The Gospel of John: He’s Alive!

“So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.” (John 20:3-10)

From today’s text, we concentrate our attention on the actions and behavior of both Peter and John. Both were fishermen. Both became disciples of Jesus. Both became Apostles of Jesus and leaders within the early church. Both were men God used to compose New Testament Scripture. Finally, both men came to the empty tomb following the announcement by Mary Magdalene (John 20:1-2). However, in spite of their similarities, they were also different from each other, as today’s text reveals.

To begin with, and this may seem silly, John was a faster runner than Peter. The text says that they were running together, but then John outran Peter and arrived at the tomb first. Why is this fact so significant? Because it indicates that even though the two men arrived separately at the tomb, they both arrived at the “same” tomb. They both knew were Jesus’ tomb was located. They did not arrive at the wrong tomb, but rather the actual tomb where Jesus had been. This is one evidence for the reality of the resurrection.

Second, John appears to be more timid than Peter. John looked into the tomb and saw the linen cloths Joseph of Arimathea had wrapped Jesus in for burial (John 19:38-40) but he did not go into the tomb. The text does not say why. However, when Peter arrived, true to Peter’s bold and impetuous personality, he immediately went right into the empty tomb.

Once into the tomb, the text says about Peter that, “He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.” The orderly condition of the Jesus’ grave clothes are an indication that His body was not stolen (Matthew 28:11-15). Thieves would not take the time to fold the burial linen and place them separately in an orderly fashion.

As commentator Robert Rothwell explains, “The presence of the grave clothes makes grave robbery impossible. Grave robbers would hardly have spent time disrobing the body of Jesus in the tomb but would have absconded with the body immediately lest they be caught and punished, for grave robbery was a serious crime. Furthermore, linen and spices were expensive in the first century. They would have been the only things of monetary value in the tomb of our Lord, so grave robbers would not have left the layered linen and spices behind. Add to this that grave robbers would have to have gotten past the Roman guard posted at Jesus’ tomb (Matt. 27:62–66), and the idea that the tomb was empty because someone took the body of Jesus becomes wholly implausible. The only explanation is that something supernatural happened.”

The text continues to say, “Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;” Upon seeing the evidence, John’s verdict or conclusion was that Jesus was alive. He believed!

However, “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.”  While both Peter and John believed that Jesus was alive, they still did not understand the full weight and significance of this event. They were still ignorant of all the Old Testament had to say about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Luke 24:13-27). It was this moment that Peter and John went back to their homes.  

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “When Peter … arrived he rushed in and saw (theōrei, “beheld attentively”) the grave clothes and the separate burial cloth. He must have remained inside puzzled at what he saw. After a period of time John went in and saw (eiden, “perceived”—the third Gr. word for “see” in these verses) the significance of the grave clothes and believed. Peter must have been thinking, “Why would a grave robber have left the clothes in this order? Why take the body of Jesus?” But John perceived that the missing body and the position of the grave clothes was not due to a robbery. He realized that Jesus had risen from the dead and had gone through the grave clothes. The tomb was open not to let Jesus’ body out but to let the disciples and the world see that He rose.”

The tomb was not open to allow Jesus’ body out, but rather to allow the disciples and the world in. The sinner’s only hope for the removal of guilt, the forgiveness of sins and life after death is solely in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-10 says, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

By God’s grace alone, through faith alone, may you receive Jesus Christ alone as your Lord and Savior and thereby be justified.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Sol deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Visitors to an Empty Tomb.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:1-2)

It is wise to not only examine John’s Gospel account of the resurrection of Jesus but also to study the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) also. Rather than discovering contradictions, we find a complete understanding of what occurred on the first resurrection Sunday.

To begin with, the resurrection took place on the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning. The text indicates that she arrived at the tomb while it was still dark. She did so, according to Luke 24:1. In order to finish anointing Jesus’ body. She would have be unable to do so the previous day because it was the Sabbath.

Matthew 28:1 states that, “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” This Mary was the mother of James the Less and Joses (Matthew 27:56). Even though John does not specifically mention the second Mary, John 20:2 indicates that Mary Magdalene said to Simon and John after finding the empty tomb, ““They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Mary uses the personal pronoun “we” instead of “I.” This indicates that Mary was not alone when she came to the tomb, as Matthew’s Gospel verifies.

The Gospel of Mark provides even more information. Mark 16:1-2 says, “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.” Mark mentions a third woman, Salome, accompanied Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the Less. Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John (Matthew 27:56).

John Calvin writes that, “Although John says nothing about her (Mary Magdalene’s) companions, yet the other Evangelists, who relate that there were many along with her, say nothing that is contradicted by John’s narrative.”

While it should be noted that John’s account of Jesus’ burial does not mention a stone being rolled in front of the tomb, he does refer to it when the women came to the tomb that first resurrection morning. Today’s text, which mentions the removal of the stone, clearly indicates that the tomb was sealed with a heavy stone (John 19:38–20:1; Mark 15:42–46).

As Dr. R.C. Sproul explains, “Why were Mary and the other women at the tomb? Luke 24:1 says that they went there with the spices that they “had prepared.” Jesus had been buried respectfully but in haste because He was put in the tomb just before the Sabbath began, on the Day of Preparation (John 19:42). Perhaps Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were unable to finish applying the burial spices to the body of Jesus, and the women went back to finish the job. But when they arrived at the tomb, the stone was rolled away, and Mary Magdalene’s first suspicion was that the body of the Lord had been stolen (John 20:1–2). But it would soon be clear that something far more amazing had occurred.”

AS we continue to delve more deeply into the differing accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, we do not discover inaccuracies or even contradictions. Rather, we discover four different viewpoints of the same event. Taken as a whole, they neither contradict each other of the truth of the empty tomb.

May God’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Secret Disciples, Public Ministry.

“After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” (John 19:38-41)

Intense circumstances often prompt people to take responsibility and be leaders. Such was the case with two men who took charge of Jesus’ burial: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemas.

This is the first occasion in which Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned by the Apostle John. What do we know about Joseph?

To begin with, Joseph was a Jew of Arimethea. Arimethea is identified by some historians as also being the town of Ramathaim-Zophim, which was a town in Ephraim, the birthplace of Samuel, where David came to him (1 Samuel 1:1, 19). It is also noted that Arimethea was located approximately 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem.

The Gospel of Luke identifies Joseph as ‘a good and righteous man, … and he was looking for the kingdom of God’ (Luke 23:50–51). Luke also records that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin but did not consent to the decision and deed to crucify Jesus (Luke 23:50-51). The Gospel of Mark mentions that Joseph was a prominent member of the council (Mark 15:43).

The Gospel of Matthew mentions that Joseph was a rich man who had become a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 27:57). It was Joseph who specifically went to Pontius Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus (Matthew 27:58; Luke 23:52). Matthew and Luke also mention that it was Joseph who took down Jesus’ body from the cross,  wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb which had never been used (Matthew 27:60; Luke 23:53).

John’s Gospel states that Joseph was ‘a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews’ (John. 19:38).  However, Mark mentions that Joseph took courage to ask for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). When it really counted, Joseph was strong and courageous (Joshua 1:1-9).

Joseph’s actions were partnered with those of Nicodemas. This was the same Nicodemas who came to Jesus by night (John 3:1-10; 19:39). Nicodemas came with approximately 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes to anoint Jesus’ body (John 19:39.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “An inaccurate understanding of the term used in the original, this mixture of spices weighed closer to 65 pounds. Myrrh was a very fragrant, gummy resin that the Jews turned into a powdered form and mixed with aloes, a powder from the aromatic sandalwood. The Jews did not embalm but did this procedure to suppress the odor of decay.”

The text then says that Joseph and Nicodemas took Jesus’ body, bound it in strips of linen (I.e. swaddling clothes) with the spices as was the Jewish custom (John 19:40). The text continues to say that the new tomb was located in a garden (John 19:41). They laid Jesus’ body into the tomb because it was the Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby (John 19:42). This was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9.

One commentator explains that,” Normally, the Jews would bury criminals in a common grave outside the city gates, but the body of Jesus got a different treatment. Some commentators believe that Pilate’s willingness to give the body to Joseph (and Nicodemus; v. 39) is a further indication that Pilate believed Jesus was innocent, since he allowed Jesus not to be buried with other criminals.”

The practical application of today’s lesson is that when it truly counted, Joseph and Nicodemas served the Lord with great boldness in spite of their prior fear and trepidation. Have there been occasions when you feared serving the Lord? I’m sure we all have felt intimidation at some time or another. The solution is to repent of fear and resolve to serve Jesus with strength, courage and boldness.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Lamb Who was Slain!

“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. So 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. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 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. For 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.” (John 19:31-37)

Was Jesus actually crucified on a Friday? Interestingly enough, there has been much debate among Christians as to whether or not this is so? I have personally encountered several people who have wanted to vigorously argue about this subject. However, the first words from John 19:31 clearly indicate that whatever we may know about Jesus’ crucifixion, it did occur on a Friday.

The words “day of Preparation” (παρασκευὴ; paraskeue) is literally one word in the Greek language and it clearly means Friday. In the Jewish context, it would be the day before the Sabbath. In today’s text, this term takes on an even greater significance because the “Sabbath was a high day.”  This was because the beginning of Sabbath was also the beginning of the Passover Feast.

This gave greater weight to the importance of not having any crucified bodies hanging on that particular Saturday or Sabbath Day. Therefore, the Jews asked that Pilate have the legs of the three crucified men, including Jesus, be broken.

Dr. John MacArthur comments that “Though the Romans had no problem leaving crucified victims hanging on crosses long after they died (allowing their corpses to rot or be eaten by birds), the Jewish leaders insisted that Jesus’ body be taken down. The Mosaic Law stipulated that a person hanged on a tree should not remain there overnight (Deut. 21:22–23). They would have been especially wary of this in light of the Passover celebration. In order to hasten death for certain reasons, soldiers would break the legs of the victim with an iron mallet. Doing so inhibited the dying man’s ability to push up with his legs in order to breathe. Death by asphyxiation soon followed.”

Having no reason to not comply with the Jews’ request, Pilate gave the order for the men’s legs to be broken. The test says, “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him.” This indicates that both criminals were still alive following Jesus’ death. It also shows that the soldiers had no reticence or restraint in inflicting further pain and suffering upon the condemned.

However, the text goes on to say “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.” The behavior of the soldiers towards Jesus was not born of any compassion they may have had for Him. They were practical men. They saw no reason to break the legs of a man already dead. It was unnecessary. This text proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus did indeed die on the cross, belying or contradicting those who would contend otherwise.

Again, the soldiers were practical men. To ensure that Jesus was indeed dead, they confirmed it by their following behavior. “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” The soldier’s stabbing of Jesus’ side was one of significant penetration. The flow of blood and water was because the spear pierced Jesus’ heart or the chest cavity was pierced at the bottom. Either way, the Apostle John mentioned the outflow of “blood and water” to emphasize that Jesus was unquestionably dead.

As with the many other events leading up and including His crucifixion, even Jesus’ bones not being broken as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John 19:36-37 says, “For 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.”

The Scriptures to which the Apostle John refers are respectively Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12 and Psalm 34:20 regarding the Passover Lamb’s bones are not to be broken when offered before the Lord and Psalm 22:16-17, Zechariah 12:10 and 13:6 which refer to the Messiah’s body being pierced.

Dr. MacArthur explains that, “John quoted from either Ex. 12:46 or Num. 9:12, since both stipulate that the bones of the Passover lamb must not be broken. Since the NT portrays Jesus as the Passover Lamb that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29; cf. 1 Cor. 5:71 Pet. 1:19), these verses have special typologically prophetic significance for him. The quote in John 19:37 comes from Zech. 12:10. The anguish and contrition of the Jews in the Zechariah passage, because of their wounding of God’s Shepherd, is typologically prophetic of the time of the coming of the Son of God, Messiah, when at his return, Israel shall mourn for the rejection and killing of their King (cf. Rev. 1:7).”

Dr. R. C. Sproul concludes today’s devotional by writing, “In his first letter to the church at Corinth, the (Apostle) Paul made an astonishing statement about the importance of the cross to the entirety of the Christian faith: ‘And I brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’ Paul was a man who had the equivalent of two Ph.D.’s in theology by the time he was 21 years of age, a man who wrote with great insight on the whole scope of theology. Nevertheless, he said that the focal point of his teaching, preaching, and ministry among the Corinthians was simply Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, may the Lord enable you to do so today.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Final Words, Final Act!

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:28-30)

Jesus’ fourth of seven sayings from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” is not recorded by John (cf. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). However, John does record Jesus’ fifth statement: “I thirst.” It is evident from the today’s text that Jesus was fully conscious during His execution, even up to and including the moment of His death.

Why was it so important for John to document Jesus’ physical thirst? One commentator writes, “The wording in John 19:28 indicates that Jesus was fully conscious and was aware of fulfilling the details of prophecies (Psalm. 42:1–2; 63:1). The paradox of the One who is the Water of life (John 4:14; 7:38–39) dying of thirst is striking. Giving Him wine vinegar, a sour wine, fulfilled Psalm 69:21. Putting the vinegar-soaked sponge on the end of a hyssop plant stalk seems odd. Perhaps this detail points to Jesus dying as the true Lamb at Passover, for hyssop was used in the Passover ceremonies (cf. Exodus 12:22).”

After Jesus received the sour wine, He spoke His sixth statement from the cross: “It is finished!” This statement is one word in the Greek (Τετέλεσται; Tetelestai). It means that something is completed or accomplished. It also means “paid in full.”

Dr. John MacArthur explains, “The verb here carries the idea of fulfilling one’s task and, in religious contexts, has the idea of fulfilling one’s religious obligations (see 17:4). The entire work of redemption had been brought to completion. The single Greek word here (translated “It is finished”) has been found in the papyri being placed on receipts for taxes meaning “paid in full” (see Col. 3:13–14).”

Then, the moment of physical death arrived. When Jesus gave up His spirit, it was a conscious act of His will. No one took His life. He willingly gave it up (John 10:17-18).

John Calvin states, “It is finished. Now this word, which Christ employs, well deserves our attention; for it shows that the whole accomplishment of our salvation, and all the parts of it, are contained in His death. But Christ only intends to keep our faith fixed on Himself alone, and not to allow it to turn aside in any direction whatever. The meaning, therefore is, that everything which contributes to the salvation of men is to be found in Christ, and ought not to be sought anywhere else. The perfection of salvation is contained in Him.”

Thank you Lord for taking my place on the cross and being my substitute. May my life be one lived in gratitude to all which you have accomplished.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Witnesses of the Crucifixion.

“…but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:25-27)

The Apostle John provides us an insight into the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus. Unlike executions carried out today in the United States, executions in ancient Israel were pubic and were intended to be a deterrent to would be criminals.

Public crucifixions also allowed loved ones to witness the execution of their beloved. Such was the case with Jesus as testified by John 19:25-26. Matthew, Mark, and Luke also mention the presence of several women, including some details about the women not found in John’s gospel (Matt. 27:55–56Mark 15:40–41Luke 23:49).

Dr. John MacArthur notes that, “Although the exact number of women mentioned here is questioned, John probably refers to four women rather than three, i.e., two by name and two without naming them: 1) “his mother” (Mary); 2) “his mother’s sister” (probably Salome [Mark 15:40],  the sister of Mary and mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee [Matt. 27:56–57Mark 15:40]); 3) “Mary the wife of Clopas” (the mother of James the younger and Joses—Matt. 27:56); and 4) Mary Magdalene (“Magdalene” signifies “Magdala” a village on the west shore of Galilee, 2 or 3 miles north of Tiberias). Mary Magdalene figures prominently in the resurrection account (see John 20:1–18; cf. Luke 8:2–3 where Jesus healed her from demon possession).”

The IVP Background New Testament Commentary explains that, “The evidence is disputed as to whether relatives and close friends were allowed near crucifixions; they probably were. In either case, the soldiers supervising the execution would have looked the other way in practice if they had no reason to forbid it; the prerogatives of motherhood were highly respected in the ancient world. Because Jesus may not be elevated far above the ground, Jesus’ mother and disciple can hear him without being extremely close to the cross.”

It is during this period of time that John records Jesus giving him the responsibility of taking care of Mary, Jesus’ birth mother. John does not specifically name himself but rather uses the title “the disciple whom He (Jesus) loved.”

I find it curious that Jesus did not entrust the care of His mother to His earthly brothers (see Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6). We can only speculate as to why? Perhaps it was because Jesus earthly brothers were not sympathetic or supportive of His ministry. Maybe it was because they were in Capernaum and not in Jerusalem. Yet, it was the Passover and it seems unlikely that all His brothers and sisters would have been absent from the feast. Perhaps, it was because John was the only disciple in attendance.

Dr. John Walvoord states, “In stark contrast with the cruelty and indifference of the soldiers, a group of four women watched with love and grief. The anguish of Jesus’ mother fulfilled a prophecy of Simeon: “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Seeing her sorrow Jesus honored His mother by consigning her into the care of John, the beloved disciple. His brothers and sisters being in Galilee, were not in a position to care for or comfort her. The words of Jesus to Mary and the beloved disciple were His third saying from the cross (the first one recorded by John). In the other Gospels Jesus had already given a respite to the Roman executioners (Luke 23:34) and a pardon to one thief (Luke 23:42–43).”

At the hour of Mary’s deepest grief, Jesus did not fail her. He made sure she would be taken care of. At the moment of our deepest grief, Jesus will not fail us either. He can and will meet our needs.

What are your specific needs? Have you spoken of these needs to the Lord? If not,   do so today.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

LORD’S DAY 9, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 9 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. The theme for the next two Lord’s Days will concern the subject of God the Father.

Q. What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?

A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them,1 who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence,2 is my God and Father because of Christ the Son.3 I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul,4 and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world.5 God is able to do this because he is almighty God6 and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.7

1 Gen. 1-2Ex. 20:11Ps. 33:6Isa. 44:24Acts 4:2414:15.
2 Ps. 104Matt. 6:3010:29Eph. 1:11.
3 John 1:12-13Rom. 8:15-16Gal. 4:4-7Eph. 1:5.
4 Ps. 55:22Matt. 6:25-26Luke 12:22-31.
5 Rom. 8:28.
6 Gen. 18:14Rom. 8:31-39.
7 Matt. 7:9-11.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Robe!

“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things,” (John 19:23-24)

The Robe is a 1942 historical novel about the  Crucifixion of Jesus, written by Lloyd C. Douglas. The book was one of the best-selling titles of the 1940s. It entered the New York Times Best Seller list in October 1942, four weeks later rose to No. 1, and held the position for nearly a year. The Robe remained on the list for another two years, returning several other times over the next several years including when the film adaptation  (featuring actor Richard Burton in an early role) was released in 1953.

According to Newsweek Magazine, Lloyd C. Douglas began his literary career after leaving the ministry at the age of 52. All of his novels, essays, and short stories relied on his spiritual background for thematic and creative inspiration. At the height of his popularity, Douglas was receiving on average 100 letters a week from fans.

One of those letters provided the inspiration for The Robe. Hazel McCann, a department store clerk from Ohio, wrote to Douglas asking what he thought had happened to Christ’s garments after the crucifixion. Douglas immediately began working on a novel based on this concept, sending each chapter to McCann as he finished it. Douglas and McCann finally met in 1941, and it was to her that Douglas dedicated the book.

I recall as a child that the movie version of Douglas’ book would be annually shown on network television, usually on or near Easter Sunday. My impression from the film was that the depiction of Jesus’ robe was that it contained an almost spiritual or mystical quality to it affecting each one who even touched it.

Today’s text refers to Jesus robe and a tunic. While John 19:23 refers to several garments which belonged to Jesus, and for which the soldiers divided among themselves, His tunic is given special attention by the Apostle John.

The IVP Background New Testament Commentary explains that, “Roman law as later codified in their legal Digests granted the soldiers the right to the clothes the executed man was wearing; it was customary to execute the condemned man naked. The basic unit of the Roman army was the contubernium, composed of eight soldiers who shared a tent; half-units of four soldiers each were sometimes assigned to special tasks, such as execution quads.”

Another commentator states that, “All the Synoptists (Matthew, Mark and Luke) relate the parting of the garments. The four pieces to be divided would be, the head-gear, the sandals, the girdle, and the tallith or square outer garment with fringes. Delitzsch thus describes the dress of our Lord: “On His head He wore a white sudar, fastened under the chin and hanging down from the shoulders behind. Over the tunic which covered the body to the hands and feet, a blue tallith with the blue and white fringes on the four ends, so thrown over and gathered together that the gray, red-striped undergarment was scarcely noticeable, except when the sandalshod feet came into view.”

Jesus’ tunic (χιτών; chiton) was an undergarment which was worn next to the skin. Clothes then were handmade and comparatively expensive to today’s manufactured clothing. The tunic became something the soldiers gambled for in order to not damage or ruin it.

However, as with everything which happens in life there was more to be seen than meets the eye. To begin with, when Jesus’ clothing was being divided among the soldiers and gambled for, it prompts the question as to exactly what garment Jesus was wearing while on the cross. The answer is that Jesus was naked while He hung on the cross. This was a further example of His humiliation on the sinner’s behalf.

Additionally, the dividing of Jesus’ garments, and the casting of lots for one soldier to win ownership of Jesus’ tunic, was a fulfillment of Scripture. While the soldiers were certainly not aware of this specific prophecy, those familiar with the Scriptures, then and now, should have been and should be. The prophecy occurs in Psalm 22:18.

Dr. John MacArthur explains, “In the psalm, David, beset by physical distress and mockery by his opponents, used the symbolism of the common practice in an execution scene in which the executioner divided the victim’s clothes to portray the depth of his trouble. It is notable that David precisely described a form of execution that he had never seen. The passage was typologically prophetic of Jesus, David’s heir to the messianic throne (see Matt. 27:46Mark 15:34).”

John Calvin comments, “Let us also learn that Christ was stripped of His garments that He might clothe us with righteousness; that His naked body was exposed to the insults of men that we may appear in glory before the judgment seat of God.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: The King of the Jews!

“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (John 19:19-22)

What we witness in today’s text was the continued verbal sparring between the Jewish religious leaders and the local political governor from Rome: Pontius Pilate. While Jesus was accomplishing an eternal redemption and atonement for sinners, the Jews and Pilate dickered about the formal charge against Jesus resulting in His execution. What a contrast between the significance of the crucifixion and the silliness displayed by the crucifiers.

“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”  A sign listing the crimes committed was often placed around the neck of the condemned as they journeyed to the execution site. The placard would then be nailed to the victim’s cross (see Matt. 27:37Mark 15:26Luke 23:38). Pontius Pilate used this opportunity for a mocking revenge against the Jews leaders who had pressured him into this execution.

Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. There was a method to the so-called madness by Pilate. He wanted the greatest number of people possible to witness how the Jews treated their kings.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament explains, “The site of execution was necessarily outside the city, although the soldiers preferred that it be nearby. Jewish people in the Roman Empire dealt with three or four basic languages: Greek, Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew (of these, Greek especially was spoken outside Palestine and shared its prominence with Aramaic inside Palestine). Jewish inscriptions to foreigners were written in Greek and Latin.

Bible Teacher Robert Rothwell comments that, “Pilate inscribed “King of the Jews” on Jesus’ cross, likely intending only to mock the Jews who rejected Christ (John 19:20–22). He spoke better than he knew, indirectly witnessing to the One who is King not only of the Jews but of all people (Amos 9:11–12).”

“So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “The chief priests naturally did not want this to be proclaimed as a fact. They wanted Jesus to die for claiming to be the Jews’ King. So they protested to Pilate to change the superscription. Pilate refused to do so. Doubtless he felt he had done enough dirty work for the leaders of the nation, and he enjoyed his little joke against them. His haughty answer, What I have written, I have written, completes a series of amazing utterances by Pilate (cf. 18:38; 19:5, 14–15; Matt. 27:22).”

Walvoord concludes this section by stating, “Irony was also shown by John, who recognized that Pilate wrote those words but that God wanted His Son to die with this proclamation on His cross. The words in another sense are a fitting judgment on the life of Pilate. He had played his part and had his moment of truth. He, a Gentile, would be judged accordingly by the King of the Jews!

John Calvin writes: “When God declares that our salvation was so dear to Him, that He did not spare His only-begotten Son, what abundance goodness and what astonishing grace do we here behold! Whoever, then, takes a just view of the causes of the death of Christ, together with the advantage which it yields to us, will not, like the Greeks, regard the doctrine of the cross as foolishness, not, like the Jews, will he regard it as an offense (I Corinthians 1:23), but rather as an invaluable token and pledge of the power, and wisdom and righteousness and goodness of God.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Passive Obedience of Christ.

“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” (John 19:16-18)

Today’s text chronicles the passive obedience of Christ in willingly submitting to the Father’s will by becoming a substitutionary atoning sacrifice on behalf of sinners. This passive obedience was in Jesus willingly being delivered to be crucified. This passive obedience is complimented by the active obedience of Christ in perfectly obeying the Law of God.  This was so Jesus would be counted worthy of such a sacrifice and atonement.

Prior to arriving at Golgotha, Jesus would endure another flogging. While John does not record this event, Matthew and Mark do (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15). This second scourging would have left Jesus severely beaten, weakened and suffering a great loss of blood. Historians’ record that others condemned to be crucified often died following the Roman scourging and never made it to the place of execution. This was not the case with Jesus.

John’s Gospel records that Jesus went out, bearing his own cross. The cross Jesus would bear would not have been the entire object. Rather, Jesus would have carried only the horizontal cross beam. However, this bean would still have been heavy and Jesus, already severely weakened by the second beating, was unable to carry it the entire way. Therefore, the Roman soldiers seized and forcibly compelled Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry it (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26).

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “Carrying His own cross, Jesus went out. These words fulfill two Old Testament symbols or types. Isaac carried his own wood for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:1–6) and the sin offering used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11–13). So Jesus was made sin (2 Cor. 5:21).

Jesus arrived to the location called The Place of the Skull or Golgotha. Several reasons given for this title was (1) the rocky incline resembled a skull and (2) it was a place where people died. The Latin word for Golgotha, “Calvary,” also means skull or cranium (Luke 23:23).

John mentions that there were two others crucified with Jesus. John specifically states that Jesus’ cross was in the center of the three. These two criminals (Luke 23:32-33) or robbers (Matthew 27:44) are most likely mentioned to provide an understandable context when their legs were broken to hasten their deaths while Jesus’ were not because He had already died (cf. John 19:32–33). This is one evidence that Jesus in fact died and did not merely faint from exhaustion.

As we have previously noted, crucifixion was a horrible and shameful way to die. The crucified endured tremendous physical suffering not only from the prior beatings but also by the driving of the nails through their hands and feet. It was a slow, agonizing way to die.

However, while Jesus experienced the physical consequences of crucifixion He also endured the spiritual consequences as well. He suffered the wrath of God the Father on behalf of sinners.

One commentary states, “Yet, the horrible physical pain and shame of crucifixion paled in comparison to the additional suffering that Jesus alone experienced on His cross. He was crucified outside the city—outside the camp of God’s people, where the scapegoat was sent on Israel’s Day of Atonement, cut off from the Lord’s blessings (Lev. 16:27). Moreover, Jesus was crucified on the wood of a tree, and the Mosaic Law curses those who hang on a tree (Deut. 21:23). Jesus suffered outside the camp, cut off from God’s blessing, bearing the curse of divine wrath against the sin of His people so as to redeem them (Gal. 3:10–14Heb. 13:12–13).”

 At the cross, we not only witness the love of God but also the just wrath of God. God the Father poured out upon the sinless Son of God the wrath and punishment we deserved. This was in order for sinners like us to receive the grace of salvation which we do not deserve and also the mercy of salvation which is not to receive the judgment we do deserve.

Thank you Lord for your indescribable gift.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!