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John Chapter 19, verses 1-3
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.
Faced now with a restless crowd, Pilate subjected Jesus to the abuse of the soldiers. Maybe then the crowd would be satisfied. He had Jesus flogged, the lead- or bone-tipped lashes tearing his skin. The soldiers placed a crown of thorns on his head and clothed him in a purple robe. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they mocked, then struck him in the face.
John Chapter 19, verses 4-7
Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”
The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
To appease the crowd, Pilate had extracted a pound of flesh from Jesus. Now Pilate tried again to declare Jesus innocent and end this travesty of justice. Sad to say, however, Pilate had become part of the travesty. He knew Jesus was innocent. Still, he had him tortured and mocked. He cared more about controlling the crowd of Jews than about justice.
Pilate presented Jesus, still dressed as a mock king, to the crowd again. “Know,” he insisted, “that I find no guilt in him.” Then, as the pathetic figure of Jesus appeared, Pilate announced, “Here is the man.”
There was the man they accused of wanting to be king.
There was the man over whom they were making such a fuss.
There was the man they wanted to have executed.
The unspoken words were: “Surely he’s not worth the effort. He’s innocent and harmless. Let the poor wretch go.”
But the Jewish leaders, as on cue, shouted: “Crucify! Crucify!”
Pilate still tried to weasel out of his dilemma. “You take him and crucify him,” he cried back. “I do not find him guilty.”
Then the hostile Jews revealed their real basis for insisting on Jesus’ death: “According to our law, he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” Set aside the claim to kingship; this man was calling himself God’s own Son, equal with God. For that they insisted he die.
They knew Jesus’ claim, but they did not believe. In their unbelief they felt the need to destroy Jesus.
John Chapter 19, verses 8-12
When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
This last outcry scared Pilate more than he already was from being under fire from the crowd. With his heathen background, he didn’t know what to make of a man who claimed to be the Son of God. Innocent, non-earthly king, and Son of God! What had Pilate gotten himself into?
Pilate led Jesus back into the palace. “Where do you come from?” he insisted. But Jesus didn’t respond. Exasperated and intent on preserving his own sense of dignity and power, Pilate badgered Jesus: “You aren’t speaking to me? Don’t you know I have the power to set you free and I have the power to crucify you?” Although Pilate had clearly lost control of the situation, he wanted Jesus to know that he would still decide whether Jesus lived or died.
With that, Jesus spoke. He told Pilate that he would have no power over Jesus if it were not given him from above. Yes, even heathen, tyrannical governments hold power by God’s providence. And God uses those governments ultimately in the best interests of his kingdom. Pilate’s boast was empty, particularly since Jesus was there by his own will.
Pilate sinned in continuing to hold the innocent Jesus and subjecting him at last to crucifixion. But the one who gave Jesus over to Pilate was guilty of an even greater sin, said Jesus. He referred apparently either to Caiaphas or Judas. Who can imagine the enormity of their sin?
From that point on, the spineless Pilate looked for ways to release Jesus, stopping short, however, of exercising the power he claimed to have in order to set Jesus free. The hostile Jews shouted back at Pilate, relentless in their quest to be rid of Jesus. They threatened Pilate’s very base of power by saying he was not a friend of Caesar if he let Jesus go. Anyone who claimed to be a king was opposed to Caesar. So Pilate had better do his duty or risk Caesar’s disfavor.
The threat was real. The Roman governor already had other problems that made his situation shaky. The Jews might bring Pilate crashing down if they followed through and reported this situation to Caesar.
John Chapter 19, verses 13-16
When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
The Jews were forcing Pilate’s hand, but he wouldn’t give in without showing his disdain for them. He brought Jesus out again, sat at the judge’s seat (known as the Stone Pavement, or Gabbatha), and said, “Here is your king.” His words needled the Jews, who resented the thought of Jesus as their king.
It was Friday of Passover week, the day of Preparation for the Sabbath. It was about the sixth hour, probably 6:00 A.M. as reckoned by Roman time. The crucifixion took place three hours later, at 9:00 A.M., the third hour according to Jewish reckoning (Mark 15:25).
The crowd’s response to Pilate’s words was: “Away with him! Crucify him!”
One last time Pilate asked them if this was what they wanted for their king. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. Actually, they despised Caesar, but they played their hypocritical game to the end. So Pilate gave Jesus up to be crucified.
A sad irony lies in these procedures. Pilate was correct in what he was saying, but he wasn’t expressing faith in Jesus when he said it. The unbelieving Jews, on the other hand, were vigorously rejecting their eternal king.
Jesus hangs on the cross
John Chapter 19, verses 16-18
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
Everything was prepared, and the soldiers took Jesus to be crucified. Jesus had to carry his own cross (probably just the cross beam), as was customary. The place of execution was called Golgotha, or the place of the skull. Apparently it was a rock outcropping that looked like a skull. (One exists like that today near old Jerusalem, but the more traditional spot has a church built over it, and any skull-like appearance no longer is evident.)
At Golgotha they crucified Jesus along with two others, one on each side of him.
John Chapter 19, verses 19-22
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
Pilate still had a point to make: If the Jewish leaders wanted him to execute a king who was rival to Caesar, then a king Jesus was. He wrote the title “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” in three languages so Jews and Romans alike could read it and had it attached to the cross. Because Golgotha was near Jerusalem, many Jews saw the sign.
That upset the chief priests, who protested to Pilate, “Don’t write ‘the King of the Jews,’ but that he claimed to be king of the Jews.”
Pilate snapped back, “What I have written, I have written.”
And he was right, though neither he nor those Jews understood how.
John Chapter 19, verses 23-24
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said,
“They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
So this is what the soldiers did.
To the Roman soldiers, this execution was just like the many they had carried out in the past. At least they had a chance for some spoils. They divided Jesus’ clothing into four parts, a part for each soldier. The under tunic, however, was seamless, made from one piece of cloth, and too nice to cut into parts. So they agreed to cast lots for it.
As we have come to expect, John was giving his readers information not already contained in the other gospels. He was also intent on demonstrating how everything that was happening fulfilled God’s plan and, down to a number of details, was prophesied by the Old Testament writers. God’s Word tells all we need for our faith and salvation.
In this case, the pagan soldiers unknowingly fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 22, which graphically pictured the Messiah’s suffering (verse 18). This amazing detail leaves no doubt about the connection with Jesus’ crucifixion.
John Chapter 19, verses 25-27
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Even as the soldiers were dividing Jesus’ clothing, three women named Mary, among others, had come to stand near Jesus’ cross: his mother, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (from Magdala). Only here do we learn of the wife of Clopas, but we know that Mary Magdalene had been set free from demon possession by Jesus and helped support the twelve disciples (Luke 8:2,3).
Jesus saw his mother there and John, “the disciple whom he loved,” standing nearby. Mary, who years earlier pondered in her heart the wonders of Jesus’ birth, stood now with breaking heart, no doubt pondering again what was happening.
In the midst of his unimaginable suffering, Jesus did an amazing thing. There on the spot he made sure his mother would be taken care of after he had gone. His words were simple and direct: to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to John, “Here is your mother.”
Jesus’ wishes were met. John took Mary into his home from that time on. For those who wonder where Jesus’ brothers were now, we don’t know. It is likely, however, that they had gone their own ways in unbelief at this time (7:5).
Can anyone read this part of John’s account without a sense of emotion, maybe even a tear? It is an incredible episode that touches our hearts. It is much more than that, however. God’s own Son, as he was giving up his life to pay for our sins, was also still perfectly fulfilling God’s law in our stead. He honored his mother in full obedience to the Fourth Commandment. He lived in perfect righteousness and died as the unblemished sacrifice. Now the Father counts Jesus’ righteousness as our own and accepts Jesus’ sacrifice as satisfaction for his justice.
John Chapter 19, verses 28-29
Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.
John leaves us to the other gospels to learn more about the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus and several other details of Jesus’ hours on the cross. Instead, he moves in his account to the last moments of Jesus’ life.
Jesus had accomplished everything God sent him to do, including caring for his mother. He knew the moment had arrived for him to die. He spoke once more, a single word in the Greek: “I am thirsty.”
We can be sure he was thirsty, thirstier than any of us have ever experienced or could imagine. Unquenchable thirst was one of the agonies that accompanied crucifixion. Still, it wasn’t the thirst itself that led him to speak. He did nothing that would have made his sacrifice less than voluntary, less than complete. He spoke in order, again, to fulfill the Scriptures (Psalm 69:21; 22:15). Jesus received vinegar for his thirst as God had foretold.
John Chapter 19, verse 30
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus spoke another word: “It is finished.” It sounds almost like a word of resignation, of relief, perhaps, that the suffering was coming to an end. But it had to be more than that. Remember how John had reminded us that this was Jesus’ hour, that Jesus went to the cross voluntarily, that Jesus was there to complete God’s plan of salvation. Jesus was not saying that the wicked plot against him was finished. He was declaring that his task as the one and only Son of the heavenly Father was finished.
At that moment he could die, and he did. The others crucified next to him were still clinging to life. Ordinarily, Jesus also would have lingered longer. But he “gave up his spirit.” The expression seems to put the exclamation point on the purposefulness of Jesus’ death.
John Chapter 19, verses 31-34
Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
During the week of the Passover, the Friday between Thursday’s Passover Feast and the Passover Sabbath was called the day of Preparation. Everything had to be just right in preparation for that special Sabbath. Men could not be left dead and unburied on the Sabbath, which began Friday evening at sunset and lasted until sunset on Saturday. So the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to hurry the deaths of the men being crucified and get them off the crosses.
The way to a swifter death was to have the men’s legs broken. Without the ability to support their body weight, the men on the cross would quickly suffocate as their bodies sagged unmercifully from their pinioned arms.
Pilate gave the order. The soldiers first broke the legs of the two thieves on either side of Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they didn’t need to break his legs, because he was already dead. Still, one of the soldiers, as if to make doubly sure or maybe as a senseless show of cruelty, punched a spear into Jesus’ side.
Immediately blood and water came out. Much has been said about this mention of blood and water, including that it suggests Jesus’ heart itself was pierced. But it is all speculation. John does not indicate the significance of the blood and water other than as a second proof that Jesus truly died on that cross. Instead, John hurries to add what is significant.
John Chapter 19, verses 35-37
The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
We can be sure this account is true not only because of what we know about the inspiration of the Holy Spirit but also because it is an eyewitness account. John knew exactly what happened because he saw it. He is telling what he saw so that we might believe and be saved.
Still, we are not left to believe just the self-professed eyewitness. We can believe the rest of the Scriptures that were fulfilled in this very moment. Like the Passover lamb, Jesus’ bones were not broken (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20). And the crucifiers looked on the one they pierced (Zechariah 12:10).
Jesus is buried
John Chapter 19, verses 38-42
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
If no one had claimed Jesus’ body, the soldiers would likely have taken it from the cross and without ceremony thrown it into a pit reserved for such unclaimed bodies after execution. But instead, a rich man (Matthew 27:57) and respected member of the Jewish council (Mark 15:43), Joseph of Arimathea, unexpectedly approached Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body.
Joseph had not consented to the death sentence the council had laid on Jesus (Luke 23:51); perhaps he had not been at the trial. Until now, however, he had lacked the courage to identify himself as a disciple of Jesus. Apparently, he and Nicodemus (3:1; 7:50) shared their secret faith in Jesus but feared reprisal if they were found out.
Now the two of them broke their secrecy and arranged Jesus’ burial. Nicodemus also was probably well-to-do, since he came with an unusually large quantity of myrrh and aloes for the burial.
According to Jewish custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body in strips of linen with the spices and put a shroud around it (Matthew 27:59; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53). Time was short, but a new tomb, meant to be Joseph’s own (Matthew 27:60), was available in a garden near Golgotha. They laid Jesus there.
John again leaves unsaid many of the details told in the other gospels, such as the precautions taken to guard the body (Matthew 27:62-66). But he tells what we need to know.