Summary: The religious leaders were selective about which laws to follow and which ones to ignore or defy. We are too. The point of this is to expose our own double-standards and lead us to show mercy to others.
John 19:31-37 – Picky Picky Belief
Tonight, in our last message of The Life of Jesus before Resurrection Day, I’d like to point out an interesting characteristic about the religious leaders that really bears hearing. Just to let you know: likely something I say tonight might make you angry. Just letting you know that you may not be pleased with what I have to say, but hang in there till the end anyway.
You see, what i’m talking about tonight is a quality that we probably all share to a certain extent, and I’m going to try to help us see it in ourselves. It will probably never be cleared up completely until glorification. But until then, what do we do with ourselves? Let’s read John 19:31-37.
Now perhaps you already know where I’m going with this, but bear with me. Let’s look at what the religious leaders did here. They didn’t want the bodies of the 3 crucifixion victims hanging around exposed to the elements overnight.
It is almost certain that under normal circumstances crucifixion victims were left overnight, despite OT laws stating that the body of anyone hanged on a tree be removed and buried out of sight, not left hanging all night. Nevertheless, since the Romans were in charge, what they said went. When in Roman-occupied territory, do as the Romans do.
But this time the Jewish leaders put up a stink about it. Why? Because the next day was a special day. It was the Sabbath. And what’s more, it was a special Sabbath. It was the Sabbath that fell on Passover week. It was part of a grand religious celebration. It was not just any-old Sabbath – it was a high Sabbath. The leaders wanted to appear concerned about Jewish laws, and so they requested that Jesus and the other criminals come down.
So the Romans made sure that all the men on the crosses would die quickly. By breaking their legs, they would not be able to push themselves up on their cross to gasp for breath. They would suffocate sooner with broken legs. It turned out that Jesus was already dead, so they didn’t need to break His legs. Just to make sure He was dead, the soldier drove a spear into Jesus’ heart. Blood and water flowed out separately, indicating his heart had stopped. That would have killed Him anyway. So, Jesus was certainly dead when He came down off the cross.
Now, what’s funny about all this is that all of a sudden, the religious leaders gathered up some scruples about following the OT law. Up until that point, they weren’t too concerned about doing things by the book. They had been breaking OT laws, as well as their own added laws and regulations, for some time. But they wanted to appear more holy than they really were. Like Judas, whom we looked at for a month, they were concerned about how things looked more than how things really were.
I mean, let’s look at Jesus’ trial. There were 6 stages to His trial, at the end of which He was sentenced to die at the hands of Roman soldiers. His trial, from start of finish, was illegal.
First off, even before the trial began, it had been determined that Jesus must die – John 11:50, Mark 14:1. For some time, the leaders wanted Jesus dead. There was no “innocent until proven guilty” thinking.
Second, false witnesses were sought to testify against Jesus. Usually the religious leaders went through an elaborate system of screening witnesses to ensure justice, but they threw all that out, just to find someone to nail Jesus on something.
Third, no defense for Jesus was sought or allowed. If you read the end of Luke 22, you can plainly see that Jesus was all by Himself in his defense.
Fourth, the trial was conducted at night. It started probably at about midnight, and lasted all night long, into the morning. This was illegal according to the religious leaders’ own laws.
Fifth, the high priest put Jesus under oath, but then incriminated Him for what he said. I understand that people lie under oath, but why insist on oaths if you’re not even going to try to believe Him?
And finally, cases involving such serious charges were to be tried only in the Sanhedrin’s regular meeting place, not in the high priest’s palace. It was a location of convenience. And what’s more, if it had been done legal, there likely would have been someone recording the minutes. But what was said, they would want no record of.
As you can see, the very events leading Jesus to the cross were underhanded and under the table. Add to all this the day of the crucifixion. Now, in my research I wasn’t able to find anywhere that said executions were not to be dealt out on a holiday such as Passover, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they weren’t. But it seems to me that executing criminals should not have happened on a holiday such as Passover. It seems so contrary to the spirit of the day, even if the letter of the Law wasn’t concerned. To kill a person on the same day as killing lambs for worship just seems contradictory.