Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Rock of Ages

 Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.
Let the water and the blood
from that riven side which flowed
Be for me the double cure.
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Augustus Toplady

Sunday, October 03, 2021



Making Sure


Since Jesus died on the day of preparation for the Sabbath of Passover week, the Jewish leaders did not want to leave the bodies of Jesus and the the two insurrectionists on the cross after sundown. The Sabbath would start at sundown.

The Jews believed they would be ceremonially unclean if the bodies remained on the crosses. They were applying Deuteronomy 21:23 to the situation. 

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 states:

“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.”

This is not about hanging as a method of execution. The Jews did not hang, they stoned. It is about a criminal or enemy who has been killed and is displayed by hanging on a tree to show he is cursed and humiliated.

An example of this occurs in 1 Samuel 31. When the Philistines defeated Israel, they wounded King Saul. Saul fell on his sword and killed himself to prevent being killed by the Philistines. The Philistines found his body and fastened it to the wall of the city of Beth-shan. That night, the men of Jabesh Gilead came and removed the body and burned it. 

Since the hanged man is judged to be cursed by God, he could not be left on the tree overnight without defiling the land. Jesus was cursed in that he became a curse for us, bearing the penalty of our sin. Galatians 3:13 says “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written ‘cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’.”  

So, to prevent defilement, the Jews asked Pilate to break the legs of the three men who were crucified. The legs were broken to prevent the men from pushing up with their feet to help them breathe. Thus, they would die quickly. Once dead, they could be removed from the crosses and buried to prevent defilement. 

Pilate granted the request and soldiers went to do it. They broke the legs of the two insurrectionists. But, Jesus had already died, so they did not break his legs. This fulfilled the prophecy that “not one of his bones will be broken”. (36) This prophecy may come from Psalm 34:20. It may also come from the requirement that the Passover lamb may not have any bones broken. (Exodus 12:46) There have been Passover themes in several places in John’s gospel. Paul also referred to Jesus as our Passover lamb which had been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7) 

Although they did not break Jesus’ legs, one of the soldiers wanted to make sure Jesus was dead and pierced his side with a spear. (34) This fulfilled Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him…” 

When he did, blood and water came out. John makes a point of this, saying he who saw it (presumably John himself) bore witness, his witness is true, and he knows it is true. (35) 

Why was John so emphatic? There are two likely reasons. First, he wanted to prove that Jesus died; he did not swoon to be revived later. That idea is still put forth on occasion. 

Another idea is that Jesus did not have a physical body. Docetism was a heresy that promoted a false view of Jesus’ humanity. “Docetism” comes from the Greek word “dokein”, which means “to seem”. Docetism taught that Jesus did not really have a human body. He only seemed, or appeared, to be human. He was a ghost or an illusion, appearing to be human but not having a real body.

By extension, Jesus could not have risen bodily from the dead. Paul refuted this idea and added that, if there was no actual death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are not saved and are still in our sins, making our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17). Additionally, this belief contradicts the scriptural accounts which show Thomas touching Jesus for proof he is alive and Jesus eating breakfast with the disciples.

John continued to contend for the real humanity of Jesus in his epistles. He wrote: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:1–2). 

He also wrote: “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist”. (2 John 7)

The Apostle’s Creed sets out this truth:

“I believe in…Jesus Christ…who was conceived from the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried…”. 

The Nicean Creed does the same:

“I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

There also could be no ascension, because there was no body to ascend. This idea is a direct contradiction to Acts 1, which shows us a bodily ascension witnessed by the disciples. 

This is a good example of why we do not adopt philosophies created by men that are not based on the Bible. 

The Burial


Not only did Jesus actually die, he was actually buried. Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus’ body and Pilate let him take it. Joseph was a wealthy man and a member of the Sanhedrin according to the gospels of Matthew and Mark. He may have been known to Pilate because of this.

John tells us that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but had kept it secret for fear of the Jews (38) But, he has come forward to care for the body of Jesus even if it endangers him. Along with Joseph, Nicodemus came with a large amount of spices to prepare the body. (39) He was the one who came to Jesus at night in John 3. 

These two men bound Jesus’ body in linen cloths with the spices and laid him in a new tomb in the garden. It may have been a tomb Joseph had prepared for himself, but now gave to Jesus. But, whoever owned it, it was close to Golgotha and, therefore, made it possible to bury Jesus before the Sabbath began. 

Note the fact that the tomb had not been used before. It was the custom of the Jews to bury more than one person in a tomb and to put the bones in a box once the flesh had decayed away. There is a sense of holiness here. Just as sacred objects from the Tabernacle and Temple could not be used for any other purpose, this tomb becomes a sacred space, used only for the Lord.

There is also a more practical purpose. If there is no body in the tomb except for Jesus, he is the only one who could have been resurrected from it. 

Are these facts important? Paul thought so. He wrote:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)