September 25th, Day #38 - John 19:31-42

start here

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. – John 19:33-34

Let this settle for a minute. 

“Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon His shoulders. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.” 

Jesus came and truly gave His life to pay for our sins. Allow the reality of this moment to sink down deeper into your soul.

game on

Read John 19:31-42

A few years ago, I was summoned for jury duty and was selected to hear a case involving a claim against an insurance company. There were three days of dramatic testimony with paid expert witnesses – all over a remarkably small amount of money. The story just didn’t add up. So, while the jury sympathized with the young woman, our doubts compelled us to vote in favor of the defendant.

John is now making the huge claim that Jesus really did die. Does his story add up? As evidence, he offers you his eyewitness testimony. He also offers three compelling proofs.

•    There was no need to break Jesus’ legs to accelerate death. A spear thrust into his side would verify he was dead - finish the job. The mixture of watery fluids and blood confirmed His death.

•    Second, John explains that the soldiers’ actions fulfilled two ancient prophecies written about Jesus: Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10.

•    Finally, Jesus was buried in a new and empty tomb. With nothing to gain and everything to lose, two prominent and formerly secret followers of Jesus publicly laid his body there.

As you consider John’s evidence for Jesus’ death, what’s your verdict?

your move

Let’s look to what God wants to say directly to you today through John 19:31-42.

Scripture: Write down any verses or words that impacted you on your journey through these verses.

Observation: What do you notice specifically about Jesus’ body on the cross and after being taken down?

Application: Look what care and attention the soldiers and Jesus’ followers give to Him once He is dead. How would you have cared for Jesus in that moment? What care and attention might God be calling you to give Jesus right now?

Prayer: Use the current passage to help you look upon the broken body of Jesus. Write out a letter to Him, telling Jesus what His death for your life means to you.

bonus round

Many of us know Jesus was killed and buried. What exactly did that look like though? Taking a closer glance at the details can give us some more insights into the powerful things taking place then! 


While most of the events recorded by John at the cross are uniquely Johannine, in the burial story he returns to materials shared by the other Gospels (Matt. 27:57- 61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56). Each of the evangelists confirms that a man named Joseph asks Pilate for the body of Jesus. Building a composite picture, the Gospels add that he is wealthy (Matt. 27:57) and a member of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50), which made him a resident of Jerusalem. This explains why he would have a tomb just outside the city.

Originally Joseph was from "Arimathea," but archaeologists have not been successful locating this village. The best suggestions are Ramah (Ramathaim-zophim) or Ramallah in Judea north of Jerusalem. Ramah played an important role in Samuel's life (1 Sam. 1:1, 19; 2:11; 7:17) and therefore was a city of strong Jewish tradition. Luke refers to Arimathea as a "Judean town" (Luke 23:50). He also notes that Joseph was a courageous man who was looking for the kingdom of God and that he did not concur with the prosecution of Jesus (23:51).

John includes few of these details, but adds that Joseph is one of Jesus' disciples (19:38; cf. Matt. 27:57) and that he comes secretly because he fears the Sanhedrin leadership. This may be explained by his disagreement with the Sanhedrin's prosecution of Jesus (Luke 23:51). John's description of him, however, may be critical, given what he says in John 12:42-43 about secret followers of Jesus among these authorities, who out of fear refused to give a public witness, "for they loved praise from men more than praise from God."

Nicodemus (19:39) is another member of the Sanhedrin (7:50; see also 3:1-10), and he joins Joseph. John's portrait may sound critical, but Joseph and Nicodemus redeem their images since in this final deed they make a public gesture that holds risk. The Sanhedrin understood that the bodies had to be buried before sundown (19:31), and they would have put Jesus' body in a common grave outside the city walls (Josephus, Ant. 5. 1.14[44]). Joseph risks ceremonial uncleanness from touching a dead body (thus prohibiting him from all festival ceremonies), not to mention challenges to his political and religious career. To place Jesus in a tomb of prestige implies some endorsement, some honor to this man the council has deemed a criminal.

Together these men bury Jesus in a garden tomb that has never been used before (19:41), near the site of crucifixion (19:42). John says that this takes place "in accordance with Jewish burial customs" (19:40b). In the first century, bodies were prepared for burial by wrapping them tightly with cloth and spices. The powdered spice would either be fitted among the cloth wrappings or packed beneath the body. Coins were often placed on the eyes and a napkin covered the face (20:7).

Nicodemus brings a considerable number of burial spices. Myrrh was an embalming powder commonly used in Egypt; aloe was a fragrant powdered sandalwood used generally as a perfume. The weight of these two spices is about seventy-five pounds. This is a remarkable amount and is reminiscent of the excessive wine in Cana (2: 1-10) that marked Jesus' first public appearance. At Herod the Great's death, hundreds of servants carried spices (Josephus, Ant. 17:9.8 [199]), and when Gamaliel the Elder died in the first century, eighty pounds of spices were burned. Such spices are a signal of Jesus' honor. We should recall too that Mary has already symbolically anointed Jesus for burial in Bethany (12:1-8). In the Synoptic tradition, the women at the cross come to anoint Jesus on Sunday (Mark 16:1), no doubt not realizing what Josephus and Nicodemus have done.

First-century Jews carved cave tombs in the limestone hills surrounding Jerusalem's walls. The type of tomb described in the Gospels for Jesus was typically characterized by the following elements: (1) A rolling stone. The door of the tomb was a heavy, wheel-shaped stone anywhere from four to six feet tall which was placed in a shallow trough and held upright by a short wall on either side of the tomb opening. Rolling stones could be opened again for ongoing use but required great strength-thus the women's anxiety about finding assistance (Mark 16:3) and about breaking the Roman guard and seal (Matt. 27:65-66). In the Synoptics, an earthquake rolls open Jesus' tomb (Matt. 28:2).

(2) A burial chamber. Upon entering the tomb, one entered a square preparation room, encircled by a stone bench running along the room's perimeter. Here the body was laid and prepared for burial. When the Synoptics say that "Jesus was laid in his own new tomb" (Matt. 27:60), they refer to this bench. Note in John 20:5 Jesus' burial clothes are discovered laying here, rolled up on one side.

(3) Burial niches (or kokhim ). The prepared body was then slipped into a small, six-foot tunnel (height about 24 inches) that was carved in the wall, usually above the bench (or in another chamber where these niches would be cut). Here the body would rest until it decomposed.

(4) Bone boxes (or ossuaries). After decomposition, the bones would be gathered into a decorated limestone "bone box" and kept on the tomb floor. These tombs were costly and generally contained numerous niches and ossuaries. "Family tombs" were common. When John notes that Jesus is placed in a "new" tomb, this means that there are no ossuaries and no used burial niches. He is the first laid in a newly cut kokh.


*This resource is an excerpt from The NIV Application Commentary on John by Gary Burge (Zondervan, 2000), pages 534-536