Sound Familiar? {John 19}

11:30 PM

By Lisa Thayer

How many of you buy an item and never read the manual or instructions?  How often have you or someone you’ve known discovered that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure?  Why can’t we do what we’re told? 

We are now nearing the end of the 4th Gospel and I wonder if there are a few out there looking for something new; something you’ve never quite understood before.  How often do we read these stories of Jesus and never see anything new? Like it is the same ole story.  But are we truly reading it, or are we just skimming because it’s so familiar?

Yet, we are angry that the Jewish leaders don’t recognize who Jesus truly is.  He has performed miracle after miracle, and recited scripture to prove who He is.  And now Jesus is standing before Pilate and Pilate is growing more and more afraid, and he tries to set Jesus free (vs. 11-12).  Pilate could find no crime against Jesus.  He is even smug about the placard he places above Jesus on the cross, knowing it would embarrass the Jewish leaders and make them angry. 

Even the Roman solders did not do what they were command to do – break the victim’s legs.  They did do what they were not supposed to do – they pierced the Savior’s side!  Yes, they fulfilled the very Word of God (Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Zech. 12:10; Rev. 1:7). 

As far as the record indicates, from the point of Jesus’ death, no unbeliever touched the body of Jesus.  God had prepared two high-ranking men to prepare for Jesus’ burial and place it in a proper tomb.

We know that Joseph of Arimathea was a rich and prominent member of the Jewish Council (Matt. 27:57; Mark 15:43).  He was also a good and righteous member of the believing minority of Jews who were praying for Messiah to come (Mark 15:43; Luke 2:25-38) and a disciple of Jesus Christ (John 19:38).  It was he who asked Pilate for the body of Jesus so he and his friend, Nicodemus could give Jesus a proper burial.

Why was the tomb so close to the place of execution?  Most pious Jews wanted to be buried in the Holy City.  A rich man like Joseph certainly could afford a better sight for his final resting place.  Just imagine going to pay your respects and having to listen to the curses and cries of criminals on crosses not far away (19:41).

Matthew, Luke and John all tell us that the tomb was new and had never been used.  It was “his [Joseph’s] own new tomb” (Matt. 27:60); he had hewn it out for himself.  Or did he?

“John informs us that Joseph was a “secret disciple for fear of the Jews.”  The Greek word translated “secretly” is a perfect passive participle and could be translated “having been secreted.”  In Matthew 13:35, this same verb form is translated “have been kept secret.”  In other words, Joseph was God’s “secret agent” in the Sanhedrin!  From the human standpoint, Joseph kept “under cover” because he feared the Jews (John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42), but from the divine standpoint, he was being protected so he could be available to bury the body of Jesus.”  (Warren Wiersbe)

We already met Nicodemus earlier in John and each time he is named, he is identified as the man who came to Jesus by night (John 3:1; 7:50-53).  But the man who started off with confusion at night (John 3), ended up with open confession in the daylight!  Nicodemus came out of the dark and into the light and with Joseph, and was not ashamed to publicly identify with Jesus Christ.  They even defiled themselves when they touched Jesus’ dead body and could not participate in Passover.  They had found the Lamb of God!

Doesn’t it seem to you that Joseph and Nicodemus carefully planned their activities at Calvary?  They certainly could not secure a tomb at the last minute, nor would they be able to purchase 65 pounds of costly spices so quickly during the Passover, when many merchants would not be doing business.  No sooner had Jesus died than Joseph went to Pilate and received permission to take the body.  Nicodemus stayed at the cross to make sure nothing happened to his Lord’s body.  These men had to work very quickly.  It was important to get the body safely away from the Romans and the Jewish leaders.

So how did these two men know to prepare for Jesus’ burial? 

When Nicodemus first visited Jesus, he was impressed with His miracles and His teachings, but he could not understand what it meant to be born again.  Where did Nicodemus go to find this meaning?  He had to search the Scriptures and ask God for guidance.

We recall in John 7:45-53 that Nicodemus boldly stood up and defended Jesus at a critical council meeting.  The rest of the religious leaders ridiculed him for thinking that a prophet could come out of Galilee!  “Look into it…”  And that is exactly what Nicodemus did.  It seems that Joseph joined Nicodemus and they were convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed Israel’s Messiah, the Son of God.

As these two men searched the Scriptures, they would have found the messianic prophecies and discovered many of them had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Certainly they would have seen Him as the “Lamb of God” and concluded that He would be sacrificed at Passover.  Jesus had already told Nicodemus that He would be “lifted up” (John 3:14), and this meant crucifixion.  Since the Passover lambs were slain about 3:00 p.m., these two men could know almost the exact time when God’s Lamb would die on the cross!  Just read Isaiah 53, especially verse 9. 

Joseph arranged to have the tomb hewn out, and the men gathered the cloths and spices needed for the burial.  They boldly identified with Christ at a time when He seemed like a failure and His cause was hopelessly defeated.  I mean, after all, as far as we know, John was the only disciple with Christ at the cross.

Back to my first question, why can’t we do what we’re told?  God has carefully given us detailed instructions. 

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