“Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the Cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” (John 19:31)
Religion is an interestingly weird thing because religion is made by man.
In contrast, Christianity is a lifestyle.
Basically, religion is a set of man-made rules. Here we see that the Jews have arranged for the Savior to be murdered in order to keep their position and their earthly power secure. These men were interested in how things looked.
Religion ALWAYS cares about how things look.
In GREAT contrast, CHRISTIANITY is always concerned about TRUTH and about how things REALLY ARE.
Jesus clearly challenged them in Matthew 27 and revealed their heart, that they were interested in their own power and not really in the welfare of the sheep - the people of Israel. So, in John 19 when verse 31 is written, the hypocrisy of the “Shepherds of Israel” is revealed.
It was customary for the legs of the people killed on the Cross to be broken because it caused them to die faster from suffocation. The Jews had a rule regarding not letting a Jew decay like that on a cross, if possible, especially on a very high profile holiday like Passover.
(Lots of people were watching.)
So, here we have these men who lied and connived and bribed and hustled to get Jesus killed like that and now, for appearance sake, want Him to die fast so they can take His body down and look good for making that happen. In addition there were prophecies which told them that the Messiah would not die from broken bones.
At the original Passover a lamb was killed and that was a symbol of Jesus - something dying to give someone else life. When the instructions were given this was said:
“It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.” (Exodus 12:46 - NASB)
Later, in Numbers, we see this retelling of the conditions for keeping the Passover feast.
“They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; according to all the statute of the Passover they shall observe it.” (Numbers 9:12 - NASB)
Jesus IS the Passover. When the leaders of Israel asked for His legs to be broken they were trying to do 2 things:
1) Hasten His death so they would look good on the Sabbath as “shepherds of Israel” and
2) Ensure that this Jesus was not the Messiah, so they would APPEAR to be right in the eyes of people.
Did the Romans break His bones? Let’s see.
“Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him.” (John 19:32)
(The tension mounts.)
“But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.” (John 19:33)
Instead, a soldier did something just to make sure He was dead.
“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” (John 19:34)
It is important that this happened because it was prophesied.
It is important that we see how religion operates, fixated as it is on APPEARANCES and the perception of people, so that when we find ourselves waist deep in that sort of man-made poison we can extract ourselves.
We did not give ourselves to Jesus to follow religious people back into religion.
We gave ourselves to JESUS to follow JESUS (sometimes through people who represent HIM and HIS liberty) but to follow HIM into freedom FROM religion and those who practice religious bondage.
Whatever the format of our gathering….meeting in Christian congregations, home gatherings, etc… we must remember that it is not the format that is the issue.
What IS at issue is what POWER runs the associations we make and practice in the name of Jesus.
The BODY of Christ is powered by Jesus…the Christ. It is, therefore a healthy ORGANISM.
RELIGION that perverts what God intends to be an ORGANISM to functioning, instead, as a man-made ORGANIZATION is powered by religion….a demon dispatched by satan to the Church in order to render part of it impotent, like it did the organization of religion that killed Jesus in A.D. 33.
Focus on appearances and a passion to affect the perceptions of men with spectacle, emotion-driven events, fear, shame, pride, greed, and the praises of other mere men is one of the greatest hints that the spirit of religion is at work in JESUS’ Church.
(Based on an excerpt from my book, “The Gospel of John – As Seen Through The Eyes of a Relative Nobody”)