In 2016, the ministry program of an internationally well-known Christian pastor aired one of his regular weekly Scripture-based messages one day. But on this occasion, the pastor presented his message to his congregation and viewing audience in a manner that differed from his typical style. He led them through a fairly short word-study that he himself had recently done in his personal study time at home. In so doing, the pastor emphasized the importance of both the process and the obtained results alike.
The pastor began his delivery by referencing the two New Testament Scripture verses below: Luke 9:58 and John 19:30. As he read the verses from the large screen beside him on the stage, he emphasized an underlined word in each verse: lay in Luke 9:59 and bowed in John 19:30.
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
Though lay and bowed are two distinct English words, each with its own distinct meaning, in these two verses they are two different translations of the Greek word klino (G2827). (Greek is the original language of the New Testament from which our English Bibles have been translated; and (G2827) is the reference number that Strong’s Concordance has assigned to klino to simplify research.) These two translations of klino illustrate the fact that no one language translates directly in a one-to-one correspondence to any other.
Rather, translators understand the necessity of considering the context in which each word is being used, as well as other language factors, in determining a “best fit” translation. Therefore, considered in that light, the Luke 9:58 and John 19:30 example above makes sense. But since lay and bowed are, indeed translations of the same Greek word (klino), they must, despite their differing contextual uses, have the same basic meaning at their roots. This is where the research really gets interesting.
The short definition of klino in both Strong’s Concordance and the NAS Exhaustive Concordance is “to cause to bend.” [Both of those resources, along with Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and numerous other helpful resources, are all located on BibleHub.com, making research easier and faster for novice researchers and seasoned veterans alike.] But the complete listings in those two concordances contain more than that one definition. Other equitable definitions for klino, as the Greek word has been translated in other verses of the Bible, are also located there to provide a more complete overview of the word. Below is the compiled list of those short definitions from those two concordances.
rest, recline, bow, incline, cause to give ground, make to yield, ending, lay one’s head, be far spent.
Rest, according to the first of the Merrian-Webster definitions on Bing, is “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” As God, Jesus did not need to rest in the physical sense, but as a Man He did. In Mark 4:38 we are told that J3sus was sleeping in the bow of a boat, and in John 4 that He was both physically tired and hungry. But in both cases, the physical rest that Jesus acquired was used by God to produce spiritual Truth. No matter where Jesus went or what He was doing during the three and a half years of His ministry, He was always about finishing the work that His Father had entrusted to Him alone to do. In that sense, then, since Jesus was always working, He never had time to rest.
But in Luke 9:58, Jesus wasn’t talking about not having time to rest, but not having a place in this world to rest. The place of which Jesus spoke was home, and His Home was with God the Father. Only on the Cross when Jesus’ work was completed, do we then see the connection to His head being bowed (laid down to rest) as His Spirit leaves His body to head toward Home, where He would forever rest with His Father.
The use of the word head in both verses is intentional. Both Strong’s and NAS concordances, as well as Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, all say that klino is a transitive verb in Luke 9:58 and John 19:30.
A transitive verb has two characteristics. First, it is an action verb, expressing a doable activity like kick, want, paint, write, eat, clean, etc. Second, it must have a direct object: something or someone who receives the action of the verb. (Grammar Bytes)
In looking again at Luke 9:58 and John 19:30, we see that in both verses Jesus’ head is the direct object of the action verb klino (lay, bow, rest). Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word that translates as head in both verses in the following ways:
(a) the head, (b) met: a cornerstone, uniting two walls;
head, ruler, lord
A remarkable comparison is made in 1 Peter 2:4-8 of Jesus being “the living Stone” —the One who was “rejected by men, but chosen by God.” But just before Peter concludes the metaphor in verse eight, he quotes Psalm 118:22.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,
(1 Peter 2:7b)
A cornerstone of a structure is a strong, essential stone that is located at the base (foundation) of a building, where two walls come together to form a corner. The compound English word cornerstone (some translations say capstone) is the translation of two back-to-back New Testament Greek words meaning “the very” and “corner.”
The first of these two words is the exact same word that in Luke 9:58 and John 19:30, plus in fifty-seven other New Testament verses, is translated to mean head or heads. Only this one occurrence in 1 Peter 2:7b is translated to mean “the very.” Might that have been done intentionally to emphasize—single out—Jesus as the Head of all other heads, the One to whom all knees shall one day bow in honor of the eternal rest that He made available to everyone while He was still in this world, working on our behalf as a Man to do for us all that we could not do for ourselves?
When Jesus said from the Cross, “It is finished,” He actually made two affirmations: 1) the work that His Father had sent Him to earth to do was done, and 2 ) the time had come for Jesus to return Home and sit down at His Father’s right hand to rest from their work with Him.
Jesus —the Head (ruler, Lord) of His Body of Believers (the Church)—obtained rest from His work at the only place where both sides (God & mankind) could come together in agreement forever: in Him—Jesus, on the Cross, making Jesus the actual physical, as well as spiritual corner (head) stone that unites God and mankind at a foundational level of all God has built up in His good Creation upon it. The work from which Jesus had no rest was in the building up of relationships. the only thing in all Creation that could bind the hearts of mankind to His Father eternally was Jesus’ Body and Blood that makes all brokenness whole.