In the art of tapestry, weaving two different threads (warp and weft) produces one complete textile product such as a blanket or wall covering. Within it a colorful pattern or image is depicted. The product can be viewed as a whole, but the central image is what draws the attention of the eye.
Today’s passage works like a skillfully made tapestry. As a whole, the passage presents the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus. Yet, there is another, more central image to the passage which draws us in. By describing the events as the fulfillment of Scripture, our mind’s eye is drawn to an important truth.
First, we are told that Psalm 22:18 is fulfilled when the soldiers cast lots over Jesus’ seamless garment (vv. 23–24). This psalm despairs over God’s apparent abandonment—an appropriate text for the events of the cross. John 19:28–29 also describes the fulfillment of Psalm 69:21 when Jesus is given vinegar in response to His thirst. Both of these psalms end, however, not in despair but in great praise for God’s ultimate victory and deliverance (Ps. 22:22–31; 69:30–36). By alluding to these lament psalms in the midst of the cross, we are encouraged to see hope as the final outcome. The pain and suffering of the cross, though terrible, will give way to victory and deliverance.
John 19:31–37 fulfills two additional Old Testament texts: “Not one of his bones will be broken” (Ps. 34:20; Ex. 12:46), and “They will look on the one they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10). The fullest understanding comes again by looking at the images evoked from the context of the quoted material. Exodus 12 refers to the requirements for the sacrificial lamb of the Passover. Zechariah 12–13 speaks of the day when God will destroy Israel’s enemies and open a fountain that will “cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zech. 13:1). Taken together, the implication is clear: crucified during Passover (John 18:28), Jesus is the ultimate sacrificial Passover lamb, cleansing the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29).