31 Since it was the Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses over the Sabbath (because that Sabbath was a particularly important day). They asked Pilate to have the men’s legs broken and the bodies taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who was crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other man. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear. Immediately blood and water came out. 35 The one who saw it has testified, and his testimony is true. He knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. 36 Indeed, these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 Again another Scripture says, “They will look at the one they pierced.” 38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him remove Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave him permission, he came and took Jesus’ body away. 39 Nicodemus, who earlier had come to Jesus at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-two pounds. 40 They took Jesus’ body and bound it with linen strips along with the spices, in accord with Jewish burial customs. 41 There was a garden at the place where Jesus was crucified. And in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 So they laid Jesus there, because it was the Jewish Preparation Day, and the tomb was near.
During the week of the Passover celebration, the Passover Feast was celebrated on Thursday. Friday was known as Preparation Day. The purpose of this day was to make preparations so everything would be just right for the special Sabbath Day celebration that went from Friday evening until Saturday evening. One preparation that needed to be done was all the dead had to be buried before the Sabbath. Those who were being crucified sometimes hung on the cross for hours or even days before they died. So, in order to hasten death, the legs of the victim were sometimes broken. Without their legs to support their body weight the victims would quickly suffocate.
Everything had to be just right according to God’s plans also. When the Roman soldiers looked at Jesus on the cross, they saw that he was already dead. There was no need to break his legs. But, just to make sure he was dead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear. Blood and water came out from the wound. Some have tried to speculate on the significance of the blood and water. Others have questioned whether this is medically possible. Still others said this flow of blood and water means that Jesus’ heart was pierced by the spear. All this is speculation that only takes away from what is important in this account. Jesus, the Son of God was dead just as he promised. The events described in this text also fulfilled two prophecies in the Holy Scriptures. That Jesus’ bones were not broken was prophesied in Psalm 34:20. Zechariah 12:10 prophesied that “They will look at the one they pierced.” Everything about Jesus that Scripture promised was still happening even after he died.
Another prophecy that needed to be fulfilled were the word of Isaiah 53:9. “They would have assigned him a grave with the wicked, but he was given a grave with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence, and no deceit was in his mouth.” To carry out this prophecy, God chose two unlikely individuals. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus received permission from Pilate to remove Jesus’ body and to bury it. Both these men were members of the Jewish ruling council. Most of the Jewish Sanhedrin had worked together to see that Jesus was condemned to death. But Joseph and Nicodemus had no part in this. (See Luke 23:51) If no one had claimed Jesus’ body, it would have been thrown into a pit reserved for unclaimed victims who died by execution. Instead, Matthew 27:60 tells us that Joseph laid Jesus’ body in his own new tomb that was cut in the rock. Only those who were wealthy to afford the expense of such a tomb. This was Joseph’s gift of love to his Savior.
Nicodemus contributed a mixture of spices to Jesus’ burial. Jewish burial customs at the time called for the body to be wrapped in strips of linen cloth along with the spices. From the Gospels we learn that some of the women who followed Jesus also witnessed his burial. There was no time for them to do anything more before the start of the Sabbath. They would wait until the day after to the Sabbath go to the tomb and anoint the body of Jesus with spices and perfumes.
We also learn from Matthew 27:62-66 that the leaders of the Jews were afraid of Jesus’ promise that he would rise again on the third day. They feared that Jesus’ disciples would steal his body and claim he had risen. They petitioned Pilate to make the tomb secure until after the third day. In response, a large stone was put in front of the tomb. The tomb was carefully sealed, and a guard was posted. Sinful human beings did their best to keep Jesus in the tomb. But nothing could hinder God from carrying out the completion of his plan of our salvation. Everything happened to this point exactly as God planned. Jesus was dead and buried. The stage was now set for his glorious resurrection.
1 – Why did the Jews want the bodies of the crucified men to be removed from the crosses before the day was over?
The celebration of the Passover Sabbath began that evening. In preparation for this special day bodies of all the dead needed to be buried before the Sabbath began.
2 – Breaking the legs of those hanging on the cross was meant to hasten their death. Why was it important that Jesus’ legs were not broken but instead that they pierced his side with a spear?
That Jesus’ legs were not broken fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 34:20 which said, “He watches over all his bones; not one of them will be broken.” Jesus’ side being pierced fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10. “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace, who pleads for mercy. Then they will look at me, the one they have pierced.”
3 – Nicodemus assisted Joseph in the burial of Jesus. How had Nicodemus grown in faith since we first met him in John 3?
In John 3, Nicodemus had to come to Jesus secretly at night. Now he openly confessed his love for Jesus as he brought spices to carry out the Jewish burial customs.
4 – Looking back on Jesus’ suffering and death in John 19 what do we learn about our Lord’s love for us?
The Son of God willingly gave himself over to suffering and death while carrying the guilt of our sins. In doing so Jesus won the forgiveness of all our sins. He allowed himself to be placed in the grave so that he could also defeat death for us. Jesus did all this because he loves us, and he wants us to have eternal life with him in heaven.
If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to