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The Gospel of John – Part Eighteen

Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we continue our study as we move along to part eighteen of this series and discuss John Chapter Nineteen!

John 19:1-42

John 19:1-5: "Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face. Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”

Now, seeing that the Jews are wanting blood, Pilate puts a crown on His head and torture. The mocking, robe, and thorns are an attempt to humiliate and discredit Jesus in front of the crowd. After the ordeal with the soldiers, Jesus was led back outside naked (that’s how prisoners were scourged) and all they do is put a thorn crown on Him and an old robe (probably one worn by the soldiers) and Pilate once again pronounces Him as innocent and introduces Him in a DIFFERENT way this time. The first time he says “here, this is your King” but this time he doesn’t say that. This time he says “here He is, the man.” The idea here is they should not have any fear of this person, though He may claim or appear to be a king, but we’ve cut this guy down to size. Does He look like a King now?” Pilate here has THREE goals (which he thinks will be accomplished by torturing and humiliating Jesus and releasing Him to the Jews):

  • Avoiding executing an innocent man

  • Placate Jewish leaders

  • Ridicule the Jews

John 19:6-11: "When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.” The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

His attempt to get the crowd to agree with him to releasing Jesus has failed. They respond to the torture with cries of crucifixion. So Pilate then repeats that he finds no basis to execute this person and he tells them they should crucify Jesus themselves. Of course, this is a provocation to the Jews because he and they both know that they do not have the authority. But the Jews perceive a weakness in Pilate’s reply. He replies that HE finds no fault in Jesus, but the Jews reply that THEY have a Jewish law and by THAT law, He should die. You notice what is going on here? In other words, if you have no law in order to convict Him, we do. Use OUR law! At this point, they reveal that the true reason for their demand of the death penalty is Jesus’ claim of divinity. This startles Pilate because as a Pagan, he had no belief or understanding of the Jewish Messiah but his own background as a Roman was filled with Roman god and mythology and he wondered if this man could be one of those? He was a skeptic but Jesus’ demeanor and reputation were unusual and this latest revelation by the Jews frightened him. Could he have inadvertently tortured and ridiculed one of the Roman gods that had been said from time to time to intermingle with men? If so, what would happen to Pilate? So, Pilate went back to question Jesus but this time with more urgency and more personal because Pilate himself may be involved. Pilate asks where Jesus is from. He wants more details of His identity, but Jesus doesn’t answer him. He has already told Pilate who he is and Pilate has not believed so He does not give him further information. Frustrated, Pilate alludes to his power to free or execute Him, hoping to move Jesus to reveal more about His identity; BUT, Jesus does not expand a person’s knowledge of Himself without first the exercise of faith. First you believe, then you know. Jesus responds by commenting on Pilate’s perception of his own power. Jesus tells him two things: 1) that he has no authority over His, someone else has given him this authority (we know God is the one that appoints secular leaders, good or bad); 2) even the wrongs that Pilate is doing now are secondary to the wrongs of the Jews who arrested and falsely accused Him.

John 19:12-16: "Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar. When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!”“Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified."

The end game here in Pilate’s effort to free Jesus come into view as the Jews zero in on his vulnerability. He thinks he is provoking the Jews and manipulating them, but in reality they are manipulating him. Until this time, their focus has been on Jesus and their desire to have Him executed. But the Jewish leaders have outwitted Pilate in presenting all that he needs to carry out the execution.

The Jews provide Pilate with all he needs:

  • A Charge – Sedition (Jesus claimed “rulership”)

  • A Law – Jewish Law

  • A Reason – Loyalty to Caesar (they will tell Caesar if he doesn’t do this)

  • A Reward – Jewish Loyalty to Rome

Where Pilate was located for Rome (the region he was governing) was like being stuck out in the middle of nowhere. If he messed up here, there was nowhere else to go and the Jews knew this and played on this. So against Pilate’s conscious (Pilate declared Jesus innocent three times), he sends Jesus to His death, thinking in doing so he will appease the Jewish leaders, he will avoid civil turmoil, and secure his own position in government. Of course from hindsight we look back, a few decades into the future, what happens? Rome has to send armies to Jerusalem to wipe it off the face of the earth in a sense. That cooperation didn’t last long. He was Caesars governor but complaints about loyalty to Rome and competence could be a threat to his position.

John 19: 17-22: "Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it. Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”

John does not give a lot of detail about the further torture or process of crucifixion; this was written in the other gospels. He sticks to his theme of Jesus and His identity as God/Man as he focuses on the debate between the Jews and Pilate. Pilate gets the last word by combining what the Jews said Jesus was and what Jesus said about His identity. His intent was to further insult the Jews; he just couldn’t help himself. Their intent, of course, was to kill and discredit Jesus but in the end what was written in languages for all the world to read was the truth, on the cross was written “Jesus the man from Nazarene, Jesus the God/Man, Jesus the King of the Jews”. Despite the protest from the Jewish leaders, Pilate gets the last word and he proclaims the truth that both he and the Jews missed.

John 19:23-27: "When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did. Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home."

There are five pieces of clothing worn by Jewish men. A head covering (turban) to protect from the sun; a tunic worn close to the body; a pair of sandals for the feet; a gurdle or sash which was worn around the waste to secure a fifth piece; and an outer robe. The loin cloth was not a valuable piece so it was simply discarded. The soldiers that did the execution would generally divide the victim’s personal effects between them. John was present, along with the women and he said each of the four soldiers each took one piece of clothing for themselves, an rather than tear up a good quality seamless robe, they decided to cast lots for it. The significance of this seemingly insignificant detail is that it fulfilled a prophesy concerning the details of the Messiah’s death, made by David some 800 years before (Psalm 22:18). Even the small detail of how His clothing was distributed after His death was written about in the old testament. Without a word or gesture, Jesus is once again proclaiming His divinity with this action. Note that there were three Marys at the scene. So there was Mary who was Jesus’ mother, Mary who was the sister of Jesus’ mother and the wife of an early disciple named Clopas (many people believe that Clopas was the brother of Joseph. This is not a biblical idea but this is a historical idea being two brothers would marry two sisters), and Mary Magdelene from Magdala a town near Galilee (Jesus cast spirits out of here and she was a faithful disciple from then on). **Now the idea of this is that the name Mary had many different forms that we continually translate into the word Mary**. So Jesus arranges for care of His widowed mother as that was the duty of the eldest son and He is the eldest son. She didn’t go to the brothers because the brothers were not there and left her with someone who had a special love for Him and that love would be there for His mother. Only one of His friends and apostles was there, not even His earthly brothers or sisters who would later believe were there. To John goes this special responsibility.

John 19:28-30: "Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."

All things accomplished, meaning all the things the Father through the scripture said he would do, including the suffering and crucifixion on the cross, all of that is done. Down to the last detail. Note that Jesus controls even this portion of the proceedings, He even had control of His spirit leaving. He had this control for two reasons: 1) He had no sin so death could not overpower Him. 2) He completed all the things set out for Him by the Father and recorded in scripture and would not give up the spirit before this happened. With this sacrifice of a perfect life, Jesus fulfills all the requirements of the law. He pays the moral debt for our sins and opens the door for forgiveness for all based on His sacrifice. This is the core idea of the gospel. He makes restitution for all the sins of man. There's no need to carry the burden of sin after repentance because of this.

John’s account primarily focuses on the interaction between Jesus, the Jewish Leaders, and the Roman governor Pilate. His purpose is to profile the belief and disbelief expressed before Jesus’ witnesses. He does not, therefore, spend a whole lot of time describing the torture and the death/crucifixion of Jesus. His description of the death of Jesus in 19:30 is given as yet another support of Jesus’ claim of divinity. In this verse, John claims THREE things with the death of Christ:

  • The culmination of many things. “it is Finished”. This is referring to the prophecies of His life and work. The purpose for all that He did was deliberate and planned out. His crucifixion was not a fluke or a bad turn of events, that was the plan from the start.

  • It was a success. All thing were completed in the way god wanted them to be done. Jesus had told His disciples beforehand that this was the reason that He had come and to not to have died would have been a failure. His death, though ugly and humiliating and painful, was the successful end to the life He was sent to live.

  • Jesus was still in control. HE gave up His spirit. Due to the fact that He had no sin, death had no hold on Him, He had to give into releasing His spirit and let it happen in order for death to take hold of him (no matter how bloodied and bruised He was).

After verse 19:30, John goes into a detailed description of Jesus’ burial. He spends more time discussing His burial than His death.

John 19:31-34: "It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was Passover week). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out."

Crucifixion probably originating with the Assyrians and Babylonians and it was used systematically by the Persians in the 6th century BC. Alexander the Great brought it from there to the eastern Mediterranean countries in the 4th century BC, and the Phoenicians (fu-knee-shuns) introduced it to Rome in the 3rd century BC. The Romans perfected crucifixion for 500 years until it was abolished by Constantine I in the 4th century AD. Crucifixion in Roman times was applied mostly to slaves, disgraced soldiers, Christians and foreigners--only very rarely to Roman citizens. Death, usually after 6 hours – 4 days, was due to multifactorial pathology: after-effects of compulsory scourging and maiming, hemorrhage and dehydration causing hypovolemic shock and pain, but the most important factor was progressive asphyxia caused by impairment of respiratory movement. The attending Roman guards could only leave the site after the victim had died, and were known to precipitate death by means of deliberate fracturing of the tibia and/or fibula, spear stab wounds into the heart, sharp blows to the front of the chest, or a smoking fire built at the foot of the cross to asphyxiate the victim. During the time the Romans used crucification, they crucified thousands of people. The Romans normally, when they crucified someone, they left the body on the cross and they left it there to rot, until the flesh was falling off; weeks. The idea here was, this was a warning to anyone who challenged their power and challenged their law. But the Jewish Law required those that had been crucified to be removed before sundown so as not to pollute the land and the Romans, especially the Emperor Tiberius, respected Jewish religious law because they knew if they violated that law the Jews would rebel. So, as stated, the Romans usually left their victims to rot on their execution crosses as a visual reminder of their brutality. The Jewish leaders asked Pilate to accommodate them in the speeding up of the executions by breaking the legs of the victims so that they can be removed. They were on the eve of the Passover and they could not begin their preparations for this before the bodies were removed and out of the sight of the general population. So Pilate agrees, he wants this matter over and done with. The orders are passed on and the two other criminals have their legs broken but Jesus had already died so they did not do so to Him. Instead, to ensure themselves of His death, they pierce Him in the side with a spear and John notes that blood and water came out of His side. A lot can be said about this from a medical or scientific standpoint but John notes in his gospel that the significance of the piercing of Jesus’ side and water and blood coming out lay in the fact that these things happened as a fulfillment of scripture. That’s the important part.

John 19:35-37: "(This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe.) These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and “They will look on the one they pierced.”

John repeats the theme of his book, that the events that have taken place even the events taking place concerning the mutilation of His lifeless body are a source for witness of faith. Even when He is dead and they are sticking things into His dead body, even that can be used as a witness of Jesus’ person and the truth of the scripture. So in this case, the sparing of His bones and the piercing of His side are a fulfillment of prophecy concerning the Messiah and the treatment He would face at the hands of others (Exodus 12:46; Zechariah 12:10). All of this made even more unusual because the soldiers actually disobeyed a direct order from the Governor in not breaking Jesus’ legs. John points to this as another witness of God’s divine act in sending Jesus. After this terrible scene, John switches over to focus on the characters who bury the Lord.

John 19:38: "Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away."

Joseph of Arimathea was part of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23), BUT he was opposed to their actions and was one of Jesus’ secret believers. So prisoners who were executed, when they were finally taken down from the cross, they were thrown into a common felon’s grave. On occasion, the Romans would allow the families of prisoners to bury them if they made the request. No such request was made by Jesus’ family. His brothers and sisters were also not at the cross. So, Joseph sets aside his fear and goes to Pilate to get Jesus’ body. Joseph was a secret disciple, do you think this action could be kept secret for long? Probably not. This is a big action for him to take! Joseph’s faith is STRONG here and this action also fulfills another prophecy about Jesus, that He would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9). Joseph, being a leader in Israel, is very wealth and by placing Jesus in his own tomb, Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb and not a poor criminal’s common grave.

John 19:39: "With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes."

This is the other character in the burial. Nicodemus, also a member of the Sanhedrin and a secret disciple of Jesus, finally finds his full courage (remember when he defended Jesus before, this was a timid act of faith) and he goes with Joseph and provided the spices for the burial (Jewish traditional burial did not include embalming. Egyptians embalmed bodies, not the Jews. They cleaned the body and wrapped it in spices and linen wraps.). Joseph brought the linen wraps and Nicodemus brought the spices which suggests they knew and agreed on each other’s participation. The weight of the spices, the position of the barriers, and the quality of grave shows that Jesus actually had a King’s burial.

John 19:40-42: "Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there."

Joseph and Nicodemus receive the Body from the Romans, they bring it to Joseph’s family burial place located in a garden nearby. Burial places in those days were carved out of hillsides or caves. Each tomb typically belonged to a single, wealthy family. Stone mantles and a door frame were carved into the rock wall of the cave to give it an appealing look. A round stone, like a wheel, was carved and placed before the entrance of the tomb Bodies were laid out on stone benches. After a generation, the bones were moved to a bone chamber or, later, into ossuaries (small box for bones) and the benches used for new burials. Rock tombs were the province of the wealthy; the common people were buried in the ground. So it was too late in the day to complete the burial process (perfume the body, etc.) so they lay the body in the tomb and intend to come back and finish the body after the Sabbath. So now, John moves on to the resurrection. None of the Gospel writers describe the resurrection itself because there were no witnesses. Jesus was quickened from death and silently left the tomb through its walls in His resurrection state. Matthew talks about an earthquake and an angel rolling away the stone, but this is after the fact and done to witness the fact that the deed was complete. John spends a little time describing the scene and he focuses on the reaction of the women and their witness to the Apostle and then the Apostles’ reaction to the empty tomb.

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