28.  After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”

The Lord has been watching all that the Scripture said be fulfilled according to His plan.  Now, He realizes that it is all accomplished, but there is one thing left for Him to do.  This is found in Psalm 69:21, which reads, “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”  Thus, He speaks up, and announces His thirst.  He must be made to drink vinegar to fulfill the Scripture.  Even in this terrible place of suffering and humiliation, the Lord is concerned that everything be done according to the Word of God.

29.  Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.

There is a vessel of sour wine (or vinegar) sitting there.  It is likely that it was kept for mocking the prisoners, and yet also for keeping them alive, for the Romans did not want the victims of crucifixion to die from thirst too quickly.  Thus even the mercy of giving them a drink became a cruel mockery, for who wishes to drink vinegar?

They fill a sponge with this sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.  This gives us a rough idea of how high in the air the Lord must have been, for this hyssop is a plant that generally grew to the height of between eighteen inches and two feet, and so the Lord, although His mouth was beyond their reach standing on the ground, must not have been higher in the air than this hyssop could reach.  Remember, though it was the object of the Romans to get the crucified up in the air where they could be seen by all passing by, this was limited by the length of the wood they had on hand.  Wood in Israel was not the most common thing around, and it is likely they had to make do with what they could find to make crosses with.  Thus, the Lord was only so high that a piece of this hyssop could reach His mouth from the hand of the Romans.

30.  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”  And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

Now the Lord has received the sour vinegar, and has fulfilled all that He had to fulfill.  Thus, He declares, “It is finished!”  And it was.  He had done all the work on the cross that the Father had for Him to do.  And He finally bows His head, having kept it erect until now, and gives up His spirit.  Notice that the Lord did not die from the crucifixion.  Rather, He dismissed His Own spirit.  Some ask how it is that God could die?  I believe the answer, as we see it right here, is that He could die because He commanded it to be so.  It is impossible that the Lord’s word of command could not come to pass when it is spoken with His power behind it.  Thus, if He said He was to die, then He would die, God or not.  Thus, the Word, the One Who was in the beginning with God, died, and His great work was ended.  Praise God for what He accomplished for us!

31.  Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Here we see again that it is Preparation Day.  The following day is a Sabbath, and we read that it was a high day.  This was not the normal, weekly Sabbath, but rather was the Sabbath of the first day of unleavened bread, as we read in Leviticus 23:5-7.  “On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover.  6.  And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.  7.  On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.”  Since, as we have seen, the Lord was crucified on Passover day, the fourteenth day of the first month, the day after that was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the fifteenth day of the same month.  Since no leaven could be found anywhere in their homes during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the remainder of Passover day (for the feast had to be completely eaten by dawn) was given to sweeping out their homes and removing any possible leaven dust anywhere in them in preparation for the upcoming feast.  That is why this was Preparation Day, and why the next day was a Sabbath.  It was not the weekly Sabbath.  The Lord was not crucified on Friday, for then He would not have been in the grave three days and three nights, as He said He would be in Matthew 12:40.  Rather, He was crucified on Wednesday, and for three days He lay in the ground until the time for His resurrection was come.

It seems that the Romans, in spite of all their cruelty, were prepared to end the suffering of those on the cross if need be.  They had a mallet that could break their legs.  Since the way they were hung made it necessary for them to push themselves up by their legs in order to draw a breath, breaking their legs caused almost immediate suffocation.  Perhaps the soldiers sought to be ready in case some high ranking official came by and decided it was time to put the sufferers out of their misery.  At any rate, since it is Preparation Day, the Jews do not want the crucified men to remain on their crosses during the upcoming high Sabbath.  Thus, they request that the Romans take them down.  So in preparation for removing them, they start to go around breaking their legs.  They will at last be allowed to die before being removed from their places of torment.

32.  Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him.

It would have been the most unnatural thing in the world for the soldiers to break one man’s legs on one side, bypass the man in the middle, break the legs of the man on the other side, and then come back to the man in the middle!  No, they would have gone straight down the line.  This is more evidence of what I said above: that there were actually five men hanging on crosses that day, not three.

33.  But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

The soldiers see that the Lord appears to be already dead, so they do not bother to break His legs.  Why should they if He has died already?  It surely must not have been the easiest or most pleasant thing to do.

34.  But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

They have no desire to make a mistake and leave Him alive, so one of the soldiers pierces His side with a spear, just to make sure.  When he does this, John testifies that blood and water immediately came out.  From a medical standpoint, this would probably have been caused by a tear in the heart.  Such a tear could have been caused by the extremely high blood pressure we read about in Luke 22:44, that made His sweat become “like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”  Having happened several hours earlier, this internal wound to His heart had accumulated water, and this now burst forth with the blood when He was pierced.  Symbolically, this probably refers to the New Covenant His sacrifice was ratifying, this being the blood and water of the New Covenant, just as the Old Covenant was ratified by a sprinkling of water and blood.  As Hebrews 9:19 says, “For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people.”  In the same way, the blood of Christ, mixed with water, is sprinkled out to show that the sacrifice of the New Covenant has been made.

35.  And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.

John reminds us here that he had seen this, as we saw up in verses 26-27.  Again, he does not refer to himself directly, calling himself “he who has seen,” but clearly he is referring to himself here.  He is an eyewitness, and he is testifying to us that this is so, and that his testimony is true.  He further emphasizes this by saying that he knows that he is telling the truth.  Then he gives us the reason he is telling us this: so that we may believe.  Remember, this is the great purpose of this book: to produce believers in the truths that Jesus is the Christ, and that He is the Son of God, and so that believing we may have life through His name.  (John 20:31)  So the question arises: do you believe John’s eyewitness account?  Do you believe that the things He wrote about Jesus Christ are true?  Do you believe that He was the Messiah, the Anointed One?  Do you believe that it was the Son of God Who died on the cross?  These are the most important questions you could answer, for the answers will determine whether or not you receive life through His name!  I pray that all my readers may be qualified as believers in these important truths!

36.  For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.”

His bones were not broken so that the Scripture should be fulfilled.  This is a reference to Psalm 34:19-20, which reads, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.  He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.”  So not one of the Lord’s bones were broken in fulfillment of the Scripture.  Yet notice that this also fulfilled the requirements of the Passover lamb as set forth in Exodus 12:46, “In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.”  The Lord not only died on Passover day, but He also fulfilled the requirements of the Passover sacrifice.

37.  And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

His side being pierced with a spear also was according to Scripture.  This refers to Zechariah 12:10, which reads, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”  Yet notice the exact wording that the Spirit Who inspired John uses here.  In verse 36, this Scripture was fulfilled completely at that time, and the word used is “fulfilled,” which means “filled full.”  Yet this Scripture was not fulfilled, but was only setting up the final fulfillment, and so John does not say “fulfilled,” but only points out that this Scripture says this.  Now that the Lord has been pierced, it will be possible for Israel, in that great future day when they are drawn back to God, to “look on Him Whom they pierced.”

38.  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.  So he came and took the body of Jesus.

Now we are introduced to another disciple of the Lord’s, but one who did not openly support Him, but rather secretly, because he feared the Jews.  Remember, the Jews were the religious leaders, the “super-Jews,” and not the common people, for this Joseph was certainly an Israelite.  Joseph was a member of the rich class himself, as we find out in Matthew 27:57, but he was apparently not nearly influential enough to feel himself immune from the Jews’ wrath!  He is said to be from Arimathea, which is probably the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew town “Ramah,” where Samuel was born.

Joseph comes to Pilate and asks for permission to take away the body of the Lord Jesus.  This was a bold move on his part, for news of this was sure to get back to the Jews.  It seems that he was emboldened by the Lord’s death.  Perhaps he was shamed by the sacrifice the Lord was willing to make, when he was afraid to make any.  At any rate, Pilate agrees to his request.  This was probably again to spite the Jews, for Pilate resented feeling that he had been forced into crucifying the Lord when he didn’t want to, and seems to have been willing to take every little measure he could to get back at them.  Victims of crucifixion would normally not have been buried at all, but would have been taken down from the cross and thrown unto the refuse heaps in the Valley of Hinnom (Greek “Gehenna”) to be either burned by the fires used there to destroy the refuse or else to be eaten by worms that thrived on the trash and waste that was there.  Yet the Lord’s body would not be thrown to this ignominious fate, but rather would be laid in a rich man’s tomb.

39.  And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.

Nicodemus, the one who came to the Lord by night back in chapter 3, now comes with Joseph, bringing expensive spices to anoint the Lord’s body.  This was typically done to honor the bodies of the rich.  A poor man’s family typically could not afford such a thing.  The Lord’s family had been presented with such spices by the wise men when He was still a toddler, yet it is likely, with the poverty that existed at the time, that these were sold off and gone long ago to support Mary and Joseph’s family in times of need.  Yet this does not stop the Lord’s body from being decorated, for these rich men are moved to provide for this honor upon the Lord’s body themselves.

Remember back in chapter 3, the story never ended, telling us whether or not Nicodemus believed what the Lord told him or not.  Yet from his reaction now, we can see that something about the Lord had indeed moved his heart, as he here decides to throw his lot in with the Lord, even after His death.  And the question to all those who read the book of John is, are you willing to do the same?

40.  Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

These men bind the Lord in strips of linen cloth with the spices.  This is how the Jews, the rich men in Israel, were buried.  Criminals who received the luxury of being buried were wrapped in old rags.  Again, the Lord is honored in a way inconsistent with the way He died.  Yet this was the way the Father wished Him to be honored, just as all that had happened up until now had happened according to His plan.

The spices that were mixed in with the linen formed a kind of paste that hardened over time.  The linen and spices formed almost a shell in which the dead body was encased.  It would be next to impossible for a living and completely healthy man to struggle out of these wrappings once they had hardened.  Remember, Lazarus had to be cut loose (John 11.)  Yet some would suggest that the Lord may have not been dead, but actually revived in the tomb and made His way out of it!  This is a ludicrous idea when the facts are examined.  A man who had been that near to death would never have been able to get out of these wrappings in which the Lord was bound.  He could not have gotten out of His grave clothes by Himself without the help of supernatural power.

41.  Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

This was no doubt a family tomb, probably newly purchased by either Joseph or Nicodemus for himself and his family.  Yet whenever he had bought it, he had not yet had need to bury any of his family in it.  This was probably a very beautiful place for a tomb, for it was in a garden.  Thus the Lord was treated like a king in His burial, though He had been treated like the worst sort of common criminal in His death.  What a strange study in contradictions these prophecies would have seemed to anyone who did not know this full story as we have had it set forth!  The plan of God was strange indeed, but it was perfect in detail, and every bit of it happened just as He planned it to be.

42.  So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

Now Joseph and Nicodemus use this tomb for a much greater purpose than burying one of their own families in it.  He and Nicodemus place the body of the Lord Jesus there.  This must have been intended to be a temporary arrangement, however.  Perhaps they hoped to purchase His Own tomb for Him and move Him there later.  Yet with the Jews’ Preparation Day about to end and the high Sabbath that started the Feast of Unleavened bread about to begin, they had no time to make any such arrangements now, and so they put the Lord in this nearby tomb as a temporary arrangement.  Thus, the Lord was laid in the grave, and it seemed that all that He had said and done would die with Him.  As far as the world was concerned, His ministry was over.  Even His disciples saw nothing but ultimate defeat in what had occurred.  The Son of God, the representative of God, the Word Himself, was dead, and all seemed lost.  Praise God, however, that the story does not end here!

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