There was a shout of
victory from the cross just before Christ "gave up
It was not the moan of a
defeated martyr, nor the sigh of a patient
resignation. Jesus triumphantly accomplished the
work he was sent by his Father to fulfill, and when
he completed it shouted one word, "Finished!" You
can also translate it "Done!" or "Complete!" Then he
bowed his head and "he gave up his spirit." Jesus'
work of redemption was finished. There was nothing
else to be added by anyone, anywhere, now or in the
Jesus in that moment
summoned death to serve him. John does not say, "He
died," but that "he gave up his spirit." John is
emphasizing the voluntary nature of the act.
Augustine said it correctly; "He gave up His life
because He willed it, when He willed it, and as He
willed it." You and I cannot say that about our own
In John 19:31-37 we have
the perspective of an eyewitness to the death of
Jesus. The apostle John carefully observed something
unusual at the crucifixion. These are facts that
made such a deep impression on him as he watched the
crucifixion take place. The legs of Jesus were not
broken as was the case of the other two men
crucified that day, and in his case a Roman soldier
seeing that he was already dead, thrust a spear into
his side and out flowed water and blood. They did
not pierce the sides of the other two crucified men.
Why did all of this take place in this manner?
JESUS WAS CRUCIFIED ON
THE DAY OF PREPARATION
It was the day of
preparation for the Passover (v. 31), so the Jewish
leaders took steps to have all three bodies of the
dead removed from the crosses before sundown when
the Passover observation would begin. On the
afternoon of the crucifixion of Jesus, the people of
Israel were busy with their preparations in advance
before the Sabbath began in the evening at 6 p.m.
when no buying, slaying of the lambs, cooking the
food, cleaning or other preparations could take
place. At sundown when the first star appeared on
the horizon, the first day of the Feast of
Unleavened Bread and the Passover meal would begin.
It therefore was of
absolute urgency that the Jewish authorities get the
bodies buried before the Sabbath would begin as the
sun went down. "Then, because it was the day of
preparation, so that the bodies should not stay on
the crosses on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was an
especially important one), the Jewish leaders asked
Pilate to have the victims' legs broken and the
bodies taken down" (John 19:31 NET).
The Old Testament
Scriptures made it clear that the land would be
defiled if a body was hanging all night on a tree
(Deut. 21:22-23; Joshua 8:29). The apostle Paul
quotes Deuteronomy 21:23 in Galatians 3:13 when he
wrote, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree."
Such defilement would be even worse on the Sabbath,
God forbid on the Passover!
The crucifixion was an
exceedingly painful, and an unusually cruel and slow
death. No vital organ of the body was directly
affected. Even after death the Roman custom was to
leave the bodies of crucified criminals on their
crosses to rot in the sun until the birds of prey
and wild animals consumed them as a public example
to the community at large. The Jewish leaders had to
get permission from Pilate before removing the
"Pilate was surprised
that he was already dead. He called the centurion
and asked him if he had been dead for some time"
(Mark 15:44 NET).
The Roman governor gave
permission for the legs to be broken to hasten the
death of the victims. To accomplish this the soldier
placed a crushing blow to the leg with a heavy iron
sledgehammer or mall. This horrible jolt to the body
would hasten death, which would otherwise be delayed
by several hours or even days.
Archaeologists have found
skeletal remains of crucifixion victims that
revealed a single blow had shattered the lower legs.
The smashing of the lower leg bones was called in
Latin the crurifragium. It caused the victim to die
rather quickly because of the inability of the
person to breathe properly. When the legs were
broken, the chest cavity would then bear the total
pressure of the body's weight. He would hang there
in the form of a "V" with full weight on his arms.
Therefore, the only way a crucified man could obtain
a full lung of air was to raise himself by means of
pushing his legs to ease the tension on his arms and
chest muscles. Once his legs were broken, he could
not possibly raise himself to get air and there
would be a greater constriction of the chest, and he
would suffocate in a matter of minutes. This death,
though painful, was more merciful than the enduring
THE FIRST PROOF THAT
JESUS WAS DEAD
These Roman soldiers were
trained executioners who would make no mistake about
a criminal's death. Pilate ordered the legs broken,
and they would not dare disobey him unless
absolutely sure that Christ was already dead. These
hardened Roman soldiers were the first witnesses to
Jesus had already
died so his legs were not broken.
Clearly the eyewitness
states that Jesus was dead because when the soldiers
came to break his legs to hasten his death, they saw
that he was already dead and there was no need to
break them (v. 33 NET). John saw them, "But when
they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs." Jesus "was already
dead" is in the perfect tense in the original,
"having died and was now dead."
As the sun went down over
Jerusalem, the day Christ died, John recalled that
God's perfect Lamb fulfilled all of the important
Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus as the true Passover
lamb, that God provided, did not have any of His
bones broken (Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20). "You
must not break a bone of it" (24:47b NET).
The slaying of the
Passover lambs was taking place in the Temple at
this very moment when the Lamb of God was dying on
the tree. The Pascal supper would take place in a
few hours in Jewish homes across the land just as it
had for centuries.
The timing of the death
of Jesus at the very hour when the Passover lambs
were being slain stuck in the mind of this
eyewitness. The apostle John saw clearly these
things were being done because it was "the day of
the preparation" of the Passover celebrating the
time when God delivered the people from their
slavery in Egypt. Centuries earlier in Egypt the
blood of the lamb was spread on the doorposts and
lintel of the house over every Jewish home. That
night when the angel of death visited every home in
Egypt wherever he saw the blood he would "pass over"
and spare the first-born. "I will pass through the
land of Egypt in the same night, and I will attack
all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of
humans and of animals, and on all the gods of Egypt
I will execute judgment. I am the Lord. The blood
will be a sign for you on the houses where you are,
so that when I see the blood I will pass over you,
and this plague will not fall on you to destroy you
when I attack the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:12-13
NET). Also, in 12:23 we red, "For the Lord will pass
through to strike Egypt, and when he sees the blood
on the top of the doorframe and the two side posts,
then the Lord will pass over the door, and he will
not permit the destroyer to enter your houses to
strike you" (NET).
The astounding thing that
John pondered was the fact that not a bone of Jesus
was broken proving that he was the Passover Lamb
that God provided that afternoon. Not one bone of
the Passover lamb was broken. God slew his own lamb
and made provision in the blood of Jesus so that
when the judgment of God comes on us, he will see
the blood of His Son and pass over us. Jesus, as
God's perfect lamb died in our place. His blood
covers all our sins. The angel of judgment will
"pass over" all who trust in God's Lamb to atone for
THE SECOND PROOF THAT
JESUS WAS DEAD
To make doubly sure that
Jesus was dead, or out of one last act of hate, a
Roman soldier picked up a spear and thrust it deeply
into the side of Jesus (vv. 32-34). Beyond a
doubt Jesus was dead. There was no point in breaking
his legs. The only reason the legs of Jesus were not
broken was that He was already dead. A real man with
a real human body, with real human blood, died on
the cross that afternoon outside the walls of
The apostle John tells us
he watched the horrible scene as, "one of the
soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood
and water flowed out immediately" (John 19:34 NET).
No simple pricking is in
the mind of the eyewitness. He sees the infliction
of a wound intended to kill someone. No doubt, the
soldier wanted to make doubly sure that Jesus was
dead and certify to the centurion and Pilate that he
was dead. The soldier probably thought, "If this Jew
is not already dead, this will finish you off."
The wound made in Jesus'
side was a large one and John witnessed "blood and
water" flowing out of it. His purpose for stating
what he saw was to certify the real physical death
of Jesus. John was testifying as an eyewitness that
Jesus had a real body and died a real human death.
One of the reasons he was writing his gospel was to
refute any Gnostic nonsense. It was the testimony of
an eyewitness, testifying in simple language the
simple facts the death of his friend. He wrote: "And
the person who saw it has testified (and his
testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling
the truth), so that you also may believe" (John
The gash from the blade
of the spear would be large enough to permit the
open hand to be thrust into it. The important thing
on the heart of John, years later as he wrote down
his testimony, was that he could certify as an
eyewitness that Jesus died. He saw the bloody
evidence before his own eyes. It was still vivid to
Moreover, it had the hand
of God all over it, "that the Scriptures might be
God intervened and
the Scriptures were fulfilled
The author tells us that
this act was the fulfillment of Jewish Scriptures.
"For these things happened so that the scripture
would be fulfilled, 'Not a bone of his will be
broken'" (John 19:36).
Prophecy was fulfilled
that afternoon in a most unusual manner. One
Scripture said the Savior's bones must not be
broken, and another said his body must be pierced.
The Roman soldiers would have done exactly the
opposite that afternoon. They came to break the legs
of Jesus as they had the other men. Moreover, they
had no intention of piercing the side of Jesus with
the spear. To John's utter amazement that is exactly
what the soldiers did that afternoon.
Why was this so
important in the mind of John?
The sovereign hand of God
is written all over these events at Calvary. God
intervened and caused it to happen just as his Word
had said it would centuries before. God overruled
the circumstances and caused it to happen according
to his will. The enemy was unconsciously executing
God's perfect will. A sovereign God was in control
at Calvary. The soldiers had received instructions
to break the legs of Jesus, but this had not been
done because he was already dead. The soldiers had
not received an order to pierce the Savior's side,
but this is what the soldier did.
C. H. Spurgeon observed,
"That our Lord's bones should remain unbroken, and
yet that he should be pierced, seemed a very
unlikely thing; but it was carried out." The purpose
of God had to be fulfilled. In case of the typical
Passover lamb, not one of its bones was broken.
Moreover, with the divine protection of a righteous
man guaranteed that God "protects all his bones, not
one of them will be broken" (Ps. 34:20). Jesus was
the only perfectly righteous man. He was without
sin. He never experienced personal sin.
A fountain was
opened at Calvary
prophecy was fulfilled that day. "I will pour out on
the kingship of David and the population of
Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that
they will look to me, the one they have pierced.
They will lament for him as one laments for an only
son, and there will be a bitter cry for him like the
bitter cry for a firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10 NET). A
little later the prophet wrote: "In that day there
will be a fountain opened up for the dynasty of
David and the people of Jerusalem to cleanse them
from sin and impurity" (13:1 NET).
The blood of Jesus is the
only cure for our sin problem. The blood of Jesus
Christ purges us of every sin when we trust him as
our Savior. Jesus died in our place. His blood
cleanses us of all sin and the judgment of God is
turned away and will pass over all who trust in him.
"For the life of the
flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on
the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it
is the blood by reason of the life that makes
atonement" (Leviticus 17:11). The Jewish Talmud
said, "There is no atonement except with blood" (Yoma
5a). "Without the shedding of blood there is no
forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22b NET).
The apostle John wrote:
"But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the
light, we have fellowship with one another and the
blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1
John 1:9 NET).
THE THIRD PROOF THAT
JESUS WAS DEAD
"Pilate was surprised
that he was already dead. He called the centurion
and asked him if he had been dead for some time.
When Pilate was informed by the centurion, he gave
the body to Joseph" (Mark 15:44-45 NET).
Pilate certified from the
centurion that Jesus was dead. Pilate had clear
evidence that there was no life in Jesus' body.
Then friends took Him
down from the cross and gave Him a proper Jewish
burial. Those who handled his body knew that he was
dead. Otherwise, they would not have buried him that
After this, Joseph of
Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus (but secretly,
because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate
if he could remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave
him permission, so he went and took the body away.
Nicodemus, the man who had previously come to Jesus
at night, accompanied Joseph, carrying a mixture of
myrrh and aloes weighing about seventy-five pounds.
Then they took Jesus' body and wrapped it, with the
aromatic spices, in strips of linen cloth according
to Jewish burial customs. Now at the place where
Jesus was crucified there was a garden, and in the
garden was a new tomb where no one had yet been
buried. And so, because it was the Jewish day of
preparation and the tomb was nearby, they placed
Jesus' body there (John 19:38-42 NET).
Joseph of Arimathea and
Nicodemus "wrapped that incorruptible body in
spices, for it is to be fragrant for evermore to all
His people as the death like which there is no
other" observed F. W. Grant.
The overwhelming evidence
is Jesus died in Jerusalem and was buried and after
the third day rose from the dead.
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
The whole Gospel of John
is centered on the death of Jesus Christ. Without
the certainty of his death, there can be no
resurrection. He is either dead or he is alive.
We cannot escape the
evidence that Jesus Christ died on the cross and was
buried the same day in Jerusalem.
The eyewitness testimony
is clear. The death of Christ was no figment of the
imagination. The explicit details are not a fraud
inflicted on humanity. Jesus Christ died on the
cross and was buried in a Jewish tomb according to
the custom of the Jewish people.
Jesus Christ is the
Passover Lamb God provided for his people.
Not a bone of the
Passover lamb must be broken in the preparation of
the meal. Jesus Christ is the perfect fulfillment of
the greater Lamb of God who takes away the sins of
all who will believe on Him.
It is only the precious
blood of Jesus that will cleanse you and me of all
our sins and guilt.
"There is a fountain
filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's
And sinners plunged
beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty
The Roman soldiers, swift
to get the crucifixion over with, were unwittingly
agents for fulfilling Christ's promise to the
penitent thief, "Today you shall be with Me in
"The dying thief rejoiced
That fountain in his day
And there may I, as vile
Wash all my sins away."
John saw the "blood and
the water" come out of the side of Jesus (v. 34).
William Cowper applied it to his own sinful heart
"E'ver since by faith I
saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds
Redeeming love has been
And shall be till I die."
Our sin debt was paid in
full when Jesus shouted, "It is finished!"
"Finished!" (John 19:31)
The debt is paid in full! Jesus paid in full the
righteous demands of a holy law. He paid our debt in
full. Only the blood of the Lamb of God can take
away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29, 35-36; Heb.
9:24-28; Jn. 3:14; 8:28; 12:32; Matt. 20:17-19; Jn.
10:11-18). Jesus voluntarily made an end to our sin
and our guilt. He accomplished what the Father had
sent Him to do. Our atonement was completed with
that victorious shout.
And this is still the
hope of every guilty sinner today. The same Lamb of
God and his shed blood shall never lose its power to
cleanse and save. We are saved by the death of
Christ alone. Have you by faith spread the blood of
Jesus over the doorpost of your heart?
"Dear dying Lamb, Thy
Shall never lose its
Till all the ransomed
church of God
Be saved to sin no more."
The One who was slain as
the Lamb of God will one day return as our Judge.
Revelation 1:7 reads,
"Look! He is returning with the clouds, and every
eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and
all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of
him. This will certainly come to pass! Amen" (NET).
Jesus Christ will return
to judge the deeds of every person who has ever
lived. One day we will each one stand before him.
People in the future will look on the pierced One.
The prophet Zechariah tells us it was Yahweh who is
pierced, and the piercing is mortal. Those who
pierced him shall mourn as one mourns for an only
son, his firstborn.
Some of those present at
the crucifixion were convicted of their horrible sin
(Luke 23:48). Those who had been crying, "Crucify
Him! Crucify Him!" were overcome with the proofs of
the superhuman exaltation of Jesus. They left the
scene "continuing to beat their breasts" and
lamenting over the crucified one after they had
permitted him to be crucified.
Can you imagine spending
eternity lamenting the decision you made to reject
Jesus Christ as your sacrifice for sin? Everyone who
rejects Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God who takes
away their sins will continue to beat their breasts
because they rejected him.
How will you spend
eternity? Will it be in worship to the Lamb who sits
on the throne? Or will you spend eternity in hell?
Those are the only two choices available. Neutral
you cannot be with Christ.
One day the whole
universe will stand before him in judgment. It will
then be too late to decide what you will do with the
death of Jesus. Have you put your faith in the blood
that flowed from that wounded side?
19:31-37 Death of Christ: Factor or Fiction?
Series: Life pf