The Death Conqueror
Journey to the Empty Tomb
The Death Conqueror
John 19:30-20:10
 
As much as we hate to deal with it and face it, experts tell us, that on average, humans think about death or dying several times a week.  There seems to be this infatuation with avoiding or delaying death as long as possible. I think it was Woody Allen who said he didn’t mind dying.  He just didn’t want to be there when it happened!
 
One of the newest phenomenon’s in regard to dying is cryonics. The premise is the body temperature can slowly be lowered until a body is frozen and preserved in hopes of being revitalized at some future point.  The hope is that if you suffer from some incurable disease you would be frozen until some future time when a cure is developed then thawed out and reanimated.  The problem is we know how to freeze folks.  That’s no problem.  That thawing out and revitalizing part is what’s causing the problem. 
 
That gives us a little bit of an idea about the intensity with which some men look at death and extremes to which we will go to avoid death. 
 
Death is, no doubt, a troublesome subject. It is our ultimate enemy. Man can't conquer death.  And consequently, as the Bible indicates in Hebrews 2:15, man lives all his life in the bondage of the fear of death. And ultimately, the question everyone is the question that was asked by Job:  If a man dies, shall he live again?
 
The question that grinds away in the heart of every man, every teenager and every person that lives is, “Can death be conquered? Is there a way to overcome death?”
 
As Christians, we believe Easter answers that question because Jesus promised, “Because I live, you shall live also.”  In fact, Jesus claimed to have complete power over death.  He claimed to be able not only to conquer death but to control death, not only for Himself, but for every man. And because of that the fear of death is removed and we can say with the apostle Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
 
Now as we continue our Journey to the Empty Tomb  today, we come to a very exciting passage because today we arrive at our destination.  Beginning at verse 30 of John 19, we come to the record of Jesus victory over death. 
 
In these verses, we find once again that Jesus Christ is the majestic, sovereign, King of Kings. And today we get to add the title “Death Conqueror” as well. 
 
This morning I want to show you three progressive revelations of Christ's power over death and woven into it, we once again see the fulfillment of prophecy. We spent quite a bit of time a couple of weeks ago looking at specific fulfillments of prophecy at the cross. One of the great reasons we believe that Jesus is God and that He is in fact the Messiah that He claimed to be is because to the very letter He fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.
 
 
So woven throughout the text of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is this beautiful thread of fulfilled prophecy. In fact, so far in our study of John 18, 19 and 20, twentyeight specific prophecies about the sufferings of Jesus have already been fulfilled.
 
Now don’t skip by that two quickly.  The Jews have been anticipating the coming of their Messiah for centuries.  They knew all about the prophecies regarding His coming and His Kingdom. 
 
And now, in a 24hour period of time leading up to and including His death on the cross, there were 28 specific Old Testament prophecies fulfilled to the letter, and in addition to that, all kinds of types and symbols and pictures were fulfilled. And now as we see Jesus Christ conquer death, we are going to see some additional fulfillment of prophecy once again verifying to us that He is in fact God.
 
It is amazing that any Jew alive at that time, and especially those schooled in the Old Testament Scriptures could have missed Him.  And yet they are the ones who are screaming for His death. 
 
First of all then let's notice
 
1. His Dying
 
All of us understand to some degree the fear of death.  All of us, to one degree or another, are afraid of death. Death messes up everything.  There is always that undone task or unspoken love or some wrong that was never made right.
There is always that which wasn't accomplished and death tears people away from the undone. The fear of death, is the surprise of it, the shock of it, the suddenness of it, the unexpected character of it.
 
But in the case of Jesus, there was no fear of death.  I think that is primarily because death was no shock to Him. Follow His ministry and you’ll hear Him saying things like: “I lay down my life so that I might take it up again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have the power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again."
 
Death could not surprise Jesus.  It didn’t sneak up on Him or catch Him off guard.  He controlled death.  In fact, Jesus died only when He commanded death to take His life. We saw that last week in verses 28-30 where Jesus, completely aware and in control of what is happening at the cross, fulfills one last prophecy by speaking of His thirst and being given sour wine to drink, then gently bows His head and gives His Spirit over into the hands of God.
 
There we find the first indication of the amazing power of Jesus over death itself.  He died totally controlling His own death, not as a victim, but as a victor. 
 
Now I want you to see something that just blows me away in regard to that.  If Jesus is in control, then Jesus died at the very split second that it was determined that He would die by God in the ages past.  Have you ever thought about that?  Jesus was on a divine timetable and everything had to happen with pinpoint accuracy. 
 
Let me show you what I mean.  Jesus died at three o'clock in the afternoon. Now that means He died very quickly after being nailed to the cross, in fact, much more quickly than was expected.  Scripture records that both of the thieves outlived Jesus as we’ll see in a moment. 
 
Now the logical, human conclusion is His rapid death is because of the scourging and all of the abuse He endured prior to the crucifixion.  But we don’t know that the others didn’t go through just as much.  In fact, it was common that anyone who was crucified was scourged prior to the crucifixion so it is very possible they had been through the same agony and the same pain and the same thing that Jesus had been through.
 
Maybe Jesus was weaker than they. I can’t believe that because the body of Jesus Christ never knew disease because the body of Jesus Christ never knew sin. Therefore the body of Jesus Christ was spared from human illnesses and the effects of sin.  IT is my conviction that the body of Jesus Christ enjoyed perfect health and perfect fitness.  I think he was the finest human physique that has ever been on the earth, so if he died quickly, it wasn’t because He was physically weak. 
 
Let me offer you an alternative: Jesus died so soon because He was operating on a divine calendar and a divine clock and He died because it was time to die.
 
Let me show you what I mean.  Notice
 
John 19:31
 
 
The Jews are concerned about the bodies being left on the cross overnight.  According to Deuteronomy 21, anyone who commits a crime worthy of death and is hanged cannot be left hanging overnight. So they, desiring to apply this requirement of their law, want to have Jesus removed before the Passover began.
 
Notice also the reference to “the Preparation Day”
Now we know Preparation Day is the day before Sabbath and that was true of any Sabbath.  But from verse 31 we discover that this is a special Sabbath because of Passover.  This makes it a “high” day. 
 
So here we are on preparation day before the Sabbath and it’s already three o’clock in the afternoon.  Passover begins at 6:00 therefore the body must be removed quickly.
 
That’s why they went to Pilate as we see there in verse 31.  If necessary, just break the legs of the criminals, accelerating their death, then get them off the cross because we don’t want to violate God’s law.  Is that not ironic?  Never mind they were committing murder.  They just don’t want to violate the Sabbath. 
 
Verse 32
 
They broke the legs of both the thieves who were crucified with Jesus.  They would take a large mallet and completely shatter the lower leg bones eliminating the only support that had while on the cross.  The pain was intensified, pressure was exerted on the internal organs, suffocation occurred and they died.
So the soldiers break the legs of both criminals, but then we come to
 
verse 33
 
That was quite unexpected.  In fact, Mark records that Pilate was shocked that Jesus was already dead and called a soldier to tell him how long Jesus had been dead. This is so unusual to die so soon.
 
But He died for two simple reason:
 
First, His work was done.  He had already announced that when He said, “It is finished.”
 
The second reason is that He had to be dead in order to accomplish the fulfillment of prophecy. If Jesus had not died when He did, they would have taken that mallet and shivered to pieces His legs. If that had happened, if they had broken one single bone in one leg of Jesus, you could take your Bible and throw it away because God would be a liar.
 
According to Numbers 9:12 regarding the Passover lamb, the Bible says that not a bone could be broken. Who is the perfect Passover Lamb? Jesus Christ and in order to qualify as the perfect Passover Lamb, He could not have a bone broken.
 
Beyond that, Psalm 34:20 says, speaking of the death of Jesus Christ, "He guards all his bones: not one of them is broken." If one bone of the legs of Jesus had been broken, then God is a liar, the prophecy has gone unfulfilled and you can throw away your Bible.  But not one was broken!
 
 
See why Jesus had to die in the split second that He did?  There are some soldiers about to arrive carrying a mallet to crush His legs, so to fulfill prophesy, Jesus controlled His death down to the very minutia so that every tiny piece of prophecy was done.
 
Therefore, between the final prophecy regarding His thirst and the next prophecy of the breaking of His bones not happening, He sandwiched in His death so that both are fulfilled just as was prophesied.  Had His death occurred anywhere else other than that moment, it would have broken the chain of God's prophetic truth.
 
That's why John 19:36 says, "For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘A bone of him shall not be broken’."
 
Then notice verse 34
 
Now these Roman executioners were trained men. They knew who was dead and who wasn’t. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t those who tried to fake their death in order to be taken from the cross and perhaps make an escape. 
 
And these soldiers are the first great proof that Jesus was dead.  They saw Him and knew He was dead.   They weren’t Christians. They weren’t trying to cover up anything.  They were strictly Roman soldiers, trained observers of those who died on a cross, and they said, “He's dead”.
 
But just to make sure because it was so strange that He would die so soon, a soldier rammed a spear deep into His side.
And in so doing, according to verse 37, another prophesy was fulfilled.
 
The old prophet Zechariah, hundreds of years before the event, looked into the future under the inspiration of God and said some day the Messiah will be pierced.
 
You see, Jesus controlled every detail. If Jesus had not died when He did, the first prophecy would have been destroyed because they would have shattered His legs. If they had shattered His legs, they then would have had no reason to pierce Him with a spear and the second one would have been broken. So Jesus died on divine schedule exactly at the very moment so that they would not break His legs and knowing that to make sure He was dead, they would ram a spear into His side, perfectly and accurately to the very letter fulfilling the prophecy.
 
And look at what happened as He was pierced.
 
Verse 34
 
What's the significance of blood and water? You can find as many opinions and theories as there are commentators and preachers and teachers so let me just give you mine. 
 
First, there is a physiological explanation.  It appears that Jesus died from a ruptured heart.  And physically, with regard to all of the agony and sorrow and anguish of what has happened, the heart of Jesus just exploded.  Many of you know and have personally experienced the effects on your heart of stress and anxiety and worry.
Jesus Christ on that cross was undergoing stress and anxiety and pain and anguish and sin brought together from every human being that would ever exist in the history of the world and there in a matter of minutes and hours it was all laid on Him and no human heart can handle that and consequently I believe that heart ruptured causing instant death. 
 
In that instance, doctors say that blood flowing into the pericardium, which is the sack about the heart, would coagulate, then the blood, the red clot, and the liquid serum, or the water, would be separated. 
 
And I submit to you that when the spear was jammed into His side, that separation became visible as the blood and water flowed from His side. 
 
Now some might say, “Well that’s all conjecture. You don't have any proof for it.”
 
Well hang on to your hat as you look at Psalm 69.
 
Now this Psalm is detailing the crucifixion by way of prophesy and I want you to notice how accurate it is.
 
Verse 21
 
We looked at that verse last week and you will remember at the beginning of His crucifixion they offered Him gall to drink to kind of soothe a little bit but He refused it.  And in verse 21, they “gave” or offered Him gall, but He refused it. 
 
Then notice the second phrase.  “For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." Is that true of the cross? Did they give Him vinegar to drink? Is that to be taken literally? Absolutely.
The gall is literal and so is the vinegar.
 
Now jump back up a verse and notice
 
verse 20
 
If we can take verse 21 literally why shouldn’t we take verse 20 literally and believe that Jesus Christ actually died from a ruptured heart?
 
By the way, for those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament, when speaking about the seat of the emotions of a man, what word is most often used? 
 
It is not the word “heart”, but the word “bowels”.   So why, if the Psalmist is talking about emotions and feelings would he not use the word “bowels”? 
 
I think he uses the word “heart” to direct us to a literal understanding that Jesus actually died of a broken, ruptured because of the pain and the anguish of sin that no human heart could ever handle.
 
And I know some of you are saying, “So what? Why is it so important to go into all this detail?”
 
Only to show that this is what Scripture said would happen. The Bible said that Jesus would not have a bone broken and He didn’t.  The Bible said He would be pierced with a spear, but it did not say that would kill Him.
 
We are told in Psalm 69 that it would be that heart that would be broken, When the spear went in, it revealed that heart had been ruptured.
Every single, tiny little detail of prophecy in the Old Testament was fulfilled to the very letter in Jesus Christ's death.  He knew everything that He was doing, and He was controlling death in every move.
 
So what is John's point?
 
See it there in verse 35
 
John wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And to that end he says, “I was there.  I saw it. I know His legs weren’t broken.  I watched them put a spear in His side. I saw the blood and water. I saw fulfilled prophecy, and I say this to you and my witness is true, and I say it that you might believe.”
 
So we see, first of all, the tremendous power of Jesus over death in His dying.
 
Secondly we see the control of Jesus over death in
 
2. His Burial
 
Now it's one thing to control your dying, but it’s a different matter entirely to control your burial.  You may be able to bring about your own death, but outside of pre-planning your funeral, you have not control over what they do with your body once you’re dead. 
 
But I want you to watch how Jesus, even though He’s dead, controls everything that is done regarding His burial.
 
Listen to Isaiah 53:9
 
Now the intention of the Jews is that Jesus be disgraced.  That’s what the first part of that verse means.  As a common criminal, He should have been buried like a criminal.  After all, you don't bury a criminal with rich men. 
 
So they made His grave with the wicked but He wound up being with the rich at His death. 
 
Now that's a prophecy regarding the burial of Christ.  Now that creates a real problem because as far as we know, there aren’t any rich disciples. 
 
And if the Jewish leaders get hold of His body, they're certainly not going to put Him in a rich man's grave. So how in the world is Jesus going to get buried with the rich? How will Isaiah's prophecy be fulfilled?
 
Verse 38
 
Don’t you love the way God provides?  Here’s this rich disciple who’s been in hiding who decides to come forward and openly state his faith in Jesus Christ. 
 
Now this guy is no smalltime operator, He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the 7O ruling elders of the whole nation of Israel.  He had been in on the trial of Jesus and had been a no vote, but he was still secret. But Jesus, even though He's dead, is so powerful He moves into the heart of Joseph and directs him to go and get the body of Christ.
 
But this guy’s a coward.  He’s incognito.  He’s a secret disciple, you know, like some of you!
So how in the world do you get this guy who has been a coward all along turned into a hero? I'll tell you how.  Jesus moved into his heart and He couldn't wait. Time is of the essence.  There is no time to debate and question and consider.  He had to just act in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  After all, it was getting to be sundown and it was going to be the Sabbath and Jesus had to be in that grave before the Sabbath.
 
So Mark 15:43 says he “went in boldly" and declared to Pilate, I want the body of Jesus.  He counted the cost and decided to stand up for Jesus Christ and disregard everything else.
 
And Jesus, now dead, does for Joseph what He couldn't do when He was alive and brings Joseph out into the open as a disciple. 
 
Then in verse 39 we meet another person who had secretly met with Christ.  His name is Nicodemus. 
 
Verse 39
 
We remember Nicodemus from John 3 when Jesus told him how to be born again. Evidently somewhere between John 3 and John l9 he got saved and now he shows up also.
 
He's rich, too and he brought 100 pounds of a mixture of myrrh and aloes to prepare the body of Jesus for burial.  So here are two great leaders in the Sanhedrin who have become Christians.
 
 
 
 
They are counting the cost, turning their whole life upside down.  They are going to lose all their friends, all their society, the whole of Judaism, to take their stand for Jesus Christ and do it publicly.
 
In verse 40, they prepare His body for burial.  The
Jews did not embalm or mummify. They simply wrapped each limb separately and the torso separately and while they were wrapping it with bandages as it were, they sprinkled in the myrrh and the aloes as just a kind of aromatic addition to preserve the odor for just a little while.
 
Apparently they were in such a hurry to get that body in there before the Sabbath they didn’t finish as they would have liked because on Sunday the ladies came back to finish. 
 
verse 41
 
Very near where He was crucified, there was a garden. Again think about the process of that.  Just to make sure the burial went off as planned, God had a nice garden built nearby the place of the crucifixion.  And beyond that, in His sovereignty, He made sure a guy named Joseph put a tomb in there.  And since He controls the days of our lives, He made sure that no one close to Joseph died and got buried in that tomb because it needed to be a brand new one that nobody ever laid in.
 
After all, Jesus was only going to borrow it for three days.  It wasn’t like it was a permanent arrangement.  By the way, there is a pretty good life lesson in that.  There's no sense in investing a lot of money in your burial plot; it's only temporary if you're a Christian.
To me, it seems like a shame if you were to spend thousands of dollars to stick yourself in there and a few weeks later Jesus came.  How are you going to get your money's worth? Why don’t you just get a cheap plot somewhere and give the balance to the Lord’s work?
 
So they took Jesus to that beautiful, new garden sepulcher and . . .
 
Verse 42
 
And all along the way, Jesus was in control of very step of His burial.  He not only controlled His dying and His burial, He controlled
 
3.  His Resurrection
 
The promise of the Old Testament is that the Messiah would rise again, that God would not let His Holy One see corruption but that He would come again and see life.
 
Now to overcome death's power and to create life again is the ultimate in conquering death. Notice how it happens.
 
John 20:1-2
 
Here comes Mary Magdalene, that lady of whom Jesus had cast out seven devils, She came, and the stone was rolled back, We know from Matthew what happened. There was an earthquake and an angel rolled it back. Jesus was gone, and she thought maybe the Jews had stolen His body to add some further indignity, or maybe the ghouls had robbed His grave; but the tomb was empty.
She didn't know what to think. She didn't believe He was resurrected for she said, “We don't know where they laid Him.” She thought He was still dead.  Wouldn’t you? 
 
verses 3-7
 
The one thing that sticks out in the mind of John as he tells this story is the grave clothes and napkin.  He draws attention to the fact that both of them saw the grave clothes “lying”.  I’m afraid we lose a little of the intensity in translation.  Notice the little phrase “lying there” and you will see that “there” is in italics.  That means it’s not in the original language but was inserted for clarity’s sake. 
 
So it literally says “saw the grave clothes lying”.  That is an extremely descriptive phrase because in the Greek that means they were undisturbed in their proper place.  They were not scattered all over the place. So what? 
 
Well, if grave robbers had come, they would have most likely taken the body, grave clothes and all.  They wouldn't have taken the time to unwrap Him if they were going to steal His body and even if they did unwrap Him, why did they arrange the clothes so they were perfectly undisturbed in the place where they originally were.
 
So what happened? Jesus just lifted Himself out of those grave clothes. You know He had that power because later on when He appeared after His resurrection, the disciples were in a room, and He came through the wall without using the door. 
 
And in His resurrection body He has the ability to do that.  He’s just simply lying there and at the moment of the resurrection He transported Himself through the grave clothes leaving them lying absolutely undisturbed in the place appointed for them. John and Peter both saw that.
 
Then verse 7 adds the detail regarding the napkin.
 
Verse 7
 
In that napkin we find a guarantee that He's really alive physically? Without the napkin, it could have been a spiritual resurrection.  But the folded napkin is the guarantee of the bodily resurrection.  He took the napkin that was about His head and gently folded it and set it in another place.
 
I would suggest the evidence is pretty conclusive.  We have an empty tomb, an absent Christ, undisturbed grave clothes, a napkin lying apart and a a stone rolled away. 
 
No wonder we read what we read in verse 8
 
He believed. Luke says, Peter wondered, but John was convinced; Peter was scratching his head. He  went away wondering.  After all, as verse 9 says, they didn’t fully understand all about the resurrection.  Somehow they missed all those prophecies and predictions. But John believed. 
 
What about you? You've got the evidence. You've got the prophecies of the Old Testament. You've got the statement of the New Testament.
You've got a resurrected Christ, the grave clothes, the empty tomb, the rolledaway stone, you've got the whole shot. You've got it all.  All that's needed for you to believe, you have.  Do you believe or are you going to go away wondering?
 
The apostle Paul said this, "If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your  heart that God hath raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." It's a matter of believing in the resurrection. Do you believe? I pray God you believe.
 
Let’s pray.
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