John 19:25–37 (ESV)
John the Gospel Writer
25 But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would 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. 32 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. 34 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.”
Dear fellow redeemed: Satan runs a full-court press on the truth. Some deny the birth of Christ – his very existence but are shown to be liars by contemporaneous testimony. Some deny His miracles, but again even hostile witnesses recount the huge impact He made on people because of them. Some deny the resurrection, but even Christ’s enemies testified to the open tomb and hundreds of witnesses of the risen Christ. And finally some, like the Muslims and modernist Christian heretics, deny the death of Christ at His crucifixion. But there again, we have just read the words of an eyewitness, John. John had a special relationship with Jesus. He described himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” The Greek word used there, ἀγαπάω, tell us that John is loved by Jesus without his deserving it. The special thing about this love isn’t that John was the ONLY one Jesus loved, but that Jesus would love such a person as John at all.
John and his brother James were fishing business partners with Peter and his brother Andrew. They were among the first to leave everything to follow Jesus. John was known to the high priest and therefore able to get into the high priest’s courtyard to witness Jesus’ examination, and also to let Peter in.1 He was at Jesus’ trial at his crucifixion and at His death. He is the one whom Jesus appointed to care for His mother, Mary. He was most suited to be a witness to the passion and death of Christ. And He emphasized that fact. 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: John bore witness both to what happened and to God’s word.
“Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in.” (John 18:15–16, ESV)
And what did John witness? Apart from the eyes of faith, he saw the cruel destruction and death of his friend and teacher. He had seen Jesus’ back cut to ribbons, his head gouged with thorns, and his body placed on the cross that was then slammed into a hole in the ground. He had seen Jesus writhe against the block to which his feet were nailed: To just hang was to suffocate, so anybody crucified had to push up against the spike through his feet to gasp for air. That’s why breaking the legs resulted in death. John saw Jesus writhe and bleed and gasp, with his shredded back scraping against the rough cross. And now, toward the end, knowing death was at hand, Jesus asked for something to wet his mouth to He could be heard. And then He said, “It is finished.”
John saw Jesus’ body hanging there, inert and lifeless. To avoid offense to the Passover Sabbath, the Jews who had committed judicial murder wanted all the prisoners killed and their bodies removed. The other two quickly suffocated, but Jesus was already dead. A quick thrust of the spear confirmed it; already the blood had congealed and separated. So, in His providence, God who had in His providence made use of the envy of the Jews, the cowardice of Pilate, along
with all the machinery of the empire, now brought it about that like the lambs of so many sacrifices, his bones were not broken, and the looked on Him whom they pierced. Jesus Christ is God with the Father. On that day, without full understanding, John saw God die for the sins of the world.