EHP17: Day 11

John 19: 31 – 42

Easter Saturday

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then 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. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

As there is now, at the time that John’s gospel was written, there would have been a great deal of scepticism over Jesus death and resurrection. If he was alive (again) on the Sunday, might he not have died on the Friday? John specifically writes to negate this view or argument. It is likely the young boy, ‘the disciple who Jesus loved’ we read about in the previous passage who is the eyewitness John describes. He, unlike the other disciples, was brave enough to come and witness the death of Jesus.

The Judeans wanted the body down because it was not just a Sabbath, but the time of Passover, the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar. Deuteronomy 21: 23 states that bodies of executed people should be taken down so that they do not contaminate the surrounding area. The Romans had other ideas though. It was, perhaps, not yet clear to observers that Jesus was dead. Crucifixion was usually a slow death, over a long period of time, even days. Jesus appears to have died unusually quickly, perhaps as a result of the torture the Romans subjected him to before his crucifixion. So it is understandable, then, that the Romans would want to make sure, by piercing his side with a spear. This would either confirm that Jesus was dead, or kill him. The water that came out with the blood proves that Jesus was dead at this point.

Joseph of Arimathea then asks Pilate if he can take Jesus body away for a proper burial. This is an extravagant, no-expense-spared sort of burial. The hundred pounds of spices is ten times the amount that Mary had anointed Jesus with in Bethany in John 12:3, which provoked complaints from the disciples. This is on another level. John emphasises the fact that the tomb has not been used before. This is important as it rules out the idea that the resurrection could have been caused by some sort of mix up.

As with Lazarus in John 11, this is a tomb hollowed out of rock. It would have taken time and money to create and usually would have been used a number of times. John intends us to remember this, the last time the story took place outside a tomb. Jesus wept (11:35), but when the stone was rolled away there was no stench of decomposition. John is intending us to wonder what will happen this time. But just as God rested on the Sabbath, we will have to wait until tomorrow to see.