Jesus is the perfect sacrifice of God, completing the Passover requirements God establish long before in Scripture. The death and burial of Jesus fulfils the entire biblical story.
Jesus knew. The Evangelist gives us insight into Jesus’ perspective of his own death even while he is hanging on the cross.
The term “completed” or “fulfilled” (τετέλεσται) suggests that Jesus had accomplished all the work - “all things” - given to him by the Father (17:4; cf. 4:34; 5:36; 17:4).
“The scripture might be ‘completed’” - “τελειωθῇ”. Notice that the same verb in different forms appears three times in 19:28–30. Thus, it is a three-fold declaration that the work assigned to Jesus by the Father is completed on the cross. The work of Jesus also “completes” the Scripture.
Interestingly, in the previous several fulfilment formulas the verb that is used is different: (πληρωθῃ - fulfilled) (12:38; 13:18; 15:25; 17:12; 18:9,32; 19:24).
But there is a debate: does this fulfilment formula refers to the Scripture as a whole, or to one particular Scripture passage: “I am thirsty”?
Perhaps it is both. On the one hand, the crucified Jesus is the completion of the Scripture. At the same time, however, the formula declares that Christ’s thirst is itself a specific fulfilment of the Scripture (Ps 69:21 - the psalm is also quotes in 2:17; 15:25). But there is more to it.
For example, when Jesus asked for a drink in 4:7 and in 7:38–39 He speaks about the thirst that only he can satisfy. In 7:38–39, we have a connection between “drink” and the Spirit; then in 19:30 Jesus “gave over the Spirit”. Finally, when Peter tried to prevent his arrest, Jesus reposted in 18:11: “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Just as the allusion to Psalm 69 is not abut thirst and drink per se but it is intended to depict the depth of Jesus’ suffering, so when Jesus here speaks about his thirst and takes a drink, it both symbolises the thirst-quenching promise from 7:38–39 and the “cup” from the Father.
Jesus was really thirsty as he hung on the cross, but the Evangelist ‘challenges’ the reader to see much deeper meaning behind this one word: “Διψῶ”.
Nowadays, it has become popular to associate this cup of sour wine with the fourth cup of the Passover meal.
This sour wine is often described as the usual refreshing drink of labourers and soldiers. Others suggest that the drink was intended to revive Jesus lest he die too soon and was itself a form of torture (cf. Mk 15:36).
It is not to be confused with ‘wine mingled with myrrh’ - a sedative drink to dull the sense of the victims and to relieve something of their agony - which Jesus refused to drink (Mk 15:23).
What is clear is that the response of the soldiers is the fulfilment of Scripture and highlights the cup of suffering’s Jesus must drink.
What is surprising is the use of a hyssop - in Mark it is “a reed”. Hyssop branch lacked a stalk needed to place a wine-filled sponge and hold its weight. Hyssop is a small, bushy plant with leaves and flowers that are highly absorptive and thus suitable for sprinkling (Lev 14:4–7; Num 19:18).
For this reason it was famously connected to the sprinkling of the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts as recorded in Exodus 12:22.
The death of Jesus is the true Passover and the effective means of inward cleansing.
After drinking, Jesus does two things: (1) he says again one-word statement: “it is completed” (19:28). The fulfilment theme in this section of the pericope reaches its climax here.
This one Greek word is the final statement of God, declaring that everything he wanted to accomplish has been completed to perfection in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is an announcement of victory - the victory of the victim.
In this moment of suffering and despair, God in the person of Jesus Christ declares the victory over the forces of sin and death - a victory secured by means of the cross.
With this word the Word of God speaks forth a new creation (1:3) and the light shines forth in the darkness (1:5). For this one word summarises the “good news” of the gospel and reveals the constant foundation of the Christian life.
(2). Jesus “bowed his head and gave over his spirit”. It is significant that the Evangelist continues to describe Jesus as the subject of the verb; death itself has no authority over him, for he lays down his life by his own authority (10:18).
Since the Greek does not use a personal pronoun here (his) the phrase can be translated as “the spirit”. Together with the verb - παρέδωκεν “gave over / handed over” - the whole statement communicate that Jesus handed over the spirit to someone and that someone is probably God the Father here (cf. Luke 23:46; Ps 31:5) and the disciples later in 20:22.
Thus, the statement depicts not only Jesus’ death but also the immediate connection between the death of Christ and the Spirit - of which the Gospel has already spoken (7:39).
Regarding “the spirit” of Jesus (cf. 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 4:6; Phil 1:19).
Regarding Jesus’ reclining his head in sleep (cf. Mt 8:20; Luke 9:58) - sleep as the symbol of death.
19:31 - cf. Deut 21:22–23
This section (19:31–37) records the treatment of Jesus’ body and the confirmations regarding his death. There is an irony here. The Jews think that the corpse of the Son of God is the source of their defilement at Passover, when in reality his “flesh” is the true Passover Lamb and the only source of true purification.
“That Sabbath was a great day” - so Jesus died on Friday afternoon. Another irony. While the religious leaders of the Jews were preparing to perform their Passover duties, God himself had personally already “completed” the task. Before that great Sabbath happen Good Friday that is much greater than any Sabbath could ever be.
The breaking of legs - a horrible punishment in itself - in this case aimed at hastening the death of the crucified people.
Apparently Pilate agreed to the Jewish request and the soldiers did this to the two anonymous criminals that were crucified with Jesus.
With Jesus, however, it was different - since he had already died there was no need for breaking of his legs. The significance of this fact will be given in 19:36.
19:34 - Zech 12:10; 13:1
A spear - a wooden lance over 1 meter long with in iron point on a long stem.
The action of piercing was commonly used to give final verification that the criminal was dead, but it could also have been one final act of cruelty by the soldiers. This act provides conclusive proof - Jesus is dead.
However, the act of piercing and the “blood and water” has deeper meaning than just to confirm Jesus’ death. After all the Evangelist had already told the reader that Jesus died even before his body was pierced. The Evangelist does not only declares the death of Jesus, he also explains it.
In order to grasp its meaning we need to read 1 John 5:6–8 - were blood and water testify, together with the Spirit.
The references to “blood” evoke the image of sacrifice, which in this case is directly connected to the Passover sacrifice. The image of blood, then, serves to declare Jesus as the Passover Lamb and therefore the fulfilment of the Passover.
The reference to “water” evokes the image of the Spirit who was directly connected to the death of Christ and the image of water in John 7:37–39.
The mixture of blood and water unites the purification of the blood with the power of the Spirit, creating a universal and eternal atonement for the sins of the world.
Thus, the Evangelist is not primarily giving proof of the death of Jesus, but proof of the life his death now offers to the world.
There is also a connection between the first Adam and the Second Adam. As Eve was shaped out of the side of the first Adam while he was asleep (Gen 2:21–22), so the new Eve, the Church, was born from the side of the new Adam while he was ‘asleep’.
The importance of 19:34 is emphasised by the inclusion of this verse. The Evangelist includes himself as the witness of what had just happened. He declares and is convinced that his testimony is “true”!
If we accept with the tradition that John the Apostle was the author of this Gospel, then we have two Johns bearing witness to Jesus as the Lamb of God, at the beginning of the Gospel - John the Baptist, and at the end of the Gospel - John the apostle.
The first John declares Jesus the Lamb of God who takes ways the sin of the world (1:29) and the second John sees the concrete fulfilment of that prophecy and testifies to its truth.
The purpose of this testimony is the reader’s faith - “that you also may believe” (cf. 20:30–31).
First, the statement indicates that the Evangelist already believes in that which he witnessed.
Second, he has firsthand experience - he saw what he speaks about. Thus, he is a reliable and competent witness.
Thus, the Christian message rests on the eyewitness account of the disciples, who were called and sent out for this purpose (cf. 15:27; 17:21).
After speaking about himself, the Evangelist shows how not breaking Jesus’ legs fulfils the Scripture. There are three passages closely related to what happened with Jesus’ body (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12 and Ps 34:20).
The fact that no bones were broken testifies to the fact that Jesus “according to the law of Passover” (Num 9:12) was the perfect Passover sacrifice.
On the other hand, the reference to Psalm 34:20 portrays Jesus as the righteous man under the protection of God the Father (Ps 34:20; cf. Luke 23:47).
The Evangelist refers to Zech 12:10.
By referring to this text, the Evangelist declares that the death of Jesus is (1) the prefect sacrifice (19:36) and (2) the perfect solution to the plight of the world (19:37; cf. Rev 1:7).
The one they “pierced” is the one whom they must look on for the sake of their salvation.
The third section of the pericope (19:38–42) records the burial of Jesus.
Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned by all four Evangelist (Mk 27:57; Mk 15:43; Luke 23:51).
It is worth mentioned that the bodies of criminals were often mistreated after the crucifixion (often left for the vultures). So securing Jesus’ body from Pilate was something commendable.
Little is known of this Joseph, but the Evangelist reveals an important thing about him - he was a secret disciple of Jesus, because he feared the Jews. The death of Jesus removed that fear. By this action Jospeh shows courage and openly declares himself a disciple of Jesus.
Some commentators wonder why Pilate agreed to give the body to him. Was Joseph a man of great influence or was Pilate convinced that Jesus was not guilty of the crime alleged against him?
If all four Evangelists mention Jospeh, only John mentions Nicodemus. The reader is reminded about his visit to Jesus in the night (3:1–2; cf. 7:50–51). It seems that the death of Jesus had also transforming effect of him.
“Myrrh” was commonly used for embalming the dead. It was used in Jewish burial to offset the unpleasant odour.
“Aloe” was a powdered perfume that created a pleasant fragrance.
A customary burial would involved washing the body, anointing it with oil, and/or placing spices (myrrh and aloe) with the wrappings placed around the body (19:40).
“About a hundred pounds”. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with perfume (12:3) she brought only one “pound”. If one pound of perfume was a lavish amount to be used all at once, how much more lavish was hundred pounds?
If Mary anointed Jesus with about one-year’s wages of perfume, did Nicodemus bring over a lifetime of wages (about a hundred-year’s wages!) to anoint Jesus crucified body? Whatever the explanation could be, it proves that Nicodemus was a man of great status and wealth. He offers so much to honour Jesus Christ.
In this last appearance of Nicodemus, he does not say anything anymore, but the fact that he stands beside Joseph - a secret disciple because of the fear of the Jews - speaks for itself. Coming again as “night” approaches, perhaps Nicodemus now knows what it means to be born again by means of death to oneself.
The corpse would be wrapped tightly with shrouds of cloth from head to toe, including the tight wrap around the head and face to keep the mouth closed (20:7).
The spices probably mixed together and applied to the body and/or spread on the lengths of linen cloth.
Now, the Evangelist directs the reader’s attention to the place of Jesus’ burial. Two pieces of information are being provided:
(1) there was a garden in the vicinity of the crucifixion; the entire passion and resurrection is connected by “a garden” (18:1; 20:15). In this way, there is also a connection to the first garden in Genesis (2:8–16).
(2) There was a new tomb in that garden. Some scholars point to a connection between gardens and Davidic kings, who were buried in a garden (cf. 2 Kings 21:18, 26). Thus, burying Jesus in a garden and offering him the lavish amount of spices (19:39) implicitly proclaimed that Jesus is the legitimate heir of David and the Messiah of Israel.
The fact that it was a new tomb indicates the uniqueness of Jesus - he is not a traditional king. Usually, the tombs were made for many members of one family (see Gen 49:29–31). Moreover, it has been the only tomb in the history of humanity that was needed for only three days! Jesus was the first person to walk out of a tomb on his own power.
The uniqueness of this tomb, then, was that it became the womb of life, the place where the dead body of Jesus took on a resurrected life.
The Evangelist ends by describing the relation between Jesus’ burial and the Jewish practice of the “day of preparation” (Friday), on the eve of the great Sabbath (19:31).
Who would thought that on that great Sabbath, Christ would proclaim the Gospel to Adam (1 Peter 3:18–20; 4:6).
Who would expect that “that place” becomes the witness to the victory of life over death.