Day 323 – Why Crucifixes?

Today: John 19:23-42

There are many points that can be made from today’s reading.  First, is when Jesus give Mary into the care of John.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.   John 19:26-27

There are three important things about this act. First, Jesus calls Mary, “Woman”.  In doing this he is calling our attention to Genesis 3 and Revelation 12.  In both of those chapters, we read of the promised woman who will have a son that defeats Satan.  Mary is obviously that woman.  Second, by placing Mary in John’s care we can infer that Mary had no other natural children.  In ancient Israel, women had very few rights.  They could not effectively operate in society unless they had a male guardian.  This would have first been a father, then a husband, and if the husband died then male children.  When Jesus died, if Mary had any other children they would have immediately moved into the role of being guardian to their mother.  Since Jesus give Mary to John we can tell that Mary has no other children and therefore in other places where the bible makes reference to “brothers” of the Lord we know that they are not blood brothers (or half blood brothers) but must be some other kind of relation.  Third, John, as one of the Apostles and the only one at the foot of the cross is a stand-in for the entire church.  By giving Mary to John, Jesus is in effect giving her through the Church to all of us.

The second interesting passage is:

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30

Recall that in Matthew 26:29, just after offering the bread and the wine Jesus says, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  Recall, that at a Passover meal there are four (4) cups of wine that part of the ceremony.  We can tell that Jesus used the third cup for the cup of his blood.  We know this because they sing hymns after the Eucharist and then head out to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus ends the Last Supper/Passover meal early – before drinking the fourth cup.  Thus, the Passover meal was not finished when the passion and crucifixion began.  When does it finish?  Here, on the cross, when Jesus takes a sip of wine.  In the Passover meal, the fourth cup is known as “the cup of consummation”.  Consummation means to finish. So the Last Supper finished here on the cross.  We, therefore, can and should consider everything from the Last Supper through the crucifixion as one event.

Note also, the wine is lifted up to Jesus on a hyssop branch.  Hyssop branches were used to paint the doors with the blood of the lamb to protect the Jews from the angel of death at the last plague that established the Passover.  Jesus is the new lamb and the cross is the new door.

The third interesting passage:

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

John 19:31-34

Besides healing on the Sabbath claiming that he would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days was one of the main things that were the pretext for Jesus crucifixion.  We understand that in doing so that Jesus was referring to the new temple, the temple of his body.  Remember, the temple was a place of literal blood sacrifices.  Animals were sacrificed on the altar.  The innards would be burned up and offered to God.  The main body of the animal would be used for food.  Much of the blood from the animals would be used to sprinkle the altar as part of the sacrifice. However, inevitably blood would run out onto the floor for which there were drains.  Below the temple was a water spring.  From the side of the temple blood of the sacrifices mixed would run out of the drains.  As blood and water run out of Jesus’ side we see unequivocally that he is the new temple.

The fourth interesting passage is:

And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” John 19:37

This is the simplest and shortest of the passages but one of my favorites.  Often there is a debate between Protestants and Catholics about crosses versus crucifixes.  Protestants argue that Jesus is resurrected and no longer on the cross.  Catholics argue that a cross without Jesus is meaningless.  Both arguments have some merit.  However, this verse provides a scriptural basis for crucifixes.  Catholics keep this prophecy of scripture alive and fulfilled even to this day.

Tomorrow:  John 20

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