The Adventure Link
The Investigation of the Cross Closes
Here is yet another bonus edition of the Adventure Link for Easter!
John records that as the hour grew late, the Sanhedrin wanted the bodies off the crosses, so that they would not remain there overnight and defile the Sabbath. “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should 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” (John 19:31).
The Sabbath was a “high” Sabbath because it was the day after Passover, and therefore that particular Sabbath belonged to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Sanhedrin’s pretentious reverence for the sacredness of the high Sabbath is ironic in light of how they were treating the Lord of the Sabbath Himself. But it reveals again how they were wholly concerned merely for the appearance, and not the reality, of things. Old Testament law (Deuteronomy 21:23) strictly commanded that the body of anyone hanged on a tree be removed and buried out of sight, not left hanging all night. It is almost certain that most victims of Roman crucifixion were nonetheless left hanging on crosses for days. But this being Passover, it was an especially high Sabbath, so the Sanhedrin wanted the Jewish law observed. That is why they petitioned Pilate not to permit the bodies to remain on the crosses overnight. In order to keep their sanctimonious veneer intact, they now wanted Jesus to die, and die quickly.
But the soldiers, finding Jesus already dead, decided not to break His bones. Instead, they pierced His side with a spear, to verify that He was dead. The blood and water that flowed out showed that He was. The watery fluid was probably excess serum that had collected in the pericardium (the membrane that encloses the heart). The blood was an indicator that the spear pierced the heart or aorta as well as the pericardium. The fact that blood and water came out separately from the same wound seems to indicate that death had occurred some period of time before the wound was inflicted, so that Christ’s blood—even in the area of the heart—had already begun the process of coagulation.
But Christ died at such an early hour in order to demonstrate what He had once told the Jewish leaders: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17–18, kjv). He was sovereign, even over the timing of His own death.
Even the soldiers’ failure to break His legs was a further fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy: “He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Psalm 34:20). And thus from the beginning to the end of the crucifixion, Christ had remained sovereignly in charge. The Father’s will had been fulfilled to the letter, and dozens of Old Testament prophecies were specifically fulfilled.
Christ was dead, but death had not conquered Him.
On the first day of the week, He would burst forth triumphantly from the grave and show Himself alive to hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:5–8). He not only atoned for sin, but He demonstrated His Mastery over death in the process.
The resurrection of Christ was a divine stamp of approval on the atonement He purchased through His dying. Paul wrote that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The Resurrection therefore gave immediate, dramatic, and tangible proof of the efficacy of Christ’s atoning death. The converse is true as well: It is the Cross, and what Jesus accomplished there, that gives the Resurrection its significance.
The Resurrection is one of history’s most carefully scrutinized and best-attested facts. The enemies of the gospel from the apostles’ day until now have tried desperately to impeach the eyewitness testimony to Jesus’ resurrection. They have not been able to do so, nor will they.
Still, it is vital to see that the early church’s preaching focused as much on the death of Christ as on His resurrection. Paul wrote, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23); “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (2:2); and, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
Why did Paul place so much emphasis on the death of Christ, rather than always stressing the triumph of the Resurrection above even His death?
I think there are a couple of things to remember.
First….Without the atoning work Christ did on the cross, His resurrection would be merely a wonder to stand back and admire. But it would have no personal ramifications for us. However, “if we died with Christ,”—that is, if He died in our place and in our stead—then “we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Romans 6:8). Because of the death he died, suffering the penalty of sin on our behalf, we become partakers with Him in His resurrection as well. That is virtually the whole point of Romans 6.
Second….The other reason that much of what you read seems to emphasize the crucifixion is because to the early believer the resurrection was not really a debatable issue. The reality of it, the inability of the Romans or the Jews to undo or disprove it solidified in the early church that it had indeed taken place. The witnesses, the events, the places, and accounts were known and retold by credible people….so therefore, the resurrection is dealt with as a non debatable fact. It was true…done deal!
He died..He rose...that is what we celebrate
The adventure continues...