David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
John 19 - Jesus Is Crucified
A. Jesus is condemned to crucifixion.
1. (1-4) Pilate hopes to satisfy the mob by having Jesus whipped and mocked.
So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck Him with their hands. Pilate then went out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him."
a. So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him: Pilate already declared Jesus "not guilty," so to scourge Him now was a gross injustice. In doing this, perhaps Pilate thought he could help Jesus, and that the mob would be satisfied with the scourging and mocking.
b. Scourged Him: The brutal act of scourging had three purposes. First, it was used to beat the prisoner as a form of punishment. Second, it was used to extract a confession from the prisoner. Finally, in cases of crucifixion it was used to weaken the victim so he would die more quickly on the cross.
i. As a tool to extract a confession, the Roman solider would beat the victim harder and harder until they confessed their crime. Because Jesus had nothing to confess, the blows never lightened on His back.
ii. "Scourging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt." (Edwards)
iii. In regard to crucifixion, the goal of the scourging was to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse and death. "As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim's back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive the cross." (Edwards)
iv. "The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a pre-shock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus' physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical." (Edwards)
c. I find no fault in Him: Pilate repeats his former finding not guilty.
2. (5-6) Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd.
Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, "Behold the Man!" Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him."
a. Pilate's word's behold the Man were filled with pity for Jesus, contempt for the mob, with fear and panic over his own role in this worsening situation.
i. As the world accepts Pilate's invitation to behold the Man, it has seen the Man of men, the Perfect man, the unattainable Ideal of all humanity.
b. Crucify Him, crucify Him! The reaction of the crowd shows how powerful the hatred of God can be in unregenerate man, though that hatred may be veiled in indifference.
c. You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him: For the third time, Pilate pronounces Jesus innocent of all charges.
3. (7-11) The Jews reveal the true nature of their charge against Jesus.
The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God." Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, "Where are You from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, "Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?" Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."
a. Because He made Himself the Son of God: The pretense is over. No longer are they trying to accuse Jesus of being "King of the Jews"; their real objection is that He claims to be God.
b. He was the more afraid: When Pilate learned the true nature of the charge, instead of being angry with the Jews, he was more afraid of Jesus than ever. This demonstrates the stature and dignity Jesus maintained throughout this whole trial.
c. Do You not know that I have power: Pilate still didn't understand the true nature of power. He believed that He had real power; but Jesus makes it plain: You could have no power at all against Me unless it have been given you from above.
d. The one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin: Jesus sees through the mob mentality and the political maneuvering to see the hand of God in these circumstances.
4. (12-16) Pilate gives into the pressure and sentences Jesus to death.
From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar." When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!" Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.
a. So he delivered Him to be crucified: Pilate fully knew what was right and just, but he chose wrong so that he might keep his job and manner of life.
b. "You may do today exactly what Pilate did. He is simply an example of a man who lacks decision of character, who does not possess the courage of his convictions, who tries to compromise with wrong, who disobeys conscience through fear of personal loss." (Erdman)
c. We have no king but Caesar: The multitude began by wanting a political Messiah to deliver them from Caesar's oppression, but in rejecting Jesus, they now embrace Caesar.
B. Jesus' death.
1. (17-18) Jesus is crucified.
And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.
a. They crucified Him: In 1968, scientists for the first time discovered the remains of a man crucified in Jesus' era. The victim was nailed to the cross in a sitting position, both legs over sideways, with the nail penetrating the sides of both feet just below the heel. The arms were stretched out, each stabbed by a nail in the forearm.
i. Dr. Nico Hass, Hebrew University anatomy professor says that this was "a compulsive position, a difficult and unnatural posture," evidently to increase the agony of the sufferer.
ii. This corrects the traditional envisioning of the crucifixion, with both palms nailed to the cross, and the legs stretching straight down with a nail piercing the feet frontally.
iii. "The (victim of the) cross represented miserable humanity reduced to the last degree of impotence, suffering and degradation. The penalty of crucifixion combined all that the most ardent tormentor could desire: torture, exposure, degradation, and certain death, distilled drop by drop. It was an ideal form of torture." (Reville)
b. They crucified Him: John spares the gore, only mentioning the fact of Jesus' crucifixion. This was because the agony of crucifixion was well known to the people of Jesus' day. In a addition, the true ordeal of the cross was more spiritual than physical.
i. Jesus was made . . . sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and the wrath of God we deserved was poured out upon Him. This is a type and degree of suffering that is simply incomprehensible.
2. (19-22) Pilate writes an inscription meant to gall the Jews, but was true beyond his knowing.
Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said, "I am the King of the Jews."'" Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."
a. Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews: The religious leaders among the Jews objected to this title. They felt it was false, because they did not believe that Jesus was the King of the Jews. They also believed it was demeaning, because it showed Rome's power to humiliate and torture even the "King of the Jews."
b. What I have written, I have written: Now Pilate has the courage to stand up to the Jewish rulers. Sadly, it is on a rather unimportant issue because Jesus will still be crucified.
3. (23-24) Soldiers divide Jesus' clothing in fulfillment of prophecy.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be," that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: "They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots." Therefore the soldiers did these things.
a. Took His garments: Jesus came all the way down the ladder to accomplish our salvation. He let go of absolutely everything - even His clothes - becoming completely poor for us, so we could become completely rich in Him.
b. The tunic was without seam: Jesus' seamless tunic reminds us of His role as our great High Priest, because Exodus 28:31-32 tells us that the High Priest wore a seamless garment.
c. That the Scripture might be fulfilled: It may seem that Jesus has no control over these events. Yet the invisible hand of God guides all things, so that specific prophecy is specifically fulfilled.
4. (25-27) Jesus entrusts His mother into John's care.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
a. This shows that even to the end, Jesus thought and cared for others. If there was ever a moment when Jesus deserved to be self-focused, this was it. Yet He remained others-centered to the end.
5. (28-30) Jesus' great proclamation and death.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
a. I thirst: Jesus didn't accept a pain-numbing drink at the beginning of His ordeal (Mark 15:23), but now He accepts a taste of greatly diluted wine, to wet parched lips and a dry throat so He can make one final announcement to the world with a "great cry."
b. It is finished! Jesus' final word (tetelestai in the ancient Greek) is the cry of a winner. Jesus had finished the eternal purpose of the cross. It stands today as a finished work, the foundation of all Christian peace and faith, paying in full the debt we righteously owe to God.
i. At some point before He died, before the veil was torn in two, before He cried out it is finished, an awesome spiritual transaction took place. God the Father laid upon God the Son all the guilt and wrath our sin deserved, and He bore it in Himself perfectly, totally satisfying the wrath of God for us.
ii. As horrible as the physical suffering of Jesus was, this spiritual suffering - the act of being judged for sin in our place - was what Jesus really dreaded about the cross. This was the cup - the cup of God's righteous wrath - that He trembled at drinking (Luke 22:39-46, Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 51:17, Jeremiah 25:15). On the cross, Jesus became, as it were, an enemy of God who was judged and forced to drink the cup of the Father's fury. He did it so we would not have to drink that cup.
iii. Isaiah 53:3-5 puts it powerfully: He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
c. Bowing His head: This speaks of a peaceful act, like laying down on a pillow to sleep. This wasn't hanging the head in defeat.
d. Gave up His spirit: No one took Jesus' life from Him; He, in a manner unlike any man, gave up His spirit. Death had no righteous hold over the sinless Son of God. He stood in the place of sinners, but was never a sinner Himself. So He could not die unless He gave up His spirit.
i. As Jesus said, I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. (John 10:17-18)
ii. "He gave up his life because He willed it, when He willed it, and as He willed it." (Augustine)
6. (31-37) Roman soldiers confirm Jesus' death.
Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, "Not one of His bones shall be broken." And again another Scripture says, "They shall look on Him whom they pierced."
a. They did not break His legs . . . one of the soldiers pierced His side: This was not according to custom. But in doing this, the soldiers unknowingly fulfilled prophecy. This again is complete assurance that God is in control of these events.
b. Immediately blood and water came out: These two great cleansing elements pour forth from the crucified Jesus. As the Toplady hymn says:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power
7. (38-42) Jesus is lovingly buried by two hesitant disciples.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews' Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.
a. Asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: Customarily, the bodies of crucified criminals were left on their crosses to rot or be eaten by wild animals. But the Jews wanted no such horror displayed during the Passover season, and Romans were known to grant the corpses of executed men to friends or relatives for proper burial.
b. Bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury: Joseph and Nicodemus followed the burial customs of that day - the best he could, considering that they had very little time because the Sabbath drew near (Luke 23:54).
i. Joseph and Nicodemus served Jesus too late. Not too late to fulfill prophecy, not too late to be of tender service to Jesus. But they served Jesus too late: Too late to satisfy their own timid hearts, and too late to escape the painful regret of what they might have been and what they might have done for Jesus. May we never wait to give ourselves fully to Jesus.
c. The garden tomb in which no one had yet been laid: A rich man like Joseph of Arimethea would probably have a tomb that was carved into solid rock; this tomb was in a garden near the place of crucifixion. The tomb would have a small entrance and perhaps one or more compartments where bodies were laid out after being somewhat mummified with spices, ointments, and linen strips. Customarily, the Jews left these bodies alone for a few years until they decayed down to the bones, then the bones were placed in a small stone box known as an ossuary. The ossuary remained in the tomb with the remains of other family members.
i. The door to the tomb was typically made of a heavy, circular shaped stone, running in a groove and settled down into a channel, so it could not be moved except by several strong men. This was done to ensure that no one would disturb the remains.
ii. John 19:42 specifically tells us that the tomb of Joseph of Arimethea that Jesus was laid in was close to the place of Jesus' crucifixion (and the each of the two suggested places for Jesus' death and resurrection bear this out). Joseph probably didn't like it that the value of his family tomb decreased because the Romans decided to crucify people nearby - yet it reminds us that the in God's plan, the cross and the power of the resurrection are always permanently and closely connected.
iii. Tombs like this were very expensive. It was quite a sacrifice for Joseph of Arimathea to give his up - but Jesus would only use it for a few days!
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