Bury St Edmunds
John Chapter 19: 16 – Chapter 20: 9
Can we just concentrate our thoughts upon the death and resurrection of our Lord. In John 10: 17; Jesus is speaking and this is what he says: “Therefore My Father loves Me because I lay down My life that I might take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Now this is a monumental claim. Because Jesus is saying that He has the power to take His own life: in other words that He has the power of death, He has the power to take it back again, and in other words, He has the power of resurrection! Now this is a monumental claim because death victimises everybody, and I think that the greatest fear in the element of death is the fear of the unknown aspect of it. It isn’t so much the dying that bothers people it’s being there! As the not knowing when or how you’re going to die is the issue. But at the cross Jesus controlled His own death to accomplish all that God had planned for our good.
This just brings to mind one very important aspect. People have for centuries argued about who killed Jesus, and the Jewish leaders primarily had been blamed, and rightly so because they deserve some blame. It was their particular plot, and their particular charges, and their blackmailing of Pilate that forced the issue in the first place. Others would like to blame the Romans; and certainly the Romans have some blame, because at least those in leadership in Jerusalem set aside what was normal justice to appease an angry crowd, and they went ahead and executed an innocent man.
But when you get right down to it, if you want to know who’s to blame for the death of Jesus, all you need to do is listen to Peter in Acts 2:22-23. Peter lays the blame right where it belongs: “Men of Israel, here these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know, – Him being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of” – whom? – “of God.”
It wasn’t the Jews, and it wasn’t the Romans. It was God. It was God who destined it, God who determined it, God who laid it out, God who planned it. And Jesus in an act of submissive obedience as a son to a father’s will, carried out the eternal plan, and laid down His life.
Don’t think for a minute that Jesus was a victim of anybody. Don’t you even think that anybody could kill Him, because Jesus even had to tell Pilate how wrong he was when he said, “Do you not realise that I have power to crucify you and power to release you? Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above Therefore the One who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” There was no way Jesus would have died had He not willed to die.
In John chapter 19: 30 it says, “When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine” He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up the spirit.” Nobody took it, He gave it. Nobody killed Jesus, He yielded His life. He was never a victim but only a victor.
In 2 Timothy chapter 1 it tells us that He took it again. Not only did He give His life, but He took up life again. It says, “Jesus Christ has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” So Christ is the master of death, even His own dying, the master of life, even His own resurrection. And when you look at the account of John 19 and 20, what just dominates your thought is the fact that Jesus was in control of every single thing that was going on. Never for one split second was He out of control. And He did it all for us.
John’s purpose was always to present the deity of Christ, we don’t see nearly so much emphasis on the pain, nearly so much emphasis on the suffering as we do upon the majesty of Jesus.
Look at verse 16 and let’s recap regarding His dying, “Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away, and He bearing His cross went out to a place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him and two others with Him, one on either side and Jesus in the centre.”
Notice how Jesus was in total control of His own death insofar as prophecy was fulfilled, and every necessary element fell into place, these three verses fulfilled prophecy that is staggering in its accurateness.
It seems a small thing to say they led Him away, but it isn’t a small thing. Jesus did not have to be driven, Jesus went willingly. He followed them to the cross, and rightly so, because Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter.” The final and only sacrificial lamb for all the sins of all the ages.
Verse 16: also says “Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified.” And you’ll notice that this precedes immediately His mockery of a trial as Roman law said that when a person is tried, there is a two-day period before he can be executed. But in the case of Jesus they tried Him in the morning, and He was on the cross before afternoon.
Why the hurry? Why the rush? Because Isaiah 53:8 said that’s the way it would happen. “He was taken from prison and from judgement.”
Isaac was being a type of Christ in Genesis 22:6 as he was to be offered as a sacrifice, and Abraham taking the wood for the burnt offering and laying it on Isaac his son so that Isaac went right up Mount Mariah carrying the wood that was to be used for his sacrificial execution. So Jesus carried His own wood to His sacrificial execution in the form of a cross which was laid upon Him by His father. But the difference being that there was no substitute as Jesus was the sacrificial lamb.
Then look at v17 where Christ was crucified outside the city to fulfil another prophesy. Why did He go outside the city walls? He went outside the city walls, because that was Roman law, and Roman law said no one can be crucified inside the city. Way back in Exodus, when God instituted the offerings for sin, He said that the sin offering was to be taken outside the camp.
And Jesus died outside the city as the perfect sin offering. He fulfilled the picture of the sin offering of the Old Testament to the letter.
Look at Numbers chapter 21: 6 - 9 when the Israelites were bitten by snakes and how God told Abraham to raise up a serpent on a rod, and anybody who looks up and sees the serpent on the rod will be healed. And Jesus referred to this in John 3:14, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up.” And indeed when He died, He was lifted on a Cross. Totally foreign to the Jewish mind, and yet that’s exactly what the prophecy indicated.
Furthermore, Deuteronomy 21:23 said, “Cursed is anybody that hangs on a tree.” And Jesus bore the curse of all time, and consequently He was hung on a tree, by those cruel nails, fulfilling the prophecy. He looks for all intents and purposes like the victim, but He is not the victim. He is ordering every detail of His own execution to fulfill the design and the plan that was laid down in eternity.
Notice further in verse 18. “They crucified Him and two others with Him one on either side and Jesus in the centre.” Just as Isaiah 53:12 says, “He is numbered with the transgressors in His death.” With the criminals!
Verse 23: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts.” But there was also an undercoat that was seamless, and they did not want to tear it. So Verse 24 says, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it.”
Here were these witless, godless, callous executioners, having finished their work, doing what they always did, simply going through the motions of dividing up the dead man’s clothes. Little did they realise that they were responsible for fulfilling the scripture to the very letter. Psalm 22:18 said, “They part My garments among them, and they cast lots for My cloak.” These pagan soldiers fulfilled a prophecy to the letter, a prophecy they had no idea of, a prophecy they never even knew existed. But Jesus made sure every detail was fulfilled.
Going further now we read in verse 19: “And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross, and the writing was ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’” Why did he do it? Maybe he wanted to mock the Jews. It was after all a blatant sarcasm.
Verse 20 says “Then many of the Jews read this title; for the place where Jesus was crucified was near to the city, and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.” “So the chief priest of the Jews came to Pilate and said, ‘Write not, “The King of the Jews”; but he said “I am King of the Jews.”’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written. I’m not changing it for anything.’”
That was a blow on the Jews from Pilate as he places a sign on that cross that was sarcasm in his mind; but words of eternal truth as he made a statement of the majesty of the Son of God that the world has never been able to forget or ignore. Do you see how Jesus even controlled what was on the sign above His head? He took the stupidity of a man like Pilate and made him speak the truth.
Moving on: Zechariah 13 said, “When the shepherd is smitten, the sheep will be scattered,” and they were. They all forsook Him and fled at the cross except for John, and the four Mary’s.
Notice verse 28: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst.’ It says Jesus knew everything was done. Every prophecy had been fulfilled, every detail to the letter. Everything was in place. The plan was fulfilled. Satan was defeated. Death was conquered. The price of God’s justice was compensated. Everything was finished.
Only one small prophecy remained. Psalm 69:21 said about Him and His death: “In My thirst, they gave Me vinegar to drink.” When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.”
When they came by to check and make sure about it, to break His legs, they didn’t break His legs, because - what? - He was already dead. Why was He already dead? Why did He die so soon? Because He wanted the world to know that He wasn’t a victim.
Now notice something else. Verse 31: “The Jews therefore because it was the preparation” – that is the day before the Sabbath – “that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, (for that Sabbath day was a high day, – this was a special, super special Sabbath; it was Passover Sabbath) “asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and 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 He was dead already, they did not break His legs.”
The Jews had a very great concern because according to Deuteronomy chapter 21, verses 22 and 23, they couldn’t leave those dead bodies exposed on the Sabbath. So they wanted Pilate to break their legs so they would suffocate and therefore get their bodies off the crosses before the sun went down, because they didn’t want to defile the Sabbath. Can you believe it? The hypocrisy of wanting to maintain the Sabbath while they have just killed the Lord of the Sabbath. But that’s exactly what they were doing.
And so the soldiers were sent to do that, but when they came to Jesus He was already dead which according to Mark 12:44 Pilate was absolutely amazed at.
Christ had once again fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 34:20 which said, “Not a bone of His body was broken.” The Psalmist has predicted it, and it’s exactly what happened. He was already dead.
Psalm 69 is describing the crucifixion and in verse 20 it says this. “Reproach” – or sin – “has broken My heart.” So if anyone asks you how Jesus died, you can say in the simplest terms He died of a broken heart.
He died in a physical sense because of having to go through all that He endured as He took our sins so that we might become righteous. He died in a spiritual way when He was separated from God and said, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken Me?” All this was simultaneously occurring, and yet He was in control of everything.
Zechariah 12:10, tells us that He would be pieced just as the soldiers did with their spear!
Now Jesus is already dead. Its three o’clock in the afternoon: the Jews want to get Him in the ground quickly before the Sabbath. But in reality God wants Him in the ground before the Sabbath, because He has to be in the grave for part of Friday, so that He can be dead for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as that constitutes three days and three nights in the Hebrew terminology. And so He had to be in that grave before Saturday began, and the Hebrew day begins in the evening when the sun goes down. So they were in a hurry to get Him there, because they didn’t want to desecrate the Sabbath; and He was in a hurry to get Himself there, because that’s what He said He would do.
If you think it’s amazing that He controlled His death – and it is – look at His burial in verse 38: where we have Joseph of Arimathea, who is a wealthy man from what we are told in the other gospels and a member of the Sanhedrin going to ask Pilate for the body of Christ, because he is a secret disciple. Pilate agrees, so he came and took the body of Jesus as he had a new tomb right near where the cross was, and he could get Him in there in a hurry, so they wouldn’t have to miss the time limit. He was rich, and he had to be a rich man. Isaiah 53:9 said, “He will make His grave with the rich.”
Then in Verse 39. “There came Nicodemus who at the first came to Jesus by night,” – he was also a little clandestine about the whole thing, but now he comes to the front – and he is bringing a mixture of spices to prepare Christs body. But this is Nicodemus a teacher in Israel, who only came by night before this, identifying with Christ and ultimately identifying to all the people that “This is the Christ.”
“Then they took the body of Jesus,” – verse 40 – “and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is 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 yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus because of the Jews’ preparation day for the tomb was nearby” They got him there on the Friday, the preparation day, the day before the Sabbath.
Chapter 20. It’s the first day of the week and Mary Magdalene comes down to the tomb to finish anointing the body of Christ Him while it’s still dark, and sees the stone taken away, so she runs to tell Peter and John.
“Then went in also the other disciple,” – verse 8 – “who came first to the tomb, he saw and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture that He must rise from the dead.”
John admits that he didn’t believe before. He went in and he came to believe. What made him believe in the resurrection? Was it the neatly folded clothes that he saw which made him believe, or was it the empty tomb?
What we do know is that the disciples had a faith as Peter stated that Christ was the risen Messiah, the Son of God. But as we also recognise, they still had short falls and misunderstanding which again are shown here. Because it wasn’t until John entered the empty tomb and saw the clothing neatly folded that he understood and believed in Christ’s resurrection.
What does it take for people to believe? For some it was through His miracles. For some it was through His teachings. For some it was seeing on the cross (such as the criminal who believed and the soldier who confessed “Certainly this was a righteous man.” For others it was meeting and listening to Him after his resurrection!
Can you answer the most difficult question that has to be answered. One posed by Jesus “Who do you say I am.”
Over this Easter period I have taken you through the scriptures to help you with your answer and now I would like you to answer another question posed by Jesus to Martha, but also to each one of us.
Jesus was at the home of Mary and Martha in John 11: 24 - 27, and He said to Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And who ever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” And He goes on to ask this question “Do you believe this?”
Martha’s response was instantaneous, “Yes Lord I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
That’s the message of Easter.
Jesus asks you this morning “Who do you say I am.” Do you believe this?”
What does it take for you to believe that you are a sinner who needs a saviour?
What does it take for you to believe that Jesus died to take away your sin?
What does it take for you to believe in His resurrection?
What’s stopping you today from accepting this precious gift that God has given us through His Son, the gift of eternal life, because each of these questions demands an answer from each one of us.