Today’s reading: John 19
Last weekend, I traveled to Florida to see my grandma. As always, our time together was precious and filled my heart with gladness…until I got to the airport to go home. I had chosen to fly a discount airline because it was a direct flight AND because it was $300 less than any other. I should have known better. I hate this airline.
On Sunday afternoon, I boarded the plane on time. Then I waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually I learned the fuel truck that was under the wing wouldn’t start. Nothing was wrong with the plane, but it took almost an hour for a tow truck to come pull the fuel truck out of the way. Did I mention this airline also boards their planes 60 minutes (not 30 minutes) in advance of the flight? I didn’t have enough time to get lunch. To say I was crabby is an understatement.
If you know me well, you know I prefer to keep to myself on flights. I like to read my book and ignore everyone around me. Because of the fuel truck debacle last Sunday, however, I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me. Her name was Sharon. Turned out she was as annoyed as I was, and we shared a few chuckles. The conversation went on. She shared that she had lost her husband five months ago. While she has been enjoying her new independence and the ability to travel more, she is still struggling through her grief. We talked about her three sons and how they take the time to call and check up on her every day. We talked about Jesus. She remembered back to 1970 when she and her husband gave their lives to him and never looked back. She smiled, knowing having Jesus by her side is the only way she’ll ever recover from this loss.
Why do I tell you this story (other than to warn you never to sit next to me on a plane)? When we got ready to get off the plane, Sharon looked at me and said, “Thanks for the conversation. You touched my life today.” I responded to our flight struggles in a way with which I’m ordinarily uncomfortable. Boy am I glad I spent time talking to Sharon instead of ignoring her and reading my book.
As I was studying John 19 this week, I thought about how Jesus’ life touched many people. His death, the subject of our text today, was no less impactful. The books of Mark, Luke and John identify several specific people whose lives were changed after coming into contact with Jesus. After his death, each of these men were compelled to respond in a way they had never been comfortable responding before:
- The criminal on the cross next to Jesus in Luke 23:39-43 – He recognized Jesus’ innocence and, for the very first time, confessed him as Lord. Jesus responded, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
- The Roman officer standing in front of Jesus when he died – When darkness came over the land and the curtain of the temple was torn in two, the Roman officer standing in front of Jesus proclaimed, “Truly this man was the son of God” (Mark 15:39). The Bible doesn’t specifically identify what happened to this officer, but I have to believe his life was changed forever.
- Joseph of Arimathea – A member of the Sanhedrin Council who was a secret follower of Jesus. Joseph asked Pilate if he could have Jesus’ body to bury it (John 19:38). He was now out in the open, and could no longer follow Jesus in secret.
- Nicodemus – A Pharisee who had only visited Jesus at night. When Pilate released Jesus’ body to Joseph, Nicodemus brought spices with which to help prepare Jesus’ body for burial. He was no longer able to secretly follow Jesus either.
What about you? How have you responded to Jesus’ death? As you ponder this question, may I remind you of its significance? Sin separates people from God. Until Jesus death, people were required to abide by a complicated system of sacrifices to atone for their sin. Do you remember how confusing the five different sacrifices we studied in Leviticus were (burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and trespass offering)? The instructions about what to do and when were very detailed, very confusing, and pretty disgusting. But they were necessary. These sacrifices were the only way people could pay for their sins.
As we read the account of Jesus crucifixion in John 19, may I draw your attention to the final moment of death in verse 30? Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Not only did this statement signify the death of Jesus’ earthly body, it also signified the start of God’s new covenant with man. The shedding of Jesus’ blood became the final sacrifice to atone for our sin. If we put our faith in Jesus Christ and accept him as our Lord and Savior, our sin is no longer a barrier between us and God.
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
As you prepare to celebrate Easter in two weeks, would spend time contemplating your response to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection? Does it compel you to respond in a way you’ve never been comfortable responding before? Are you using your response to impact the lives of other people?