John 19:36-37

These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

It’s not just the details leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion or even his death that John describes in light of the traditions of Israel, but also those things that happen after his death. Here John makes two references, both tied to the action of the executioners to break the legs of those crucified in order to speed their death so that the bodies may be taken down before the Passover.

The first reference is to the Exodus story and, in particular, instructions about not breaking any of the bones of the lamb to be sacrificed on that first Passover (Ex. 12:46, Num. 9:12). The second reference connects to prophecies about the house of David (Zech. 12:10). Once again, we see John interpreting everything about Jesus’ death in light of the two great traditions of Israel, the Exodus and the Davidic monarchy.

But of course John isn’t just interpreting these events, he is also constructing a narrative specifically designed to reflect these theological commitments. That is, John shifts the celebration of Passover – a floating holiday in terms of what day of the week on which it falls – from Friday (as in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) to Saturday precisely to make these links between the Christian tradition about Jesus and Israel’s story of God’s ongoing commitment via deliverance and monarchy.

What are we to make of the literary license John exercises so liberally? Again, I think the key is to keep in mind that John is not writing a twenty-first century history informed by post-Enlightenment sensibilities about historical accuracy, but rather is offering a first century narrative confession of faith that in this one, Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, God is keeping God’s promises to Israel by redeeming Israel and, indeed, the whole world. And in response to John’s robust and vibrant confession, I can only say, this is most certainly true.

Prayer: Dear God, each and every day remind us anew of your great love for us that we may, in turn, love those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.