Second Reformed Church

Saturday, April 04, 2015

"That You May Believe" Sermon: John 19:31-42

“That You Also May Believe”

[John 19:31-42]

April 3, 2015 Second Reformed Church

            Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the chief priests and the Pharisees rejoiced as the Roman guard took Jesus away.  The Jewish High Council – the Sanhedrin – held a mock trial – condemning Jesus of blasphemy when He said that He is God.  Since Israel was occupied by the Romans, they Jews were not allowed to put people to death, so they sent Jesus to Pilate – the Roman governor – to be put to death.

            Pilate interviewed Jesus, and Jesus told him that He is King of the Jews, and that Pilate had no power over Him except for that which God gave him.  Pilate’s wife came to him, having had nightmares, and begged Pilate to have nothing to do with Jesus.  And Pilate became afraid of Jesus.

            “From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.’ So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ They cried out,
‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered him over to them to be crucified” (John 19:12-16, ESV).

The chief priests had answered honestly – they had no king but Caesar – not God – only Caesar.

            Pilate didn’t’ want word to get back to Rome that he was disloyal, so he gave in to the crowd and had Jesus crucified.

            Those who were to be crucified were often made to carry their cross to the place of their execution so the crowd could mock and berate the condemned; Jesus carried His cross.

            The cross would have been laid on the ground, and nails – spikes really – from five to seven inches long and about a half inch in diameter would be nailed through each of Jesus’ wrists and through His ankles – with His legs slightly bent for the torture that was to commence.

            Then the cross would be lifted up and dropped into a hole deep enough to hold the cross upright, and the tired, bloody Jesus hanged as a crowd gathered around Him.

            The legs of the crucified person were left slightly bent so they could move.  Hanging in that position would push the diaphragm up into the lungs and suffocate the crucified, so the crucified would push up on the nail through his ankles despite the pain to relieve the pressure and gasp a breath of air.  When the crucified ran out of strength – or blood – he would collapse, the diaphragm would push up and stay up, suffocating the crucified to death.

            Crucifixion was usually a slow death – often taking several days of hanging on the cross to die.  The vultures and other creatures would attack the restrained, crucified one, adding to the torture.

            A crowd gathered around Jesus, and for three hours He endured them:  the sorrow of the women and John who stood at the foot of His cross, the mocking of the crowd, who called on Him to do a miracle and prove Himself to be God the Savior, and then, most horrifically, God the Father forsook His Son as He endured the full Wrath of God for all of the sins that everyone who would ever believe commits.

            “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.”

            The Jews didn’t want to sight of the crucifixions – especially of Jesus’ – to continue.  It was about three o’clock in the afternoon, and they had to finish the Sabbath and Passover preparations before sundown, or they would be breaking the Law of God.

            The Jews knew that the Romans – in a perverse sense of mercy – at times broke the legs of those who were being crucified in order to hasten their suffocation.  (If a person’s legs were broken, he could not push up on the nail to catch a breath, and so, he would suffocate more quickly.)

            “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him.”

            They took large hammers and beat their legs until they were sure they were broken.

“But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.”

But they did not break Jesus’ legs, because He was already dead.  After the unusually short time of three hours on the cross – He was dead.  Was it due to His blood loss?  Was it due to His enduring the Wrath of God?  Was it some combination of the events?

The Romans knew what dead looked like – and they knew that Jesus was a high-profile person and they would be in terrible trouble if He was not really dead.

“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”

So one of the soldiers made sure that Jesus was completely dead and took his spear and thrust it up through His body – likely up through His intestines and into His heart – which is why, medically, blood and water – clear liquid – came out of the wound.

And John was an eye-witness – the only disciple that was at the cross:

“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.”

We have mentioned before that this is the purpose of John in the writing of his Gospel.  Near the end of his work, he writes, “        Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31, ESV).

Let us understand, tonight, that the purpose of signs is to reveal Jesus – to glorify Him – to show Him to be Who He is.  The reason that John wrote what he did in his Gospel – the reason that all the Gospel writers and all the human authors of the Scripture wrote – is to reveal Who Jesus is.

Remember when we looked at Luke 24 a few weeks ago, Jesus explained the necessity of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV).

Somehow – some way – everything that is written in the Bible ultimately points to Jesus and Who He is and was written so we would read it and hear it preached and believe that Jesus is God the Son, the Savior of all those who will ever believe.

Jesus’ legs were not broken so we would understand that He fulfilled a prophecy about the coming Savior.  Jesus’ was pierced with the spear, so we would understand that He fulfilled a prophecy about the coming Savior.

“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 fulfillment of these signs point to Jesus – Who He is and what He did – the Gospel.

            Jesus asked the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane if there was any other way, and He understood there was no other way – He had to endure this unimaginable horror that we would know that He is God the Savior and believe in Him and have eternal life.

            And after all this horrific suffering at the hands of men and God, Jesus died.  And we know that for political and religious reasons the Romans and the Jews made sure that Jesus was really dead.  (Even after the resurrection, the story that was made up was not that Jesus wasn’t really dead when they put Him in the tomb, but that His body was stolen – they knew His body was dead.)

            Putting aside the concerns of the Romans and the Jews – does it matter that Jesus really died?  Did Jesus have to be really and truly physically dead, or could He have revived and merited our salvation to the glory of God?

            Jesus had to really, truly, be physically dead.

            Our Heidelberg Catechism explains why:

“Q & A 40

“Q. Why did Christ have to suffer death?

“A. Because God’s justice and truth require it: 1 nothing else could pay for our sins
except the death of the Son of God.2  (1 Gen. 2:17; 2 Rom. 8:3-4; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 2:9)

“Q & A 41

            “Q. Why was he “buried”?

“A. His burial testifies that he really died.1  (1 Isa. 53:9; John 19:38-42; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor. 15:3-4)  (

Paul explains:  “For the wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23, ESV).

And we remember the Law man broke in the Garden:  “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17, ESV).

If Jesus did not really, physically die, then He did not pay the full debt owed to God for our sin.

And if Jesus did not really, physically die, then He did not rise from the dead.

            Paul explains, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, ESV).

            If Jesus was not really, physically dead, we are not saved.

            “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. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.”

            And so Jesus was dead, anointed with myrrh and aloes, wrapped in a burial cloth, and laid in the tomb.

            And this all occurred that you also may believe.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your Son to become a human being and live and die – taking on suffering that we cannot even imagine – that He would be glorified, and all we who are the people You gave to Your Son would believe in Him and have life.  May the Holy Spirit help us to believe and understand these things and find Christ Jesus in all of the Scripture.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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