John 19:31-34

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the Sabbath, especially because that Sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

A reminder, from John, that we are not yet at Passover, but the day before, the day of Preparation, the day on which the Passover lambs are sacrificed or, in this case, the day when the Passover Lamb is sacrificed. A part of this timetable that is unique to John, as we’ve noticed, is the symbolic and theological interpretation of what is happening at the cross and of what it means for John’s community and for us. For with the death of Jesus on the cross, we’ve come full circle to the first public act of Jesus when he drove the moneychangers from the Temple because sacrifice was no longer necessary.

John’s theological aim and confession in all of this? In short, to tell us that God has drawn near to us in the Word made flesh to demonstrate to us that God loves the world – the whole world – to the point of giving his life for that world so that all who desire have access to grace upon grace through faith in Christ.

In addition to the theological and symbolic importance of Jesus’ death falling on the day of Preparation, there is also a practical element regarding the concern of the religious authorities about having to remove the bodies before the beginning of both Sabbath and Passover that evening. As the Sabbath precludes work, the grisly task of removing the bodies had to be completed before Sabbath commenced that evening.

And so the soldiers come to break the legs of those who had been crucified in order to speed up their deaths. But when they come to Jesus, they see that he has already died and so they don’t break his legs. Instead, one soldier pierces Jesus’ side. Why he does that – to ensure that he’s dead, out of malice, for a last insult to this pretender to the throne? – that we don’t know. What we do know is that Jesus is dead. His life has expired. His earthly existence is over.

And the rest of the story about Jesus, the one confessed as Christ, is about to begin….

Prayer: Dear God, when we hear the story of the death of Jesus, let us be reminded that Jesus went to the cross to demonstrate your love and commitment to the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Post image: Crucifixion miniature, Rabula Gospels, with the legend “Loginos.”