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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
John 19

 

 

Verses 1-11

Christ before Pilate - 2

John 19:1-11

v. l. Having failed in his attempt to release Jesus by forcing the Jews to choose between Barabbas and Christ, Pilate ordered the Lord to be scourged. It appears that he thought that they might be satisfied with Jesus being scourged and released, for scourging was horrible torture (John 19:12). The victim was stripped naked, fastened to a post, and severely whipped (Isaiah 53:5).

John 19:2-3. This scourging was followed by a mock coronation in the soldiers' hall (Matthew 27:26-31). The soldiers wanted to torture him and also to mock the fact that he was said to be ‘the King of the Jews.’ The cruel, thorny crown served both purposes. Perhaps this crown of thorns reaches back to Genesis 3:18 in connection with the thorns and thistles promised Adam's sons as a result of the fall. Our Lord bore the curse of sin for us (Galatians 3:13). The soldiers threw about his shoulders a purple robe (probably a faded old soldier's mantle), put a reed in his hand to represent a king's sceptre (Genesis 49:10), and marched about striking him with their fists, spitting upon Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews.’ Our Lord was delivered to Pilate, charged with making himself King. The soldiers mocked him as a king, and he was crucified with this charge written over his head, ‘The King of the Jews.’ He is indeed the King of kings and Lord of lords and will be owned, received, and acknowledged as such by all whom he saves (Romans 10:9-10) and one day by every creature (Philippians 2:9-11).

John 19:4-5. Pilate was a troubled, confused man. He was afraid of this man, Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:19), he did not want to get the Jews stirred up against him, he was worried that word of this tumult should get to Caesar and endanger his position, and he found no fault in Christ, knowing the Jews had an evil motive in it all (Matthew 27:18). So he tried one more plan! Pilate went out before the people and said, ‘Behold, I bring him forth to you that you may know that I find no fault in him.’ He hoped to reach some sympathy and compassion in this mob; so he pointed to Jesus Christ, as he was led forth, and said, ‘Behold, the man!’ Not ‘your king,’ for this would have provoked them, but a man like yourselves who ought to be treated with some sympathy and compassion. Our Lord came forth wearing the crown of thorns, the mocking robe, bloody and beaten, his face and body marred as no other man (Isaiah 52:14). Pilate hoped that they would be satisfied with what had been done to him.

John 19:6. It is significant to note who looked upon the Lord in this terrible condition and began to cry, ‘Crucify Him, crucify him.’ It was not the people but the chief priests and officers of the temple–men who made great pretensions to piety and religion. How wicked is the unregenerate heart, especially when it is clothed in religious garb! Pilate said, ‘You crucify Him, for I find no fault in him.’ It is also significant how many times Pilate said, ‘I find no fault in Him’ (John 18:38; John 19:4; John 19:6). By means of Pilate, our God declares the innocence and holiness of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:21-22; Isaiah 53:9-10). Our Lord is the perfect Man, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin; as such he is our representative and our righteousness before God (Romans 5:19; 1 Peter 3:18). In his holy life he honored the law for us, and in his death he satisfied divine justice (Romans 4:25).

John 19:7. The law they referred to was the law for putting false prophets to death (Deuteronomy 18:20; Leviticus 24:16). They understood perfectly what the Lord Jesus had said to them (John 10:30-33). He declared himself to be God; and for this, according to their law, they insisted that he must die.

John 19:8-9. On top of all his other fears and doubts, this new revelation caused Pilate to be more afraid. Is it possible that this prisoner is related to Deity? He remembered his wife's dream and warning, he knew that Jesus was innocent, he certainly had heard of the man's life and miracles, and he had to be impressed with the Lord's conduct throughout this whole affair. He took the Saviour back into the judgment hall and asked, ‘Where are you from?’ But Christ gave him no answer. He deserved no answer! He had totally ignored every word Christ spoke, compromised justice by scourging an innocent man, and had no other motive through it all except his own welfare. However, our Lord was willing to die for his people and made no defense (Isaiah 53:7).

John 19:10-11. Pilate's reply is natural. He is fearful and afraid, his conscience is troubling him, his whole domain is up in arms over this one man, and being totally confused at the serenity and calmness of this Jesus, who refuses to defend himself while facing death on a cruel cross, he cried, ‘Do you stand in silence and refuse to answer me when you know that I have the power to crucify you or release you? How dare you! Do you know who I am and what power I have?’ Our Lord replied, ‘You could have no power or authority over me at all, except the power my Father allows you to have’ (John 3:27; Acts 4:26-28). Our Lord is saying that Pilate, like Pharaoh, was an instrument used by God to accomplish his purpose and glory (Romans 9:17). The greater sin belonged to these religious leaders who so grossly sinned against the scriptures they claimed to believe and the light God had given as they heard Christ speak (Luke 12:47-48).


Verses 12-27

Jesus of Nazareth - King of the Jews

John 19:12-27

John 19:12. As a result of the discussion he had with the Lord Jesus in John 19:8-11, Pilate sought to release Jesus. He knew that he was innocent of their charges and was no rebel nor threat to Caesar. But when he sought to release Jesus Christ, the Jews took up a cry which they knew would influence the governor, ‘If you let this man go, you are an enemy of Caesar: for whosoever makes himself King speaks against Caesar.’ That did it! Pilate understood what they said and knew that if they lodged a complaint (even lies or insinuations) against him before Tiberias, who was then Caesar, he would be in grave danger of losing everything. He knew that these Jews were liars who had no love for Caesar, but he saw their determination to kill Jesus of Nazareth and knew that they would stop at nothing to do so.

John 19:13-14. When Pilate heard that they intended to accuse him of treason before Caesar, he brought the Lord Jesus forth to pass sentence upon him. The moment for which the entire history of redemption had been waiting had arrived –Pilate made up his mind to deliver Jesus Christ to be crucified (Genesis 3:15; Genesis 22:8; Genesis 22:14; Revelation 13:8). Pilate sat down on his official chair. It was Friday of the Passover week, for it was the day preceding the Sabbath, when the cooking was done and other preparations were made. The Jewish day was divided into four parts –the third hour (6:00 a.m. -9:00 a.m.), the sixth hour (9:00 a.m. – 12 noon), the ninth hour (12 noon – 3:00 p.m.), and the twelfth hour (3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.). So it was about the sixth hour (or around 9:00 a.m.) that Pilate cried, ‘Behold your King!’ Who knows what Pilate was really thinking and saying? Was he mocking them and all Jews, whom he evidently despised? Was he ridiculing the shackled, weak, defenseless man before him who was about to be slain? Or was he speaking prophetically as Caiaphas did in John 11:49-52. It is possible that he had more in mind than mocking and ridicule from what he wrote above the cross of Jesus and refused to change (John 19:19-22).

John 19:15-16. In answer to Pilate's question, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ they cried, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ They used to say, ‘We have no king but God.’ In reality they resented Caesar's rule (Matthew 22:17). No people were more zealous for their liberty than these Jews nor more impatient under foreign rule; yet their hatred for Jesus Christ and his gospel of grace and redemption was so intense that they were willing to bow to Tiberias rather than have Christ reign over them (Luke 19:14). This is the issue in salvation – who is your Lord and King? (Romans 10:9-10.) Christ is not your Saviour if he is not the Lord of your life! (Matthew 6:24). Having rejected their Messiah and having bowed to the god of this world, they led Jesus away to be crucified.

John 19:17-18. They made him carry his own cross. He carried it as long as he was physically able, then one called Simon of Cyrene was ordered to take over the difficult task (Luke 23:26). Compelling him to carry his own cross added to the shame. Much speculation and tradition surrounds ‘the place of a skull,’ Golgotha or Calvary; but there are no facts to support much of it. It was outside the city, it was a place of execution, and it was evidently on a hill.

The important thing is not where the crucifixion took place but who was crucified -- the God-man! Why was he crucified? For the sins of his people! What did he accomplish? ‘By himself purged our sins’ and enabled a holy God to be ‘just and justifier’ of those who believe (Romans 3:25-26). One may find the actual spot where Christ died and the actual cross on which Christ hung and be no better for it. Forgiveness of sin and redemption are through faith in him, not contact with so-called ‘holy places, things, or relics’ (2 Kings 18:1-4). Two thieves were crucified with him (Luke 23:32-33).

John 19:19-22. Pilate wrote upon a board the superscription of his accusation containing the substance of the charges against him and nailed it to his cross, ‘Jesus Of Nazareth The King Of The Jews.’ It was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that it might be read by all Jews, Greeks, and Romans; for he is indeed the Saviour of men of every nation, and he is the King of all (Philippians 2:9-11). The Jews were offended by what Pilate had written, for they did not own him to be their King and they resented the implication. They said, ‘Write that he said, I am the King of the Jews. We are not crucifying our king; we are crucifying a traitor and an imposter.’ Pilate refused to yield to their demands and said, ‘What I have written, I have written.’ He must save face in some way. He must show his authority in some way, for he had given in to them too much already. But how true concerning all involved in this matter! What God has written, he has written! What Pilate had written and done was done for all time. What these Jews had done and what was written of them was done and written forever (Matthew 27:24-25).

John 19:23-24. Evidently there were four soldiers who crucified Him, for it says that they divided his garments in four parts. Someone suggested there may have been sandals, head gear, belt, and another garment; for they crucified him naked. The fifth piece was a robe woven in one piece without seams. Instead of cutting or tearing it to be divided among them, they cast lots for it that the scripture might be fulfilled (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Psalms 22:18).

John 19:25-27. Our Lord commended his mother, Mary, to the care of John, the author of this epistle. He ordered John to take care of her as if she had been his own mother. Evidently Joseph was dead, otherwise he would have cared for her. From that time Mary lived with John. Even in his most difficult hour, our Lord provides for his own and leaves us an example (1 Timothy 5:8).


Verses 28-42

The substitute

John 19:28-42

John 19:28. Of the seven words from the cross, John records three:

The seven words are:

‘Father, forgive them’ (Luke 23:34);

‘Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43);

‘Woman, behold thy son’ (John 19:26-27);

‘My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46);

‘I thirst’ (John 19:28);

‘It is finished’ (John 19:30);

‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46).

Our Lord's task was accomplished. He had honored the law in life; and now in his suffering and death under the wrath of God against the sin of his people, he had fully satisfied justice (Isaiah 53:4-6). That the scripture might be fulfilled (Psalms 22:15; Psalms 69:21), he cried, ‘I thirst.’ He suffered the burning thirst of hell (Luke 16:24) that we might drink the water of life and never thirst (John 4:14).

John 19:29-30. This vessel full of vinegar or sour wine was a Roman soldier's drink. They filled a sponge with it, put it on a reed, and dabbed it over his parched mouth and lips (Ruth 2:14). When Christ received the vinegar, he cried, ‘It is finished,’ bowed his head, and died. What was finished?

1. The whole will of God in regard to redemption (Hebrews 10:7).

2. The whole work his Father had given him to do (1 Timothy 1:15).

3. The Levitical law and all types and ceremonies (Hebrews 10:9-14).

4. The righteousness of God performed, perfected, and imputed to believers (Romans 3:19-24; Romans 10:4; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The proof of the accomplishment of all that he came to do was his resurrection from the dead (Acts 17:31). Salvation and eternal life is the gift of God, not of works on our part, but through the Person and work of our substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

‘Tis finished: the great transaction's done;

I am my Lord's and he is mine.’

Nothing need nor can be added to his finished work.

John 19:31. It was late in the afternoon, and the Jews' Sabbath day began immediately after sunset; so they urged Pilate to break the legs of the crucified and hasten their death that their bodies might be taken down and buried before the Sabbath began. This Sabbath was a high day, when all the Jews presented themselves before the Lord in the temple. Dead bodies hanging on crosses would defile their Sabbath and ceremonies (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). What hypocrisy, evil, and inconsistency stand clothed in religion! They were not concerned about crucifying the Messiah, only with defiling their holy day.

John 19:32-33. They broke the legs of the two thieves; but when they came to Christ and saw that he was dead, they broke not his legs. This was not out of compassion for him (as we shall see in the next verses), but that which restrained them was God's divine providence and purpose.

John 19:34-37. A soldier with a spear pierced his side, and there came out blood and water. John wrote that he saw this, and his record is true (1 John 5:6-8). The blood and water from the Lord's side signify justification and sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).

‘Let the water and the blood,

From thy wounded side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure,

Cleanse me from its guilt and power’

But all this was done also that the scriptures should be fulfilled (Exodus 12:46; Psalms 34:20; Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7).

John 19:38. Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man (Matthew 27:57), an honorable man (Mark 15:43), a member of the Sanhedrin, but he had not agreed to their plot to crucify Christ (Luke 23:50-51) and was a secret disciple of Christ. He was full of fear of the Jews but now shows great courage in asking Pilate to allow him to take the body of Christ and bury it in his own sepulchre. This would certainly identify him as a disciple of Christ and bring the wrath of the Jews upon him.

John 19:39-40. To the cross at the same time came another prominent Jewish leader named Nicodemus (John 3:1-3; John 7:50-52), a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, and a master in Israel. Nicodemus also was afraid to confess Christ earlier, but now, out of love for Christ, brought a costly mixture of burial spices, and with Joseph, wound the body in linen with the spices and buried the body of Jesus.

John 19:41-42. The grave was not a hole in the ground, but much like a cave or a vault in the rocks. On the side of the city where he was crucified was a garden (perhaps belonging to the rich man, Joseph), and in the garden was a sepulchre in which no one had ever been buried. This was necessary that when he arose, there should be no doubt that it was he and not another who was raised. They rolled a stone over the door of the grave (Mark 15:46), and Pilate sealed the stone and set guards around the grave (Matthew 27:62-66).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 19:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/john-19.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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