Jesus died on a Friday just hours before the Sabbath and the Jews were eager to have the men on the crosses buried before High Sabbath of the Passover began. One of the reasons they had been so keen to have Jesus crucified was because it added to their fervor of proving Him wrong. Being crucified or hung to a tree meant He was cursed by God. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 reads,
“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 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.”
Since death by crucifixion took a very long time, the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to hurry it along by breaking the legs of the men on the crosses. With their legs broken they would not be able to lift themselves up to breath and would suffocate within minutes. Then they could be taken down and buried and the Jewish people could return to their homes and their holiday still ritually pure, untouched by the death of Jesus.
Verses 32-33 read,
“So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.”
Jesus had been cursed, He had become our curse as the perfect Passover lamb. And like the Passover lamb, He had to be without blemish, flawless, and no broken bones. Jesus died that way so that everyone, Jew and Gentile alike could be saved. The Jewish leaders tried to demean Jesus with the Law by making Him cursed and then further defiling Him by breaking His legs. But instead, they proved and highlighted the truth. He is Christ. Galatians 3:12-14 reads,
“But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 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”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
The fact that the men on either side of Jesus had their legs broken highlighted the fact that Jesus did not. Maybe some of those watching thought of the Passover lamb. Numbers 9:12 describe rules regarding the Passover lamb this way,
“They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break any of its bones; according to all the statute for the Passover they shall keep it.”
Maybe Psalm 34:20 came to mind and they realized it was a prophetic scripture just as Psalm 22 had been.
“He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.”
The Jews had tried to disgrace Jesus and in doing so had honored Him. They had tried to negate Jesus claims but had attested to the truth instead.
To ensure Jesus was actually dead and prove it to the crowd one the Roman soldiers, who undoubtedly didn’t know scripture pierced Jesus side. Verses 34-37 describe it.
“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
The soldier’s actions fulfilled the scripture in 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, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”
When Jesus was pierced blood and water flowed from His side truly making Him the Passover Lamb whose blood covers with grace. His water purifies our hearts.
The Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers opposed Jesus but their actions highlighted His identity of the Lamb of God, the perfect and ultimate propitiation for our sins. Jesus’ followers actions emphasized His identity as King. Verses 38-42 read,
“After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.”
Nicodemus who was a Pharisee was no longer concerned with what the Sanhedrin or the other Pharisees thought of Him, He had become a follower of Christ. He had previously gone to Jesus at night, secretly asking questions. Now, he no longer deemed his position with the Pharisees as more important than Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea had been a secret follower up to that point, but in giving Jesus honor at his death, when most of His followers had deserted Him, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were outed as Jesus’ followers. They risked their own reputations. Jesus was more important to them, than their standings in the community. They gave Jesus high honor, tribute worthy of a king.
The amount of spices they brought was no doubt expensive. If the perfume Mary had anointed Jesus with was worth a year’s salary how much was seventy five pounds of myrrh and aloes worth? The extravagance of the spices spoke to Jesus’ royalty.
The garden tomb also was something usually given to royalty or the very wealthy. King David had been buried in a garden tomb, the kings Judah were buried in garden tombs. Jesus, the King of kings was buried in a garden tomb.
The Jews tried to disgrace, disprove, and discredit Jesus as Christ, but instead everything they did confirmed His identity and showed He is Messiah, the perfect Lamb of God. They wanted Him cursed and He became a curse for all, so that we could be saved. They tried to take His life, but gave it instead.
Have you accepted the gift of grace Jesus poured out for you on the cross? He loves you. He wants you to be, cleansed, forgiven, and saved. He wants to be your King. He wants you to be His joint heir. He wants to give you the Kingdom of Heaven. All you have to do is ask.