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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 84 – John 19:23-24
The Witness of Four Prophecies

John’s account of the crucifixion is thin in the extreme. He says very little about what actually happened and what he does say is mainly centred round prophecies from the Old Testament. There are four of them, giving witness to what happened and the truthfulness of the account. We have:
1. John 19:23 – 24 where we read: “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’ This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, ‘They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.’”
This is a quotation from Psalm 22: 18. Many people have seen this as a reference to the unity of the church as Jesus wished it to be. Sadly there are now many pieces of that original garment floating around the world.


2. John 19:28 – 30 where we read, “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Jesus became very thirsty – very natural given his circumstances. Two references from the Psalms, 22: 15 and 69: 21 are here fulfilled. They are, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death” and “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”. Jesus told the woman at the well “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” But he did thirst – that we might never thirst, spiritually speaking of course, not practically.

3. John 19:31–33 – Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have their legs broken and the bodies taken down. In John 19: 31 – 33 we read, “The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.” It sounds incredibly cruel but breaking the legs of those being crucified speeded death as they were then no longer able to push themselves up to get some air into their lungs. They would suffocate relatively quickly – what a horrid thought. Because Jesus was already dead, having given up his spirit, as he was able to do because of who he was, they did not break his legs. Thus Psalm 34: 19, 20, “The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” It also places Jesus alongside the Passover lambs of whom it is said Exodus 12: 46, “Do not break any of the bones.”.


4. In John 19:34 we read that “one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. It was not usual for a soldier to stick his spear into a crucified man as one did here. The result, the flow of water and blood, or possibly body fluids and blood, has caused much argument as to its meaning. Perhaps the most likely is that it referred back as does 1 John 5: 7, “there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood”. This is one of John’s many references to both water and blood as signifiers of the spiritual life that would flow from Jesus. They reflect many Old Testament places where the same equation is made.
 
We have here an astonishing web of references to prophecies. Let us never forget that their whole purpose is to witness to what happened on that hill outside Jerusalem. John makes his purpose crystal clear. He says, 19:35-36. “ The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows, or quite possibly someone else writing all this down for him knows, that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled:”
Hold tight to the reality of our Saviour’s cruel death – for you, for me.
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