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Bible Commentaries
John 19

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

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Verses 1-42



Pilate then tried another desperate move, having the Lord scourged. This was gross injustice, yet he hoped by this to placate the Jews' enmity, considering that they might be satisfied if only the Lord was humiliated, and therefore not insist on His death. The soldiers added to this the scorn of crowning Him with thorns and clothing Him in purple, in derision of His being a king, then striking Him with their hands (vs.1-3). Thus Pilate orders and allows criminal assault to take place in his court!

After such cruel abuse, Pilate went forth to announce that he will bring Christ forth to make it clear before all that he has found no fault in Him. He presents Him with the words, "Behold the Man!" But the crown of thorns and the purple robe made no difference to the bitter determination of the chief priests: they cry out for His crucifixion, though as yet they have laid no charge (v.6).

Pilate tells them to take the responsibility for crucifying Him, for he for the third time says he has found no fault in Him. But it is not within their jurisdiction to pass judgment that He be crucified, and they are determined that Pilate should do so. Yet it is their own Jewish law to which they appeal, declaring that their law demands His death because He had acknowledged to them that He is the Son of God. Certainly Roman law would not consider this as a criminal charge. Nor could they point to a specific tenet of their own law that would confirm their words.

Though Pilate had been afraid because of the calm, unusual dignity of a prisoner such as he had never before faced, he is the more afraid, for he cannot but think it may be true that He is the Son of God (v.7). Why did he not then immediately release Him? Simply because Pilate had made himself the victim of his own vacilating. Troubled, he asked the Lord, "Where are You from?" Again, for a judge this is a totally irrelevant question: the Lord did not answer

This irritated Pilate and he used his judicial authority unjustly again in an effort to intimidate the Lord, speaking as being the final authority as to whether one should be released or crucified. But in fact, the only authority had was to judge righteously according to the evidence More than that, the Lord reproves him solemnly with the assertion that Pilate had no authority at all except that which was allowed him from above (v.11), for there is no authority but of God. Every other authority is only delegated by Him (Romans 13:1). But the Lord adds that the high priest, who had delivered Him to Pilate, had the greater sin. For the high priest had used his position of spiritual authority as derived from scripture in a manner grossly contrary to scripture and to God's authority therein clearly declared. He was more responsible, therefore his sin was greater. Yet Pilate's misuse of authority was sin also: the Lord would not allow him to slip of his responsibility.

Conscience evidently pressing him, Pilate seeks some means by which he might release the Lord; but the Jews are ready with another weapon. They tell him that such action would show no friendship to Caesar, claiming that the Lord had made Himself a king and was therefore declaiming against Caesar. In fact, this meant nothing to the Jews themselves, but they gain their deceitful end by making Pilate fearful as to his own position and recognition by Caesar. This overrides his conscience.



Pilate is defeated by his own political maneuvering. He has decided to give in to the Jews, then takes his place on the judgment seat set outside apparently for this occasion (v.13).

The expression "the preparation" arose first from the custom of preparing food, etc. for the sabbath day, and referred to the sixth day of the week. This particular preparation was that of the Passover, - not a preparation for the Passover, but of the Passover It was in fact the very day of the Passover, which began the previous evening. The time mentioned is Roman time (not Jewish), that is, six a.m. as we know it, so that three hours intervened between the time that Pilate declared "Behold your King!" and the actual crucifixion.

Pilate, irritated by his own defeat, speaks in this way, "Behold your king" to further irritate the Jews, though he is himself afraid that his words are true. Viciously they clamor again for the crucifixion of their King.. Of sober reasoning or of evidence there is none. Pilate protests: why crucify One whose very bearing shows Him to be worthy to be King of the Jews, not to speak of His being innocent? In cold, determined hypocrisy they respond that they have no king but Caesar. Actually they hated Caesar's domination, but would not say this to Pilate: just now they would say anything to persuade Pilate to kill their King.

There was more that took place at this time, during the three hour period, as the other Gospels indicate, but John shows plainly the deciding factors, both on the part of the Jews and of Pilate. The Jews claimed He should die because He acknowledged the truth that He is the Son of God. This was no valid charge under Roman law, so before Pilate they put him in opposition to Caesar, as claiming to be King. Pilate knew that only envy prompted this hostility (Matthew 27:18), but fearing for his own position, he acceded to their harshly unjust demands and passed sentence that the Lord of glory should be crucified (v.16).

Though it is notorious in men's courts that sentence against evil is not speedily executed, yet this evil sentence against One perfectly righteous is executed as rapidly as possible. Wickedness cannot afford to be calm, careful and judicious in order to gain its ends.

The Lord alone is spoken of here as bearing His cross. As they went, we read elsewhere that Simon was commandeered to do this after Him (Luke 23:26). for it must be shown that there is a sense in which believers are identified with Him in the bearing of His cross, - not bearing God's judgment, but bearing rejection by the world. John however focuses all attention on the blessed Son of God Himself. Let us here remark that there is no suggestion in the history that the Lord was overburdened by the weight of the cross, as some have said: this is merely human imagination.

In the place of a skull He is crucified, with another on each side of Him (vs.17- 18). No more is said in John of these two, for again it is the person of the Son of God who must be prominent in John's Gospel. The inscription Pilate places on the cross is evidently intended by him to chasten the Jews. Only in John are the words "of Nazareth" reported, for John tells us of Him who is the eternal Son of God put in the place of lowest humiliation, the Object of the Jews' hateful despite. Likely the full title was "This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews," but each of the Gospel writers reports only that part that specially suited the character of his book. Or, the wording could have been a little different in each of the three languages in which the title was written. In these all mankind is represented, the religious world (Hebrew), the intellectual world (Greek) and the political world (Latin); all being guilty of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory.

The chief priests object to the title, urging that it be written only that Christ claimed to be King, but Pilate refused to change it (vs.21-22). God had decreed that the truth should be written. The Jews had gained their major end from Pilate, and he will bend no further to them. Thus they are made to feel their victory is less than complete.

The four Roman soldiers responsible for His execution share in despoiling Him of His garments. What a picture of the unbelief in the world that robs the Son of God of that which belongs to Him alone by right! The coat being without seam reminds us that His own nature is perfectly "woven together," every detail of His character united together in perfection of unity. Divine sovereignty rules that this was not to be torn. Thus scripture was fulfilled in every detail (vs.23-24).



In Luke 23:49 we read of His followers who "stood afar off, beholding these things." But here we see standing by the cross "His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." Warmth of love toward Him is that which overcomes fear. John, the writer of this book, is nearby also. It would seem that there were three Mary's present besides His mother's sister; who is not named.

The Lord speaks from the cross in tender consideration for His mother, indicating to her that now John was to be her son; and to John, telling him, "Behold your mother!" (vs.26-27). We know that she did have other sons by natural birth (Mark 6:3; Psalms 69:8), but John 7:5 tells us, "Neither did His brethren believe on Him." How much more strong is the spiritual relationship than the natural! John took her after this to his own home. Her other sons had deprived themselves of such a privilege through unbelief. Yet after His resurrection His brothers were found in the upper room with the disciples. Apparently through His death and resurrection they were converted to God. Yet they had lost the dignity of caring for their mother.



Between verses 27 and 28 there was much that took place, including the three hours of darkness in which the Lord Jesus endured the dreadful wrath of God against sin. John says nothing of this, nor of His cry of abandonment, for it is the burnt-offering aspect of His sacrifice that is prominent here, all ascending as a sweet odor to God. God's delight in His sacrifice therefore is prominent, not God's judgment.

After the three hours of darkness, knowing that all was perfectly accomplished, the Lord Jesus said, in fulfillment of scripture, "I thirst." He who gives the water of eternal life has Himself, in accomplishing the will of God, deeply thirsted. But men gave Him not water, rather vinegar, with the intention of adding bitterness to His sufferings. Previously they had mingled gall with vinegar, but He would not drink, for this was stupefying (Matthew 27:34).

Now He receives the vinegar, and says, "It is finished." Luke tell us that it was with a loud voice He cried out (Luke 23:46), and followed this with the words, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." John simply says, "and having bowed His head, He delivered up His spirit." This was His own personal act: He laid down His life. Though as to intent and purpose His enemies were guilty of His murder; yet they could not take His life from Him (John 10:18).



Having gained their evil purpose, the Jews urge Pilate to have the legs of the three men broken to hasten death, and their bodies removed before the Sabbath began at sundown; for on this "high" sabbath they must be very religious and not allow the reminder of their gruesome wickedness to mar their holy day (v.31).

Pilate agreed to this, but the soldiers, having broken the legs of the robbers, find that the Lord was dead already. They disobey orders and one instead pierced the side of the Lord Jesus with a spear. This had to take place, for scripture had foretold this very thing, and also that no bone of Him should be broken (Zechariah 12:10; Exodus 12:46). The bones, the framework of the body, speak of the fundamental truth as to His person, which is unchanged, unbroken through the midst of His dreadful sufferings.

But the piercing brings forth blood and water, and this is solemnly witnessed to as absolute truth by John himself, who saw it. It has been said that there is a sac near the heart that, in cases only of extreme suffering, will release a considerable amount of water; which of course is unusual. But on the other hand this may have been entirely a miracle of God. 1 John 5:6 comments on the blood and water, inferring its spiritual significance. Blood is for the judicial cleansing from the guilt of sins. Water speaks rather of the moral cleansing accomplished by the word of God in new birth (John 5:3; John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26 Verses 36 and 37 again insist that every detail of prophetic scripture must be fulfilled. If people had seen only a few prophecies fulfilled concerning any event, they would consider this amazing; but when God prophesies, every detail is fulfilled perfectly. Yet many choose to disbelieve Him!



The world -- religious, intellectual, political -- has done its worst: they have crucified the Lord of glory. But on His part, He has finished the work God gave Him to do. Now God intervenes. He has prepared two men for this occasion, Joseph, a counselor of the Jewish Sanhedrim, but whose heart had been drawn to the Lord Jesus, and Nicodemus, spoken of for the third time, who first came to Jesus by night, now coming in the daylight, to be identified with this blessed One in His death, though not previously in His life. Wonderful is the work of God in souls drawn by His marvelous grace to a true faith in His beloved Son, even at a time when He has been put to death. Joseph went secretly to Plate, however, lest there should be opposition of the Jews. Yet Mark tells us also that he "went boldly unto Pilate" (Mark 15:43), that is, with true courage of faith.

Certainly it was not secretly that they took the body of Jesus: this would be well known by the Jews, and they would be marked men. But here is the beautiful record of their faith and love for the Lord enshrined in the word of God for eternity! The timidity of Nicodemus has been exchanged for the boldness of bringing so large an amount of spices, to signify that the death of the Lord Jesus has in it a sweet fragrance to delight the heart of God the Father for the ages of eternity. The wrapping in fine linen is the reminder of the perfect purity of the life of the Lord Jesus in every detail, a life laid down for the time, in sacrifice, but in prospect of being taken again.

Only in John do we read that it was a garden in which He was buried, and we are told that the grave was new, never before used. For His was a death altogether unique, a death introducing that which is eternally new. He was buried then on the Jews' preparation day, just before the Sabbath began at sundown. They observed their hollow holiday in vicious rejoicing, while the Lord of glory lay in the grave. It was a day of rest, but how far from rest was the state of their guilty consciences!

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on John 19". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/john-19.html. 1897-1910.
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