Tuesday, October 2, 2012

John 19:23-27

Jesus fulfilled more than 300 Old Testament prophecies at his first coming. Psalm 22, in particular focuses on the details of the crucifixion, including one fulfilled in this morning’s section from John 19. Let’s focus on this small part of the larger scene of the crucifixion:

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 which said, 

“They divided my garments among them

   and cast lots for my clothing.” 

 So this is what the soldiers did. (John 19:23-24)

The soldiers had no idea that what they were so callously doing at the foot of the cross was fulfilling prophecy. They cast lots, or gambled, for Jesus’ undergarment, completely clueless to the fact that King David had predicted hundreds of years before that they would do this. It is a seemingly small detail included in this large picture, but every detail of scripture had to be fulfilled!

Then let’s pull back the camera to see who else is standing near the cross:

 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)

We see gathered here the remnant of Jesus’ followers. While Jesus began his public ministry, the crowds who followed Him grew as they saw the miracles He performed. They were drawn to His power as displayed in both His teaching and His miracles, and certainly to His provision of food! But as His teaching became more difficult, the crowds dropped away. Even though it had been less than a week since they had hailed Him as King when He entered Jerusalem on the donkey, they had quickly turned on Him and began shouting, “Crucify him!” The true followers had whittled down to just the 11 disciples, but even they scattered after His arrest. The only one remaining at the cross was John, the beloved disciple. And there were the four women.

It’s impossible to imagine the pain of Mary, as she watched her son hanging on the cross. With her was her sister. Tradition says that Mary’s sister, Salome, was the mother of John and James, the sons of Zebedee. Courson points out that Salome had been the one who asked Jesus to let her sons sit at His right and His left when He came into His kingdom (Matthew 20:20). Here, as she looked at the thieves on the crosses at Jesus’ right and left, she must have been struck by the irony of that request.

Two other Marys were there: Mary, the wife of Clopas (only mentioned here in John’s gospel), and Mary Magdalene, the woman who had been delivered of seven demons. She had experienced life-changing grace and was devoted to Jesus. This small band was all that remained with Jesus to the end. In the midst of his agony, Jesus spoke to His mother and John, committing Mary to John’s care. And we are told that John took her into his home from then on. I find that really interesting, since Mary had at least four other sons, Jesus’ half-brothers, including James, who wrote the book of James in the New Testament (Matthew 13:55-56). But it wasn’t until after the Resurrection that His brothers would believe in Jesus, so here, He turns Mary over to John.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the two thieves crucified with Jesus, and then we’ll try to figure out where we would have been that day had we been there to witness Jesus’ death. You can see why this scene has been the subject of so much artwork! There is so much to take in! So much was going on at this pivotal point in history. It almost defies description!  

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