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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 82 – John 19:18
John minimizes what happened with the simple statement, ‘they crucified him’. The other three Gospel-writers all record something of the mockery and derision that surrounded Jesus. Modern depictions tend to focus on the agonies of that most wicked of processes. John has said something indicating the agony of the scourging but he is completely silent about the terrible death that would eventually come from this process. The sufferers would die after some considerable time, perhaps lasting days, from exhaustion, suffocation, loss of blood or the general traumatic effects on the body. It is even thought that one of the reasons for a previous scourging was to shorten the experience.

The early church took some time to work out what it all meant and why it had happened. When Peter addressed the crowd ar Pentecost he talks about the fact that Jesus had been killed but does not say why. Stephen also does not say why Jesus died. It was left to Paul to work out the main implications of this death, which he presumably did during his time in Arabia that he mentions in Galatians 1:17, 18. If he was able to live there in a monastic situation where he had access to Old Testament documents he will have been able to work out the implications of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and relate them to the whole Biblical story and particularly many prophecies. John will have benefited from his conclusions and we see the results in the many places where he tells us that something that happened to Jesus on the cross fulfilled prophecy.

The argument about what the cross meant continues to this day. The dominant idea for evangelical, Bible believing Christians is that it means Jesus died a substitutionary death in our place. We deserve death, like everyone who ever lived, because we are sinners, in rebellion against the Lord God and his just requirements of us. The death of Jesus was an atoning sacrifice, enabling us to be reconciled to God and become his friends, members of his Kingdom and members of his redeemed family.

I am very conscious that I have needed to use several words that are not part of everyday speech to try to express that. Here are some brief explanations:
  • substitutionary – one who takes the place of someone else as a football substitute does when he replaces someone who has been playing up to that point in the game;
  • atoning – paying a sufficient price to restore a situation to what it should be (the Bible never explains to whom that penalty is paid. It is not the devil);
  • sacrificial – for some reason that, again, the Bible never explains, something, an animal or a human, has to die to be the sufficient price to effect that restoration and then only temporarily unless they are themselves God;
  • reconciling – restoring a relationship that has been in part at least broken by the action of one of these in the relationship; redeemed – basically something bought back with a price;
    reconciled – brought back into the previously broken relationship.

Wow, there is a lot of hard work involved in really getting your head round all those ideas. But it is worthwhile because this is the very heart and core of our faith. It is what we live and die by. Spend some time thinking and praying about these things.

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