John 19:30-37

Sermon preached on April 30, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When someone dies, you can usually tell that they are dead. There's such a difference between life and death that it's sometimes immediately obvious that someone is dead. I had an acquaintance who fell asleep while he was driving. He went off the road and hit a tree. As soon as the accident happened he woke up. His girlfriend was in the car with him and he said as soon as he saw his girlfriend he knew she was dead. One look was all it took. She had been killed instantly.

I wasn't with my brother when he died. I was on an errand getting him a some medical equipment to help him breathe comfortably. He died about 15 minutes after I left him. After he died it took me another 15 minutes to get back to his house. As soon as I saw him I knew he was gone. You could tell. It was obvious. Before I left you could hear his loud breathing. When I returned it wasn't just the silence that told of his death—you could tell that his spirit had left his body. There was a huge change in him between the time I left him and the time I returned.

But other times it's not so obvious if someone has died. There have been cases where even medical people have thought that someone had died and later they've found that the person wasn't dead. In 2014 there was an article in the UK newspaper
The Guardian by Carla Valentine, who is an anatomical pathology technologist (or mortuary technician). The title of her article was, Why Waking Up In A Morgue Isn't Quite As Unusual As You'd Think. That's a freaky title. She said it has never happened to her but she related three recent cases where people woke up in the morgue—one in Poland, one in Kenya and one in Mississippi. The one in Poland involved a 91 year old woman, the one in Kenya a 24 year old man and the one in Mississipi a 78 year old man. In two of the three cases she gave reasons why the medical people were fooled. For example, the 24 year old was poisoned by insecticide. To help him doctors gave him a medicine (atropine) which slows the heart. That's why they weren't ablo to get a pulse. But none of the three had really died—it's just that their pulse and breathing was not easily detected.

Unfortunately one of the false narratives around Jesus' death is that He never really died. The suggestion was that he was like those people who woke up in the morgue. One of the first people to put this forward was German Karl Friedrich Bahrdt. Around 1780 he suggested that Jesus deliberately feigned his death, using drugs provided by the physician Luke. Bahrdt said that after Jesus was taken down from the cross He was resuscitated by Joseph of Arimathea. Bahrdt suggested Jesus and Luke did it to get Israel to abandon the idea of a political messiah. Around 1800, Karl Venturini suggested that Jesus didn't really die on the cross. He said that after Jesus was buried he regained consciousness up in the tomb. Some of Jesus' supporters were near the tomb and they heard groaning coming from inside the tomb. According to Venturini these disciples frightened away the guards, rolled the stone away and rescued Jesus. A third theory is similar. Jesus didn't die on the cross. He woke up in the tomb. Even after the ordeal on the cross, He was strong enough to push the stone away from the entrance, overpower or frighten away the Roman guards and find His way to His discriples. The idea was that Jesus didn't really die on the cross. People only thought He was dead.

In opposition to all such ideas, our text emphasizes the fact that

Jesus really died.

It makes it clear that Jesus was dead. There was no mistake about it. The Jewish leaders didn't want Jesus' body to be on the cross for the Sabbath. The Sabbath began at dusk. They didn't know that He was already dead, so they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. But when the soldiers came to Jesus they found that He was already dead. Therefore they did not break His legs. But to confirm that He was really dead one of the soldiers used a spear and thrust it into Jesus' side. If Jesus was still alive, He would have reacted to the spear or there would have been other signs of life. But as it was, it confirmed that He was dead. It also showed that His body was real and that His death was real. Donald MacLeod writes, (Christ Crucified, p. 55)

"the blood and water were clear proof that the body of Jesus was not, as the Docetists claimed, a mere appearance or phantom. It was a real body, and his death was a real death."

Those other theories are preposterous and find no support in Scripture. Luke drugging Jesus with just the right amount of drugs—just enough to make him appear dead but not enough to kill him? Was medicine that advanced 2000 years ago? Even if it was, why would they do it? To get Israel to abandon the idea of a political messiah? The Jews were already done with Jesus. They wanted Him dead. They shouted out,

"Crucify him."

Jesus dying was not going to stop any of them from seeking a political Messiah. They would just look for someone else. Indeed, even after He was raised from the dead Jesus' disciples were still looking for some sort of political kingdom. They asked Him, (Acts 1:6)

"Lord, are you at this time going

to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

The idea of a political messiah was not going to die with one individual. Many of the Jews kept believing it.

As far as the second theory, it is unlikely that anyone except the soldiers would hear Jesus groaning inside the tomb. Would these brutal combatants get scared and desert their post? Would the disciples be able to overpower them and rescue Jesus? It's all speculation and is contrary to the Biblical story.

Regarding the third theory, that after being crucified, Jesus revived in the tomb, rolled away the stone Himself and overpowered or frightened the Romans guards away—that is also mere speculation that has no support in any of the gospel accounts or secular history. All three of those theories are in opposition to the clear teaching of the Bible that Jesus actually died.

In fact, all four gospel emphatically declare that Jesus actually died.

The more I study the Bible the more I realize that it consists of truths that are tightly woven together—like a rope of many strands. The critics attack one strand of a truth and they think that they cast doubt on it. But in reality they haven't hurt the credibility of the Bible at all. The strand that attack hasn't been disproved. It hasn't even been harmed, let alone cut. It survives. Not only that, but that strand is so tightly woven among other truths and supported by them that the attacks of the critics are seen as unknowledgeable and superficial.

To make this evident let's look at some of the ways the gospels weave together this truth that Jesus really died.

First of all, the gospels make it clear that

Jesus's death was voluntary.

It was His mission. It was something He accomplished. Conisder what John tells us. In verse 30 we read that Jesus said,

" 'It is finished.'
With that, he bowed his head
and gave up his spirit."

Jesus gave up His Spirit. It was an active act on His part. Committing His spirit into the Father's hands shows that His body was going to die. He willingly gave up His life. His body and soul were separated at death. Jesus told one of the criminals who was crucified with Him that that day he would be with Him in Paradise. Jesus' Spirit went to heaven when He died. His body hung on the cross and was later buried. His body and soul were separated. Jesus really died.

Luke's gospel tells us that just before He died Jesus cried out in a loud voice and said, (Luke 23:46)

"Father, into your hands
I commit my spirit."

Then it says,

"When he had said this,
he breathed his last."

Jesus breathed His last and gave up His Spirit. This is significant. In John 10 Jesus made it clear that one of His great acts in our redemption was laying down His life on our behalf. Jesus said, (John 10:15,17–18)

"I lay down my life for the sheep…
The reason my Father loves me
is that I lay down my life—
only to take it up again.
No one takes it from me,
but I lay it down of my own accord.
I have authority to lay it down
and authority to take it up again.
This command
I received from my Father."

In commiting His spirit into the Father's hands, in breathing His last we see Jesus' great voluntarily sacrifice on our behalf. He laid down His life for us. We see this also in Jesus' words in Mark 10:45. He said,

"the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life
as a ransom for many."

Jesus came to give His life. It was His mission, His duty, the command His Father had given Him. It was what He came to do. In John 12 (verses 23-24, 27–28, 31–33) Jesus spoke about His mission. He said,

"The hour has come for
the Son of Man to be glorified.
I tell you the truth,
unless a kernel of wheat falls
to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed.
But if it dies,
it produces many seeds."

"Now my heart is troubled,
and what shall I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
No, it was for this very reason
I came to this hour.' "

" 'Now is the time for judgment
on this world;
now the prince of this world
will be driven out.
But I, when I am
lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men to myself.'
He said this to show the kind of death
he was going to die."

All four gospels make it clear that Jesus' death was something He came to accomplish. He came to lay down His life. It was His mission.

This act by Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah willingly going to His death. Isaiah 53:7 said about the Messiah,

"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth."

It was Jesus' mission to be led like a lamb to the slaughter. When they came to arrest Jesus, Jesus got up to meet them. Matthew's gospel tells us that in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Judas and the soldiers arrived, Jesus, (Matthew 26:45–46)

"returned to the disciples
and said to them,
'Are you still sleeping and resting?
Look, the hour is near,
and the Son of Man is betrayed
into the hands of sinners.
Rise, let us go!
Here comes my betrayer!' "

Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested. John's gospel tells us that when the soldiers came to Jesus, Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen, asked them who they wanted. When they told Him they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus told them who He was. At that they all drew back and fell to the ground. (John 19:184-6) Yet Jesus made no attempt to escape. His mission was to die.

Again, the Old Testament confirms that. Isaiah 53:12 says of the Messiah,

"because he poured out
his life unto death,
and was numbered
with the transgressors."

Isaiah 53:8 adds,

"For he was cut off
from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people
he was stricken."

He poured out His life unto death. He truly died. It was His mission.

Secondly, we see that

the glourious things that happened when Jesus died could only occur as a result of His death.

Mark's gospel's account of Jesus death mentions the curtain in the temple being torn in two from the top to the bottom. What was the significance of that? That curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. That curtain kept everyone out of the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies. The Most Holy Place was the place where God's presence was especially manifested. When Jesus died, it signaled that access to God's presence has been opened up for those in Jesus. We are all now priests. We have access to God, to His presence.

In the Old Testament only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and that only once a year, and he had to enter with blood, the blood from an animal that had been sacrificed. As we read in Hebrews 9:22,

"the law requires that nearly everything
be cleansed with blood,
and without the shedding of blood
there is no forgiveness."

In order to open the way to God for us, Jesus had to die. The context of Hebrews 9 makes it clear that the shedding of blood refers to death. Verse 26 says that Jesus,

"he has appeared once for all
at the end of the ages to do away
with sin by the sacrifice of himself."

Again, this shows us that the way to God's presence was only through death. Jesus had to die for the curtain to be torn in two.

Matthew tells of three great effects that occurred at the moment of Jesus' death. Like Mark he mentions the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. But he also tells us that the earth also shook and the rocks split. Also at that moment tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people were raised to life. They came out of the tombs and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Would any of those things happen with Jesus merely losing consciousness? What would be the significance of that? Our redemption was not tied to Jesus losing consciousness. It was tied to His death. It was His death that tore the curtain in the temple, that opened the way to God's presence for us. It was His death that opened the graves, that showed that by His death Jesus had defeated death. It was His death that caused the earth to shake—which was possibily a preview of the day when, (Romans 8:21)

"the creation itself will be liberated
from its bondage to decay
and brought into the glorious freedom
of the children of God."

Donald MacLeod writes, (
Christ Crucified, p. 55)

"The saving power of Jesus' ministry lay not in his teaching, nor in his example, nor in his influence, but in his dying. The Lamb had to be slain (John 1: 29; Rev. 5: 6), and John wants us to be in no doubt that he was slain. He has redeemed us from our sins 'by his blood'. For John, no less than for Paul, it is the death of Jesus that secures our salvation. We wash our robes in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14)."

Jesus really died. His death was His mission. His death accomplished wonderful and glorious things. If He had merely lost consciousness on the cross—none of those things would have happened.

Now what does all this mean for us?

First of all,

you should be assured that the curse of sin has been fully paid.

The wages of sin is death. Jesus paid that price. He took the curse that was due to your sins and paid for it. Donald Macleod says of Jesus, (A Faith to Live By, p. 151)

"on that cross He [Jesus] was dealt with as sin deserved." "On the cross Christ did all that was necessary for our salvation…"

In Acts 20:28 the apostle Paul spoke about,

"the church of God,
which he bought with his own blood."

He bought us. We belong to Him. The curse is gone. Donald Macleod writes, (p. 151)

"John Duncan said that the best expression of the gospel he had ever heard was the simple and unforgettable statement of a black American Christian: 'Either I die, or He die. He die, me no die.'"

Rejoice in Jesus. Rejoice in what He has done for you.


this means you should not fear death.

Death has been defeated. It has no hold on you. 1 Thessalonians 4 refers to the death of Christians as 'sleep'. Death is a temporary condition for our bodies. At death our souls go immediately to glory.

Don't fear death. Death has been defeated. There is glory in your future because Jesus died for you.

For non-Christians,

this shows you that you need Jesus.

The wages of sin is death, death in all it's fulness. You can't get into heaven by good works. You can't earn your way in. Your sin requires death. The only way you can escape it is by trusting in Jesus. He died for sinners, in their place. Go to Him and find life.