Jesus Found Rest
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 19: 30c (Holman) Then bowing His head, . . .
Jesus’ bowed head was an act of submission. God laid all our sins on Jesus, who bowed his head, truly sensing the full weight of it all. This was His ultimate act of submission to the Father’s will. He yielded himself to bearing our sin completely. Once the task was done, He beckoned death to come on.
Jesus’ bowed head symbolized rest, a peaceful death. The phrase was often used of going to bed. The verb was used of Mary laying her baby in a manger. Jesus was laying His head in the bosom of the Father.
Jesus gave Himself totally to us; we in return gave Him no place to rest His head. But once He committed himself to the Father, He found a place of refuge. The resting place Jesus could not find on earth for His head He found on the cross. Jesus’ rest finally came.
Our tragic rejection of Jesus was especially pronounced in His waning hours. Even if offered a place to lay His head, Jesus could not have done it. The crown of thorns would have made it impossible to rest His head anywhere.
From Bethlehem’s inn to Jerusalem’s thorn-crown, we rejected Him. Finally, in the end, on a cross He found rest.
John 19:30d . . . He gave up His spirit.
Jesus voluntarily yielded up His life. We did not coerce it from Him. Even in death He exuded infinite power. Of His life, He said, “I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again” (John 10:18). No person had power enough to take Jesus’ life from Him. He could have lived on the cross forever had He chosen to.
We crucified Jesus, but did not kill Him; He died voluntarily. Even in death, Christ was still in control, stepping into death as easily as we slip into sleep, and leaving earth as easily as we leave a room.
Releasing His life was a conscious act of His own free will. This voluntary death made Him not only the Sacrifice for sin, but also the Priest who offered it.
John 19:31 Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men’s legs broken and that their bodies be taken away.
Old Testament law said an executed criminal’s body was not to remain exposed over night in order not to defile the land (DT 21:23). The Romans preferred to leave crucified criminals on crosses for days, believing this deterred crime.
When Jesus died, the religious leaders pressed to have their law enacted. They wanted the bodies removed from the crosses because the approaching evening would begin the Sabbath. To heighten their concern, this Sabbath would be in Passover week, which would make it an especially holy day.
The leaders provide a classic illustration of what it means to “strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel” (MT 23:24). They did not want the land defiled, but felt no concern for having defiled themselves. They showed no qualms about making preparations for the Sabbath with blood-stained hands. They shuddered at the thought of breaking Sabbath laws, but nonchalantly commited murder. They deemed it worse to see a corpse on Saturday than to kill on Friday.
John 19:32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with Him.
Breaking the legs of a crucified person placed all the strain of supporting the body’s weight on the victim’s arms and chest. Resulting suffocation, coupled with the shock of having bones shattered by a heavy mallet, hastened death.
The soldiers broke the legs of the repentant thief as well as those of the wicked one. The former made his cross a Jacob’s ladder whereby he ascended into Heaven; the latter had made his downward stairway descending into Hell.
John remembered watching the soldiers deal the brutal blows. He recalled thuds, crunching, and screams diminishing into haunting groans. We can almost sense John’s rapid breathing as he wondered if the soldiers would perform their cruelty against Jesus also.
John 19:33-34a When they came to Jesus, they did not break His legs since they saw that He was already dead. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, . . .
Jesus’ body, though dead, continued to be hounded by insult and indignity. His life had departed, but His body continued to be mangled. Like the veil of the temple which represented His flesh, Jesus was torn. The critical truth presented here is, Jesus died a physical death. Had He not died, there would be no sacrifice for our sins. A valid sacrifice required the death of a victim.
Also, the resurrection, the bulwark of our faith, was real only if the death was real. If Jesus fell into a trance or swooned, the resurrection is a sham. The account of this blow removed any doubt as to whether or not Jesus died.
John 19:34b . . . and at once blood and water came out.
God the Father could have paralyzed the soldier’s arm, but let a wound be opened to show how full of love His Son was. Jesus’ open side is a window through which we see into His heart. Look closely. See love flowing there, strong as death. Look again. See our names written there.
Don’t miss the deep spiritual symbolism John saw here. The blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side symbolized the elements essential to salvation. Note the sequence: blood, then water.
Due to Jesus’ shed blood, from the cross flows atonement, which is the basis for our cleansing. Blood pictured removal of guilt; water showed the removal of the stain. In Jesus’ death we have found reconciliation and purifying power. Toplady captured this symbolism.
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.
Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath, and make me pure.”
John 19:35 He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth.
This reminds us we are reading an eyewitness account. This explains the vivid scenes John depicted in his crucifixion narratives. They carried the touch of one who was re-living horrors he saw firsthand. John had to tell the story because he saw it. We must tell the story because we have experienced its benefits.
John 19:36 For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of His bones will be broken.
The Jews had to eat the Passover Lamb without breaking one of its bones (EX 12:46; NB 9:12). The Passover lambs thereby foreshadowed Jesus, our Passover Lamb, who also had none of His bones broken. Truly, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed” (I Corinthians 5:7).
John 19:37 Also another Scripture says: They will look at the One they pierced.
This refers to Zechariah 12:10. God said the sinful ways of Judah had wounded His heart, but He knew they would someday realize the pain they had caused Him, and be horrified at themselves.
The soldier who pierced Jesus’ side did in the flesh what people often do in the spirit. His physical spear-thrust graphically portrayed our true spiritual colors.
God has been hurt enough. In what was done to Jesus’ literal flesh, we see what our sins do to His heart. We need to look on Him whom we have pierced, and be pierced with grief in our own conscience.
At Pentecost, Peter unapologetically branded his audience as having participated in the crucifixion of Jesus. Their salvation began when the listeners, in their hearts, looked on Him whom they had pierced, and shame filled their hearts. For us to receive salvation, we must do the same.