Week Six: March 20 – 26, 2016
Read John 19:16b-42
Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. These are the three movements in the death of Jesus to end chapter 19. The scene begins with Jesus carrying his cross. In reality, this probably means that Jesus carried the cross beam. The vertical beam would already be in place. Jesus began his journey from Pilate’s headquarters to Golgotha, Aramaic for the Place of the Skull.
Another use of the number three is that Jesus was crucified between two others. Jesus is the man in the middle. Next, Pilate wrote a sign that read: The King of the Jews in three languages: Aramaic, Latin and Greek. Written in Latin in read: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum. This forms the acronym: INRI. Examine the old altar in the narthex at Grace to find these four letters. Greek had been the language of the East ever since the Hellenistic Empire advanced by Alexander the Greek 323 B.C. – 31 B.C. with the launch of the Roman Empire which spoke Latin. Aramaic was the common language spoken in Israel.
As this scene is written, the good news or gospel message is announced widely in the language of the Empire East and West as well as the common language of Israel: Jesus is the King of the Jews! The cross, the instrument of death is also the placard shouting the truth of the reign of Jesus.
John is intent on making the connection between the events in Jesus life and the fulfillment of Scripture. Three times in this account of the death of Jesus there is the connection to fulfillment. The first Scriptures to be fulfilled is Psalm 22:18 as the soldiers at the cross scavenged Jesus garments and cast lots for tunic (19:24). The second Scripture to be fulfilled during his death is Psalm 69:21. This fulfillment happened when Jesus said he was thirsty (19:28). The third and final Scripture is combination of Psalm 34:20; Numbers 9:12 and Exodus 12:46. This is the action of the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side to ascertain that he was already dead so they did not need to break Jesus legs to kill him before sunset when Sabbath would begin (19:36-37).
Jesus spoke three words from the cross: to his beloved disciple (likely John), take care of my mother (19:27); “I am thirsty” (19:28) and “It is finished” (19:30). These three words are only recorded in John’s gospel. Mark and Matthew record Jesus speaking only one word from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46)? Like John, Luke records three other statements of Jesus from the cross unique to Luke: in a prayer to God on behalf of all who called for his death, he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34); to one of the criminals crucified with Jesus, he said: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43); and in his last breath he prayed: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
It is too often that on Good Friday church worship services the seven last words of Jesus are all woven together. Seldom do we simply pay attention to the words of Jesus from one particular gospel as we are doing when we read and discuss our way through John. In John, Jesus is in control of the situation until the end. He takes care of his mother (like story of the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine in chapter 2, his mother goes unnamed) by entrusting her to his beloved disciple. Where are Jesus’ brothers (at least earlier in John they were not followers of Jesus – 7:5) as far as being next in line to care for the needs of their mom?
There is a whole host of obvious reasons women needed the protection and the financial care of men in Jesus’ day. The social condition of women in the first century had been radically altered from that of their Old Testament sisters. In earlier times women participated in every aspect of community life except the Temple priesthood. Women freely engaged in commerce and real estate (Prov. 31), as well as in manual labor (Ex. 35:25; Ruth 2:7; 1 Sam. 8:13). They were not excluded from Temple worship. Women played music in the sanctuary (Ps. 68:25), prayed there (1 Sam 1:12), sang and danced with men in religious processions (2 Sam 6:19, 22) and participated in music and festivities at weddings (Song of Songs 2:7, 3:11).
Women were included when God instituted the Mosaic covenant (Deut. 29:11), and were present when Joshua read the Torah to Israel. Their presence was not just an option; they were required to be present for the public reading of the Scriptures on the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 31:12).
Nor were women limited to private roles back then. Several exercised leadership roles over Israel. Miriam led the women of Israel in worship (Ex. 15:20-21); Deborah was a judge and a prophetess (Judges 4:4); and Huldah also was a prophetess, whom King Josiah consulted instead of Jeremiah, her contemporary (2 Kings 22:14-20).
By the time of Christ, however, the role of women had drastically changed for the worse. In theory, women were held in high regard by first-century Jewish society, but in practice, this was not always true. The concept of tzenuah, or the private role of the woman, was based on Psalm 45:13: The king’s daughter is all glorious within.…” While a man’s primary responsibility was seen as public, a woman’s life was confined almost entirely within the private family sphere.
Women were not allowed to testify in court. In effect, this categorized them with Gentiles, minors, deaf-mutes and “undesirables” such as gamblers, the insane, usurers, and pigeon-racers, who were also denied that privilege. (On the other hand, a king could not bear witness in court, nor could the Messiah, which somewhat lessens the stigma of that restriction.)
Customarily, even a woman of stature could not engage in commerce and would rarely be seen outside her home. Only a woman in dire economic straits, who was forced to become the family breadwinner, could engage in her own small trade. If a woman was ever in the streets, she was to be heavily veiled and was prohibited from conversing with men. “It is the way of a woman to stay at home and it is the way of a man to go out into the marketplace” (Bereshit Rabbah 18:1; cf. Taanit 23b). Copied from: http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/june-1988/women.
The second word of Jesus in John was I thirst. Both in Mark and Matthew, Jesus is offered a drink before he is crucified, wine and myrrh in Mark which he refused; and in Matthew he was offered wine mixed with gall and Jesus tasted it but said no. In Mark and Matthew a bystander offered Jesus wine on a sponge when he was crucified. In Luke it was a soldier who gave him sour wine. Jesus is offered nothing to drink before he was crucified in John.
The word thirst or thirsty has a much bigger place in John’s gospel. It begins with the woman at the well story in John 4 where Jesus tells her about a water he will give that will forever quench thirst (4:14). Later Jesus says whoever believes in him will never be thirsty (6:35). Finally in John 7 Jesus invites all who are thirsty to come to him and believe and rivers of water will flow from their heart in reference to the Spirit that would be given (vv. 37-39).
While sour wine was offered to Jesus in Matthew, Mark and Luke, it is only in John that it is mentioned that a jar of sour wine was standing near the cross. Also, the soldiers offer the wine on a sponge on a hyssop branch. This is a symbolic reference to the hyssop branch (Exodus 12:22) that was used in Egypt to smear the blood of the lamb on the lintel of the doorpost so that the angel of death would pass over their home and spare their lives. Practically, the hyssop branch is too flexible and weak to support a sponge soaked in wine.
The blood and water that flowed from Jesus side is surprising. There does not seem to be much evidence that this was a common practice. For John there is meaning and this verse together with 1 John 5:6-8 and John 7:38-39 with the living water are tied together. A few others make the connection between the blood and water to Holy Communion. The Eastern Orthodox Church has a Liturgy of Preparation before the main liturgy called the Divine Liturgy begins. During this private ceremony done by the priest he uses a hand spear as he cuts the bread, piercing it as he repeats the words from John 19:34-35.
Finally, Jesus announces that all is complete or finished. His work is done. He has fulfilled all that his Father set forth for him to accomplish. He bowed his head and died.
The burial of Jesus introduces a new secret disciple who is named in all four gospels: Joseph of Arimathea who asked Pilate for Jesus body. From chapter 3, Nicodemus returns to wrap Jesus body in linens and a huge 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes. His body was placed in a new tomb in a garden. Nicodemus appears only in John’s gospel and was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin or council. Meanwhile, the member of council in Mark and Luke was Joseph of Arimathea. Because Jesus is simply laid in a linen in Matthew, Mark and Luke, that Mark and Luke have the women coming to the tomb early on Easter morning with spices to anoint the body. In John, this is what Nicodemus did on Friday before sunset.
- As you read over the story of Jesus crucifixion, death and burial in John, what did you notice that struck you? Or, what question do you have about his story?
- In John are mentioned four women (three Mary’s) and the beloved disciple at the crucifixion. Where do you think the other disciples were at this time? Were they behind locked doors for fear of the Jews (20:19)? Or, do you think they were present but not named?
- Joseph and Nicodemus treat the body of Jesus with love and respect as they care for it with aloes, myrrh and wrapping it in a linen. What does this say about their role as followers of Jesus? What about Jesus mother and family? What about the beloved disciple, or Simon Peter or the other disciples? What does this say to you?
- What do you take away from the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus? What is God calling you to do in response?