. And so they knew this was a garden. And it was a Garden of a rich person next to this skull hill. They kept digging a little more, and they found a tomb, a tomb attached to the garden right next to the place of crucifixion. The tomb dated 2000 years ago. So if you go to Israel today, it's beautifully preserved as an ancient garden.
It's quiet for the most part, except the buses when they honk. But you can walk over and you can see this skull on the hill. And then you can walk over and see the tomb that is empty. And we take communion there. So because of that, many believe that was the tomb where Jesus rose from the dead. But close on this thought. Jesus was on the cross. And what is he experiencing?
Darkness, burning thirst, right? He said, I thirst. There were three hours of darkness. So he's experiencing darkness, burning thirst, and separation from God. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Separation from God, burning thirst, darkness. What does that sound like? Sounds like hell. In Hebrews 2, the author says Jesus tasted death for every man. And that moment on the cross, in those hours on the cross, Jesus experienced a level of suffering, separation from the Father, darkness around him, a burning raging thirst, so that you would never have to.
What we see depicted here is the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21. "God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." On the cross, Jesus was separated from God so you never would have to be. On the cross, Jesus experienced thirst so that your thirst would be quenched. Jesus paid it all. It is finished. Let's pray.
Lord, you tasted death for every man. You became in that moment, Lord Jesus, sin for all of us, tasting the effects of sin. But you became the propitiation, the atoning sacrifice, the substitute. You were both a great high priest making the sacrifice, and you were the lamb, the sacrifice itself. You willingly offered yourself so that we might live. Lord, we're humbled by this story. But we're so grateful that you included us in the lamb's book of life. Amen.