************ Sermon on John 19:16-42 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 29, 2013
"Crucified, Died, Buried"
The Apostles' Creed states it simply: He "was crucified, died, and was buried." Our Bible reading goes into far more detail but it is still the same three events: the crucifixion, death, and burial of Christ.
Do you know what stands out as we look at John's description? Three times John repeats a key phrase. Three times John tells us what he sees as being important in the events of Good Friday. Three times John makes a point of telling us that Scripture is fulfilled in the crucifixion, death, and burial of Christ. But as we will see, this is only the tip of the iceberg because Scripture was fulfilled more than three times.
Why is it important that Scripture was being fulfilled? This means the events of Good Friday were not accidental. This means the events of Good Friday happened according to God's set purpose and foreknowledge (cf Acts 2:23). This means on Good Friday a plan was being followed – a plan designed by God before the creation of the world (cf Eph 1:4).
So, my brothers and sisters, as we look at the crucifixion, death, and burial of Christ we will look at the fulfilment of God's redemption plan.
I The Crucifixion of Jesus
A Our Bible reading begins with "finally." "Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified" (Jn 19:16). That word "finally" applies to the eight hours Pilate listened to the arguments and shouts of the Jews. That word "finally" indicates that permission for the crucifixion took time and persuasion. That word "finally" tells us there was reluctance on Pilate's part.
"Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified" (Jn 19:16). Of course there was reluctance because crucifixion was the most cruel and shameful of all punishments. By law, no Roman citizen could be crucified. This mode of capital punishment was reserved for those, like Barabbas, who promoted rebellion against the Roman authorities. Today, because of Christ, we think of the cross as a symbol of glory and victory. But in Pilate's day the cross stood for the basest kind of rejection, shame and suffering.
B "Carrying his own cross, [Jesus] went out to the place of the Skull" (Jn 19:17). How cruel is that? Jesus was forced to carry His own method of execution. That is like asking a condemned man to sharpen the edge of the blade that will cut off his head or to load the gun that will be fired at him or to mix up the batch of poison that will be administered to him.
In our study of Genesis we have seen a type of this. Do you remember what Isaac had to do? He had to carry the wood for his own sacrifice (Gen 22:1-6). Remember his question? "The fire and wood are here but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Gen 22:7). Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb ..." (Gen 22:8). On Good Friday, God not only provided the Lamb but also the wood as Jesus carried His own cross.
C Where did Jesus go with the cross? "He went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha)" (Jn 19:17). He went out – out of the city, out of the camp, out of the place of assembly of God's people. This is what happened to sin offerings in the Old Testament – they were taken outside the camp or city (cf Heb 13:11-13).
Jesus went out of the city, like a sin offering. Why? Because He was the sin offering. God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us (2 Cor 5:21).
D Did you notice the sign? It was Roman practice that the criminal to be crucified wear a sign announcing his crime.
(Jn 19:19) Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.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 (cf Jn 19:20). Why three languages? We are to see here the worldwide dimensions of the work of Christ. The saving work of Christ is not meant just for the Jews; it is meant for every tribe and language and people and nation. It is meant for those who speak Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. Without realizing it, Pilate wrote a "Gospel tract" when he prepared the sign.
E "Here they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle" (Jn 19:18). That Jesus was crucified with two notorious thieves only added to the shame. But it also fulfilled Isaiah 53:12, He "was numbered with the transgressors." He was treated like a common criminal!
F It was the privilege of soldiers to share whatever personal possessions belonged to executed criminals. So the soldiers divided Jesus' clothing among them and cast lots for His undergarment. As a boy I could never figure out why these soldiers would want used clothing. But back then clothes were all handmade and expensive. The wool or cotton had to be spun into thread. The threads had to be woven into cloth. The cloth had to be colored and washed. It was then cut and measured and sewn into garments. It was a long process, a laborious process, an expensive process. So, in fulfilment of Psalm 22:18, the soldiers divided His garments among them and cast lots for His clothing (cf Jn 19:24).
Psalm 22, from beginning to end, is a Messianic psalm. It not only mentions the division of clothing but in this psalm are also the words Jesus quoted after the three hours of darkness: "My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1). And, Psalm 22 also mentions the mocking of the crowds (Ps 22:7f). Do you see how the crucifixion of Jesus fulfils the plan of God as laid out in the Old Testament Scriptures?
G A group of women, along with the Apostle John, stood near the cross. Included in this group is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The first time we meet Mary in the Gospel of John, she is attending a wedding (Jn 2:1-11); at that time Jesus told her, "My time has not yet come" (Jn 2:4). This time Mary is attending a funeral.
Telling us what? Telling us the time has come! Not a time set by the crowds. Not a time set by the Sanhedrin. Not a time set by Pilate. But a time set by the plan of God. The time has come for Jesus, the Son of God, to be crucified. It is all according to the plan.
II The Death of Jesus
A Notice what happens next. So that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." Isn't this amazing? Death was approaching. Yet, Jesus remained in control of His senses. He made a point of obeying and fulfilling the Father's will.
"I am thirsty." So, the soldiers took pity on Jesus and moistened His lips with cheap vinegar wine.
What Scripture is being fulfilled here? We can point to Psalm 22 again:
(Ps 22:15) My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth ...Especially, though, we are to see the fulfilment of Psalm 69:
-verse 3, "my throat is parched"
-verse 21, "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst."
B When He had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished" (Jn 19:30). With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
"It is finished." What is finished? Our Lord's sufferings were now finished. Many of the Old Testament types and prophecies were now fulfilled. The once-for-all sacrifice for sin was now completed.
"It is finished." It is one word in the Greek language. A servant would use it when reporting to his or her master about the work accomplished. A priest would use it when he finished examining an animal sacrifice and found it to be without blemish or spot. A writer would use it when a manuscript or letter was completed. An artist would use it when he completed a picture. The death of Jesus on the cross completes the picture God has been painting throughout the centuries.
"It is finished." The most meaningful use of the word was on the Accounts Receivable of ancient merchants. The word would be written down when a debt was paid in full. When He suffered and died on the cross, Jesus paid our debt of sin in full.
A young man approached an evangelist and asked, "What must I do to be saved?" The evangelist replied, "It's too late!" "What do you mean it is too late? Is there nothing I can do?" "It's too late. Because it has already been done. It is finished.""Praise God," I say. Praise God that Christ has finished His atoning sacrifice. Praise God that Christ has completed God's picture.
"It is finished." With that, Jesus bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Jesus was being executed but His life was not taken from Him. Rather, He gave it up. It was a conscious act. It was a willing act. He, not His executioners, remained in control.
C The Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath. So, to hasten death, the lower legs were shattered by a single blow. This caused death to occur fairly quickly by shock, loss of blood, and the inability to breathe. Without this blow, a person could live for many hours or even days. The two thieves on either side of Jesus had their legs broken.
Jesus had already died so His legs were not broken. Instead, just to make sure, a soldier pierced Jesus' side with a spear. The result was a sudden flow of blood and water.
The soldiers did not do what they were supposed to do – break Jesus' legs. But they did do what they were not supposed to do – pierce the Savior's side. In both matters they fulfilled the very Word of God. John tells us these things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and "They will look on the one they have pierced."
Jesus is the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29). He is the Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7). The bones of the Passover lamb were not to be broken (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12). So, in fulfilment of Scripture not one of His bones were broken. However, Zechariah did prophesy that His side was to be pierced (Zech 12:10); so that is what the soldiers did.
The plan of God, that is what we continue to see. A plan from before the foundation of the world. A plan that reveals God's set purpose and foreknowledge.
III The Burial of Jesus
A Our Bible reading ends with the burial of Jesus. John mentions two men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. When the soldiers were done with their gruesome work, our Lord's friends took over. From that point on, as far as the record is concerned, no unbelievers touched the body of Jesus. God had prepared these two high-ranking men to bury the Lord.
We are told one important fact, one very important fact, about each man. "Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews" (Jn 19:38). As for Nicodemus, he is identified as "the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night" (Jn 19:39); in fact, each time Nicodemus is named, he is identified in this fashion – as the man who visited Jesus at night (Jn 3:1ff; 7:50-53).
Do you see what Joseph and Nicodemus have in common? Both were scared to be known as disciples of Jesus. But in our Scripture reading, both of them came out of the closet and publicly identified themselves with Jesus. There no longer was anything secret about their faith. The confusion of night was turned into the open confession of daylight.
So what did they do? They went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. They wrapped it, with spices, in strips of linen. They laid Jesus' body in a tomb.
B Have you ever wondered why they suddenly came out of the closet? Why was their faith no longer secret? And, why would they do this after Jesus suffered and died? I can see them confessing a living Jesus. But a dead Jesus, a Jesus Who seemed like a failure, a Jesus Whose cause seemed to be hopelessly defeated? Why would they confess Him? What is going on here?
In John 7 we read that the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Jesus (Jn 7:32). When the temple guards returned empty-handed, it was Nicodemus who boldly stood up and questioned this decision. "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?" (Jn 7:51). They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it ..." (Jn 7:52). Since Joseph was a member of the Council (Mk 15:43; Lk 23:50-51), we can presume he observed this exchange.
"Look into it." "Search for yourself." "Study the matter."
The only explanation for the behavior of Nicodemus and Joseph on Good Friday is that they did what the other members of the Council told them to do. They looked into it. They searched the Old Testament. They studied the Messianic prophecies. And, through the operation of the Spirit, they concluded that Scripture was being fulfilled in Christ.
Certainly they would see Jesus as the "Lamb of God" (Jn 1:29). Certainly they understood He would be lifted up – and that this meant to the cross (Jn 3:14). Surely they would read Isaiah 53 and recognize it spoke of Jesus.
He "was crucified, died, and was buried." It was all according to the plan, the wonderful plan of God.
But now, from the writings of John, let me remind you of the reason for the plan:
-(Jn 1:29) The next day John [the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
-(1Jn 2:2) He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
-(1Jn 4:14) And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
God's plan for our salvation is finished. The only thing you, by grace, can do – like Joseph of Arimathea, like Nicodemus – is believe (Jn 20:31).
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