The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

My Notes on John 19:28-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 27, 2012

Joh 19:28  Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.
Joh 19:29  Now there was a vessel set there, full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar about hyssop, put it to his mouth.
Joh 19:30  Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.

28.  Afterwards.  This scene is thus closely connected with the preceding one (John 19:25-27).  The enigmatic words of Christ to His mother at Cana have been fulfilled.  Jesus has “loved His own” “to the end” (13:1), a fact bought out by the gift of His Mother to His disciple(s), who must receive her “into their own.”

Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished. Jesus knows that the end of His earthly life has come; and the “work” His Father gave Him to do on earth has come to completion (“were now accomplished).  Obviously, one cannot so interpret this as meaning that the entire work of  redemption and salvation has been brought to a close, for this would mean no redeeming or saving value could be attached to the Resurrection or the entrance into the Heavenly Tabernacle, etc.  Only by passing through the Heavenly Tabernacle with His blood has Christ achieved “eternal redemption” (Heb 9:11-12).

Our Lord had defined the salvific will of the Father and the work He had given the Son to accomplish as His “food” (John 4:34).  It was for this reason that He came down from heaven (John 6:32-33), and became flesh (John 1:14) with which he nourishes us to salvation (John6:54-59).

That the Scripture might be fulfilled said, ‘I thirst’. Jesus Desires to  drink to the bitter dregs the cup His Father has given to Him (John 18:11).  Only by assuaging His own thirst for our salvation can he give us the drink that will assuage ours (John 4:10-14).

Cornelius a Lapide: “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. After about three hours. It was at the beginning of the crucifixion that He commended His mother to S. John. The scripture was Ps 69:22. He said this that He might suffer the further torment of being offered the vinegar. As S. Augustine says, ‘Ye have not yet done this. Give Me that which ye are yourselves—for ye are full of acidity and bitterness; give Me vinegar, and not wine.’

“Christ thirsted, because He had neither eaten nor drunken since His supper the night before, and He had moreover poured forth all the moisture and blood in His body, by His scourging and crucifixion. And His most bitter pains also caused Him great thirst; for, as S. Cyril says, “Sorrows enkindle the heat within us, dry up our moisture from its very depths, and burn us up with fiery heat.” Hence our jaws are dried up, and are parched with thirst. The words of the Psalmist (Ps 22:6) were fulfilled in Christ’s person. The Chancellor of Louvain, when he was dying forty years ago, said in my presence, that he never fully understood those words, as he did when he was himself suffering from like drought and thirst, and thence learned how great the thirst of Christ was. Mystically, Christ thirsted for the salvation of souls. See Bellarmine on “The seven words of Christ on the cross.” “God thirsteth to be thirsted for,” says Nazianzen in Tetrastichisis, in order that we may insatiably love and desire Him, and say with the Psalmist, “My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?” Ps 42:2.”

29.  Now there was a vessel set there, full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar about (i.e., onto) hyssop, put it to his mouth.  Hyssop is a fernlike plant with very delicate branches, rather impractical for the purpose for which it is here being used.  The oddity highlights the fulfillment of Scripture mentioned in the previous verse.  John is here alluding to the Septuagint version of Psalm 68:22 (69:22 in modern bibles): “In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”  This Psalm was also quoted in (John 2:17 (Ps 68:10), and in John 15:25 (Ps 68:4).

Hyssop also may be an allusion to Exodus 12:22-23.

Joh 19:30  Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.

Cornelius a Lapide: “All the suffering, and all the mysteries which the Father decreed from all eternity that I should suffer and carry out, as He ordered from My very birth, and willed, moreover, that the prophets should foretell concerning Me. There remains only the final issue of death, to complete My course of suffering, to expiate thereby the penalty of death, which Adam incurred by sin, and to restore mankind to life. I therefore embrace it, and resign My spirit into the hands of My Father. (Matt 27:48, seq.)”

It is consummated.  Forms an inclusio with verse 28.  Often interpreted in reference to the work of redemption, but this is quite impossible, as previously mentioned.

He gave up the ghost. A poor translation, shared by the KJV.  More modern translations sometimes translate “He gave up his spirit”, but this too is poor.  The Greek reads: “He delivered (or handed down) the Spirit” (καὶ κλίνας τὴν κεφαλὴν παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα).

Father Francis J. Moloney: “‘He bowed his head and paredoken to pneuma‘ (v. 30b).  At the celebration of Tabernacles the narrator had remarked that the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not  yet glorified (John 7:39).  Now the Spirit is poured out.  If the seamless robe was a symbol of the community of disciples and the gift of the Mother to Son and Son to Mother foreshadowed the unity of faith, faith that is the ekklesia of God (cf. Hoskyns, Gospel 530), then it is upon the nascent community that the Spirit is poured.  The words of the narrator are not a euphemism for death.  The text does not say that Jesus ‘gave up his spirit’ (cf. RSV, NRSV, JB, NJB, CEI.  See, by way of contrast, Mark 15:37: exepneusen [par. Luke 23:46]; Matt 27:50: apheken to pneuma).  The verb used has the primary meaning of ‘to hand over, to deliver, to entrust’ (BAGD 614), and the definite article used indicates ‘the Spirit’.  In bringing to perfection the task the Father had given him Jesus hands over, entrusts, the Spirit to his new family gathered at the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27).” (Quoted from pages 504-505 of his commentary THE GOSPEL OF JOHN in the Sacra Pagina Commentary Series).

A possible problem to the above interpretation is that in John 20:22 Jesus breathes on the Apostles and tells them to “receive the Holy Spirit.”  Father Moloney (if I understand his comments on John 20:22 correctly) sees this as a specific gift oriented towards mission, whereas he sees the giving of the spirit at the cross as a gift to foster unity.  Needless to say, the two are intimately connected.

Joh 19:31  The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the sabbath (for the day of that sabbath was a high day), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Joh 19:32  The soldiers therefore came, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him:
Joh 19:33  but when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:

Once again the Jewish leaders show themselves more concerned with ritual than the reality of what they were doing (see John 18:28 and my notes on that verse).  Their concern is based upon Deuteronomy 21:23.

Cornelius a Lapide: “The Jews therefore (because it was the preparation) that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath day (for that sabbath-day was an high day) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. See Deut. xxi. 22. This was done, in order that they might not pollute and make gloomy this most solemn festival, by the horror of their sufferings, as St. Augustine says. It was necessary therefore that they should die and be buried before sunset, at which time the sabbath began. “That,” as Theophylact says, “the sun might not set on their sufferings.”
For this was the sabbath within the octave of the Passover, and for this reason a more solemn day than other sabbaths. Their legs were to be broken with the strong blows of a mallet or iron bar, to make them die the sooner, from the intensity of the pain, or the loss of blood, or because the vital force resides in the knees and legs. (See Pliny, N. H. xi. 45.)”

Doctors say that the leading cause of death among the crucified would have been asphyxiation due to the stress put on the chest/lungs as the body sagged; the fixed arms causing the constriction.  Broken legs would obviously hasten death, since the condemned would be unable to continue supporting their body’s weight.

Joh 19:34  howbeit one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and straightway there came out blood and water.
Joh 19:35  And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe.
Joh 19:36  For these things came to pass, that the scripture might be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
Joh 19:37  And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

Believing Jesus was already dead the guards did not trouble themselves to break his legs, rather, they ensured that he was in fact dead by driving a lance into his side. The lack of broken bones is seen as fulfilling Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12.  This recalls the words of John the Baptist upon seeing Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29).  Jesus fulfills the meaning of the Passover.

For more details one can profitably consult THE PASSION OF JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN by Father Donald Senior.  Father Senior makes the interesting suggestion that the text may also be alluding to what Psalm 34:30 says about the righteous man: “The Lord keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.”

Water and water symbolism are extremely important in the fourth Gospel, and refers to baptism the Spirit, and the new life which these bring (John 1:33; John 3:5; John 4:10-14; John 7:37-39).  With the water flowing from the side o f the dead Jesus a direct connection is made between His death and the theme of the gift of life which it accomplishes.  The blood is an obvious reference to the sacrificial nature of what has been done by Him, and also indicates the gift of life which comes through His death (John 6:53-54).  For a more in-depth treatment of the blood and water theme one should consult Father Senior’s previously mentioned work.

They shall look on him whom they have pierced.  A quote of Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of prayers: and they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son, and they shall grieve over him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the firstborn”.  An obvious question arises concerning this quotation: who is being referred to?  The Jewish leaders?  The soldiers?  The disciples at the foot of the cross?  All believers?  Most accept the reference as applying to the last class of people (see John 3:14-15; John 8:28; John 12:31-32).

2 Responses to “My Notes on John 19:28-37”

  1. […] My Notes on John 19:31-37. On 28-37. […]

  2. […] My Notes on John 19:31-37. On 28-37. […]

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