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10th April

Written by Gordon

The Killing – read John 19:1-37

“15… they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’….. 16. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified……. 30. …. Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Just imagine the headlines in the Jerusalem Daily News - ‘Miracle man dies a criminal death’ or ‘Jesus who claimed to be King of the Jews dies on a Roman gibbet’ or ‘Tears at the foot of his cross for Jesus’ or ‘Dead quickly – Jesus is dead before the soldiers come to break his legs.’ Probably nobody dared to ask in public why this man died or who he really was.

Today the religious affairs reporter would be given a slot and ask the question ‘Why did he die?’ Before that he would comment on some special things that happened for example – Jesus did not speak (vs 9) - could this be what it meant in Isaiah 53:7 when it said ‘…. yet he did not open his mouth’. Then would he have noticed that they cast lots for his one piece garment (vs 28) and have related that to Psalm 22:18 ‘They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.’ Finally he may have highlighted that they did not need to break Jesus’ legs as he was dead already and they proved that by piercing his side (vs 33-34). It would have been a really knowledgeable reporter who could also recall Psalm34:20 ‘… his bones, not one of them will be broken’ or Zechariah 12:10.‘ .. They will look on me, the one they have pierced’. These are three prophecies in the Old Testament which we recognise today as speaking about Jesus and his death. If they had been able to do that at the time it really would have blown their minds.

Perhaps a more straightforward question however is ‘Why did he die?’ and we return to that now. The analysts would look at the historical answer. Did he die because the Jews cried out to crucify him? Or did he die because it was Pilate’s decision – after all Pilate thought that he had power to do that (vs10). The answer is not in the news headlines or in the wishes of the Jews or the final decision of Pilate to hand him over for crucifixion. It comes in these words from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 15:3 “…. Christ died for our sins.” That is the message of the cross; that is the message of Good Friday. He died and thus dealt with our sins; he died to restore our relationship with God; he died to set up his kingdom on earth.

The news on the Friday was limited – it only spoke of death. Nobody guessed what was to happen just as we cannot guess what will happen tomorrow in the present crisis. Now we know that there would be a message of new life and hope. And today we can look forward with hope too – “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15: 54b-55.



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