Pierced Side

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 

But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

John 19:31-37

So much was happening in the moment the soldier pierced Jesus’s side that we need to slow down to take it all in. There are so many layers of meaning here that are easy to miss.

First, we need to remember that when Jesus had finished all He came to accomplish, “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus gave His life, no one took it from Him. The other two men who had been crucified with Jesus had not died. Their legs had to be broken to speed up the process of suffocation. With broken legs, they couldn’t push up on the spike that went through their feet. Pushing up would have allowed their lungs some space to breathe. With broken legs, their suffocation would begin quickly.

In this way, we see Jesus fulfill Old Testament prophecies about himself. The first prophecy, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” is about how to prepare the Passover lamb without a braking any of its bones (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12). This foreshadowed what would happen to Jesus on the cross. The second word fulfilled, They will look on the one they have pierced,” was from the prophet Zechariah about Jesus’s side being pierced (Zechariah 12:10).

But there is even more happening here than fulfilled prophecy. They pierced Jesus’s side to make sure He was dead. If they saw both blood and water, they knew He had already died. But this blood and water meant so much more than that. Blood and water came from His side. This is important because Jesus had become the second Adam (Romans 5:12-21). When God made Eve, He put Adam to sleep and pulled a rib from his side (Genesis 2:21-22). As the second Adam, Jesus was put to sleep and God birthed the Church, the Bride of Christ, from Jesus’s side. Blood and water is what is released when there is a birth. As Jesus’s side is pierced, we see the blood and water flow from the birthing of the Church.

Blood and water was not only found at a birthing but also in the purification rites of the Temple priests. Priests would enter the Holy Place by first cleansing themselves with the blood of sacrifices and by washing with water in the wash basins. Blood washed them clean from sin. Water washed them clean from “uncleanness.” Sin was a wrong action they had done. Uncleanness/unrighteousness was just the contamination they experienced from living in a broken world. Blood took care of one and water took care of another. Once they were cleansed, they could enter the Holy Place. And the high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement, could enter the Most Holy Place.

The blood and water from Jesus’s side represented Jesus’s own cleansing as He became our High Priest, entering the Most Holy Place of the tomb on the ultimate Day of Atonement, to take away the sins of the world. Not only that, but this blood and water from Jesus’s side allows us to be forgiven of our sin and cleansed from our unrighteousness. The blood deals with our sin. The water deals with our uncleanness/unrighteousness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

So there Jesus hung, dead on the cross, blood and water flowing from His side. But as we picture Him hanging there, do we see the fullness of what was happening? Look again. Do you see that this was a new Passover Lamb, His blood on the horizontal and vertical beams of the cross instead of a doorframe, not a single bone broken? Do you see that this was a new Day of Atonement, our new High Priest purified with blood and water, so that we could be purified and cleansed by His blood and water? Do you see that this was a new Garden of Eden with the Second Adam painfully giving birth to the Church, the Bride of Christ?

All of this was happening in a moment. All of these Old Testament promises and types were fulfilled in a moment. Layer upon layer upon layer of meaning, flowing from our Savior’s side! All of this was because of His love for you and me. Thank you Jesus!

Mediation

So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?”

1 Samuel 2:23-25

Eli had his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, ministering with him as priests. But these two sons were engaged in the two most notorious scandals a minister can be involved in. They were stealing from the offerings people were giving to the Lord and they were sleeping with women who were serving at the place of sacrifice. Money scandals and sex scandals have long been tabloid fodder for people in positions of power.

Eli finally confronts his sons and, even though they don’t listen, Eli’s confrontation is a foreshadow of Christ. It is one thing to ask God or a judge to mediate conflict between two people. But who mediates the conflict when we’ve sinned against God? God has become the one who has been sinned against and the only one who has enough authority to mediate between Himself and other. The implication here from Eli is that there is no one to intercede for us if we sin against God and so a guilty verdict will surely be the result.

The beauty of the gospel is that God saw this reality and decided to do something about it on our behalf. He loves us so much He couldn’t leave things this way. So He sent Jesus–God in the flesh–to become the mediator between us and God. Jesus took our guilty verdict upon Himself and in turn gave us the inheritance that was His alone. He took upon Himself what only we deserved and then gave us what only He deserved. He identified with the consequence of our sin–the crucifixion, death, and burial–and then gave us the opportunity not only to identify with Him in the resurrection–giving us new life–but also the chance to be seated with Him in the heavenly places–allowing us to reign with Him–receiving His inheritance and authority.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus…

1 Timothy 2:5

…Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:5

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 6:3-4

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…

Ephesians 2:4-6

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God…The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:14, 16-17

Can you see that the Mediator Jesus did not come to make sure both sides, us and God, got a fair deal? What Jesus got was not fair. It was sacrifice. What we got was not fair. It was grace. Justice was satisfied as our sin was paid for, but the gospel goes way beyond justice. Because of His great love for us, God put all of His chips on the table. He went all in to bring about our reconciliation to Him.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

This is why we call it good news! In moments where I am just quietly driving and reflecting on the goodness of God, there are times when the absolute beauty of the gospel hits me. I become overwhelmed with the grace and kindness of the Father. I become undone by the reality that God gave me what only Jesus deserved because Jesus took upon Himself what only I deserved. The weight of the love involved in that exchanged becomes so real that I break down crying in the car.

This is the gospel! We don’t earn it with good works or religious duties. We simply believe it. We believe and trust in what Jesus did for us, and it changes everything!

Jesus, thank you for this beautiful exchange! I don’t deserve all that You’ve given me, but I receive it by faith. I surrender my life to you, Jesus, and I invite the Holy Spirit to come and change me from the inside out. Your love for me is overwhelming! Your grace toward me is life-changing! Help me to live from that place of being seated with you at the right hand of the Father. My life is Yours! Amen.

Making a Mockery

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

Matthew 26:66-68

When Jesus was arrested and on trial, they made all kinds of false accusations about Him. But noticed how they mock Him. In each case of mocking, the irony is the element of truth that they don’t understand and can’t see. Here they mocked Jesus as a prophet with the ability to prophesy, yet Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen. Jesus had already talked to the Father about it in the Garden of Gethsemane. But the mocking would continue.

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Matthew 27:28-31

At His trial, the Jewish leaders mocked Him as a prophet. Here soldiers mock Jesus as a king. They dress Him in mock royal garb as they abused Him and beat Him. Again, the irony is the truth that they can’t see. This was the King of Kings that they were mocking. And the mocking would continue.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 

Matthew 27:39-43

After Jesus is crucified and hanging on the cross, people walking by and the religious leaders mock Him. There are two things that are getting mocked here. The first is the claim that Jesus is the Son of God. The second is about His priestly role and His relationship with the Temple. As the Son of God He went around healing many people, but here He wasn’t willing to heal Himself. He is Savior of the world, but here He wasn’t willing to save Himself.

The mockers didn’t know the irony of what they were saying. By not coming down from the cross Jesus was proving Himself to be the Son of God who lives in perfect obedience to the Father. By not saving Himself, He was saving the world. Jesus did trust His Father and Father God would rescue Him, but not from the cross. Soon Jesus would be totally victorious over death and the grave.

They mocked Him for not destroying the temple, but they didn’t know they were watching the temple be destroyed (His body) right before their eyes. They mocked Him for not rebuilding the temple in three days, but that is exactly what was about to happen in three days when Jesus walked out of the tomb.

All of this exposes the irony of the mockery that Jesus endured. People only mocked because they couldn’t see the truth that was right in front of them. This is often the case with those who mock Christians and Christianity today. Mockery comes from the prideful assumption that a person has the full grasp of the truth. But we see here that those who were mocking were blind to the full truth of what was right in front of them.

Being mocked by those who only see a sliver of truth is and has always been a normal part of a life of following Jesus. If we are stepping out in faith to do what Jesus asks us to do, we will likely be mocked. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. If the world mocked Jesus, they will mock His followers. If we aren’t doing anything for Jesus that opens us up to mocking attacks, we likely are settling for a nominal kind of Christian life. Mocking is one of the languages of the enemy.

From Heaven To Earth

Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that when they were saved by grace something happened that is mind-boggling. He writes, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”(Ephesians 2:6).

What does this mean?

The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ was not just an event in human history, it was an eternal event. In other words, while things were unfolding within the bounds of time (the crucifixion, burial, and ascension of Jesus) there were other things happening outside the bounds of time in the realm of the spirit. Jesus didn’t just pay for the sins that had been committed up to that point, He paid for all the sin of humanity for all time⏤past, present and future. It was an eternal moment.

Paul tries to explain this to the Roman Christians:

“…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him…”

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 6:3-6, 8, 11

So when we surrender our life to Jesus, it is as if our old self was there with Christ being crucified with him and being buried with Him. Likewise, we are raised to new life with Him just as Jesus resurrected out of that tomb.

But our journey with Jesus wasn’t done. Not only were Jesus’s death and resurrection eternal events but so was His ascension. Remember what Paul already wrote to the Ephesians about God the Father and Jesus’s ascension, “…he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come”(Ephesians 1:20-21).

So where is Jesus’s residence right now? He’s seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realms far above all other human and demonic powers, far above any other name to which people pray. And He will be there not only now but for eternity.

Paul then drops the bomb on us and says that God has “seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”(Ephesians 2:6). Just as we were somehow with Christ in His death and resurrection, we are now with Him as He sits with the Father in the heavenly realms.

Because we were with Christ on the cross, we don’t live hoping our sin was dealt with, we live knowing our sin was death with once and for all. Because we were with Christ when He rose from the grave, we don’t live hoping for new life one day, we live knowing we’ve been given new life today. In the same way, because we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, we don’t live hoping we get into heaven in the future, we live from heaven to earth today!

Living from heaven to earth means that heavenly things are now natural to us and earthly things have become unnatural. Having the mind of Christ, thinking from God’s perspective, has now become natural. By “natural” I mean “that which alines with our new nature.” Sin feels abnormal. It’s not who we are anymore. Operating in the authority of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit has become natural. Fear feels unnatural. Resentment feels like an old coat that no longer fits and smells bad. Forgiveness, however, has the feel of when a ball hits a bat right on the sweet spot.

Paul articulates this well to the Colossian Christians:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 

Colossians 3:1-3