The Death

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”
                                                                        —Ps. 34:17-22 (cf. Jn. 19:28-37)

 

The Righteous One was not delivered. The Righteous One was afflicted and slayed. The Righteous One was condemned, condemned to die the terrible death of a criminal and slave.

Jesus was slaughtered. But it was not a senseless slaughter.

As the centurion nearby Jesus acknowledged, something more was going on behind the scenes. The centurion would have observed many deaths and many crucifixions. And so, he is in a unique position to recognize the purity and power of Jesus. The centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent and the Son of God! (Lk. 23:47/Matt. 27:54; Mk. 15:39)

The centurion responded in that way after he saw Jesus call out and say, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” and breathe his last (Jn. 19:30/Lk. 23:46). The centurion must have been amazed by Jesus’ composure and everything else that had taken place surrounding Him. The centurion may have seen the way Jesus treated His enemies (Lk. 23:34), His promise to the criminal on the cross (v. 43), His prayer to God (v. 46), not to mention the ominous darkness (v. 44).[1]

Jesus’ death was not senseless, but according to Scripture. The Righteous One was slain in between two criminals. Jesus was, as Isaiah says, “numbered with the transgressors.” Yet in being cursed Jesus was carrying out a rescue plan that had long since been written (Rev. 13:8). “When He was hung on the cross, He took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13).

Jesus’ death was according to Scripture because He is the Passover Lamb that doesn’t have His bones broken (see Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12). Jesus “keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.” This is somewhat surprising. Since it was the day of preparation for the Sabbath, and the bodies could not remain on the cross on the Sabbath because then the land would be defiled (Jn. 19:31).[2]

When the soldiers wanted to hasten the death of a person being crucified they would sometimes break the victims’ legs.[3] When they went to Jesus, however, they saw that He was already dead, and they did not break His legs (Jn. 19:33).[4]

So, when the soldiers came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they “pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (Jn. 19:34). These things took place, the Gospel of John says, “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’ (Jn. 19:36-37; cf. Ps. 34:20; Zech. 12:10).

Jesus’ death is not senseless because through Jesus’ death we, who were dead in our sin, God made alive together with Jesus through faith. In Christ, God forgives us our sin, by canceling the record of it and burying it in the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). The debt we owed was set aside, because God nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14).

Reflections

  • The Prince of Peace and King of kings had the cross as His dying bed. But He did it on purpose. Jesus became flesh and blood so that He could die, and through death destroy death (Heb. 2:14 cf. 1 Jn. 3:8).
The Infinite held,
pinned to a dirty cross.
 
 Power restrained,
redemption released.
 
The One who brought Lazarus from the dead,
dead.

Prayer

Father, we thank You for sending Jesus to die the death we deserved to die. We thank You that through faith in Him we can receive salvation and eternal life. Amen.

__________

[1] It also interesting to note that Jesus died, Matthew 27:45 tells us, around the 9th hour (or 3pm) and Josephus tells us that’s when the Jews offered their daily evening sacrifice (Jewish Antiquities 14.65 cf. Ex. 12:6).

[2] “According to Deuteronomy 21:22-23 [cf. Josh. 8:29], to leave the dead body of an executed man hanging on a tree overnight desecrated the land. ‘The Jews’ wanted to have to have the bodies of Jesus and those crucified with him removed before sunset, which would usher in the Sabbath. Breaking the leg of those crucified hastened death by preventing the victims supporting themselves with their legs; the arms along cannot take the weight for long and the victims soon die of asphyxiation. The irony was that ‘the Jews’, rightly seeking to ensure no desecration of the land, were at the same time desecrating themselves by pursuing to death an innocent man, their true Messiah” (Colin G. Kruse, John, 365).

[3] See Jn. 19:31 and Philo, Against Flaccus 83 shows that special days were sometimes reasons for different treatment of the crucified then was common. Also, there have been bones discovered that authenticate the practice of breaking the bones of a crucified person. The Crucified Man from Giv’at ha-Mivtar that was discovered near Jerusalem in 1968 shows that his legs had been broken.

[4] Jesus died quicker then was expected (Mk. 15:44). This shows the utter aguish and exhaustion that Jesus had faced.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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