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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
John 19

 

 

Verses 1-6

The Condemnation of Jesus.

The scourging of Jesus:

v. 1. Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged Him.

v. 2. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head; and they put on Him a purple robe

v. 3. and said, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote Him with their hands.

v. 4. Pilate therefore went forth again and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you that ye may know that I find no fault in Him.

v. 5. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man!

v. 6. When the chief priests, therefore, and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him.

Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him and crucify Him; for I find no fault in Him. Just as Pilate, throughout the proceedings, had shown himself a weak and vacillating fool, without the faintest sense of justice and firmness, so he continued in the last part of the trial, which was momentarily becoming a greater farce and travesty upon justice. He had declared his belief in the innocence of Christ, and yet he commits the crying injustice of having the prisoner scourged. It was a mere whim on his part, in order to placate the Jews and win their approval. He cherished the vain hope that they might be satisfied with the small punishment which he thereby meted out. It is a wrong policy to agree to a lesser injustice in order to avoid a greater and more serious. If one has the choice of two evils and then chooses the lesser, that is perfectly legitimate. But if a person loads his conscience with the guilt of a lesser sin in order possibly to avoid the greater, it must always be condemned. Thus it was with the scourging of Christ. This in itself was indescribable torture, for the prisoner was bowed down and fastened to a whipping-post, whereupon the naked back was cut to pieces with a scourge braided at one end, but with the loose strands weighted with small leaden spheres and sometimes with hooks, in order to lacerate the back more thoroughly. And the soldiers, in whose hands the prisoner was for the time being, were not satisfied with even this terrible cruelty, but invented a game of their own which they played with the uncomplaining Christ. Having braided or plaited a ring or crown of thorns, they pressed it down upon His head, causing the sharp points to penetrate through the tender skin into the sensitive flesh. To complete the mockery, they took an old purple mantle, which they may have found in some wardrobe, and threw it about Him. And finally they bowed their knees in mock homage, and hailed Him as the King of the Jews. It was a. form of blasphemy calculated also to express their contempt of the Jews. Tiring finally of their blasphemous sport, they rained blows upon His head and body, partly from cruelty, partly from resentment, since He bore everything with divine patience. He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; He hid not His face from shame and spitting, Isa_50:6. He suffered without complaint, as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Pilate himself, seeing the result of the soldiers' cruel jest, was moved. He hoped that this exhibition would satisfy the Jews, and that he might now dismiss Jesus, Luk_23:16. Going ahead of Jesus, he announced to the Jews that he was bringing out the prisoner to show them that he found no fault in Him. And then he stepped aside for the Man with the crown of thorns and the faded purple robe, merely pointing to the Lord with the words: Behold the Man! It was a view well calculated to impress a sentimental crowd, but here was a mob dominated by hatred, upon whom the sight of blood merely had the effect of enraging them all the more. With the chief priests and the guards of the Temple leading them and stirring them up to ever new efforts, the people bellowed forth their demand: Crucify, crucify! "That is the world. In the first place, she cannot endure the righteous and innocent. In the second place, she prefers the rebel and murderer Barabbas to Christ, the Preacher of truth. Those are hard and coarse knots. But the third is much coarser, that the dear, loving world still has not enough nor is satisfied, although the truth is punished to some extent. The Jews are not satisfied, neither will they desist in their forcing of Pilate and crying over Jesus, though Jesus, the Preacher of truth, is whipped and scourged. " And the leaders of the mob knew just how to keep the bloodthirstiness at the highest point. The repetition of the one word, "Crucify!" in endless monotony had the object of deadening all remonstrances and stifling all opposition. Pilate, full of helpless indignation, in obvious despair, tries to shake off all responsibility, reiterating his statement that he finds no cause or fault in Jesus. But the time to reason and argue was long past. What could the lone man who had demonstrated his weakness do against the ceaseless droning of that one word, dinned into his ears with maddening regularity? Note: In withstanding wrong, it is always foolish and suicidal to make concessions. Far better to be martyred in the right cause than to yield in matters pertaining to conscience and plainly laid down in the Word of God.


Verses 7-12

Pilate again examines Jesus:

v. 7. The Jews answered him, We have a Law, and by our Law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.

v. 8. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid,

v. 9. and went again into the judgment-hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art Thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.

v. 10. Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest Thou not unto me? Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?

v. 11. Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above; therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin.

v. 12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him.

When Pilate made his declaration before the people of his belief in the innocence of Jesus, they stopped their noisy demonstration just long enough to give him an answer which was intended to bring his superstitious heart into further subjection. They calmly stated to him that they had a Law, and that according to that Law it was necessary that Jesus die. It was intended to impress Pilate and to browbeat him into submission, by playing upon his superstition. Unwittingly the Jews here uttered a great truth, as their high priest had done a short time before. It was indeed necessary that Jesus die, but not for any guilt of His own. "Mark here that the innocence of Christ, our Lord, stands for our guilt. For though He was condemned to death being innocent, He yet is guilty before God according to the Law; not for His person, but for our persons. He stands before Pilate, not as the son of the Virgin Mary, but as a malefactor; and that not for Himself, but for thee and for me. Thus Christ for His own person is innocent but being in our stead, He is guilty, for He has taken our part to pay our guilt. " The emphasis of the Jews was now upon that one point which had aroused the hypocrites to the highest pitch of pretended indignation, namely. that He had made Himself the Son of God. Their manner implied that they considered His claim to be altogether unfounded, but one that for that very reason merited punishment. It was a point which had no value from the standpoint of the Jews, who were attempting to show that Jesus was a dangerous rebel. "Such accusation of blasphemy toward God had no weight with Pilate, since he knew nothing of the Law of the Jews; and even if the Jews had gained this point and truly had fixed this upon Christ that He had blasphemed God, yet Pilate might have said: Why do you Jews act contrary to your own Law? Your Law commands that a blasphemer should be stoned, and not crucified; but now you cry that I should crucify this man, although crucifying is not the penalty of blasphemy, also according to your Law. Therefore the Jews are again raving and foolish, and are caught. For thus it will happen to all enemies of God that oppose the truth, that they are always caught in their own rascality. " But for us there is a world of comfort in that fact, that Jesus suffered and died as the Son of God. That gives to His Passion the real, lasting worth. The Jews, in their anxiety to force Pilate into submission, almost spoiled their own object. For the effect of their statement concerning the claim of Christ was to make him afraid of the punishment of the gods, if he should carry out the demand of the Jews. So he once more entered the hall and had a second interview with Jesus. He wanted to know whether there were any truth to the statement as to His being of divine origin. The question, blunt as it sounds, must have been spoken also with a certain amount of awe. The silence of Jesus said more strongly than words might have done that the whole trial was a blasphemous farce. Jesus had given testimony concerning Himself, as the King of truth, and Pilate had rejected the words, treated them with contempt. But the silence of Jesus enraged the proud, supercilious Roman, who now sought to impress this poor prisoner with the greatness of his power over Him. That this Man would not answer him, the governor, who, in his belief, had absolute power over His life, was almost unbelievable.

But the calm answer of Jesus pointed out to him his limits: Not wouldest thou have any power over Me if it had not been given to thee from above. Jesus was under divine direction to carry out the divine obligation resting upon Him. God's purposes were being carried out in the present trial, and not a weak man's whims and fancies. The greater blame rested with the Jews that had delivered the Lord into the hands of the Gentiles; their sin and guilt was of a nature that would bring them temporal and eternal destruction. "Here thou seest that Christ judges the work according to the heart and not according to outward seeming and appearance. Pilate commits a sin in having Christ crucified, though he finds no cause of death in Him. But since his heart is not so evil as that of Caiaphas and the high priests, therefore did not sin so great as the sin of Caiaphas and the high priests. " Such was the impression that Pilate gained from this interview that he sought more than ever, although without result, to release the Lord. But as Jesus had told him, the matter was no longer in his hands, but in that of a higher power.


Verses 12-16

The condemnation:

v. 12. But the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this Man go, thou art not Caesar's friend; whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.

v. 13. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

v. 14. And it was the preparation of the Passover and about the sixth hour; and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

v. 15. But they cried out, Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him! Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

v. 16. Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified.

While Pilate was considering ways and means to effect the release of Jesus, the leaders of the Jews had not been idle. They now gave a new turn to the case by having the mob cry out to Pilate: If thou releasest this man, thou art not friendly to Caesar. Their argument ran along these lines: Jesus had declared Himself to be a king; that implied a rebellious disposition, if not actual insurrection, rebellion against the Roman emperor, against the constituted authority. If Pilate now took the part of the prisoner, he would aid and abet, or at least strongly encourage, a rebel, affiliate himself with him, at least morally. This fact, however, would put him under suspicion, if not under accusation, as himself unfriendly to Caesar and the Roman government. The implication of the Jews was, though they did not threaten outright, that they would make a complaint, and effect the loss of his position. Such a veiled threat was bound to have great influence upon a man of Pilate's character, dependent, as he was, upon the mercy of the emperor. And it was the argument which practically decided the day for the Jews. For Pilate now formally led Jesus forth from the judgment-hall and himself sat down upon the judgment-seat, which was situated on an elevated floor or platform of stones, tessellated, or laid out in mosaics, known, on account of this feature, as the Pavement, or, in Hebrew, as Sabbath, the Elevated Place. It was a strikingly dramatic scene which was here presented, and undoubtedly intentionally so on the part of Pilate. His entire attitude proclaimed that he was ready to administer justice, that he wanted to pronounce his final judgment. The evangelist carefully notes the time when this took place: it was the preparation of the Sabbath, that is, it was Friday, and it was going toward the sixth hour, it was between nine and twelve o'clock, by the general way of reckoning time which was then in vogue. See Mar_15:25. On this day and at this hour the judgment was spoken upon Christ, whereby the world has been absolved from all guilt and transgression. Pilate appears in this entire matter as an unjust, unwise, weak judge, that plays havoc with justice and attempts to please men, 'that is not influenced solely by the facts of the case, but is swayed by personal, selfish interests. And his case illustrates also the course of sin. If a person accedes and yields to even the smallest sin against better knowledge, he will soon become the slave of sin and unable to withstand even a small temptation. Of the class of Pilate are those that finally give up all semblance of decent moral living, openly reject Christ and God, and become the willing tools of Satan. The Jews, on the other hand, appear in this story as the determined enemies of Christ. They had hardened their hearts against all influence for good; deliberate, ruthless murder was their avowed intention. And Christ was silent; He endured the horrible outrages without a word of complaint or protest. Pilate vented his bitterness and his baffled rage in the sarcastic, stinging remark: Behold your King! The words were intended to convey all his hatred and contempt for the Jews. That was their own accusation, this was included in their own threat, for this they wanted execution: "He arrogated to Himself the title King." A fine picture of a king He made in His present plight! But the sarcasm of Pilate was wasted, if he had intended it in the interest of Christ. For the lust for blood had so inflamed the Jews that they were beyond any rational appeal. Their cry, in maddened fury, broke forth: Away! Away! Crucify Him! Pilate's reply was another feeble attempt at sarcasm: Your king shall I crucify? And the chief priests answered, in a statement of mere form and hypocrisy, to force Pilate into concession: We have no king but Caesar. As a matter of fact, both the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the leaders of the Jews, hoped for the speedy delivery of the Jews from the sovereignty of the Romans. But they here profess a loyalty which they were far from feeling, in order to force the issue, since their faithfulness to the emperor would stand out in comparison with the hesitation of Pilate, which they would denounce as a wavering in fidelity and devotion to his sovereign. And so Pilate finally permitted the farce to reach its climax, in the condemnation of Christ: he pronounced judgment whereby Jesus was delivered to them, to the leaders of the Jews, not into their hands, but according to their will and desire, to be crucified.


Verses 16-22

The Crucifixion.

v. 16. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.

v. 17. And He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha;

v. 18. where they crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

v. 19. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

v. 20. This title then read many of the Jews; for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city; and it was written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin.

v. 21. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am the King of the Jews.

v. 22. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

John omits the account of the insults and cruelties which the soldiers inflicted upon Christ. See Mat_27:26-30; Mar_15:16-19. Death by crucifixion was the sentence, the most shameful death known to the Romans, one meted out only to criminals of the worst type. The execution of the sentence was in the hands of the soldiers, who carried it out according to custom, adding such little indignities and cruelties as they might devise on the spur of the moment. They took Jesus along with them, leading Him away from the praetorium. And He was bearing His cross, loaded down with the heavy log that must have hurt the lacerated back most cruelly. Of the relief afforded by the meeting with Simon of Cyrene, John says nothing, since this fact was known from the other gospels. In this way the procession reached a place which, after its shape, was called Calvary, the place of the skull, or, in the Aramaic form of the Hebrew language, Golgotha. Its exact location has never been determined in spite of the many claims that such has been the case. And it is best so, since even now the various denominations that have representatives at the Holy City are in the habit of fighting almost pitched battles over the supposed holy places. There on Calvary the soldiers then crucified Jesus, fastening Him to the cross-arms of the tree of curse and shame by driving nails through His hands and feet. The crucifixion and the torture of being suspended by His own flesh caused excruciating agony. And here the shame and disgrace was intensified and emphasized by the fact that Jesus was placed between two malefactors, men who were guilty of criminal acts and had deserved the penalty of death. Thus Jesus became a malefactor, took the place of the malefactors of the whole world. What we had become guilty of by our sins and transgressions: the greatest shame, curse, and damnation, all this was laid upon Him, in order that we might be free. "Thus Christ was crucified and hanged to the cross as the greatest thief, scoundrel, rebel, and murderer ever seen in the world, and the innocent Lamb, Christ, must bear and pay strange debts; for it is in our interest. Our sins they arc that lie upon His neck; we are such sinners, thieves, scoundrels, rebels, and murderers. For though we are not so coarse in our actions, yet such is our state before God. But here Christ comes in our stead, and bears our sins, and pays them, in order that we might receive help. For if we believe in Him, not only we that avoid the outward, coarse sins will be saved through Christ, but also those that fall into coarse, outward sins are saved, if they truly repent and believe in Christ. " After Jesus had been crucified, there was some difficulty and discussion concerning the superscription. For Pilate had chosen the version: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, as containing the chief accusation against the Lord. Incidentally, this was a form of revenge on the part of Pilate, who regarded Jesus as a harmless fool, and wanted the Jews to feel that such a man was the proper king for them. The leaders of the Jews felt the sting of the words all the more since so many people went' by the place of crucifixion, Calvary being near to the city's gates. The fact also that the superscription had been composed by Pilate in the three languages that were in use in Palestine, in Hebrew-Aramaic, which was spoken by the common people, in Greek, which was the language of commerce, and in Latin, which was the language of court and camp, did much to make the matter contained in the words known. The chief priests of the Jews therefore remonstrated with Pilate with the object of having the reading changed to some form which would throw the blame on Jesus, that He had made the claim of being the King of the Jews. As it read, the superscription sounded as though the claim were admitted. But Pilate, with a firmness which would have stood him In good stead a few hours before, a firmness which was here reinforced by obstinacy and stubbornness, absolutely declined to make any change. But in all these things the hand of God must be discerned. It was God's dispensation to have this very title placed over the head of Jesus. This Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by the Jews is in truth the King of the Jews in the best sense of the word, the Messiah of Israel. This Messiah was to bring salvation to all the people of the entire world, whose chief languages were here used. By the torture of His cross and by His bitter death Jesus has atoned fully for the transgressions of the world. And this fact should be made known to all nations on earth, that they might place their trust in their Substitute that died on Calvary.


Verse 23-24

The soldiers cast lots:

v. 23. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

v. 24. They said, therefore, among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it whose it shall be, that the scripture might be fulfilled which saith, They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots. These things, therefore, the soldiers did.

The happenings that transpired under the cross are here recorded by John; first of all what the soldiers did. These men had no personal interest in their victim; their crucifying Him was merely a part of the day's work. And they now proceeded to make use of the privilege accorded them by ancient custom. It seems that the criminals condemned to death by crucifixion were nailed to the cross entirely naked or nearly so, with a loin cloth at the most. So the soldiers took the clothes of Jesus, the upper garment, the girdle, the sandals, perhaps the linen shirt, and divided them into four parts, according to the number of men that had been detailed to tend to this work. But the inner garment, the tunic, remained after all the other articles of wearing apparel had been distributed. This they could not cut up without spoiling it, since it was seamless, unsewed, and woven in one piece from top to bottom, probably the work of loving hands. So the soldiers decided to dispose of it by casting lots; it was made the prize in a game of chance. And here again, as in so many items connected with the Passion-story, the game of chance was not the result of chance, but happened in accordance with the prophecy of the Psalmist, Psa_22:18. Of this very incident the Messiah, speaking through the mouth of David, a thousand years before, had said: They divided My garments among themselves, and for My tunic did they cast lots. Here it was plainly indicated, as Luther writes, that Christ had paid the penalty to the full. Everything that He had, His body, His life, His very clothes, He gave up for love of the sinners, in order to earn salvation for them. But the soldiers, gambling as they were under the very cross of their Savior, are a fitting picture of the frivolous world, frittering away its chances of salvation almost in the shadow of the cross which points upward.


Verses 25-27

Christ's care for His mother:

v. 25. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

v. 26. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son!

v. 27. Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

A beautiful evidence of the Savior's filial love and care! In the midst of the excruciating agonies of the body and the still more horrible tortures of the soul He yet finds time to think of His mother and the duties He owed her in return for her mother's devotion. During the act of crucifixion itself the friends of Jesus naturally stood at some distance, as Matthew and Mark relate. But when matters had quieted down somewhat, these friends, principally women that were proving themselves stauncher and stronger than the apostles in this emergency, approached as near as possible to the cross. Mary, the mother of Jesus, stood there, and her sister, or rather sister-in-law, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, the mother of James, and Mary Magdalene, all of whom were united with the Lord in faith and tender love. See Mat_27:56; Mar_15:40. The punctuation of the text may also be set to mention four women: the mother of Jesus, her sister Salome, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. And of all the apostles there was only one present, the disciple whom Jesus loved, the writer of this account, John himself. Now Jesus, seeing them standing together in their sympathetic sorrow, turned first to His mother, bidding her look upon John as her son, who would take the place of Him that was about to be removed from His position of dutiful son. And in a similar manner He bade John look upon Mary as his mother, to show her all the kindness and care which a son owes to his mother in her old age. And John accepted the charge. Mary was received into his home with all the love which might have made her declining days cheerful, had Jesus remained in the flesh, personally to fulfill the obligations resting upon Him according to the Fourth Commandment which He here kept. John probably had a house in Jerusalem, as tradition has it, and could provide for Mary's care and comfort in a proper manner, treating her altogether as an honored member of the household. Note: The provision of Jesus for His aged mother is an example of the proper fulfillment of the Fourth Commandment. This active obedience of Christ serves for our salvation; He has kept the Law in our stead. It may have seemed a trivial matter at a time when the redemption of millions was at stake, but it characterizes the Savior's love. This Jesus, that died on the cross for us, to save our souls from damnation, will care also for our bodies, will make proper provision for their protection and keeping. Mark also: The small band of disciples under the cross of Jesus is a picture of the Christian Church. The believers properly belong under the cross of Christ. The world about them has nothing but mockery and blasphemy for the cross and the Crucified, but the faithful place their trust in life and death in the Man of Sorrows.


Verses 28-30

The death of Jesus:

v. 28. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

v. 29. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar; and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth.

v. 30. When Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished; and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.

Again and again the evangelists bring out this fact that the suffering and death of Jesus took place in accordance with the will and counsel of God and with the sayings of the prophets, through whom the Messiah spoke. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon when the most acute and piercing suffering of Jesus, when, during the darkness that covered the land, He had drunk the cup of the wrath of God over the sins of the world to the very dregs, was over. He had remained victor in the terrible battle; He had conquered all the enemies of mankind; He had accomplished all things, brought them to a successful close; He had gained the salvation of mankind. Here is a word of wonderful comfort for all believers, especially in the hours when the attacks of doubt are directed against the assurance of salvation. The redemption of mankind is complete; nothing remains to be done but to accept this fact and to place unwavering trust in the Savior. But there was still a word of Old Testament prophecy which had not yet found its fulfillment, and therefore Jesus, whose thirst had been intensified by the agony of soul which He had just endured, cried out: I thirst. See Psa_69:21. And just as He had foretold through the mouth of His Old Testament servant, it happened. There was a vessel there containing vinegar, of which they had offered Him a sip when they crucified Him, but in a form intended to act as a mild anesthetic. One of the soldiers now took a sponge, dipped it into the vinegar, attached it to a reed of hyssop, and held it up to the mouth of the Savior, thus relieving, at least in a small measure, the burning thirst attending the crucifixion, although it was in itself a bit of cruelty to offer Him this drink. But the Holy One of God patiently endured all the indignities, all the cruelties that were heaped upon Him. And now, the great work having been accomplished and even the last passage of Old Testament Scripture having been fulfilled, Jesus Himself made the announcement of the redemption's completion by calling out: It is finished. All that the Messiah was to endure and suffer, everything that belongs to the work of salvation, was finished. Yea, the death of Christ itself was included in this statement, for He was now about to lay down His life in death, in His own power, of His own free will. He now bowed His head and gave up the spirit, delivered His soul into the hands of His heavenly Father. All this He did in His own power; for He did not die of exhaustion, as all the external circumstances of the story also indicate. Jesus died because He wanted to die. In the case of the ordinary human being, death is an unpleasant, disagreeable, terrible experience, from which man shrinks and flees. But Jesus wanted to die, He wanted to fulfill the word which He Himself had spoken, chap. 10:16, 17. The factor of willingness in the death of Jesus gives to it its value, makes it a sacrifice well pleasing to God. Mark also: The Man that died on the cross is not a mere man, but the Son of God, God Himself. Jesus, disposing of His own life as He willed it, Himself is God: This fact erases the guilt of the world; the great worth of the life which was given on Calvary makes it more than equivalent in value and ransom to all the sin and guilt of all men since the beginning of time and till the everlasting day begins.


Verses 31-37

The Burial of Jesus.

The piercing of the side:

v. 31. The Jews, therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day, (for that Sabbath-day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

v. 32. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him.

v. 33. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs;

v. 34. but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

v. 35. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.

v. 36. For these things were done that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken.

v. 37. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced.

The Jews, that is, their spiritual leaders, concerned, as usual, more about the keeping of the traditions of their elders, in which they had applied Deu_21:23, than about committing murder and other heinous crimes, now sent a delegation to Pilate with a request. It was Friday, the day of preparation, and the Sabbath which. was now coming was unusually great, being the. day on which the first-fruits of the field were waved before the Lord and offered as a sacrifice. The Jews, therefore, did not want the bodies of the crucified hanging on the cross on that day, for fear of polluting their great festival day. Accordingly, their request was that Pilate should resort to a method sometimes employed for the speedy killing of the crucified, namely, by breaking the bones of their legs with a heavy bar or mallet. Here was evidence of the most despicable hypocrisy with a vengeance. Without compunction in condemning the just and innocent Christ, but when they fear a Levitical impurity existing largely in their own imagination, they guard against a possible contamination by providing for a forcible death and a speedy removal of the dead bodies. Pilate having given his consent, the idea broached by the Jews was carried into execution. The soldiers broke the legs first of one and then of the other malefactor that was crucified with Jesus. But coming to Jesus as the last one, they found that He was dead, that He had already expired. The carrying out of the customary breaking of the legs in His case would have been without purpose, and so they refrained from doing so. The explanation seems simple enough, and yet there was not the least shred of chance in the happening. The bones of Jesus were not broken because He is the true Lamb of God, the Passover Lamb, of whom all the Iambs that were slaughtered on that festival of old were but types and figures, Exo_12:46; Num_9:12. As the angel of death in Egypt passed by or over all the houses that were marked with the blood of the lamb, so the blood of this Lamb has turned the wrath of God from us. All those that have the portals of their heart marked with the blood of Jesus will not be visited by the angel of eternal death. Jesus was apparently dead when the soldiers reached His cross. And yet they wanted to make assurance doubly sure. One of their number, therefore, either pricked His side, as the strictest literalness of the word seems to indicate, in order to determine whether He had merely swooned away, or actually inflicted a deep wound in His side, piercing the heart, and thus fatal if Jesus had still been alive. But when the soldier withdrew his lance, as John relates, both blood and water flowed from the wounded side of the Savior. This was a strange happening, that the blood of one that had been dead for some time should flow out as from the living body, and that water should come from the wound at the same time. But John insists upon it that no mistake was possible; he, as an eye-witness, was too near not to be certain of the fact just as he describes it here. Both facts should be impressed upon the minds of the believers: that Christ truly died, and that this strange phenomenon took place at the piercing of His side. As one commentator has it: The blood that flowed from the side of Jesus was to serve for the washing of the sins of the whole world. It is the blood of reconciliation, the blood of God, wherewith He has cleansed all men from their sins. "The blood which flows from the side of our Lord Jesus is the treasure of our redemption, the payment and atonement for our sins. For by His innocent suffering and death and through His holy, precious bloodshed on the cross, our dear Lord Jesus Christ has paid for all our guilt, eternal death, and damnation, in which we, because of our sins, are immersed. That same blood of Christ is our advocate with God, and without ceasing cries for us to God: Mercy, mercy; forgive, forgive; indulgence, indulgence; Father, Father! and thus earns for us God's grace, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and salvation. Therefore the blood and the water which flowed from the side of our dear Lord Jesus Christ on the cross is our highest comfort. For therein consists our soul's salvation: in the blood is our redemption and satisfaction for our sins; in the water there is our daily cleansing and purging from sins. This we should learn well and thank God, our dear Lord, for His boundless love and goodness, and our faithful Savior Jesus Christ for His suffering and death, with all our: hearts" Incidentally, as the evangelist points out, there is another prophecy which was in part fulfilled on Calvary, in the piercing of the side of Christ, Psa_22:16-17; Zec_12:10; Rev_1:7. The unbelieving Jews saw Him whose side was pierced hanging on the cross, and the fact should have recalled to their minds this prophecy of the Psalms and its import. The day will come when they will see the same Man against whom they vented their spite coming back to judge the quick and the dead; then their wailing and pleading for mercy will come too late.


Verses 38-42

The burial of Jesus:

v. 38. And after this, Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him leave. He came, therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

v. 39. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

v. 40. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

v. 41. Now, in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid.

v. 42. There laid they Jesus, therefore, because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulcher was nigh at hand.

When, in the hour of trial, the apostles failed their Lord, other disciples, up till then almost unknown, boldly professed their allegiance to the hated Nazarene. One of these men was Joseph, a counselor, a member of the Sanhedrin, whose home was in Rama or Arimathaea, the city of Samuel, 1Sa_1:1-19. He had kept his convictions concerning Jesus secret for fear of the Jews. But now he comes forward boldly, goes to Pilate, and requests to be given the body of Jesus. Pilate, having made the necessary inquiries as to the death of the Crucified, granted the permission. So Joseph set out for Calvary to take down the body of his Master. And here he was joined by Nicodemus, of whom the evangelist has spoken in two places, Joh_3:1; Joh_7:50. This man had also come to the knowledge of the truth; he believed in Jesus as his Savior. He came to Calvary well prepared for the last work of love for the Master, bearing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, aromatic spices used for the embalming of the dead, a total of a hundred liters or Jewish pounds, almost seventy pounds avoirdupois. Being a rich man, he was willing to show his devotion for his Lord, the compound of spices which he brought being sufficient to anoint the whole body as well as to saturate the grave-cloths. Having taken the body down from the cross, these two men prepared it for burial, by wrapping it in the burial sheets with the aromatic spices, after the manner of the Jews in preparing bodies for entombment. At the place of crucifixion, adjacent to it or very near it, there was a garden, where Joseph had his own rock grave, which had never been used for a burial and therefore had not been desecrated by the smell of decaying flesh. The main reason for the hasty entombment in the near-by sepulcher was the nearness of the great festival day of the Jews. The day of preparation ended with sunset, after which manual labor of any kind was prohibited. Note: Jesus received, after all the shame and disgrace of His trial and death, at least an honorable burial: He was laid into the grave of a rich man and was buried after the manner of a rich man. All these factors point forward to His approaching glorification. There is nothing terrible about the sepulcher of Jesus; it rather appears as a couch for gentle sleep. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, by His burial has sanctified the graves of all His saints, made them places of calm repose, where they wait in peace for the great day of resurrection.

Summary.Jesus, after further mockery, is condemned to death by Pilate, is crucified on Calvary, gives up His life into the hands of His heavenly Father, and is buried by Joseph and Nicodemus, who had been His secret disciples for some time.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on John 19:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/john-19.html. 1921-23.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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