Nick TapiaMr. SitlerNew TestamentMay 21, 2004 John 19:31-37 ExegesisThe Gospel according to John is shrouded in mystery. Out of the fourGospels, John clearly stands out. The text is very symbolic, havingseveral tiers of meanings. John is also unique; 90% of John appearsnowhere else in the Bible.
For example, the piercing of Jesus’ side canonly be found in John 19:31-37. Since the story of the piercing is onlytold once, it is worth looking at twice. To understand the Gospel of John, one must understand the time fromwhich the text comes from. John is believed to have been written between90 and 100 CE by the Johannine community.
The Johannine community was agroup of people who followed the teachings of John. The Gospel of John waswritten to express how they felt towards the Messiah. The Johanninecommunity lived in a time of unrest and uncertainty. The Romans hadoccupied Israel for many decades and many Jews were awaiting the coming ofthe great judge who would put things right. After Jesus’ death, someJewish-Christians believed Jesus was the Messiah and that he would returnand make dark into light.Order now
However, by the time John was written, theJohannines believed that Jesus never left, that he is everywhere. Sincethe Johannine community was not waiting for the second coming, they wouldlive their lives how Jesus taught. Not only is the content of John dissimilar from other Biblical text,the form is likewise. In the synoptic Gospels, the story of Christ is toldthrough theological reasoning.
John explains the theology of Christthrough historical events. Theology is Tapia 2obviously John’s focus throughout the Gospel. The Gospel according to Johncan be read and appreciated for its literal text, this is true. However,the author(s) of John intended the reader to not only enjoy the story, butto consider the multiple meanings. Planted everywhere in John, thesedouble meanings allow the reader to think for him or herself about whatJesus was really teaching.
The symbolism captivates the reader and assistsin conveying the point of the Gospel. When reading the “passion”(“passion” because there was no suffering) in John, it is blatantlyapparent that John’s Jesus is the Passover lamb for mankind. John 19:31-37comes after the death of Jesus on the cross and before the burial. Inevery Gospel, there is a soldier to witness the death of Jesus but John’saccount is very different. The day Jesus died was the day of Preparation.
The Jews had toprepare for the next day, which was Passover. Since a very special Sabbathwas near, the Jewish authorities wanted to follow the law to the letter. It is written in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 “22If a man guilty of a capitaloffense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, 23you must notleave his body on the tree overnight. .
. “. The Jews went to Pilate andasked if the bodies could be taken down. John never writes how Pilateresponds but instead continues by writing that the soldiers take action. It is questionable whether all this action took place on Golgotha or not. It is not written that the Jews go to Pilate or that Pilate sends soldiersto the hill.
The Jews just ask Pilate to break the legs of the three andthe soldiers just break the two on Jesus’ left and right. It isinteresting that the soldiers go to the two on the side first and leaveJesus for last (Brown 1176). This works for the suspense and drama of thestory, building up to the piercing. When the soldiers finally make it toJesus they find him dead. Since he appears to be dead, they do not breakhis legs. It makes sense that the soldiers would not want to exert energyinto beating a dead Tapia 3horse, but fact that Jesus’ legs are not broken fulfill prophecy.
InNumbers 9:12 it is written about the Passover lamb “They must not leave anyof it till morning or break any of its bones. ” Since John’s main symbol isJesus as the sacrificial Passover lamb, it is made sure that none of Jesus’bones are broken. It is also written in Psalms 34:19-20 “19A righteous manmay have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; 20heprotects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. “But the soldiers had to make sure he was dead.
A soldier decided todrive a spear into his side to see if a living body would respond. Thepiercing of Jesus also fulfills scripture. In Zechariah 12:10 it iswritten “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants ofJerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, theone they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for anonly child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstbornson. ” Jesus becomes the pierced one that will pour out salvation and hispeople will mourn for what they have done.
Seemingly before the soldier can pull the spear out of Jesus’ side, asudden flow of blood and water springs from the wound. This is an imageloaded with meaning. One connection can be made to Hellenistic symbolism. John may have had Jesus release blood and water from his body because”there was an old Homeric legend that the gods had in their veins a type ofblood mixed with water” (Brown 1179). This probably did not play a largerole in the reasoning of including this verse, but it link to a belief ofthe era of the Gospel’s inception. The strongest message is the symbolismof water and blood.
Water is used for cleansing of the spirit such as inbaptism. The water reveals that Jesus’ death will wash away man’s sins andpurify its collective spirit. The blood can be linked to wine. Earlier inJohn, Jesus declares that he it the “true vine”.
From his wine will comesalvation. One cannot forget that like the Passover lamb, Jesus must alsoshed Tapia 4his blood. Also, water represents life and blood represents death. Withthe combination of the two, one can see that although Jesus died, a new agehas been born. The next verse is interesting. It is written in John 19:35 “The manwho saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.
He knows thathe tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. ” Thissomewhat redundant verse is placed in the text to stress the importantevent that precedes it. It is possible that the unnamed man was thebeloved disciple that was with Jesus at his death. At the time John waswritten, there was much skepticism concerning the death of Jesus. Some didnot even believe that Jesus died on the cross.
This verse seems to thwartthe spread of any doubt about the death of Christ. The next two verses serve to inform the reader, who may not knowHebrew scripture, that the unbroken bones and the piercing of his sidefulfill scripture. It strengthens the idea of Jesus being the Passoverlamb, which is very important to the message of John. John 19:31-37 is a very important part of Jesus’ death in John. Andof course, the death of Jesus is the climax of John, as it is with theother Gospels.
This passage is the first passage after Jesus’ death. Itis integral to the understanding of his death and his teachings. It is thelast comparison of Jesus to the Passover lamb and reveals the through deathcomes life. People of today must keep in mind that Jesus did not come toearth to just die but to bring new life through his death and to save allpeople who believe in him. Tapia 5 Works CitedBrown, Raymond Edward. The Death of the Messiah.
New York: BantamDoubleday, 1994.