THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN
CHAPTER 19 – PART 2
THE CRUCIFIXION OF THE SON OF GOD

 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake since scripture says: Anyone hanged is accursed, so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the gentiles in Christ Jesus, and so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.  Galatians 3:13-14

Here was opened wide the door of life, from which the sacraments of the Church have flowed out, without which there is no entering in unto life which is true life. [...] Here the second Adam with bowed head slept upon the cross, that thence a wife might be formed of him, flowing from his side while he slept.  O death, by which the dead come back to life! Is there anything purer than this blood, any wound more healing! St. Augustine, The Gospel of John, 120.2

He is the sacrifice to expiate our sins, and not only ours, but also those of the whole world.
1 John 2:2

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Jesus announced His approaching Passion and Crucifixion at the end of His last day of teaching at the Jerusalem Temple, the day before the Passover sacrifice: Now the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified (John 12:23).  In this announcement, St. John assured the readers of his Gospel: Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end (John 13:1)Jesus first mentioned "His hour" to His mother at the wedding at Cana in John 2:4 saying: My hour has not yet come.  But at the conclusion of His three year ministry, His mission was coming to its climax: Jesus' "hour" of glorification and his return to the Father's right hand was approaching. This "hour," determined by God the Father before the beginning of Creation, was about to be fulfilled (1 Peter 1:20-21).

Please read Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53.  These passages contain the description of Jesus' Passion written centuries before the event.  The type of death pictured in Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22 is typical of a crucifixion; a form of capital punishment invented by the Persians and adopted by the Romans.  It was not a form of capital punishment that was in practice under the Jewish system until Rome conquered Judah and made it the Roman province of Judea (63BC).

Please read John 19:17-22
19:17They then took charge of Jesus and carrying his own cross he went out to the Place of the Skull, or, as it is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18where they crucified him with two others, one on either side, Jesus being in the middle. 19Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran 'Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.' 20This notice was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. 21So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate, 'You should not write "King of the Jews", but that the man said, "I am King of the Jews".' 22Pilate answered, 'What I have written, I have written.'

John 19:17-18: They then took charge of Jesus and carrying his own cross he went out to the Place of the Skull, or, as it is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side, Jesus being in the middle.

As is his custom John does not repeat much of the information found in the Synoptic Gospels concerning Jesus' Crucifixion and death.  He does not include the information that:

Some scholars have speculated that St. John's omission of the encounter with Simon of Cyrene stems from the Gnostic heresy that was prevalent in the later part of the 1st century AD, which taught that Simon of Cyrene was crucified in Jesus' place. However, this omission and the absence of the other events of the crucifixion listed above are completely in character with the inspired writer of the fourth Gospel's intention of not repeating other major events that are covered in the 3 other Gospels to include:

St. John does not revisit what he feels has been adequately recounted in the other three Holy Spirit inspired Gospels.  He expects that we are familiar with the information contained in the Synoptic Gospels and that what he adds will expand and clarify our knowledge and understanding.

John does include information from the Crucifixion not found in the Synoptic Gospels:

True to St. John's focus on a spiritually oriented Gospel, the Crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah is built around 7 symbolic events that are unique to the fourth Gospel:

ST. JOHN 'S 7 SYMBOLIC IMAGES OF THE CRUCIFIXION

  1. The Multi-language titulus
  2. The Seamless Garment
  3. Mary, "the Woman" of Genesis 3:15 and the mother of the New Israel
  4. The Hyssop and the Wine
  5. His Death and the Gift of His Spirit
  6. His bones unbroken
  7. The Water and the Blood

The Aramaic name of the crucifixion site is gulgulta meaning "skull."  St. Luke does not identify the site by this name; the identification as Golgotha is only found in Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22 and here in John 19:17.  St. Luke gives the name of the site as Kranion in 23:33; it is the Greek word for "skull."  The name Calvary comes to us from the Rheims New Testament translation of the Latin Vulgate, calvariae locus, which is the Latin translation of the Greek kraniou topos, "place of the skull." Matthew 27:32 and Mark 15:21 explicitly state the site lies outside the city; John says it is near the city in verse 20.   We know it was close enough to the city for the on-lookers to read the trilingual plaque that Pilate ordered to be place on Jesus' cross, probably as they looked down upon scene of Jesus' crucifixion from the top of the city wall.

At the time of Jesus' crucifixion, Golgotha was located outside the walls of the holy city of Jerusalem. It was forbidden to contaminate the sanctity of the holy city by the presence of the dead.  Therefore no one could be buried or executed inside the walls of Jerusalem, which was considered to be "the camp of God" (Leviticus 24:14-23).  In the years that followed Jesus' crucifixion and the subsequent destruction of the city walls in 70 AD, new walls were built that expanded the size of the city.  The current city walls were built in the 16th century AD by order of the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent.

Today the Crucifixion site, known as Golgotha, and the site of Jesus' tomb are enclosed within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  It is a church that was originally constructed in the 4th century AD after Queen Helena, the mother of the first Christian Roman Emperor, had visited Jerusalem and with the help the Bishop of Jerusalem, identified the sites of Jesus' death and burial.  During the course of Jerusalem's turbulent history, the church was destroyed and rebuilt several times. 

It has been speculated that the hill of Golgotha got its name from a skull-like appearance but it is more likely that the name came from the fact that it was an ancient rock quarry that was also a burial site.  Archaeologists excavating beneath the floor of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have found ancient graves dating back to centuries before the birth of Christ.  It has long been a Christian tradition that Golgotha was Adam's burial site.  This is an ancient tradition dating back as far as the 3rd century AD Christian biblical scholar, Origen and St. Ephraim the Syrian (4th century AD).  St. Jerome (the 4th century AD) rejected this story as mere legend.  However, St. John Chrysostom, the 4th century Bishop of Constantinople who was born in Antioch, the home church of Sts. Paul and Barnabas that was founded by St. Peter, wrote:  'And He came to the place of a skull.'  Some say that Adam died there, and there lieth; and that Jesus in this place where death had reigned, there also set up the trophy.  For He went forth bearing the cross as a trophy over the tyranny of death; and as conquerors do, so he bare upon His shoulders the symbol of victory" (Homilies on the Gospel of John, LXXXV.1, St. John Chrysostom).  If you visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, below the site of Jesus' crucifixion, you will be shown a large rock streaked with red, and you will be told that this small cave was Adam's tomb and the blood of Christ dripped from above on to Adam's bones so that he too could be redeemed from his sins.

St. Mark records: They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it.  Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get.  It was the third hour when they crucified him (Mark 15:24-25). 

At the 3rd hour (9AM our time) on Friday, Nisan the 15th, the gates of the Jerusalem Temple opened for the liturgical ceremonies and sacrifices of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and for the sacrifice of the first perfect daily Lamb of the Tamyid Sacrifice, which had just been sacrificed and offered up on the Altar of Yahweh: Then the sacrificing priest, surrounded by his assistants, fastened the lamb to the second of the rings on the north side of the altar-in the morning in the western [..] corner.  [...] The elders who carried the keys now gave the order for the opening of the Temple gates. [...] The opening of these gates was the signal for actually slaying the sacrificial lamb (The Temple: Its Ministry and Sacrifices, page 110).

The sacrifice of the Tamid lamb, the most important of all the sacrifices of the Sinai Covenant, is uniquely linked to Jesus' sacrifice on the altar of the cross.  The sacrifice of the two lambs, offered as a whole burnt offering, one at 9AM and the second at 3PM, was so important that the entire day was structured around the sacrifices. The Jewish priest/historian, Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD), recorded that the day the Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Temple on the 9th of Ab, 587/6 BC, the offering of the Tamid was so important that the priests continued to prepare the Tamid sacrifice as brother priests were being slaughtered and the Temple was burning down around them: ...and anyone may hence learn how very great piety we exercise towards God, and the observance of his laws, since the priests were not at all hindered from their sacred ministrations by their fear during this siege, but did still twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour [3PM], offer their sacrifices on the altar; nor did they omit those sacrifices, if any melancholy accident happened, by the stones that were thrown among them... (The Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3).

THE TAMID SACRIFICE

In English the Hebrew word is usually translated as the daily, perpetual or continual sacrifice.  Also spelled Tamyid; in Hebrew tamid [tah-meed] means 'standing' as in perpetual or continual.

  This is what you must offer on the altar: two yearling male lambs each day in perpetuity.  The first lamb you will offer at dawn, and the second at twilight [literally = "between the twilights"],  and with the first lamb, one-tenth of a measure of fine flour mixed with one-quarter of a hin of pounded olive oil and, for a libation, one-quarter of a hin of wine. 
Exodus 29:39-40

The law requires that out of the public expenses a lamb of the first year be killed every day, at the beginning and at the ending of the day; but on the seventh day, which is called the Sabbath, they kill two, and sacrifice them in the same manner.
Josephus on Tamid, Antiquities of the Jews, 3.10.1

The sacrificial system was at the heart of the Temple ritual.  Public and private offerings were made daily.  A public sacrifice was brought each morning and afternoon...(The Jewish Book of Why, volume I, page 148.

The Tamid lamb was offered in sacrifice twice daily: the first lamb in the morning and the second in the afternoon in expiation for the sins of the community and for restoration of fellowship with God.  Since the day ended at sundown, what we call "afternoon" was for them the "evening." (1)

SCHEDULE OF THE TAMID SACRIFICE AND THE TEMPLE LITURGICAL SERVICE
JEWISH TIME ROMAN TIME
FIRST HOUR DAWN
After the high priest prepared the altar, (Exodus 29:38-42; Leviticus 6:1-6; Mishnah: Tamid 1:2) the first male lamb is brought out and tied to the altar at dawn (Mishnah: Tamid 3:2-3:3).  
THIRD HOUR 9AM 
The first lamb is sacrificed (Mishnah: Tamid 3:7; Edersheim, The Temple, chapter 7, pg..108) The Temple gates open for the communal "Shacharit" (morning) prayer service (Acts 2:15). Individual morning prayer may be recited until noon (Mishnah 4:1).
SIXTH HOUR NOON
The second lamb is brought out and tied to the altar at noon
(Mishnah: Tamid 4:1).
The lamb is given a drink from a gold cup and is tied to the altar until the time of sacrifice (Mishnah: Tamid, 3:4B).
NINTH HOUR 3PM
The second lamb is sacrificed  (Antiquities of the Jews 14.4.3(14:65);  Philo Special Laws I, XXXV [169]) 3PM is the second hour of prayer (Acts 3:1; 10:9) "Minchah" (gift-offering); also called the hour of confession. (2)
M. Hunt, copyright 1995

The lamb could not be younger than eight days nor could it be older than one year (Ex 12:5; Lev 22:27).  It had to be a male, and it had to be perfect-totally without blemish.  The High Priest would approve the selection, inspecting the lamb for the last time and judging its perfection as a sacrificial victim offered for the entire covenant community, then it would be tied to the altar (Mishnah: Tamid, 3:4C). It would remain tied to the great bronze Altar of Burnt Offerings until the time for the sacrifice.  The victim was visible for a three hour period for everyone present to witness the lamb's perfection while the priests completed the necessary preparations for the sacrifice.  Jesus was selected by the High Priest Caiaphas for sacrifice.  Caiaphas pronounced three times that He must die (John 11:49-50, 51; 18:14) and the Gentile Roman governor pronounced Him, three times, "without fault/blemish" (John 18:38; 19:4, 6).

The throat of the Tamid lamb was slit, the blood was collected in a golden cup, and then the blood was poured out at the base of the altar.  The lamb was skinned and its body was burned on the great bronze Altar of Yahweh as a whole burnt offering (completely consumed).As the Tamid morning sacrifice was being offered at the Temple and while the crowds of the faithful were entering the Temple gates for the sacrifices of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus, the True perfect Lamb of God, was being offered up for crucifixion on the altar of the cross, as His blood was poured out for the sins of the world. 

The Crucifixion

As a form of capital punishment, crucifixion was probably first employed by the Persians.  It was adopted by the Greeks and then by the Romans who turned crucifixion into a terrible art. This form of execution was not used for freemen of Rome or provincial citizens of the Empire. The punishment was so severe that it has given us the word "excruciating."  The usual procedure followed a set format in which the condemned man was tortured in some way before the formal execution, normally by flogging to the point of blood flow, which was intended to weaken the victim and hasten his death.  The condemned criminal then carried a crossbeam to the place of execution where a vertical stake or a tree shorn of its branches was already in place.  The soldiers in charge of the execution then laid the man on the crossbeam, tied as well as nailed the man's hands or wrists to the beam, and then fastened the beam to the vertical stake or tree - either on the top forming a T or part way down, forming the familiar cruciform.  This must have been the shape of Jesus' cross since the Gospel writers indicate that an inscription was fastened above Jesus' head on the cross (Matthew 27:37; Luke 23:38).  A small wooden block was usually nailed either half way up the vertical post to support the body of the man (sitting) or at the feet with the knees bend so that the victim could push against the wooden support in order to take a breath.  A crucifixion death was very painful and very slow, rarely taking less than 36 hours. The first century historian Josephus called crucifixion the most wretched of deaths (The Jewish Wars).  He recorded many crucifixions in his books and also mentioned that some of the victims were known to survive more than 3 days on the cross.

The intention of this form of capital punishment was to be a public display for the purpose of humiliation, but for the Jews it was also a sign of "one who was cursed:" If a man guilty of a capital offence is to be put to death, and you hand him from a tree, his body must not remain on the tree overnight; you must bury him the same day, since anyone hanged is a curse of God, and you must not bring pollution to the soil which Yahweh your God is giving you as your heritage (Deuteronomy 21:23; also see 1 Samuel 31:9-10; Acts of Apostles 5:30-32; Galatians 3:13-14).

John 19:18: ...they crucified him with two others, one on either side, Jesus being in the middle. St. Matthew tells us that before crucifying Jesus the guards attempted to give Him wine mixed with gall, a narcotic to dull the pain, which he tasted but refused (Matthew 27:34).  St. Mark tells us the wine was mixed with myrrh (Mark 15:23).  It is likely the mixture contained both, one to dull the pain the other to bring on a stupor or semi-sleep state which would hasten death. The historicity of the Gospel account is confirmed by the 1st century historian Josephus who recorded that wealthy women of Jerusalem provided wine mixed with narcotics for those destined for crucifixion.  The offering of a narcotic to Jesus recalls Psalms 69:21: to eat they gave me poison, to drink, vinegar when I was thirsty.

Question:  Saints Matthew and Mark include the information that Jesus was crucified between two bandits or insurrectionists; Luke calls them criminals.  What passages from the prophet Isaiah does this information recall?  Hint: see Isaiah chapter 53.

Answer: These passages recall Isaiah 53:9a: He was given a grave with the wicked... and Isaiah 53:12: Hence I shall give him a portion with the many, and he will share the booty with the mighty, for having exposed himself to death and for being counted as one of the rebellious, whereas he was bearing the sin of many and interceding for the rebellious.

John 19-22: Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran 'Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.'  This notice was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate, 'You should not write "King of the Jews", but that the man said, "I am King of the Jews".' Pilate answered, 'What I have written, I have written.'

It was a common practice for a criminal's name and his crime to be written out on a whitened wooden plaque, which the officer in charge carried to the execution site.  Only the fourth Gospel records that the plaque, known as the titulus [Greek], was written out in three languages.  This is the first of this Gospel's 7 symbolic images.

According to legend and tradition, in the 330's AD Queen Helena, the mother of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, claimed to have rediscovered the true cross of the Crucifixion, as well as the crosses of the two robbers, and the titulus that hung over Jesus' head.  The crossbeam of one of the robber's cross, a fragment of the true cross, and the titulus were taken back to her palace in Rome.  Through the misadventures of time the location of the titulus was lost.  Queen Helena's palace became the Church of the Holy Cross [Santa Croce] in Rome.  But during a renovation of the church in the Middle Ages the titulus was rediscovered hidden in a recess in one of the walls in the Sanctuary where it can be seen on display in Rome today.  Only a potion of the titulus survives.  An analysis of the titulus has revealed:

That the scribe wrote the Greek and Latin inscriptions from right to left (instead of left to right, which is the tradition of those languages) is one of the great mysteries of the titulus.  Some scholars have suggested that the scribe was Jewish and wrote out the Hebrew inscription correctly as he had been commanded-written first because the audience was almost entirely Jewish, but then, having written the Hebrew or Aramaic inscription from right to left, he hurriedly and incorrectly wrote out the Greek inscription backwards and was thereby committed to also write the Latin in the reverse as well.  Those reading the Latin and Greek inscriptions in the crowd would have been amused by this error, but they still could have read the inscriptions.

The Greek inscription that is visible on the titulus is B CY NEPAZAN (I am giving the inscription in the right to left pattern for your convenience).  All the letters with the exception of the 'z' are mirror imaged from right to left.  In English this is 'Nazarene (or Nazareth") YC (the C is probably an O meaning yo for "of") and the "B," the only remaining letter for the word "king" = Bacileyc.  Presumably the word for "king" would be followed by Jesus' name in Greek = Iesous.

The surviving Latin line reads: ER SVNIRAZAN, in mirror-image writing from right to left, which is extremely bizarre for a Latin text.  This inscription in the normal Latin left to right order is:  NAZARINUS RE[X]...or in English, Nazarene (of Nazareth Kin[g]), with Jesus' name presumably cut from the damaged plaque which would have been rendered "Iesus." Written as it should have been from left to right the Latin would have read with English letters: IESUS NAZARINVS REX IUDAEORUM, or using the first letter of each word you will recognize the familiar INRI (underlining indicates surviving letters on the titulus).  You will notice the titulus has an "–us" ending instead of the more usual Latin "–um" ending for "Nazarinus."  In the Latin Vulgate translation Jerome used the  –um ending, but scholars point out this is not as correct in literary Latin as the ending used on the titulus, pointing once again to its authenticity (please note that in Latin V or U are the same letter).

There is very little left of the Hebrew inscription. Only the bottom half of the letters survive; however, it can be detected that Jesus' name, if only the bottom letters, is preserved in this line of the text.  If the inscription is Aramaic it would probably read Yeshua Nazoraia Malka Diyehudaye (but in reverse order)A very interesting suggestion for the Hebrew translation has been offered by the Jewish scholar Shalom Ben-Chorin based on the Greek translation in John 19:19.  In biblical Greek the inscription in John 19:19 is given as "Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews."  The half letters that are visible give just enough information to allow the scholar to conclude that Nazareth was spelled Nozri.  When he wrote it out as it would have been written in the 1st century AD, the Hebrew text was MdhyH klMV rzNH hsY (written as the Jews did from right to left). Separating out the separate words and putting them in our more familiar left to right order something rather remarkable appears: Ysh HNzr VMlk Hyhdm  (please note that Hebrew was written without vowels until the Middle Ages).  With vowels as it would be written today, in our left to right order, it would be rendered: Yeshu HaNozri VMelek HaYehudim [Jesus the-Nozri of-King the-Jews].  As you can see, the first letters in each word form the letters of God's holy covenant name YHVH (v and w being the same letter in Hebrew)This is the Tetragrammaton, the sacred 4 consonants that spelled the Covenant name of God.

THE INSCRIPTIONS ON THE TITULUS as they may have been written:

Hebrew MdhyH klMV rzNH hsY
Greek SoiaduoI tos cyeilcaB suelisaN o suoseI
Latin MuroeaduI xeR svnirazaN suesI

Is this the authentic titulus of the Crucifixion?  If it is authentic, was the man given the task of writing out the inscriptions a Jewish scribe who was a follower of Jesus the Messiah? Did he purposely hide the Tetragrammaton in the inscription as his testimony that he believed Jesus to be who He said He was-the Son of God and the promised Redeemer-Messiah?  It is interesting that the unusual spelling of Nzr [Nozri] for Nazareth has only been discovered in one other inscription an ancient list of priestly families, which includes the name of a priestly family living in Nazareth in the first century AD.  It is also interesting that even today Jews call Christians the "Nozrim."  For more information see the documentary The Quest for the True Cross, by Carsten Thiede and Matthew d'Ancona and their book by the same name.

Question: Why did Pilate refuse to alter what was written on the titulus?  What is ironic about this incident?

Answer: He may have been expressing his displeasure at being forced to executing a man he had wished to release by insisting on wording that would be sure to infuriate the chief priests and Pharisees.  It is ironic, of course, that despite the protests of Jesus' enemies that the claim on the plaque was indeed true and was proclaimed by a pagan Roman Gentile.

Question: What is the significance of the multi-language declaration which is sign #1 of the symbolic images?

Answer: It is the proclamation of His Kingship symbolically written in the common tongue (Aramaic), the international language (Greek), and the language of the world super-power (Roman).  Jesus is the universal King of Kings.

Please read John 19:23-27
19:23When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. 24His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another, 'Instead of tearing it, let's throw dice to decide who is to have it.'  In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled: 'They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothes.'  This is what the soldiers did. 25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 26Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing hear her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.' 27Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.'  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:23-24: When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier.  His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another, 'Instead of tearing it, let's throw dice to decide who is to have it.'  In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled: 'They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothes.'  This is what the soldiers did.
After they nail Him to the cross Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him: Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34)The Jewish leaders and the soldiers mocked and jeered at Him.  This was the first of the seven last utterances of Jesus from the cross:

JESUS' LAST SEVEN STATAEMENTS FROM THE CROSS

Scripture Passage Jesus' statement
#1 Luke 23:34 Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.
#2 Luke 23:43 In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
#3 John 19:25 'Woman, this is your son.'  Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.'
#4 Matthew 27:46
& Mark 15:34
Eli, eli, lama sabachthani."  Mark uses the Aramaic "eloi," which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
#5 John 19:28 I am thirsty.
#6 Luke 23:46 Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.*
#7 John 19:30 It is fulfilled (finished).*

*it is difficult to know which of these two statements came last. 

Question: What was the significance of Jesus' prayer on behalf of His enemies?  Hint: see Psalms 109:4-5; Isaiah 53:12 and Numbers 15:27-31.

Answer: Under the Old Covenant there could only be forgiveness for unintentional sin.  Jesus was forgiving His enemies and praying to God to forgive them.  Jesus' love and mercy is an example for all of us.  The agape, self-sacrificing love to which Jesus calls us, requires us to follow His example in forgiving and praying for those who hurt us.

The other Gospels mention the soldiers rolling dice to divide Jesus' garments, but only St. John makes a distinction between the outer clothes and the seamless tunic that was not to be divided.  St. John also provides the link to another piece of historical information; Roman crucifixion squads consisted of a group of four soldiers.  It was their task to see to the crucifixion of the criminals assigned to them, and they had the right to take possession of any clothes belonging to the condemned.  Usually victims were crucified naked but in the case of crucifixions in Judea the Romans may have made an exception considering the Jewish sensitivity to naked bodies (Exodus 20:26; 28:48); however, in Scripture from the time of the Fall of Adam and Eve, "nakedness" was seen as a symbol of sin (Genesis 3:7; Nahum 3:5; Revelation 3:18). That the Romans cast lots to divide up the garments is also a detail that is verified in historical accounts of Roman crucifixions.  This is the second symbolic sign and can be seen as fulfilling Psalms 22:18: ... they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. 

Question: What is symbolically significant about dividing of Jesus' clothing and the casting of lots for the seamless, linen garment?  Why is it significant that Jesus wore this garment to the Last Supper and was still wearing it on the walk to the cross?  See Psalm 22:19; Exodus 28:4 and Leviticus 16:4; Ezekiel 42:14; Hebrews 2:17; 5:10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1-3; 9:11, 25.

Answer: The act of the Roman soldiers dividing Jesus' garments was a fulfillment of prophecy (Psalm 22:19).  Jesus' seamless garment was also theologically symbolic of the seamless tunics only worn by the priests serving God in the Temple.  As such, the garment is a symbol of Jesus' high priesthood; after His Ascension to the Father, Jesus took His place as High Priest of the Heavenly Sanctuary (Hebrews 8:1-2).  The fact that Jesus wore the seamless garment during the Last Supper and at the crucifixion elevates those events to liturgical sacrifices, since the seamless tunic was to only be worn when offering service to Yahweh (Ezekiel 42:124).

St. Augustine and other Church fathers have also seen the dividing of the garments as symbolic of the spread of the Catholic (meaning "universal") Church throughout the world, and in the undivided seamless tunic a symbol of the unity of the Church: Someone, perhaps, may inquire what is signified by the division that was made of his garments into so many parts and of the casting of lots for the coat.  The clothing of the Lord Jesus Christ divided into four symbolized his fourfold Church.  This Church is spread abroad over the whole world, consisting of four equal quarters, that is to say, harmoniously distributed over all these quarters.  This is why he says elsewhere that he will send his angels to gather his elect from the four winds-and what is that, but from the four quarters of the world: east, west, north and south?  But the coat for which lots were cast, signifies the unity of all the parts that is contained in the bond of charity, ...  And it was without seam so that it can never become unsewn.  And it is in one piece because he gathers all into one...  (St. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 118.4).

The High Priest dressed in his priestly robes was the symbol of man fully restored in God's image.  Jesus is not only our King but also as our High Priest offering the pure and holy sacrifice of Himself to God the Father.  Both Exodus 28:4 and Leviticus 16:4 in describing the high priestly garment use chiton in the Greek translation (Hebrew = ketonet) in reference to the priestly tunic and describe it as "a woven piece".  The word seamless (Hebrew = arraphos) is not found in the Greek (Septuagint) translation but Flavius Josephus describes the ankle-length tunic of the high priest as one seamless woven cloth: Now this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the soldiers and the sides, but it was one long vestment so woven as to have an aperture for the neck [..]; it was also parted where the hands were to come out (Antiquities of the Jews 3.7.4).

St John wants the reader to understand that Jesus is not only our King but He is also our eternal and perfect High Priest, offering the pure and spotless sacrifice of Himself.  This is the vision of Christ in the heavenly court that St. John will see in Revelation 1:13: And when I turned I saw seven golden lamp-stands and, in the middle of them, one like a Son of Man, dressed in a long robe tied at the waist with a belt of gold.

In Hebrews 8:1-3 the Holy Spirit inspired writer affirms Jesus role as our High Priest: The principal point of all that we have said is that we have a high priest of exactly this kind.  He has taken his seat at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens, and he is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tent [meaning Temple or dwelling] which the Lord, and not any man, set up.  Christ's sacrifice is superior, His sanctuary is superior, and the covenant brought by the mediation of Christ is superior to the old, imperfect covenant that relied on animal sacrifice (the old a preparation for the Gospel of salvation; it was a tutor and guide to prepare God's people for the new; see CCC # 1963-64 .

It was about at this time that the Gospels of Sts. Matthew (27:44), Mark (15:32), and Luke (23:39-41) record that one of the robbers crucified with Jesus began to revile Him while the other defended Him and asked to be remembered.  This was Jesus' second statement from the cross when He promised the repentant robber: Today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).

John 19:25-27: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdala.  Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.'  Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.'  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

The four Gospels all list the women who stood with Mary near the cross:

Matthew 27:56;28:1 Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1 Luke 23:49-50; 24:10 John 19:25-26
-Mary His mother

-Mary Magdala

-Mary mother of James and Joseph

-The mother of the sons of Zebedee
-Mary His mother

-Mary Magdala

-Mary, mother of James and Joses

-Salome
-Mary His mother

-Mary Magdala

-Joanna*

-the mother of James

-Mary His mother

-His mother's kinswoman (sister) +

-Mary of Clopas

-Mary Magdala

*Joanna was the wife of Cuza, Herod Antipas' steward. 

+ It is difficult to know if the Gospel of St. John is referring to two women or to three women standing with the Virgin Mary: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.  The Greek word translated as "sister" is the word adelphe.  The Greek word means "from the same womb," but in Hebrew there was no such designation of kinship.  Adelphe (sister) is used in the same sense as adelphos (brother), translated as "brother" but used by the New Testament writers in the sense of kinship, either within the extended family or ethnically (as this word is used by Jesus in Matthew 5:22-23; 7:3, 5; etc.), or of one who is a "brother" in the covenant family, as Peter used the word "adelphos" in Acts 1:15 to designate the disciples of Jesus Christ.  It has always been the Church's tradition that Mary had no siblings, but she did have sister-in-laws on Josephs' side of the family and other kinswomen (i.e., Elizabeth).  Sister-in-laws and cousins would be referred to as "sisters."  This expanded meaning of "brothers" and "sisters" is also found in the Old Testament where Abraham's nephew Lot is referred to as his "brother" (in the Hebrew text see Gen 14:14, 16; the Interlineal Bible Hebrew-English, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985 edition, pages 31-32).

Mary of Magdala is named in all 4 accounts.  But there is a problem concerning the 3rd Mary in all four Gospels.  It seems obvious that Matthew and Mark are referring to the same woman, with the shorter form of her son Joseph's name used in Mark.  Both Gospels mention this family in other passages.  Matthew lists them in 13:55 as "James and Joseph and Simon and Judas," while Mark 6:3 lists "James and Joses and Judas and Simon."  Since this second Mary is identified as their mother it affirms the Catholic tradition that Mary the mother of Jesus was not the mother of these men who are called His "brothers" elsewhere in Scripture, but they are "brothers" in the Hebrew sense of "kinsmen" (CCC# 500).  It also seems reasonable to assume that Luke's "Mary of James" (James the Apostle called the "lesser" to distinguish him from James Zebedee and James of Jerusalem) is the same woman who is the mother of these other disciples.  But here is the difficult part: Who is the Virgin's Mary's sister in John's account?  Since there were no grammatical helps in the ancient texts, we do not know if John's passage intends us to understand that an unnamed sister of Jesus' mother was present or if Mary (wife?) of Clopas is His mother's sister/kinswoman?  That Mary of Clopas is Mary's kinswoman/ sister is the way Catholics usually interpret this passage.  In his 2nd century History of the Church, Hegesippus [ca. AD 150] identified Clopas as the brother of St. Joseph, Jesus' legal father, which would of course make her a kinswoman by marriage.  However, other scholars point to the omission of the name of the mother of John and James Zebedee, a woman named Salome, and suggest that John's passage should read: "His mother' sister (Salome), Mary of Clopas, etc."  It is in character for John not to mention any of his family members (notice that his brother James, one of the Apostles, is never mentioned in the fourth Gospel).  Salome, the mother of James and John Zebedee was a faithful disciple (see Matthew 20:20-23 for Salome's request to Jesus concerning her sons).  If the Virgin Mary's sister/kinswoman is Salome, that would make the sons of Zebedee kinsmen of Jesus.  This a link that is never mentioned in the writings of the fathers of the Church who, when writing about either James of Jerusalem, or Simon the second Bishop of Jerusalem, or St. Jude, always mention their kinship relationship to Jesus.  This is one of those difficult questions to which we can not know the complete answer. 

This is the third of Jesus' seven last statements from the cross. He placed the care of His mother into the hands of the only Apostle who was close to the cross, and in doing so gave His mother to His Church.  Mary is our inheritance from the cross.  The gift of His mother is the first of the three gifts Jesus gave the New Covenant Church from the cross.

This is also the third of John's symbolic elements.

Question:  In using the same title with which Jesus addressed His mother at the wedding at Cana in John 2:4 ("Woman"), what is the deeper symbolic message that John wants us to see and how is that connected to the gift of Mary as the mother of His Church?  Hint: see Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12:1-6, 17.

Answer:  He called her "Woman" because that was her title. Only two women in Salvation History have had this title:

  1. The "woman" Eve, called "woman" by Adam in Genesis 2:23 because she was "taken from man" or more literally "encompassed by man" and would become the mother of Adam's physical descendants
  2. Mary, the New Eve, the promised "woman" of Genesis 3:15 who was prophesized to give birth to He who would "crush the head of the Serpent" and do battle with the serpent's "seed" (Revelation 12:17).  Jesus is the "seed" of "the Woman" Mary. 

It is the Virgin Mary who is the sign promised by Jeremiah in 31:22: For Yahweh is creating something new on earth: the Woman shall encompass a man.  And in continuing in verses in Jeremiah 31:31-34 which in 31 begins: Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new covenant with the House of Israel...  The words "new covenant" are only used here in Jeremiah 31:31 in Old Testament and only at the Last Supper during the words of Consecration in the Gospel of St. Luke 22:20 (also see 1 Corinthians 11:25; St. Matthew in 26:28 used the words "blood of the covenant").  As the New Eve of the New Creation in Christ, the Virgin Mary became the mother of the spiritual children of the New Israel, the Catholic Church.  In that sense each of us, who have faith and follow Jesus' commandments, have become the children of Mary, who is symbolically represented as Mother Church just as the "beloved disciple" represents the New Covenant believer who is her son/daughter.  See CCC #501; 726; 964; 2618; 2679.

John 19:27: And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.  From "that hour" of His Passion and death, Mary is united forever to her Son physically and spiritual-from the hour of His death forward in the time she will fulfill her destiny in God's plan of salvation by bring forth Christian children in the image of her son-as the Mother of the Church.  This daughter of the old Israel becomes the mother of the New Israel, the universal Church, and new Eve, the mother of all who are alive in Christ Jesus (Brown, page 927; CCC# 411).

MARY,
the new Eve
Mother of all New Covenant Believers = Mother of the Church
THE CHURCH, the New Israel The vehicle of salvation: the salvation kingdom of Christ the King

 Mark 15:33: When the 6th hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the 9th hour (12 noon to 3PM our time).  The liturgical calendar was a lunar calendar.  A total eclipse during the Feast of Unleavened Bread is not according to the laws of nature-a total eclipse cannot not take place during a full moon: And this feast is begun on the fifteenth day of the month in the middle of the month, on the day on which the moon is full of light, in consequence of the providence of God taking care that there shall be no darkness on that day [Philo, Special Laws II, 155].

This cosmic event fulfills the prophecy of the prophets Joel and Amos (St. Peter will quote Joel 3:1-5 during the Jewish feast of Pentecost in Acts 2:17-20): On that Day-Declares the Lord Yahweh-I shall make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight (Amos 8:9).

As Jesus suffered on the altar of the cross, in the Temple the liturgical ceremony and sacrifices for first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread were coming to an end, and at noon the second lamb of the Tamid sacrifice was led out, tired to the altar and given a drink from a golden cup (Mishnah: Tamid, 3:4B; 4:1).  It was at noon, the 6th hour Jewish time, that there was total darkness over the land.  Sts. Matthew (27:45), Mark (13:33) and Luke (23:44) record that the darkness lasted from the sixth hour to the ninth hour, or from noon to 3PM.

It is at this point that Jesus cried out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:24).  This is the cry that begins Psalm 22:1.  It is a cry of distress but not a cry of despair.  In Psalms 22 this lament is followed by expressions of joyful confidence in a final victory.  It is called a "toda" or "thanksgiving" Psalms.  In verse 14 the psalmist cries out: My strength is trickling away, [literally = I am poured out like water] my bones are all disjointed, my heart has turned to wax, melting inside me.  My mouth is dry as earthenware, my tongue sticks to my jaw.  Then the psalmist turns from his lament to praising Yahweh in verse 22 and in verse 27 he joyously cries: The whole wide world will remember and return to Yahweh, all the families of nations bow down before him." And then concluding in verse 30-31: ...their descendants will serve him, will proclaim his name to generations still to come; and these will tell of his saving justice to a people yet unborn; he has fulfilled it!   Jesus offered Himself in sacrifice as prophecy was being fulfilled and He will continue to offer His same sacrifice before God's altar in the Heavenly Sanctuary down through the centuries (Revelation 5:5-6), continuing to win His victory over sin and death for generation after generation.

Please read John 19:28-30: After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the scripture should be completely fulfilled, he said: 'I am thirsty.'  A jar full of sour wine stood there; so putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth.  After Jesus had taken the wine he said, 'It is fulfilled'; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.

John 19:28: After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the scripture should be completely fulfilled, he said: 'I AM THIRSTY.'

In this moment, Jesus presents Himself as the spotless Lamb of sacrifice, offered in atonement for the sins of the world so that mankind can be restored and welcomed back into fellowship with God.  In the Temple liturgy the second lamb of the Tamid was given one final drink before it was sacrificed, in atonement for the sins of the covenant people and restoration of their fellowship with God.

Question: How is it that Scripture has been completed or fulfilled (John 19:28)?  Hint: look back to the previous verses and to the promise in Genesis 3:15.

Answer: He has fulfilled the promise of the restoration of the children of God prophesized in Sacred Scripture beginning with Genesis 3:15. As a woman brings forth children so shall the New Covenant Church bring forth offspring, born from above "in the image and likeness" of God.  These spiritual children will form a relationship of loving care that will bind these New Covenant children to their "mother" the Church, as symbolized by Mary.  Fr. Brown in his commentary on the Gospel of St. John writes: The revelatory formula 'Here is [your mother]...", on which we have commented, is truly appropriate in this scene, since Jesus' mother and the Beloved Disciple are being established in a new relationship representative of that which will bind the Church and the Christian.  Fr. Brown goes on the say that at the wedding at Cana, Mary was Jesus physical mother but now she is elevated to her intended role: His mother, the symbol of the New Israel, was denied a role at Cana because his hour had not yet come.  Now that his hour has come, she is given a role as the mother of the Beloved Disciple, i.e., of the Christian (Anchor Bible Commentary: The Gospel According to John, page 913).

In speaking of the "completion" or "fulfillment" of Scripture Jesus uses the verb teleioun, instead of the more commonly used verb in this context, pleroun.  Teleioun is a verb, which Fr. Brown points out, is not otherwise used in the New Testament in reference to Scripture being fulfilled.  Fr. Brown does not suggest any explanation but perhaps the use of this particular verb is to draw our attention to Jesus' last statement from the cross, which will use this same Greek verb form (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon; Brown, 908, 927). 

John 19:28b: He said, 'I AM THIRSTY.'  Only John mentions Jesus making this statement.

Question:  Why is He suddenly thirsty now?  Why didn't He take the drink of vinegar (sour red wine) when He was first offered it just before He was nailed to the cross?

Answer: He didn't take the narcotic because He must show that He accepted in obedience all the suffering of God's "Cup of Wrath" and because He made an oath during the Last Supper that He would not drink wine again until He came into His kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18-19).  Now He accepts the drink of wine because it is time!

It is difficult to know in which order to place Jesus' last two statements.

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).  It is possible that this is the last statement even though I have listed it as the 6th.  These words are from Psalm 31:5: ..into your hands I commit my spirit, by you have I been redeemed.

John 19:29-30: A jar full of sour wine stood there; so putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth.  After Jesus had taken the wine he said, 'It is fulfilled [= literally Teltelestai]'; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.

His spirit is the second gift to the Church from the altar of the cross; the first gift was the Virgin Mary as our mother.  Only John includes the information that the "vinegar" was cheap, red wine. Only John includes the information that it was a hyssop stick that was used to give Jesus the wine.  This is symbolic element #4.

Jesus' Passion began in the Upper Room when He held His body, separated from His blood, in His own hands and offered to His disciples what He had promised in John chapter 6: "His flesh and His blood" to eat and drink to eternal life.  The cup of His Precious Blood was the 3rd of the four ritual cups of the Passover meal (the Feast of Unleavened Bread), the Cup of Blessing (1Corinthians 10:16).  During the Last Supper two of the four cups are mentions in Luke 22:17 and the cup of His Blood in verse 20.

In the prescribed ritual of the sacred meal of the Passover victim, there was a 4th ritual cup that closed the meal and sealed the covenant for another year.  This cup was called the Cup of Acceptance.  It was after consuming this final communal cup that the host of the Passover supper would cry out: 'Teltelestai" "It is fulfilled [finished]".  Since Jesus made an oath that He would not drink wine until He came into His kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:17), He could not have taken the 4th cup at the Last Supper.  Therefore, He could not have officially, according to custom, closed the Passover sacrificial meal in the Upper Room.

Question: Why does John draw our attention to the fact that it is a hyssop branch that the Roman guard used to give Jesus the drink of sour wine?  What was the symbolic importance of this detail?  Hint: see Exodus 12:22; Numbers 19:18; Psalm 51:7; Hebrews 9:18-20.

Answer:

  1. When the first Passover Lamb that had been sacrificed and its blood poured out in the threshold of the houses in Egypt, it was a hyssop branch that was used to smear the blood of the first Passover Lamb on the lintel and door posts.  It was under this sign that those firstborn sons inside the house eating the roasted lamb were saved.  The smeared blood extending from the threshold (Exodus 12:22) to the lintel and to each doorpost made the sign of the cross.
  2.  In the ratification of the Sinai Covenant Moses, the mediator between God and the people, symbolically united them by using a hyssop branch to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar, which represented Yahweh, and then on the people, creating one family united in the "blood" of the covenant (Hebrews 9:18-20), the same words Jesus used in the Last Supper when He offered those assembled His Precious Blood (Matthew 26:28;  Mark 14:24; and Luke 22:20).
  3. The passage in Numbers 19:18 recorded the use of hyssop in ritual purification for those who were contaminated by a dead body.  Such ritual contamination left the covenant member literally "dead" to their community until they could be purified on the third and seventh days (a double resurrection) with hyssop and holy water.  The blood of Jesus has purified us and saved us from spiritual death and has given physical death no power over us.  In the Sacrament of Christian baptism we experience our first resurrection through re-birth in water and the Spirit, and at the end of time we look forward to our second resurrection when body and spirit are rejoined.  We have been saved from the curse of the double-death in Genesis 2:17: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat; for, the day you eat of that, you are doomed to die, die.  In the literal Hebrew the word "die" is repeated to emphasize the seriousness of the covenant prohibition, but the violation of the command not to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree literally condemned Adam and all his descendants to a double death.  In disobeying God and abusing His blessings man became "disgraced" and the absence of grace brought not only physical death, but the curse of spiritual death, referred to in Scripture as the "second death" (Revelation 2:11; 20:6; 21:8).  Jesus' Precious Blood is the cleansing agent, which the hyssop and holy water of the Old Covenant symbolized.  It is His Precious Blood that purifies us from all sins:  Purify me with hyssop till I am clean, wash me whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7).

Just as the hyssop was used in the ratification of the Old Covenant in the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrificial victim on the altar and the people to form one covenant family, in the climax of Jesus' crucifixion the hyssop branch was symbolically used in the ratification of the New Covenant in the blood sacrifice of Jesus the Christ. It is His Precious Blood that transforms and unites the New Covenant people into God's Holy Covenant family-the Universal Church!

Question: Only John mentions the drinking of the wine from the cross and the last words of Christ which are the same last words as those of the host of the Passover meal when the 4th Cup, the Cup of Acceptance, has been consumed.  What is the symbolic significance?

Answer: The wine Jesus drank from the hyssop branch was the 4th Cup of the Passover.  In the offering up of His perfect sacrifice, Jesus came into His Kingdom; all was fulfilled, as He announced in John 19:28, and therefore He took the Cup of Acceptance and called out that "It is fulfilled or finished."  In this statement: "Teltelestai" in John 19:30 Jesus used the same verb that He used when He spoke of Scripture being fulfilled in John 19:28.

What is the IT that has been fulfilled or finished?  Many Christians would answer that justification and redemption are fulfilled in His sacrificial death, but in Romans 4:25 St. Paul wrote: ...our faith, too, will be reckoned because we believe in him who raised from the dead our Lord Jesus who was handed over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification.   In his fourteen letters, St. Paul never writes of the death of Jesus as separated from His resurrection.  "Justification" is the entering into the life of the risen Savior (CCC# 1987-95).  In Romans 6:4-5 St. Paul wrote: So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glorious power, we too should begin living a new life.  If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so we shall be by resurrection like his; realizing that our former self was crucified with him... (also see Romans 8:10).   The point is that sacrifice is only the first step-the desired result is the restoration of communion with God and that restoration was completed upon His glorious Resurrection. Therefore, the answer is that it isn't Christ's work of justification and redemption that has been completed. 

Question: What has been completed in His sacrificial death? What is the IT that has been finished?  Hint: see Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 1:29; Hebrews 10:4-10, and CCC 1964.

Answer: When John first saw Jesus he said Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  The Old Covenant was imperfect because no animal offered for sacrifice would be perfect enough to completely remove sin (CCC 1962-64). Every imperfect Old Covenant animal of sacrifice only foreshadowed the true Lamb who would be sacrificed for the forgiveness of sin.  This is the New Covenant that God promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34 when God said:  I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind.  What is finished or fulfilled?  The 4th Cup has been consumed; the Old Passover liturgy, which began in the Temple with the last imperfect Old Covenant lamb sacrifice and which continued in the imperfect sacrificial meal of the Passover victim in the Upper Room has ended and the perfected New Passover in Christ and the perfected sacrifice of the Eucharistic meal has begun!  In the first Passover God redeemed His people from slavery to a foreign power.  Now God has brought about the New Passover in which Christ our Passover Lamb has delivered the people from slavery to sin and death.  On Resurrection Sunday man was longer a slave to sin and death; sin and death no longer have power over men and women who embraced the Risen Lord as the promised Redeemer-Messiah.  It is the Old Covenants that are fulfilled in the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb: Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to complete [fulfill] them (Matthew 5:17).   ). It is now 3 PM and Jesus has suffered on the cross 7 hours on the Cross as the ancients counted from the third to the ninth hours Jewish time (9 AM to 3 PM = Mark 15:25 and Matthew 27:46, 50); one hour for each of the seven days of the old Creation event and for each of the seven Old Testament covenants that He fulfilled on the sixth day of the week on which man was created (Gen 1:26, 31)! See the chart on Yahweh’s Eight Covenants. Resurrection Sunday will be the beginning of a New Creation (Rev 21:5-7).

And in that fulfillment we celebrate that precious Body that hung upon the altar of the Cross as St Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7: For our Passover had been sacrificed, that is, Christ; let us keep the feast...  Jesus must be consumed if He is the Passover Lamb of the New Covenant.  We must feast on Jesus who is the Bread from heaven and the better wine of the New Covenant wedding feast, hidden under the form and appearance of unleavened bread and red wine, which becomes for us nothing less than the Resurrected Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity!

On the cross when Jesus drank the wine and said the last words of the Passover meal, He took the 4th Cup of Acceptance.  It was a cup of suffering that He accepted in obedience to the Father, and He drank the last drop of that suffering as He willingly gave up His spirit.

Question: But when did the Apostles and disciples take the 4th Cup and when do we take the 4th Cup of Acceptance?

Answer:  All New Covenant believers, past, present, and future take the 4th Cup of Acceptance when, in obedience to the will of God, we follow His commandment to take up our own crosses and follow the Savior: The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross.  There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (CCC # 2015).

It is what Jesus said to James and John Zebedee in Matthew 20:20-23 when He asked them: Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?  When they replied that they could Jesus' response, which must have been given with much tenderness, was: Very well; you shall drink my cup....  The brothers did indeed "drink the cup" in faith and obedience.  James was martyred about the year 42 AD and John valiantly "carried his cross" for Christ until his death when he was a very old man.

St. Polycarp, disciple of the beloved St. John, and Bishop of Smyrna spoke of this same "cup" when facing martyrdom in his 86th year prayed: O Lord God almighty, the Father of Your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before You, I give you thanks that You have counted me worthy of this day and this hour, that I should be counted in the number of Your martyrs, in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life...  (Jurgens, The Fathers of the Church, vol. I,  page 73).

John 19:30b: ...and bowing His head He gave up His spirit.  The last breath Jesus took was the first moment of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  This was His second gift to the Church from the altar of the cross.  The inspired writers of the Synoptic Gospels recorded that it was about the ninth hour, or 3PM (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:44).

In the Temple, the second Tamid Lamb had been sacrificed to Yahweh at 3PM.  The Jewish priest-historian, Flavius Josephus wrote about the afternoon sacrifice of the Tamid lamb:  ...the priests [....] twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour [3PM], offer their sacrifices on the altar (Antiquities of the Jews 14.4.3). Then the blood of the lamb was poured out at the base of the altar and its body was laid on the altar fire in the courtyard while inside the Sanctuary a high priest lit the incense on the Golden Altar of Incense that stood in front of the veil before the Holy of Holies-the sacred space that represented the presence of God.

 It was at this moment that Jesus breathed out His Spirit.  He was the true Passover Lamb and the true Lamb of the Tamid [Standing] sacrifice.  For centuries the Jews had been commanded, since the time of the Sinai Covenant, to sacrifice perpetually two perfect male lambs.  The first lamb sacrificed at 9AM and the second at 3PM.  The Passover victim did not have to be a lamb; it could be a kid or a lamb.  The Tamid was the only communal sacrifice that had to be a single, perfect male lamb: one offered in the morning and the second in the afternoon.  Now Jesus, perfect in two ways, perfect in His humanity and perfect in His divinity took His rightful place as the true Standing [as in perpetual] Sacrifice.  In the late 1st century AD this is the way St. John saw Christ in the heavenly court presenting Himself before the throne of God in Revelation 5:5-6 ...but one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep.  Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed, and so he will open the scroll and its seven seals.'  Then I saw, in the middle of the throne with its four living creatures and the circle of elders, a Lamb standing that seemed to have been sacrificed...  A sacrificed lamb doesn't "stand" but Jesus stands continually before the throne of God as the true perpetual [tamid] sacrifice; the on-going application of His full and complete sacrifice on the altar of the cross, offering Himself perpetually until the end of time as we known it, at the altar of the Heavenly Sanctuary for the sins of man.

The Synoptic Gospels all record a great symbolic event: the tearing of the veil in the Temple that covered the Holy of Holies: And suddenly, the veil of the Sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, the rocks were split, the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy people rose from the dead (Matthew 27:51; also see Mark 15:37; Luke 23:45; Isaiah 25:6-8 and 1 Peter 3:19).

The high priest whose duty it was to burn the incense on the golden altar in the Sanctuary must have been a terrified eyewitness to the event of the tearing of this great tapestry – a textile that was about 80 feet high and several inches thick – torn from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:51). The veil that separated sinful man from the Holy and Righteous God was removed.  God accepted His Son's perfect sacrifice for the sins of man.  Christ conquered the serpent and became the promised bridge between man and God (Genesis 3:15).

Please read John 19:31-36: The Pierced Messiah
19:31It was the Day of Preparation, and to avoid the bodies remaining on the cross during the Sabbath-since that Sabbath was a day of special solemnity-the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. 32Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. 33When they came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs 34one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. 35This is the evidence of one who saw it-true evidence, and he knows that when he says is true-and he gives it so that you may believe as well. 36Because all this happened to fulfill the words of scripture: 'Not one bone of his will be broken;' 37 and again, in another place scripture says: 'They will look to the one whom they have pierced.'

John 19:31: It was the Day of Preparation, and to avoid the bodies remaining on the cross during the Sabbath – since that Sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away.

Notice how John has clarified the term "Day of Preparation" to mean the day before the Sabbath (Saturday). This statement should eliminate the confusion about the designation of that term in John 19:14.  St. John has also identified the day of Jesus' crucifixion as Friday, the 6th day of the week, on the day of the week in Creation when man was created (Genesis 1:26-31).  Jesus suffered on the cross 6 hours (from the third hour to the ninth hour/ 9AM to 3PM: Mark 15:25, 34-36), dying for the sins of man on the 6th day of the week (Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54-56).  In the afternoon, the Jewish "evening" since they day ended at sundown, Jesus was taken down from the cross.

since that Sabbath was a day of special solemnity...  The Sabbath of Passover week was, in Jesus' time, declared to be a Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Sabbath.  But in modern Judaism what is called Shabbat HaGadol is now the Sabbath immediately proceeding Passover week, not the Sabbath that falls within the 7 day feast of Unleavened Bread.  This is one of several changes in Jewish tradition made after Jesus' resurrection.  Another major change would be the reinterpretation of the day on which to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits.  The instructions for the celebration Firstfruits are found in Leviticus 23:11-14.  According to the Law, Firstfruits must always fall on a Sunday, since it was to be celebrated the day after the Shabbat HaGadol of Passover week.  But after Jesus' resurrection this feast day was changed to be celebrated the day after the first day of Unleavened Bread on Nisan the 16th, which then caused the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost to be adjusted since that feast always followed Firstfruits 50 days later, also falling on a Sunday as it did in the spring of 30AD when God the Holy Spirit came to the disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.  Some time after Jesus' Resurrection and Ascension these feasts no longer were celebrated on Sunday in the liturgical calendar of the Jews-no longer would these feasts coincide with the historical Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and the birth of the New Covenant Church 50 days later.  (3)

John 19:32-34: Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other.  When they came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance...

It was a Roman custom to hasten death of a crucifixion victim by breaking of the victim's legs so that taking a breath by pushing against the foot support was no longer possible, causing shock followed by suffocation and death.  It was for this reason that crucifixion was also known to the Romans as "broken legs" [Cicero, Philippicae XIII.12 (27)]. 

John 19:35-37: ...and immediately there came out blood and water.  This is the evidence of one who saw it – true evidence, and he knows that what he says is true – and he gives it so that you may believe as well.  Because all this happened to fulfill the words of scripture: 'Not one bone of his will be broken'; and again, in another place scripture says: 'They will look to the one whom they have pierced.'

Question: What does this passage confirm about Jesus' nature and about His death?

Answer: This passage confirms #1: that Jesus was truly flesh and blood; #2:  that He truly died; #3: that the inspired writer was an eyewitness to these recorded events.

Dr. William Edwards in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association wrote: Clearly the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to His side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between His right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured His death.  Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge (William D. Edwards, M.D, "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ", Journal of the American Medical Association, March 21, 1986).

Question: That the Romans did not break Jesus' legs fulfills what prophecy found in the Psalms?  See Psalm 34:19-20.

Answer: Psalm 34:19-20: Though hardships without number beset the upright, Yahweh brings rescue from them all.  Yahweh takes care of all their bones, not one of them will be broken.  

That Jesus' bones were not broken is the 6th symbolic element of John's account.

Question: What is the symbolic connection to the Passover victim of the sacrificial Passover meal?  See Exodus 12:43-46

Answer: The prophecy was fulfilled and the requirements concerning the Passover victim were kept in that Jesus' legs were not broken: Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, 'This is the ritual for the Passover: [..].  It must be eaten in one house alone; you will not take any of the meat out of the house; nor may you break any of its bones' (Exodus 12:43-46).  This is another symbolic connection between the flesh of the Passover victim that had to be eaten and the flesh of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb whose flesh must be eaten in order to "celebrate the feast" (see 1 Corinthians 5:7).

Question: What is the second Old Testament passage that St. John references: They will look to the one whom they have pierced (John 19:37)? What does John want us to recall about this Old Testament passage?  See Zechariah 12:10-22; 13:1.  When was this prophecy written?

Answer: This is a passage from the prophet Zechariah, writing in approximately 480BC: But over the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem I shall pour out a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look to me.  They will mourn for the one whom they have pierced as though for an only child, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child.  When that day comes, the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad Rimmon in the Plain of Megiddo (Zechariah 12:10-11).   Zechariah, writing over 400 years before the birth of Jesus, prophesied that the death of a messiah-like figure would open a fountain of salvation: Zechariah 13:1: When that day comes, a fountain will be opened for the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to wash sin and impurity away.  This prophecy was fulfilled in the sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth when the piercing of Jesus, a descendant of the great King David, was the opening of the fountain of Divine Mercy!

This prophecy is related to John's 7th symbolic element: the outpouring of the blood and the water from the side of Jesus:...and immediately there came out blood and water.

Question: What were Jesus' three gifts from the cross to His Church?

Answer: Jesus first gift from the cross was His mother, the second was His last breath, which was the first moment of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and His third gift was the water and blood.

Question: What is the symbolic significance of this last gift? What Old Testament symbolism might apply?  Hint: see Genesis 2:21-23; Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-11.

Answer:  The Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist through which the Church is born and also nourished; the fulfillment of Jesus statement at the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7:38 when He cried out to the worshipers in the Temple: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me!  Let anyone who believes in me come and drink, and the breaking open of His heart symbolizing the revelation of the Old Testament in the light of the Gospel of salvation in the New Covenant-the Old Covenant which offered temporary salvation through the blood of animal sacrifice, and the New in which rebirth through water and the Spirit is the way to salvation in the blood of Jesus the Lamb of God (see Luke 24:25-27 and 44-48.

  1. The Fathers of the Church interpreted the flow of the water and the blood as the birth of the Bride of Christ from the side of Jesus who was in a sleep of death, just as God took the bride from Adam's side as he was in a death-like sleep (Genesis 2:21-23).  The first Adam failed to sacrifice his life for his bride when she was tempted by Satan, but Jesus, the new Adam, sacrificed His life on the cross so that His Covenant Bride, the Church, would live.  It is in the water and the blood that Christ's Bride is united with Him: in the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist (Ephesians 5:23-32).  St. Augustine eloquently wrote about the significant of this moment in salvation history: Here was opened wide the door of life, from which the sacraments of the Church have flowed out, without which there is no entering in unto life which is true life. [...] Here the second Adam with bowed head slept upon the cross, that thence a wife might be formed of him, flowing from his side while he slept.  O death, by which the dead come back to life! Is there anything purer than this blood, any wound more healing!  The Gospel of John, 120.2
  2. St. Paul connects the water supernaturally flowing from the Rock, which nurtured the Children of Israel in their wilderness journey, with the spiritual drink that flows from Christ in the Eucharist (as He promised in John 7:38 and as the prophets Ezekiel and Zechariah prophesized in Ezekiel 47:1-12 and Zechariah 14:8).  The Old Testament event is recounted in Exodus 17:1-7 and a separate episode of supernatural water flowing from the Rock in Numbers 20:11.  St. Paul identified "the Rock" of Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 as Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5.  The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible offers the information that in the Aramaic translation of the Numbers passage that both blood and water gushed forth from the Rock (see the Ignatius Study Bible: The Gospel of St John, page 54 quoting the Palestinian Targum on Numbers 20:11).  The "Rock" that gave physical life to the Children of Israel now gives supernatural life to the New Israel, the Universal Church (also see Deuteronomy 32 the Song of Moses or the Son of Witness in the New Jerusalem translation in which Yahweh is given the title Rock 5 times).
  3. Church Fathers and theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas also saw the breaking open of Jesus heart and the resulting flow of blood and water as a symbol of the breaking open of the word of God in Sacred Scripture with the prophecies of the Old Testament and the rites of animal blood sacrifice fulfilled in Christ who makes the way open for believes to come to Him through the Gospel of salvation and rebirth into the New Covenant through baptism by water and the Spirit.

All of these interpretations are in accord and reflect the fullness of Christ's perfect sacrifice.  In this descriptive passage St. John wants the readers and hearers of his Gospel to understand that the blood, a symbol of the sacrifice, shows that the Lamb of God has truly been sacrificed for the salvation of the world, and he wants the faithful to understand that the water, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, shows that the sacrifice is a rich source of grace.  It is what Jesus promised at the Feast of Tabernacles, about six months before His crucifixion, when He cried out: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me!  Let anyone who believes in me come and drink!  As scripture says, 'from his heart shall flow streams of living water' (John 7:37-38).  

Question:  What 3 elements has John identified as coming from the dead body of the Savior? See John 19:30 and 34.

Answer: His Spirit, water, and blood.  St. John writes about these three elements that came from Jesus' dead body: the Spirit, the water, and the blood, as three witnesses in 1 John 5:7: So there are three witnesses, the Spirit, water and blood; and the three of them coincide.   These three testimonies converge: blood and water join with the Spirit to bear witness to the origin, the mission, and the sacrifice of the Son who gives life!

Please read John 19:38-42: The Burial of the Christ

John 38-39:  After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus – though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews – asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus.  Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away.  Nicodemus came as well – the same one who had first come to Jesus at nighttime – and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

Only John provides insight into Joseph of Arimathaea's fear in proclaiming himself a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.  Luke 23:51 provides the information that Joseph had not consented to the sentence of the Sanhedrin against Jesus.  After Jesus' death Joseph of Arimathaea and the Pharisee Nicodemus (John 3:1, 4, 9, 7:50), both members of the Sanhedrin, bravely came forward to ask Pilate for the Master's body.  St. Mark records that Pilate was astonished when he heard that Jesus had died so soon, and he even questioned the centurion in charge of the execution (Mark 15:44).  Nicodemus, a wealthy man, provided an extremely expensive mixture of 100 litra of herbs and spices, an equivalent of about 75 pounds.  It seems an extraordinary amount so perhaps John's 100 litra is symbolic. 10 is the number for perfection of order so 100 could be seen as indicating an abundance of this mixture in the perfect amount for the King of Kings.  Perhaps all John's numbers are symbolic.  See CCC#596

Some scholars dispute the historical accuracy of this episode.  They contend that Pilate would not have released the body of a criminal and that Jesus would have been thrown into a common grave. However, Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the 3rd century wrote: The bodies of those who are capitally punished cannot be denied to their relatives.  At this day, however, the bodies of those who are executed are buried only in case permission is asked and granted; and sometimes permission is not given, especially in the cases of those who are punished for high treason.  The bodies of the executed are to be given for burial to any one who asks for them (Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, page 289).  Given Pilate's reluctance to execute Jesus, it is perfectly understandable that he would be inclined to release Jesus' body since it was within his power to do so, according to custom.

John 19:40-42: They took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, following the Jewish burial custom.  At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried.  Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The plural "linen wrappings" may indicate a burial shroud as well as a soudarion or napkin used to cover the face of a dead person.  The Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Christ, is about 14 feet long and less than 4 feet wide.  A soudarion, which is believed to be the napkin placed over Jesus' face when He was removed from the cross, is in the possession of the Vatican.

The Navarre Commentary suggests that after taking Jesus' body down from the cross that those preparing His body for burial would have washed His body before perfuming it with the herbs/spice mixture and wrapping His body in the linen shroud.  This is the common practice for a Jew who has died a natural death, but it is not the practice for a Jew who has died violently.  The blood must accompany the body to the grave!  In Israel today, after a terrorist attack, you may notice many people wearing orange vests collecting blood and tissue after bomb explosions. These collected body fluids and tissue are buried with the bodies of the victims.  It is interesting that the blood-splattered body of the image of the crucified man on the linen shroud known as the "Shroud of Turin" had not been bathed but had been covered with herbs, resins, and spices in preparation for burial (myrrh is a resin).

Only St. John's Gospel notes that the tomb where Jesus' body was placed was in a garden.  The garden is identified as being very near the site of execution which agrees with the location of the sites of Calvary and the tomb, both within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  The Church fathers have written movingly of the mystical connection between the Son of God's burial in a garden after having victoriously redeemed mankind from that first sin which was committed in a garden. 

The Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. John all observe that this was a new tomb, never used before Jesus burial.  The fact that the shroud was fresh and the tomb new indicated a pious burial but it was also not permitted for the corpse of an executed man to be placed in a tomb already in use where the condemned man's body would have defiled the bones of the upright.  St Augustine, focusing on the piety of the burial of the Savior observed: Just as in the womb of the Virgin Mary none was conceived before him, none after him, so in this tomb none before him, none after was buried (Augustine, The Gospel of John, 120.5).

St. Matthew's Gospel records that when Preparation Day was over, which was sundown Friday, the day Jesus was crucified (sundown was the beginning of the next day, which was the Saturday Sabbath), the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate to demand a Roman guard be placed on Jesus' tomb to prevent His disciples from stealing His body and claiming that Jesus had been raised from the dead.  Pilate agreed and the priests and Pharisees not only put a guard on the tomb but they place seals on the stone that covered the entrance (Matthew 27:62-66). 

St. John Chrysostom, writing about the request of the priests and Pharisees to have Jesus' tomb sealed, noted that the delegation from the Sanhedrin told Pilate: 'We remember these are the words, that that deceiver said, when he was yet alive' (He was therefore now dead).  "After three days I rise again."  'Command therefore that the sepulchre be sealed, (He was therefore buried), least his disciples come and steal him away.'  So that if the sepulchre be sealed, there will be no unfair dealing, for there could not be.  So then the proof of His resurrection has become incontrovertible by what you have put forward.  For because it was sealed, there was no unfair dealing.  But if there was no unfair dealing, and the sepulchre was found empty, it is manifest that He is risen, plainly and incontrovertibly.  See you, how even against their will they contend for the proof of the truth?  (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew).

The historical evidence is undisputed: Jesus of Nazareth was executed by the Romans in the spring of 30AD.  Three days later, as the ancients counted, He was raised up from the dead.  What evidence do we have of His Resurrection?  The eyewitness account of John Zebedee and the accounts of St. Matthew who witnessed His appearance to the Apostles on Resurrection Sunday and His Ascension 40 days later and St. Peter's testimony as recorded by St. Mark.  The Jews altered their feast days to keep them from linking to the Resurrection and the birth of the New Covenant Church, and the timid band of Apostles and disciples who were fearful and cowering on the day of Jesus' crucifixion were suddenly energized and fearless, spreading Jesus' Gospel of salvation from Jerusalem to the corners of the know world in the 40 year period from 30AD to 70 AD.  Something beyond human explanation and reason happened to effect such a remarkable change in the history of mankind.  Even the 1st century AD Jewish priest/historian, Flavius Josephus, born 37 years after Jesus' Ascension wrote in his history of the Jewish people: Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works – a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.  He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and then thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day (Flavius Josephus [37-100AD], The Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.3).

Appendix:

Review of Christ's Passion and Death from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion:

The Passover meal was eaten the day before Jesus crucifixion on Thursday, Nisan the 14th (Matthew 26:17-19, 26; Mark 14:12, 22; Lk 22:7-8, 14).  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke refer to the entire 8-days as "Unleavened Bread," while St. John refers to it as "the Passover."  Jesus was tried, condemned and crucified on Friday, Nisan the 15th.  When Jesus was sent to Pilate St. John records: They did not enter the Praetorium themselves, for they had to avoid ritual impurity if they were to eat the Passover supper" (John 18:28, the New American Bible translation).  The modern translators have inserted the word "supper" into the text; it is not in the original Greek (Interlinear Greek-English Bible, page 309).  The Greek reads: And they entered not into the Praetorium that they might not be defiled but that they might eat the Passover.  Jewish priest/historian Flavius Josephus recorded that in the 1st century AD the entire 8-day festival from the day of the Passover sacrifice to the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was called "the Passover" (Antiquities of the Jews 14.2.1; 17.9.3; Jewish War 5.3.1).  The day after the Passover supper, for the next seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread there were liturgical services at the Temple and Chagigah communion sacrifices made at the Temple which would be taken into homes in Jerusalem and eaten for the main meal of the day.  John 18:28 has to be a reference to the first liturgical service of Unleavened Bread at the Temple at 9AM and the offering of the communion Chagigah. This passage cannot refer to the ritual Passover meal eaten on the night that began the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the night of the Last Supper) since ritual uncleanness would only last until the end of the day which was sundown and the feast of the Passover victim didn't begin until after sundown:

Note: the requirements were different for someone who physically touched a dead body.  That person had to undergo the 7-day period of ritual purification.  See Numbers 9:9-11 and 19:11.

The Passover sacrifice was offered on Nisan the 14th; the meal of the Passover sacrifice began immediately after sundown, which according to the Jewish calendar was the beginning of the next day, Nisan the 15th.  The next day there was a feast offering on the morning of the 15th of Nisan (the morning after the Passover Supper) at the Temple in a service that began at 9AM.  It was at this required sacred assembly that the communion Chagigah (Hagigah) sacrifice was offered, to be eating with great joy that afternoon with family and friends (Mishnah: Hagigah). The Jews would not have been able to attend this required Temple service if they had been made ritually unclean coming in contact with Gentiles in the Gentile residence of the Roman governor at dawn.  To remain in the courtyard of a Gentile residence did not cause ritual defilement (Mishnah: Ohalot 18:10).  The important point here is that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke do agree with John's Gospel account.

St. John's Gospel also records that it was the 6th hour when Jesus was taken to Pilate.  The sixth hour Hebrew time is noon our time, which does not agree with the Synoptic Gospels.  But the 6th hour Roman time is about dawn.  We keep Roman time, beginning the day and counting hours from midnight (Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.79.188). If Jesus was with Pilate at about the 6th hour Roman time, John's account is in agreement with the Synoptic Gospels.  Writing his Gospel years after the events of the Crucifixion in Ephesus, the third most important city in the Roman Empire, as the bishop of a largely Gentile Christian community, why would John use Hebrew time?

Pilate pronounced the man Jesus without fault.  It was Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest who pronounced that Jesus must die, a sacrifice for the sake of the people (John 11:50, 51 and 18:14).  It was a Gentile pagan Roman who pronounced the sacrifice selected by the High Priest Caiaphas was "without fault" (John 18:38; 19:4, 6).

At 9AM (the 3rd hour) Jesus was crucified on the altar of the cross (Mark 15:25), just as the first lamb of the daily Tamid sacrifice was offered up on the altar in the Temple and the people attend the Feast of Unleavened Bread ceremonies at the Temple, offering their communion sacrifice, the Chagigah offering, which would be eaten that afternoon.  At the hour of the first daily sacrifice, 12 noon, the sun disappeared and darkness covered the land (Mark 15:33).  At the 9th hour [3PM], the hour of the sacrifice of the second daily sacrifice, Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave up His life on the altar of the cross (Mark 15:33-34). Flavius Josephus on the offering of the Tamid (Daily) sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple: ...but did still twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour [3PM our time], offer their sacrifices on the altar.. [Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3 (65)].

16th of Nisan: Saturday: The Jewish Sabbath.  Jesus "rested" in the tomb.

17TH of Nisan: Sunday: The Feast of Firstfruits [the first day after the Sabbath of Passover week] = Resurrection Sunday.  Other than the Tamid, this is the only other sacrifice of the Sinai Covenant that required a single, unblemished male lamb offered with unleavened bread ans wine (Passover victim was a lamb or kid).  According to the Law of the covenant, this feast was celebrated the day after the first Sabbath of Passover week (Leviticus 23:11).  It signaled the beginning of the harvest when the people present the first fruits of the barley harvest at the Temple.  God prescribed that this feast would always fall on a Sunday!  The day we call Sunday was the first day of the week and the first day of Creation in Genesis [the Sabbath, Saturday being the 7th day].  The day of Jesus' Resurrection was the day of the New Creation when all of creation was renewed in the Resurrection of the Son of God-the King of Kings, and the great harvest of souls into heaven begins with Christ the first fruits of the great harvest: But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. [I Corinthians 15:20].

Appendix II:

Non-Christian writers who recorded the phenomena of the total eclipse from noon until three in the afternoon the day of Jesus' death:

Tallus:  A secular author, writing circa 52 AD.  He is best known for a history of the Eastern Mediterranean from the Trojan War to his own time.  The document no longer exists, but it was quoted by other authors including the Christian writer Julius Africanus, who wrote circa 221 AD. Julius quoted Tallus' comments about the darkness that enveloped the land during the late afternoon hours when Jesus died on the Cross: Tallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun-unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died (Julius Africanus, Chronography 18.1). The importance of Tallus' comment is that the reference shows that the Gospel accounts of the darkness that fell across the earth during Christ's crucifixion was well known and the unexplainable phenomena was even noted by non-Christians. 

Phlegon: Julius Africanus also quoted another secular scholar whose works are now lost.  Phlegon wrote a history called Chronicles. Phlegon also commented on the darkness at the time of Christ's crucifixion: During the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon (Julius Africanus, Chronography 18.1).  Phlegon noted the full moon because an eclipse never occurs during a full moon-it is impossible.

(The third century AD Christian apologist Origen also referenced Phlegon's record of this event in his work Celsum 2.14,33,59, as does the sixth century writer Philopon (De.opif.mund. II, 21.

Endnotes:

1. The Jewish day began at sundown.  The daytime was divided into 12 seasonal hours, but the day division of hours was focused on the schedule of the Tamid sacrifice.  In the first century AD the night was divided into 4 night watches of 3 hours each: (1) from sundown to 9PM; (2) from 9PM to 12 midnight; (3) from 12 midnight to 3AM; and (4) from 3AM to dawn.  A trumpet call, known as the "cockcrow" signaled the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th watch.  It was at "cockcrow" that St. Peter denied Christ: So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn... (Mark 13:35).  The Roman day, however, began at midnight: The Babylonians count the period between two sunrises, the Athenians that between two sunsets, the Umbrians from midday to midday, the common people everywhere from dawn to dark, the Roman priests and the authorities who fixed the official day, and also the Egyptians and Hipparchus, the period from midnight to midnight (Natural History 2.79.188, Pliny the Elder).

2. "Ma'ariv" or evening prayer began at sundown (for the hours of prayer see Mishnah: Berakhot). The Ma'ariv is a later addition, added to daily prayer after the destruction of the Temple in 70AD.  The Jewish Talmud also records the late addition of the Ma'ariv service which is not connected with the sacrificial system (The Jewish Book of Why, volume I, page 148).

3. In Leviticus 23:4-44 every one of the sacred annual remembrance feasts are given specific days of the year for the annual celebration except Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks (known by the Greek word "Pentecost," meaning 50th-day in Jesus' time).  The other feasts with prescribed dates would fall on different days of the week each year (as does our celebration of Christmas on the 25th of December), but the date of Firstfruits changed with each year because the celebration was planned to fall on a Sunday, the day after a Sabbath, during the holy week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Likewise the date Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, celebrated 50 days after Firstfruits (as the ancients counted with no 0 place-value, counting the Sunday of Firstfruits as day #1,  changed from year to year because the feast was intended to always fall on a Sunday. With the change in the celebration of Firstfruits and the 50 day count from Firstfruits to Weeks/Pentecost, today neither feast regularly falls on a Sunday (see Leviticus 23:15-20) and modern Judaism has abandoned the Feast of Firstfruits all together, even though it is designated as a perpetual feast (Lev 23:14). If Yahweh had intended those 2 feasts to be celebrated on specific dates in the year He would have assigned them dates as He did all the other feasts. It will become obvious why the Jews readjusted these feast days.  The date change must have gone into effect soon after Jesus' Resurrection because Josephus, born about 37 years after the Resurrection, records the adjusted dates for these feasts: And truly he did not speak falsely in saying so; for the festival we call Pentecost, did then fall out to be the next day to the Sabbath.... (Antiquities of the Jews 13.8.4 [252]). The Jewish Sabbath is Saturday, therefore, both Firstfruits and Weeks/Pentecost used to fall on a Sunday, as Pentecost did for the disciples of Jesus in the Upper Room on Pentecost Sunday, 30AD.  Please see the chart "The Seven Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant."

Resources used in preparing this lesson:

  1. Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, St. John Chrysostom
  2. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
  3. The Navarre Bible Commentary – St. John
  4. The Ignatius Bible Commentary – The Gospel of John
  5. The Works of Cicero: Philippicae XIII.12 (27), Cicero
  6. The Works of Josephus, The Jewish War [see Jewish Wars 6.9.3 for 3-5PM timeframe of Passover sacrifice and numbers of animals killed].
  7. The Works of Philo of Alexandria [see Special Laws II 145 for 12 noon liturgical service for the Passover sacrifice].
  8. The Anchor Bible Commentary – The Gospel According to John
  9. The International Critical Commentary
  10. The Blood and the Shroud, Ian Wilson [The Free Press Publishers, 1998].
  11. Caesar and Christ, Will Durant, [MJF Books, 1971].
  12. "The Hunt for the Fourth Cup", Dr. Scott Hahn, This Rock Magazine, September 1991.
  13. Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J.[Bruce Publishing Company, 1966].
  14. Ante-Nicene Fathers: Origen, vol. 9
  15. The Quest for the True Cross, Carston Theide [Doubleday, 1999].
  16. The Fathers of the Church, Mike Aquilina, [Our Sunday Visitor Publishers, 1999].
  17. "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ", William D. Edwards, M.D, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 21, 1986.
  18. Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, volume II
  19. Catechism of the Catholic Church [* = Scripture quoted or paraphrased]

19:19-22

440*

19: 31

641*

19: 21

596*

19: 34

478*, 694*, 1225

19: 25-27

726*, 2618*

19: 36

608*

19: 25

495

19: 37

1432*

19: 26-27

501*, 964, 2605

19: 38-39

595*

19: 27

2677*, 2679*

19: 38

575*

19: 28

544*, 607, 2561*, 2605

19: 42

624*, 641*

19: 30

607, 624*, 730*, 2605*

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.