April 14, 2003 Psalm 22:17-18
I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
I used to have a neighbor who is what I would call “Mr. Clean.” Almost every Saturday during the summer I would see him outside washing his cars. Like the Karate Kid, he put the wax on, and he took the wax off. Very slowly he mowed his lawn, making sure that every blade of grass was even with the next. The edges of his sidewalk were always manicured with the utmost perfection, and his grass was never thirsty. There is nothing wrong with the way he treated his possessions in and of itself - but was sure is different from the way I treat mine. I guess all of us are different. Some of us are meticulous, while others of us don’t give two hoots over whether our possessions are in good shape or not. This is true in any area of life - while some parents are more protective of their children, others aren’t. While some are more cautious with their money, others aren’t.
Which side of the spectrum would God be on? Is He a “bugger for detail”? Is He very concerned with His possessions? Or does He just use them and not worry about whether they get broken or not? Tonight we will find out, as we see how -
Jesus Would Remain Unbroken
I. In body
There are between 200 and 212 bones in the human body. Some bones are knit solidly together, others are loosely connected. Each, however, is designed to meet its particular needs. Some serve as the framework for the attachment of muscles or as a protection for delicate organs.
We never realize the importance of bones until we have broken one. Whether it was an arm, a leg, or a finger, most of us have probably broken some bone in our body. The only bone that I may have broken, I’m not even sure, was my big toe. With the loss of that one bone in my foot, I could feel the after effect for years. Occasionally my toe would act up after some sort of activity. They say that broken bones heal stronger than they were originally, but sometimes people never recover from them. Running back Raymont Harris ran for over 1,000 yards for the Chicago Bears before breaking his leg. The next year he tried to make a comeback, but he had lost a step. He couldn’t hit the holes as quickly or run around the end, and as a result he never was able to gain much yardage. His broken bones cost him his career. On the other hand there are a few athletes who have made a full recovery from broken bones. It depends on which bones they broke, and how they healed.
In tonight’s prediction of Psalm 22, David said I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. This could be referring to one of two things. Either this is a prediction that none of Jesus’ bones would be broken, or that you would clearly be able to see his bones on the cross. Even if Jesus’ ribs were showing on the cross, which they probably were, it is hard to believe that ALL of his bones would be countable on the cross. Although a possible overstatement, it seems to me that this is a prediction that Jesus’ bones would remain unbroken. Psalm 34:20 predicted the same thing. If this is so, John 19:31-37 shows it’s fulfillment:
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," 37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."
Doesn’t this seem like a rather strange prediction? Why would it be a big deal as to whether Jesus had a broken bone or not? After all, He was just going to be sacrificed. When a farmer chooses the cow to make into hamburger, does it bother him if it had a broken leg or not? He usually picks the maimed for that purpose. And when we pick a spouse, does it matter to us whether he or she has broken bones or not? Usually not. So why does God care?
When we rationalize this way, we tend to forget that God is different from us. We live in sin every day, and so we become used to it and accept it. But not God. 1 Samuel 2:2 says, There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. As a holy God, He only accepts that which is perfect. 99% is not good enough. Scott’s Lawn Feed came out with an advertisement, comparing their seed to other seed. They said, “other seeds mix weeds in with their seeds. Not us, our seed mix is 99 and 9/10 percent weed free.” God would look at that seed and say, “it’s not good enough.” You can see this perfectionism in the laws that God laid out in the Old Testament. Leviticus 21, “`For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores. . . No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the offerings made to the LORD by fire. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. Any imperfection in the Levite disqualified from service in God’s temple. For the Passover, God commanded them in Exodus 12:46 46 "It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. Later on, the people ignored this commandment of God and offered a bunch of lame animals, and God wasn’t pleased. Malachi 1:7-8 told the Israelites, When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?"
Whether it was the actual animal being sacrificed or the person sacrificing the animal, there could be no deformities - no imperfections. Remember what kind of a sacrifice Jesus was. When John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching He stated, John 1:29 "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! If God was that seemingly “picky” when it came to these animal sacrifices - which didn’t even pay for the people’s sins, then obviously He would maintain the same standard when it came to the sacrifice for the world. Even though Jesus was God, if He had been maimed or broken, then as Priest and victim His sacrifice would not have been physically perfect - and He would have been unacceptable in God’s sight. So we thank God that Jesus remained unbroken in his body. If He wasn’t, God wouldn’t have accepted his sacrifice.
Even though Jesus was unbroken, He didn’t look very “wholesome” on the cross. David predicted that the people would stare and gloat over Jesus. One commentator stated, “His blessed body was lean and emaciated with labour, grief, and fasting, during the whole course of his ministry, which made him look as if he was nearly 50 years old when he was yet but 33. (John 8:57)” So as Jesus’ hung on the cross, he looked like just a worm - a shell of a man. His ribs stuck out and his bones were all out of joint. There was nothing attractive about him. He probably looked like a starving Ethiopian.
It may have been a sick sight to look at Jesus’ that evening that He was crucified. Yet we put that picture up on our walls. We sing, “hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.” We put a cross in the front of our church, and we stare at it with joy. We take pleasure in this picture of Jesus’ ugly body, because we know that it is still a perfect body Since Jesus’ had a perfect body, God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice. When we look at the cross, we are reminded continually - I am forgiven - for God punished Jesus - who was perfect - in my place.
II. In clothing
Jesus’ body was not the only thing that would remain unbroken. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. David even predicted what would happen to Jesus’ clothes. The gospel of John explains how this was fulfilled. John 19:23-24 states, 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 "Let’s not tear it," they said to one another. "Let’s decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did. Apparently Jesus had four different articles of clothing on, as well as an undergarment. After dividing up the four pieces, they cast lots for His undergarment in fulfillment of this prophecy.
Some people pay great attention to clothing. There are thousands of nostalgic clothing items on the market today. People love to collect Elvis glasses, Mark McGwire jerseys, and original Barbie doll dresses. The old dresses that Princess Di wore went for thousands of dollars. And I suppose, some people would regard the clothing that Jesus touched or wore as something precious. There are some who claim that Jesus’ burial cloth has been found - and now that cloth is on display at some shrine. There are other Catholic relics that people worship because they claim that Jesus wore it or touched it. These people might think - God was concerned about Jesus’ clothing - because Jesus wore it and He wanted it to be preserved!
I must admit, it would be interesting to actually find something like that. But I’m not the type of guy to get all excited over clothing. So it makes me wonder, “why all the detail, especially over just some clothing?” Was God really concerned over what would happen to Jesus’ clothing? If that were so, then wouldn’t we have that clothing yet today? No, God wasn’t concerned about the nostalgia - He wasn’t trying to market some high price items that could be sold to build a new church, or creating some miraculous good luck charm.
So what was God trying to prove? Why did He make this prediction? It first of all shows us how concerned God was with every detail of our salvation - He even had a plan for Jesus’ clothing. God would not rest easy until every last detail of our salvation would be fulfilled. John 19 makes special mention of this fact. 28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
God also predicted what would happen with Jesus’ clothing as an assurance to us. As Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Before Joshua died, he wanted to assure His people of God’s trustworthiness, so He stated the same thing. 14 "Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” If the soldiers did not cast lots for Jesus’ clothing, then we could never be sure than any of God’s promises could come true. We wouldn’t know if Jesus really died for us. We wouldn’t know if there really was a heaven. We wouldn’t know if we were really saved just by faith. But since even this little prophecy was fulfilled, now we know that God’s Word is reliable. If He promises us something, then it will come true. We know that God does have the hairs of our head numbered. We are saved by faith. He does have a mansion prepared for us in heaven.
If you take one other look at this prediction, you may see some symbolical significance to this as well. Jesus was stripped of His physical clothing - which was kept whole. But this happened in a spiritual way as well. Jesus was not only stripped of his physical garments, but he also exchanged his garment of perfections with our filthy garments of sin. He didn’t just give us some of His perfection - He gave us the whole garment - in exchange for our sin. Galatians 3:27 says that all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Now through faith in Christ we can say with Isaiah in 61:10, I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Since Jesus exchanged His clothing with ours, we will not stand before God as only lightly clad or naked. We will stand before Him as completely holy and righteous - with nothing left to cover and nothing left to do.
When I was going through college I used to be employed as an environmental engineer - otherwise known as a janitor - of one of the college buildings. Sometimes I would hire fellow classmates to help me out. It was interesting to see the different methods that they would take. Some would be in a big hurry to get everything done. But in doing so, they would leave some dirt piled up in the classrooms. Others would take their time - being very meticulous in the way they worked - making sure that everything was done properly. After working with both, I preferred the slower worker - even though I am not that way. The slower worker made sure that everything was clean - and that was what they were hired to do. I didn’t have to go back through and make sure that everything was done.
In the same way, we can thank God for this sixth prediction of the Promised One - that Jesus would remain unbroken. It shows us that God was concerned with every last detail of our salvation. He even had a plan for Jesus’ undergarments. Wouldn’t you rather have a God who wanted to make sure every last payment has been made for your sins - that there is no stone left uncovered? Since we know God is such a perfectionist, we can be assured that there is no payment left. Jesus made the perfect offering - without one bone broken. Because of this, we know the payment is complete and we are saved. Amen.