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Bible Commentaries
John 19

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Verses 1-3

See the notes at Matthew 27:26-30.

Verse 4

Behold, I bring him forth ... - Pilate, after examining Jesus, had gone forth and declared to the Jews that he found no fault in him, John 18:38. At that time Jesus remained in the judgment hall. The Jews were not satisfied with that, but demanded still that he should be put to death, John 19:39-40. Pilate, disposed to gratify the Jews, returned to Jesus and ordered him to be scourged, as if preparatory to death, John 19:1. The patience and meekness with which Jesus bore this seem to have convinced him still more that he was innocent, and he again went forth to declare his conviction of this; and, to do it more effectually, he said, “Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know,” etc. - that they might themselves see, and be satisfied, as he had been, of his innocence. All this shows his anxiety to release him, and also shows that the meekness, purity, and sincerity of Jesus had power to convince a Roman governor that he was not guilty. Thus, the highest evidence was given that the charges were false, even when he was condemned to die.

Verse 5

Behold the man! - It is probable that Pilate pointed to the Saviour, and his object evidently was to move them to compassion, and to convince them, by a sight of the Saviour himself, that he was innocent. Hence, he brought him forth with the crown of thorns, and the purple robe, and with the marks of scourging. Amid all this Jesus was meek, patient, and calm, giving evident proofs of innocence. The conduct of Pilate was as if he had said, “See! The man whom you accuse is arrayed in a gorgeous robe, as if a king. He has been scourged and mocked. All this he has borne with patience. Look! How calm and peaceful! Behold his countenance! How mild! His body scourged, his head pierced with thorns! Yet in all this he is meek and patient. This is the man that you accuse; and he is now brought forth, that you may see that he is not guilty.”

Verse 6

They cried out, saying, Crucify him ... - The view of the Saviour’s meekness only exasperated them the more. They had resolved on his death; and as they saw Pilate disposed to acquit him, they redoubled their cries, and endeavored to gain by tumult, and clamor, and terror, what they saw they could not obtain by justice. When men are determined on evil, they cannot be reasoned with. Every argument tends to defeat their plans, and they press on in iniquity with the more earnestness in proportion as sound reasons are urged to stay their course. Thus sinners go in the way of wickedness down to death. They make up in firmness of purpose what they lack in reason. They are more fixed in their plans in proportion as God faithfully warns them and their friends admonish them.

Take ye him ... - These are evidently the words of a man weary with their importunity and with the subject, and yet resolved not to sanction their conduct. It was not the act of a judge delivering him up according to the forms of the law, for they did not understand it so. It was equivalent to this: “I am satisfied of his innocence, and shall not pronounce the sentence of death. If you are bent on his ruin - if you are determined to put to death an innocent man - if my judgment does not satisfy you - take him and put him to death on your own responsibility, and take the consequences. It cannot be done with my consent, nor in the due form of law; and if done, it must be by you, without authority, and in the face of justice.” See Matthew 27:24.

Verse 7

We have a law - The law respecting blasphemy, Leviticus 24:16; Deuteronomy 13:1-5. They had arraigned Jesus on that charge before the Sanhedrin, and condemned him for it, Matthew 26:63-65. But this was not the charge on which they had arraigned him before Pilate. They had accused him of sedition, Luke 23:2. On this charge they were now convinced that they could not get Pilate to condemn him. He declared him innocent. Still bent on his ruin, and resolved to gain their purpose, they now, contrary to their first intention, adduced the original accusation on which they had already pronounced him guilty. If they could not obtain his condemnation as a rebel, they now sought it as a blasphemer, and they appealed to Pilate to sanction what they believed was required in their law. Thus, to Pilate himself it became more manifest that he was innocent, that they had attempted to deceive him, and that the charge on which they had arraigned him was a mere pretence to obtain his sanction to their wicked design.

Made himself - Declared himself, or claimed to be.

The Son of God - The law did not forbid this, but it forbade blasphemy, and they considered the assumption of this title as the same as blasphemy John 10:30, John 10:33, John 10:36, and therefore condemned him.

Verse 8

When Pilate therefore heard that saying - That they had accused him of blasphemy. As this was not the charge on which they had arraigned him before his bar, he had not before heard it, and it now convinced him more of their malignity and wickedness.

He was the more afraid - What was the ground of his fear is not declared by the evangelist. It was probably, however, the alarm of his conscience, and the fear of vengeance if he suffered such an act of injustice to be done as to put an innocent man to death. He was convinced of his innocence. He saw more and more clearly the design of the Jews; and it is not improbable that a pagan, who believed that the gods often manifested themselves to people, dreaded their vengeance if he suffered one who claimed to be divine, and who might be, to be put to death. It is clear that Pilate was convinced that Jesus was innocent; and in this state of agitation between the convictions of his own conscience, and the clamors of the Jews, and the fear of vengeance, and the certainty that he would do wrong if he gave him up, he was thrown into this state of alarm, and resolved again to question Jesus, that he might obtain satisfaction on the subjects that agitated his mind.

Verse 9

Whence art thou? - See the notes at John 7:27. Pilate knew that he was a Galilean, but this question was asked to ascertain whether he claimed to be the Son of God - whether a mere man, or whether divine.

Jesus gave him no answer - Probably for the following reasons:

  1. Jesus had already told Pilate Jesus’ design, and the nature of his kingdom, John 18:36-37.
  2. Jesus had said enough to satisfy Pilate of Jesus’ innocence. Of that Pilate was convinced. Pilate’s duty was clear, and if he had had firmness to do it, he would not have asked this. Jesus, by his silence, therefore rebuked Pilate for his lack of firmness, and his unwillingness to do what his conscience told him was right.
  3. It is not probable that Pilate would have understood Jesus if Jesus had declared to Pilate the truth about Jesus’ origin, and about his being the Son of God.
  4. After what had been done - after he had satisfied Pilate of his innocence, and then had been beaten and mocked by his permission he had no reason to expect justice at his hands, and therefore properly declined to make any further defense. By this the prophecy Isaiah 53:7 was remarkably fulfilled.

Verse 10

Speakest thou not ... - This is the expression of a man of pride. He was not accustomed to be met with silence like this. He endeavored, therefore, to address the fears of Jesus, and to appall him with the declaration that his life was at his disposal, and that his safety depended on his favor. This arrogance called forth the reply of the Savior, and he told him that he had no power except what was given him from above. Jesus was not, therefore, to be intimidated by any claim of power in Pilate. His life was not in his hands, and he could not stoop to ask the favor of a man.

Verse 11

No power - No such power as you claim. You have not originated the power which you have. You have just as much as is given, and your ability extends no further.

Except it were given thee - It has been conceded or granted to you. God has ordered your life, your circumstances, and the extent of your dominion. This was a reproof of a proud man in office, who was forgetful of the great Source of his authority, and who supposed that by his own talents or fortune he had risen to his present place. Alas, how many men in office forget that God gives them their rank, and vainly think that it is owing to their own talents or merits that they have risen to such an elevation. Men of office and talent, as well as others, should remember that God gives them what they have, and that they have no influence except as it is conceded to them from on high.

From above - From God, or by his direction, and by the arrangements of his providence. Romans 13:1; “there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.” The words “from above” often refer to God or to heaven, James 1:17; James 3:15, James 3:17; John 3:3 (in the Greek). The providence of God was remarkable in so ordering affairs that a man, flexible and yielding like Pilate, should be entrusted with power in Judea. Had it been a man firm and unyielding in his duty one who could not be terrified or awed by the multitude Jesus would not have been delivered to be crucified, Acts 2:23. God thus brings about his wise ends; and while Pilate was free, and acted out his nature without compulsion, yet the purposes of God, long before predicted, were fulfilled, and Jesus made an atonement for the sins of the world. Thus God overrules the wickedness and folly of men. He so orders affairs that the true character of men shall be brought out, and makes use of that character to advance his own great purposes.

Therefore - On this account. “You are a magistrate. Your power, as such, is given you by God. You are not, indeed, guilty for accusing me, or malignantly arraigning me; but you have power intrusted to you over my life; and the Jews, who knew this, and who knew that the power of a magistrate was given to him by God, have the greater sin for seeking my condemnation before a tribunal appointed by God, and for endeavoring to obtain so solemn a sanction to their own malignant and wicked purposes. They have endeavored to avail themselves of the civil power, the sacred appointment of God, and on this account their sin is greater.” This does not mean that their sin was greater than that of Pilate, though that was true; but their sin was greater on account of the fact that they perseveringly and malignantly endeavored to obtain the sanction of the magistrate to their wicked proceedings. Nor does it mean, because God had purposed his death Acts 2:23, and given power to Pilate, that therefore their sin was greater, for God’s purpose in the case made it neither more nor less. It did not change the nature of their free acts. This passage teaches no such doctrine, but that their sin was aggravated by malignantly endeavoring to obtain the sanction of a magistrate who was invested with authority by God, and who wielded the power that God gave him. By this Pilate ought to have been convinced, and was convinced, of their wickedness, and hence he sought more and more to release him.

He that delivered me - The singular here is put for the plural, including Judas, the high priests, and the Sanhedrin.

Verse 12

Sought to release him - He was more and more convinced of his innocence, and more unwilling to yield him to mere malice and envy in the face of justice.

But the Jews cried out ... - This moved Pilate to deliver Jesus into their hands. He feared that he would be accused of unfaithfulness to the interests of the Roman emperor if he did not condemn a man whom his own nation had accused of sedition. The Roman emperor then on the throne was exceedingly jealous and tyrannical, and the fear of losing his favor induced Pilate to deliver Jesus into their hands.

Caesar’s friend - The friend of the Roman emperor. The name of the reigning emperor was Tiberius. After the time of Julius Caesar all the emperors were called Caesar, as all the kings of Egypt were called Pharaoh. This emperor was, during the latter part of his reign, the most cruel, jealous, and wicked that ever sat on the Roman throne.

Verse 13

Judgment-seat - The tribunal or place of pronouncing sentence. He came here to deliver him, in due form of law, into the hands of the Jews.

Pavement - This was an area or room of the judgment hall whose floor was made of small square stones of various colors. This was common in palaces and houses of wealth and splendor. See the notes at Matthew 9:2.

Gabbatha - This word is not elsewhere used. It comes from a word signifying to be elevated. The name given to the place by the Hebrews was conferred from its being the place of the tribunal, as an elevated place.

Verse 14

The preparation of the passover - See the notes at Mark 15:42.

The sixth hour - Twelve o’clock noon. Mark says Mark 15:25 that it was the third hour. See the difficulty explained in the notes at that place.

Verses 16-22

See the notes at Matthew 27:32-37.

John 19:22

What I have written ... - This declaration implied that he would make no change. He was impatient, and weary of their solicitations. He had yielded to them contrary to the convictions of his own conscience, and he now declared his purpose to yield no further.

Verse 23

His garments - The plural here is used to denote the outer garment. It was made, commonly, so as to be easily thrown on or off, and when they labored or walked it was girded about the loins. See the notes at Matthew 5:40.

Four parts - It seems, from this, that there were four soldiers employed as his executioners.

His coat - His under garment, called the tunic.

Was without seam - Josephus (Antiq., b. 3 chapter 8, Section 4) says of the garment or coat of the high priest that “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. It was also parted where the hands were to come out.” It seems that the Lord Jesus, the great High Priest of his people, had also a coat made in a similar manner. Compare Exodus 39:22.

Verse 24

Let us not rend it - It would then have been useless. The outer garment, being composed of several parts - fringes, borders, etc. Deuteronomy 12:12 - could be easily divided.

That the scripture ... - Psalms 22:18.

Verse 26

The disciple ...whom he loved - See John 13:23.

Woman - This appellation certainly implied no disrespect. See the notes at John 2:4.

Behold thy son! - This refers to John, not to Jesus himself. Behold, my beloved disciple shall be to you a son, and provide for you, and discharge toward you the duties of an affectionate child. Mary was poor. It would even seem that now she had no home. Jesus, in his dying moments, filled with tender regard for his mother, secured for her an adopted son, obtained for her a home, and consoled her grief by the prospect of attention from him who was the most beloved of all the apostles. What an example of filial attention! What a model to all children! And how lovely appears the dying Saviour, thus remembering his afflicted mother, and making her welfare one of his last cares on the cross, and even when making atonement for the sins of the world!

Verse 27

Behold thy mother! - One who is to be to thee as a mother. The fact that she was the mother of Jesus would secure the kindness of John, and the fact that she was now intrusted to him demanded of him affectionate regard and tender care.

From that hour ... - John seems to have been in better circumstances than the other apostles. See John 18:16. Tradition says that she continued to live with him in Judea until the time of her death, which occurred about fifteen years after the death of Christ.

Verses 28-30

See the notes at Matthew 27:46-50.

That the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst - See Psalms 69:21. Thirst was one of the most distressing circumstances attending the crucifixion. The wounds were highly inflamed, and a raging fever was caused, usually, by the sufferings on the cross, and this was accompanied by insupportable thirst. See the notes at Matthew 27:35. A Mameluke, or Turkish officer, was crucified, it is said in an Arabic manuscript recently translated, on the banks of the Barada River, under the castle of Damascus. He was nailed to the cross on Friday, and remained until Sunday noon, when he died. After giving an account of the crucifixion, the narrator proceeds: “I have heard this from one who witnessed it; and he thus remained until he died, patient and silent, without wailing, but looking around him to the right and the left, upon the people. But he begged for water, and none was given him; and the hearts of the people were melted with compassion for him, and with pity on one of God’s creatures, who, yet a boy, was suffering under so grievous a trial. In the meantime the water was flowing around him, and he gazed upon it, and longed for one drop of it; and he complained of thirst all the first day, after which he was silent, for God gave him strength” - Wiseman’s Lectures, pp. 164, 165, ed.

John 19:30

It is finished - The sufferings and agonies in redeeming man are over. The work long contemplated, long promised, long expected by prophets and saints, is done. The toils in the ministry, the persecutions and mockeries, and the pangs of the garden and the cross, are ended, and man is redeemed. What a wonderful declaration was this! How full of consolation to man! And how should this dying declaration of the Saviour reach every heart and affect every soul!

Verse 31

The preparation - John 19:14.

That the bodies ... - The law required that the bodies of those who were hung should not remain suspended during the night. See Deuteronomy 21:22-23. That law was made when the punishment by crucifixion was unknown, and when those who were suspended would almost immediately expire. In the punishment by crucifixion, life was lengthened out for four, five, or eight days. The Jews therefore requested that their death might be hastened, and that the land might not be polluted by their bodies remaining suspended on the Sabbath day.

Was an high day - It was:

  1. The Sabbath.
  2. It was the day on which the paschal feast properly commenced.

It was called a high day because that year the feast of the Passover commenced on the Sabbath. Greek: “Great day.”

Their legs might be broken - To hasten their death. The effect of this, while they were suspended on the cross, would be to increase their pain by the act of breaking them, and to deprive their body of the support which it received from the feet, and to throw the whole weight on the hands. By this increased torment their lives were soon ended. Lactantius says that this was commonly done by the Romans to persons who were crucified. The common period to which persons crucified would live was several days. To compensate for those lingering agonies, so that the full amount of suffering might be endured, they increased their sufferings by breaking their limbs, and thus hastening their death.

Verse 33

Saw that he was dead - Saw by the indications of death on his person, and perhaps by the testimony of the centurion, Matthew 27:54. The death of Jesus was doubtless hastened by the intense agony of the garden, and the special sufferings endured as an atonement for sin on the cross. Compare Matthew 27:46.

Verse 34

One of the soldiers - One of those appointed to watch the bodies until they were dead. This man appears to have doubted whether he was dead, and, in order to see whether he was not yet sensible, he pierced him with his spear. The Jews designed that his legs should be broken, but this was prevented by the providence of God; yet in another way more satisfactory proof was obtained of his death than would have been by the breaking of his legs. This was so ordered, no doubt, that there might be the fullest proof that he was truly dead; that it could not be pretended that he had swooned away and revived, and so, therefore, that there could not be the least doubt of his resurrection to life.

With a spear - The common spear which soldiers used in war. There can be no doubt that such a stroke from the strong arm of a Roman soldier would have caused death, if he had not been already dead; and it was, doubtless, to furnish this conclusive proof that he was actually dead, and that an atonement had thus been made for mankind, that John mentions so particularly this fact. Let the following circumstances be remembered, showing that death must have ensued from such a wound:

  1. The Saviour was elevated but a little from the ground, so as to be easily reached by the spear of a soldier.

(2)The wound must have been transversely upward, so as to have penetrated into the body, as he could not have stood directly under him.

(3)It was probably made with a strong arm and with violence.

(4)The spear of the Roman soldier was a lance which tapered very gently to a point, and would penetrate easily.

(5)The wound was comparatively a large wound. It was so large as to admit the hand John 20:27; but for a lance thus tapering to have made a wound so wide as to admit the hand, it must have been at least four or five inches in depth, and must have been such as to have made death certain. If it be remembered that this blow was probably in the left side, the conclusion is inevitable that death would have been the consequence of such a blow. To make out this fact was of special importance, probably, in the time of John, as the reality of the death of Jesus was denied by the Gnostics, many of whom maintained that he died in appearance only.

Pierced his side - Which side is not mentioned, nor can it be certainly known. The common opinion is that it was the left side. Car. Frid. Gruner (Commentatio Antiquaria Medica de Jesu Christi Morte, 30-36) has attempted to show that it must have been the left side. See Wiseman’s Lectures, pp. 161, 162, and Kuinoel on John 19:34, where the arguments of Gruner are fully stated. It is clear that the spear pierced to the region of the heart.

And forthwith came ... - This was evidently a natural effect of thus piercing the side. Such a flowing of blood and water makes it probable that the spear reached the heart, and if Jesus had not before been dead, this would have closed his life. The heart is surrounded by a membrane called the pericardium. This membrane contains a serous matter or liquor resembling water, which prevents the surface of the heart from becoming dry by its continual motion (Webster). It was this which was pierced and from which the water flowed. The point of the spear also reached one of the ventricles of the heart, and the blood, yet warm, rushed forth, either mingled with or followed by the water of the pericardium, so as to appear to John to be blood and water flowing together. This was a natural effect, and would follow in any other case. Commentators have almost uniformly supposed that this was significant; as, for example, that the blood was an emblem of the eucharist, and the water of baptism, or that the blood denoted justification, and the water sanctification; but that this was the design there is not the slightest evidence.

It was strictly a natural result, adduced by John to establish one fact on which the whole of Christianity turns that he was truly dead. On this depends the doctrine of the atonement, of his resurrection, and all the prominent doctrines of religion. This fact it was of importance to prove, that it might not be pretended that he had only suffered a syncope, or had fainted. This John establishes. He shows that those who were sent to hasten his death believed that he had expired; that then a soldier inflicted a wound which would have terminated life if he had not been already dead; and that the infliction of this wound was followed by the fullest proof that he had truly expired. On this fact he dwells with the interest which became a subject of so much importance to the world, and thus laid the foundation for undoubted assurance that the Lord Jesus died for the sins of men.

Verse 35

He that saw it - John himself. He is accustomed to speak of himself in the third person.

His record is true - His testimony is true. Such was the known character of this writer, such his sacred regard for truth, that he could appeal to that with full assurance that all would put confidence in him. He often appeals thus to the fact that his testimony was known to be true. It would be well if all Christians had such a character that their word would be assuredly believed.

Verse 36

That the scripture should be fulfilled - See Exodus 12:46. John here regards the paschal lamb as an emblem of Christ; and as in the law it was commanded that a bone of that lamb should not be broken, so, in the providence of God, it was ordered that a bone of the Saviour should not be broken. The Scripture thus received a complete fulfillment respecting both the type and the antitype. Some have supposed, however, that John referred to Psalms 34:20.

Verse 37

Another’ scripture - Zechariah 12:10. We must here be struck with the wonderful providence of God, that so many scriptures were fulfilled in his death. All these things happened without any such design on the part of the men engaged in these scenes; but whatever was done by Jew or Gentile tended to the fulfillment of prophecies long on record, and with which the Jews themselves ought to have been familiar. Little did they suppose, when delivering him to Pilate when he was mocked when they parted his garments when they pierced him - that they were fulfilling ancient predictions. But in this way God had so ordered it that the firmest foundation should be laid for the belief that he was the true Messiah, and that the designs of wicked men should all be overruled to the fulfillment of the great plans which God had in sending his Son.

Verses 38-42

See the notes at Matthew 27:57-61.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/john-19.html. 1870.
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