A GOD WHO DIES Good Friday
John 19:30-37 Behold the Man Series
April 19, 2019
30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would 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. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (ESV)
Behold the man! Throughout this Lenten season our attention has been directed to the true and full humanity of Jesus. It’s not that we should ignore his divinity; he was and is truly and fully God. It’s that we need to keep in mind that Jesus was and is also fully and truly a man, a man who had hands and feet, arms and legs, a heart, a face, and all that is part of our humanity, a man who could stand in our place as one of us, a man who could suffer the condemnation of men and endure the judgment of God.
So tonight, once again, behold the Man. Jesus is the man who came into this world for one glorious purpose: to deliver all of humanity, all of creation, from the slavery of sin and death. Everything in his earthly ministry, everything that he taught, every challenge he met and subdued, every weakness he endured was geared to the events of this day. Jesus came to be the God who dies.
There are all kinds of connections between the events of this first Good Friday and the prophecies of the Old Testament. Tonight I want to focus on one particular act, recorded in verses 33-34:
“... when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”
The significance of this action is often overlooked or even ignored. Perhaps that’s because so many of the church fathers went crazy with their allegories. We do not want to go down that never-ending road. Nevertheless, this was recorded by the apostle John for a reason. It is intended to tell us something, something important.
I. THE MOST OBVIOUS CONNECTION IS WHAT JOHN HIMSELF REPORTS IN THE TEXT, VERSES 36-37
...these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
We aren’t exactly certain what Scripture John had in his mind. Two verses from the Old Testament are usually suggested. The first is Psalm 34:19-20 which reads
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken. (ESV)
The second is Zechariah 12:10.
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced,... (Zec 12:10a).
John may have been thinking about these verses, but his quotation of these Old Testament references doesn’t quite match the Old Testament passages in their original languages. Nonetheless, John’s point is well-taken. Everything we see happening in Jesus’ suffering and death, every word he spoke from the cross upon which he hung, fulfilled the promise made to Adam and Eve, to Abraham and his descendants, and to us. In his crucifixion, Jesus fulfilled all Scripture, all prophecy!
There is also a connection between the fact that his legs were not broken, and the Passover lamb. It was not any lamb which could be used to observe this holy meal. It had to be a “lamb...without blemish” (Ex 12:5) that was sacrificed. If a lamb had a leg broken at any time in it’s brief life, it was unsuitable for this sacrifice. This, by the way, is one reason sellers were found in the temple complex. They provided lambs to pilgrims that were “certified” as “without blemish.” Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29). He was the lamb without blemish, the one who was “without sin” (Heb 4:15), who alone could take away the sin of this creation. This is no accident; this was God’s plan, Christ’s mission, from the beginning. You have been redeemed by the one who fulfilled all Scripture. He has fulfilled the Scripture for your redemption.
II. ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT CONNECTION IS ONE JOHN DRAWS IN HIS FIRST LETTER
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. (1 Jn 5:6–8).
John seems to indicate the water and blood from Jesus’ side were signs of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. One church father, John Chrysostom, wrote of this connection:
Not without a purpose, or by chance, did those founts come forth, but because by means of these two together the Church consisteth. And the initiated know it, being by water indeed regenerate, and nourished by the Blood and the Flesh. (Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and Epistle to the Hebrews).
St. Augustine drew the same conclusion:
When the soldier pierced Jesus’ side he opened “the gate of life...from whence have flowed forth the sacraments of the Church, without which there is no entrance to the life which is the true life.” (St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies)
Some ancient artists pictured the blood of Christ, flowing from his pierced side, filling a chalice.
Again, whether or not this was John’s intention, this truth stands firm. Jesus’ blood, spilled from his flesh, brings forgiveness of all our sins. Taking the cup of wine at his final Passover, he said to his disciples:
“Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:27–28).
Paul writes to the Romans that “we have been justified by his blood.” (5:9). Hebrews 13 states that Jesus sanctified the people “through his own blood.” (12). Peter writes that we were “ransomed...with the precious blood of Christ.” (1 Pe 1:18, 19). How precious that truth is for us tonight. In his blood, we have forgiveness. In his physical death, our debt of sin is paid. From Jesus’ death flows life for us in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
III. THERE IS ONE MORE CONNECTION
For this I am indebted to Pastor Jeffrey Hemmer, the author of this series. This takes us back to Genesis and the sixth day of God’s creative work. On that sixth day, God “formed the man of dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” (Ge 2:7). But God recognized that “It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Ge 2:18). Then we read that
...the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Ge 2:21–22).
Out of the side of the man God brought forth new life.
Now, on the sixth day of this Holy Week, God acts again. I will let Pastor Hemmer explain:
...on the sixth day of this Holy Week, the Word made man enters into the deepest sleep of death. And while He sleeps, the Creator takes blood and water from His side. And the Lord God uses the blood and water that He takes from the Second Adam to make a Bride, a Church, and brings her to the man Jesus.
Through the water and the blood of the Savior, God creates a new reality, the Church. Through the water of Holy Baptism God has incorporated you into his Church. Through the blood of the Sacrament of the Altar, God nourishes that new life in you, keeping you in the true faith and in the Church of those redeemed by Christ. You have been brought to Christ as his bride. You have been wedded to Christ through faith which God has given you in Holy Baptism. You continue to be bound to Christ through the blood which he has poured out for you, for your never-ending forgiveness.
We usually think of the events of Good Friday as a tragedy. From an outward perspective, it truly was. Jesus was an innocent victim of the Sanhedrin’s jealousy. He was wrongly judged and condemned by Rome’s fear. He died as one who deserved none of the things that are recorded in Scripture.
In truth, however, this was no tragedy; this was God’s plan from the very beginning. Jesus himself said,
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (Jn 10:18).
This is why God became man! It was not to teach you how to be good, to show you the right way to live, to set a perfect example for you to follow, to impart his wise teaching. God became man that he could die for men. He received life in human flesh that he could lay it down again in exchange for yours. So once again, tonight, Behold the man! and give thanks to God.