Testimony

John 19: 31-42

John Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Commentary by Donald Senior, C.P.

John's passion story concludes with two brutal acts in the ritual of crucifixion that are given entirely new meaning by the Gospel.

The executioners come to break the legs of the crucified in order to hasten death before the Sabbath eve begins. But they do not break Jesus' legs; unwittingly they fulfill the words of Scripture in reference to the passover lamb (see, for example, Exodus 12:46). In the testimony of the Baptist earlier in the Gospel, Jesus is the "lamb of God" who has come to take away the sins of the world (1:29,36).

To make sure Jesus is dead, one of the soldiers drives a lance into his side. Blood and water stream from the body of Jesus. Once again, a brutal act takes on new meaning in the eye of the Gospel. The Gospel cites Zechariah 12:10, a haunting text that speaks of the inhabitants of Jerusalem repenting and receiving God's forgiveness when they look on one "whom they have pierced." Water and blood have rich meaning in John's Gospel. In chapter 7 Jesus used the symbol of water to refer to the Spirit that would course into the world through his life-giving death (see 7:37-39). And in the bread of life discourse, Jesus had spoken of his blood that gives life to those who partake of it (6:53,54,55-56).

All of these signs confirm the redemptive power of Jesus' death in John's Gospel and for this reason the evangelist emphasizes the decisive testimony of the "witness" at the cross (19:35)--presumably the Beloved Disciple who was the key link between the original community of Jesus and the Johannine church.

The finale is reached as Jesus' crucified body is taken from the cross for burial. Already the effects of Jesus' mission are evident. Joseph of Arimathea who out of fear had been a disciple only in secret now takes courage and comes to claim the body. He is joined by Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had first come to Jesus "at night" (3:1) and whose faith had been tentative (7:50-52). He brings an enormous amount of spices--enough for a royal burial!

Both men lay aside their fear and openly pay homage to the crucified Jesus. Those in the darkness are now coming out into the light. God's Word of love has triumphed over death.

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