Garden

Even the hardened Roman soldiers hated breaking the legs of crucified men.
In this case, at least in the minds of the religious leaders, this gruesome measure was necessary, since to leave men on crosses during the Passover was a violation of their rules. If you are going to kill man—finish the job! The Pharisees sent a delegation to Pilate asking for soldiers to come and break the legs of the three men dying on Golgotha. This was necessary because strong men could keep themselves alive by pushing down on the nails in their feet so that they could continue to breathe. Broken legs prevented this desperate survival method causing the lungs to collapse. Death hastened in the wake of the soldier’s cruel work. There was no mercy in the minds of the Sanhedrin or in the wooden clubs the soldiers used.

Unbroken
The soldiers were skillful at this duty, having worked out the most efficient way to break the legs of a dying man. When they arrived at Calvary, they saw Jesus was already dead. They took their instruments of destruction and quickly fractured the legs of the other two, each them uttering a final cry of pain before they could no longer breathe.

To make sure that Jesus was really dead, one of the soldiers took his spear and stabbed Jesus in the left side near His heart. A torrent of blood and water poured from the wound and the body of Jesus never flinched; He, indeed, was dead.

Evidently, John was still there at the foot of the cross. In his gospel, he steps back from His role as narrator to comment on these two events. He reveals that they were fulfilled prophecies.

“For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

John’s purpose in writing his account of the Jesus Story was to convince people of the truth of the Gospel. These fulfilled prophecies bolstered his case.

Joseph and Nicodemus
Standing helpless with the crowd on Calvary were Joseph and Nicodemus, secret followers of Jesus. There was nothing they could have done to stop the arrest, trials, and execution of Jesus but now there was something that must be done that was within the reach of their combined means. Risking the wrath of their peers, they took charge of the lifeless body of Jesus.

Joseph appealed to Pilate, bypassing the Temple elders, for permission to remove the body and bury it. Pilate, annoyed by this unending trouble from these strange people, allowed him the honor. Nicodemus appropriated the necessary supplies of linen and spices for a quick but proper treatment of the body. Together they washed the body of Jesus, weeping all the while with a grief neither of them had ever known.

As they did this work, Nicodemus told Joseph of his after-hours interview with Jesus. Even as he shared about the new birth and the winds of the Spirit, the lifeless body in their hands did nothing to diminish the power of Jesus’ words. Dead though He was, His words seemed still alive.

The Garden Tomb
As they finished the preparations, Nicodemus wondered what they should do with the body. Weeping, and barely able to speak, Joseph told his friend of tomb he had recently purchased. He wanted Jesus to occupy the space designed for him. This became their plan as this horrible day melted into a beautiful sunset.

Scriptures:
John 19:31-37

Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being 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 the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 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. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is so much we do not know or understand about the times when Your body was all that was left of You in this physical world. Just as Joseph and Nicodemus serve as examples for us, may we do what we can in Your service. You only hold us responsible for what is within our ability to do. These two men were brave enough to believe in You in spite of the disbelief of their peers. You led them to stand out against their times. You directed them to prepare somehow for events they could never have foreseen. When their moment of service came they were ready. Help me to be prepared and ready to serve You today. Amen and amen.

Song:
Were You There?

Traditional

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Oh, Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Were you there when He rose up on that day?
Were you there when He rose up on that day?
Oh, Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when He rose up on that day?

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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