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The Priesthood and the Cross

by John Bergsma August 08, 2019 0 Comments



The priesthood at the cross. In John 19:23, we’re deep into the passion narrative now in John 19. Ok, priesthood at the cross here.  Notice that his tunic was without seem, woven from top to bottom. So what, John, why do you even mention that? Why didn’t you mention that there was a little plant growing at the foot of the cross over there? Or a guy named Joe walked by just at the moment. Why throw in this trivia? Oh, he had a seamless…ok, yeah, that’s neat. It was more comfortable than other garments. Why even mention that? Well, there’s only one other reference to a seamless garment in ancient Jewish literature, and that’s in Josephus when he’s describing (get this) the garment of the high priest:

The high priest is indeed adorned with the same garments…of a blue color. This also is a long robe, reaching to his feet…Now this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and the sides, but it was one long vestment so woven as to have an aperture for the neck. (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 3.15)

This is a one piece garment.  So when it refers to Jesus’s tunic, this seamless tunic, that is high priestly imagery. Jesus is priest and sacrifice. Then it mentions that the soldiers didn’t tear the tunic. They cast lots for it. They divided up his other stuff but they would not tear the tunic. Now that’s interesting because in Leviticus 21:10, one of the things that it stipulates about the high priest (the priest who was chief among his brethren) is that he shall not ever tear his clothes. So it’s the tunic not torn.

Then after Jesus’ death (and this is now John 19:39), you see Nicodemus coming to him and bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint the body. So we have the perfumed body of Christ. Who in the Old Testament had a perfumed body? There is more than one but if you go back to Exodus 30, you find out that concerning Aaron, the high priest and his sons, they are ordered to take the finest spices, including liquid myrrh, and anoint Aaron and his sons with them. So the priest had these perfumed bodies as they entered into the holy sanctuary to serve before God.

Ok, again in the next verse, they wrap him up in linen cloths with the spices as was the burial custom of the Jews. If you go back to Leviticus 16, you find out what the high priest was garbed with:

He shall put on the holy linen coat, and shall have the linen breeches on his body, be girded with the linen girdle, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments.

Linen, linen, linen, linen. Is there anything about linen you don’t understand? It’s all linen, 100%. No cotton, no polyester. Heavens no acrylic; that would really make you sweat. So he’s wrapped in linen, again evoking some of the imagery of the high priest.  Then he’s laid…in the place where he’s crucified (verse 41) there’s a garden, “in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid.” Why do you even mention that John? Why throw in this trivia? This is a virginal tomb. A tomb in which no man had ever laid; laid in a virginal tomb. You say, “Dr. Bergsma, you’re getting pretty far-fetched.” Ok, hold on a minute. I want to show you something. First of all, notice Leviticus 21:13-14.  If the high priest marries:

he shall take a wife in her virginity…he shall take to wife a virgin of his own people…

A woman with whom no man has laid. Then they say, “Yea, but it’s a tomb, you know, and that’s a woman and how do you get the connection there?” Well, there is actually in the Old Testament, a fascinating combination of concepts that recurs more than once, and that is the relationship between the earth and the womb. The classic passage is Psalm 139. Look at Psalm 139:14. Everyone involved in pro-life ministry knows this verse. Psalm 139:13:

For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Ok, so where are we made? We’re made in our mother’s womb, right? And God knits us together there, right? Ok, but go down 2 verses to verse 15:

my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.

Wait. Hold on. I thought you were made in your mother’s womb? But the poetry goes on and says no, I was formed in the earth. And what is a tomb other than a hole into the depths of the earth, right? Now, don’t ask me to explain it, but that was just a Hebrew poetic concept. Somehow the womb of the mother was representative of the womb of the earth and there was a mystical relationship in their minds between the two. So when I say the virginal tomb, it’s really not far-fetched when you understand the Hebrew/Jewish background that John is dealing with as he writes about the passion of Christ.

John Bergsma
John Bergsma


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