John - Chapter 19
As we look at John chapter 19 tonight, I want us to consider some key issues concerning the crucifixion of Christ. John 20 looks at the resurrection of Christ and John 21 focuses particularly on resurrection appearances of our Lord. In looking at the crucifixion, many that say the Gibson film, The Passion, of course, have that vividly in their mind’s eye. I want to look at this chapter and recall how last week we saw how Judas betrayed Jesus, how Jesus stood before the priests, and then before Pilate and you recall that there were three religious trials and three civil trials. First, there were three involving the Jews and then the last three involved the Gentiles, one before Pilate, another before Herod, and finally back again, to the last one, with Pilate. This was a grueling and gruesome ordeal, taking all night, and Jesus was being mocked, vilified, beaten, and spit upon. This treatment lasted virtually all night long.
So, it was a night of tremendous agony for our Lord, and He knew this coming, and He knew, still, the worst was yet to come. I am referring not just to the crucifixion, but to the bearing of the sins of the world. For that, He would sweat drops of blood. As we continue with the story, and after Jesus has been talking with Pilate and, remember, Pilate asks Him, “What is truth?” He then goes out to the Jews and says, “I find no guilt in Him.” The Jews don’t want to let loose on that score and they say, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” They wanted Barabbas freed and Jesus crucified. Chapter 19, then, begins, “Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.” Now, he tried an approach of sympathy, because he really did not want to crucify Jesus. By scourging Him, he hoped to evoke the sympathy of the crowd. Scourging involved a leather whip, which was knotted and weighted with pieces of metal or bone, and many people would not even survive the whipping involved in that process. Thus, they had to do a careful job to keep victims alive if they were going to crucify them as well. The portrayal in The Passion, of the beating with the rods, is not specifically mentioned in the Gospels.
At the very least, the scourging, which was the second part of that, was, in fact, historical. This is not to say he wasn’t, it is only to say it is not a part of the Biblical accounts. As I said, He had previously been slapped in the face in front of Annas, spat and beat upon before Caiaphas, and then after the scourging, of course, was the crown of thorns, the mocking. I must point out something about the thorns that He wore. Remember they created sort of a skullcap out of these thorns that are indigenous to that area. The thorns and thistles have a theme in the Garden, don’t they? They were brought about by sin. Now, the Creator would wear a crown of thorns as He bore the sins of the world. I don’t think it is accidental. Thorns and thistles will come up as a result of sin and Jesus will bear the sins of the world and actually have a crown of thorns and thistles, which were actually beaten into His head. You see the idea here?
So, you have a very clear idea of how God reverses the work of the Fall, and reverses the work of the first Adam in the second Adam. So, the story continues, “And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head and put a purple robe on Him; and they begin to come up to Him and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews’ and to give Him slaps in the face. Pilate came out again and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you will know that I find no guilt in Him’.” Let me stop here for just a moment. It is interesting that the Jews mocked Jesus in His claim of being a prophet. In Matthew chapter 26, verses 67 and 68, we see a mocking that has to do with Him being a prophet. “Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, ‘Prophesy to us, You Christ’,” in effect saying He is a false Messiah, “Who is the one who hit You?”
So, the Jews mocked His claim to be a prophet and the Gentiles mocked His claims here to being a king. Here is was, “Hail, King of the Jews.” Why would that be? Well, the Jewish understanding and concern would be that of the prophetic, Messianic claims, whereas the Gentiles would see Him as an interloper, or a subversive, or simply as a trouble maker claiming to have pretense to political authority.
So, he would be mocked by both, but for different reasons. Now, in verse 4, “Pilate came out again and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you’,” and this is the third time that Pilate faces the people, ‘“So that you may know that I find no guilt in Him’. Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Ecce Homo’,” or, ‘Behold, the Man’. My suspicion here is that he was saying it as in, ‘haven’t we done enough’? Pilate was hoping to gain the sympathy of the Jews. I must tell you, though, that we are never saved by a moral example. We are never saved by sympathy, but only, and ultimately, by turning away from our sins and trusting in the sinless substitute. The Gospels are very clear about this. If He were just scourged and beaten, it would not have been enough. As believers, we don’t just contemplate the Cross, in a way we also carry it.
So, there is this idea of the Cross but also of the crucified life as well, because we are followers in His steps. In this case, the crucifixion is that one dies with Christ, and we crucify the flesh, with its desires and so forth, and put on the Spirit instead. In verse six, we see, “So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out, ‘Crucify, Crucify’!” They were rousing up the mob, a fickle lot, and eventually everyone was saying it. “Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him’.” Now, this was the third time that Pilate declared that he found no guilt in Jesus and he wanted a compromise that would somehow please everybody, but he figured he was better off letting them take Him off and crucify Him, but even that was not enough. We now see that, “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God’.” The verse that follows is very interesting. “When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.” Now, Pilate was already plenty afraid. Turn with me to Matthew 27:19, and we see something which took place right before this moment. “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him’.”
So, he was already wondering who this guy really was. Remember that idea? He claimed to have an authority that was not a human authority. “My Kingdom is not this world,” that kind of an idea. That, in addition to the statement, here, that He was claiming to be the Son of God, actually made Pilate afraid. The significant part here is that Jesus was silent. It goes on to say, in verse nine, “He entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are You from’? But Jesus gave him no answer.” He was silent before His accusers. Turn, for example, to 1st Peter chapter two, where it gives us an illustration of the prophecy found in Isaiah 53, where He did not open His mouth. In 1st Peter 2:20-23, we see, “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?
But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, ‘Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth’,” and that is from Isaiah 53, “And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the Cross, so that we might die to sin,” and here you see the image of our dying with Him as well, “and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” The next verse says, “For you were continually straying like sheep,” and this is another allusion to Isaiah 53, “but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
So, we have a very clear portrait here of the fulfillment in part of Isaiah 53. Looking back to the text, in verse ten, “So Pilate said to Him, ‘You do not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You’? Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin’.” Pilate is making a boast that he has authority. But, if you consider Romans 13:1, it says that all authority comes from God. He is the One who empowers. He raises some up and then He deposes them. We suppose we are in authority, but ultimately it is God who is in authority. It goes on to speak of how Caiaphas knew the Scriptures, but it hardened his heart. This we learned in chapter eleven, verses 47 through 54.
So, it was he who had the greater sin. Then, in verses 12 to 15, we read that, “Because of this Pilate made efforts to release Him,” because, again, he can not comprehend matters and that this is not an ordinary criminal. He is wrestling with this concept. “But the Jews cried out saying, ‘If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar’. Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.”
You can see that actual pavement today because it has been uncovered there is Jerusalem. As you know, the city of Jerusalem was razed in the year 70, and then it was rebuilt around 135 AD, and it was called the ‘Aelia Capitolina’ and then that, too, was destroyed. It was a hard job to find where the authentic sites were. You do know, of course, that when you look at Jerusalem, it looks like an ancient city from the outside, but those walls are from the 15th century and what we call the ‘Via Della Rosa’ is not where Jesus walked. He would have been in that area, but the streets have been rebuilt.
So, what we see here is that when Pilate brings Him down, he brings Him to The Pavement. “Now, it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour, and he said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King’.” This might have been about six o’clock in the morning. “So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him’. Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King’? The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar’.” May I tell you, that must have been a hard pill to swallow, because that was thing they did not believe. They did not think that Caesar was the rightful king over them.
So, for them, on a high and holy day, to crucify their own Messiah, and then feign loyalty to Caesar, was a double whammy when you think about it that way. I want to stress again, though, from the standpoint of the Scriptures, it would be wrong to say there was an anti-Semitic bias in the New Testament. The idea here is that the Gospels are really focusing on the death and resurrection of Christ and the fact is that when we look at the loves of the disciples, you have the life of Christ with the disciples, the life of Christ with the multitudes, you see a strong narrative structure. It is not biographical, but topical and thematic and it emphasizes the crucifixion in a disproportionate way, because this was the ultimate purpose for which Jesus came. The New Testament teaches multiple causation in the death of Jesus.
It was not just the Jews, it was everyone. His Jewish opponents were involved, but His own disciple betrayed Him. A Roman judge, Pilate, issues the sentence, and it was the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution. You have to keep in mind that the early Christians were all Jews. For probably the first 20 years of the Church all believers in Christ were Jewish. You can not forget that. Jesus was Jewish, the disciples were Jewish, and the whole New Testament was written by Jews, with the possible exception of Luke. At the same time, the Jewish leadership, the Sanhedrin, and the temple priests, they rejected their Messiah. And so, it was rejection by the Jewish leadership. In verse 16, then, we read, “So he handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own Cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.”
So, what you have here is, from a human standpoint, the crucifixion was, indeed, a great crime. From a human standpoint, it was a tragedy. But, from a Divine standpoint, you see it totally differently. From the Divine standpoint, it was the fulfillment of prophecy and an accomplishment of the will of God. “It was for this reason I came, It was for this reason I came to serve.” Now, Roman citizens, I should point out, were never crucified. That was too ignominious a death. It was reserved for the lowest criminals because it was an agonizing method of punishment.
The criminal would customarily carry his own cross or the crossbeam, not necessarily the whole cross. It was more likely that it was the crossbeam that Jesus carried. In an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the drawings shows what position Jesus would have been in during the scourging and another drawing shows how He would have carried the crossbeam, or ‘patibulum’. The ‘stipes’ would be the vertical portion on which it would be placed.
So, He likely carried the crossbeam, but remember they pressed Simon of Sirene into carrying it, because of Jesus’ physical condition. It was about a mile and quite a long walk. And so, it was necessary for them to do that. In any case, the Place of a Skull, where He was crucified, was outside the city. This is an important point. I want to read to you Hebrews chapter 13, verses 11 to 13, and they relate to this very issue. “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” See the imagery there? Now, where He was crucified is now inside the city walls, but in the first century it was clearly outside the city walls. (Q)(A): Are there any other accounts, outside of Scripture, where the Romans were asked to carry out Jewish law? I can not think of any and I think this was an unusual occurrence because of the complexity of the case. The Jews were clever and knew that Pilate was in some hot water already with Caesar and if it was reported that he let this Man go, who was a claimant to the throne, then he could have lost his position altogether. Knowing that, they said, “We have no king but Caesar.” Let’s continue on. Frankly, we are left to guess as to the exact location of this Place of a Skull. There are two traditional sites and one is Gordon’s Calvary and it is the most impressive because it has a nice garden.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is an older traditional location. That locale has better historical connections, but it is not as fun to see. If you have the opportunity, go see them both. One gives you the sense of what it might have looked like at the time, whereas the other is more likely the locale. Returning to the text, and to verse 18, “There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.” Again, this is not an accident. I believe it is a symbolic picture. It is historical, but it speaks of something theological as well. On the one hand He had the response of rejection and on the opposite hand He had the response of acceptance and those are the only two options you have. To ignore Him is, in fact, covert rejection.
So, not to choose is to choose. There is no way around this one. People say that they didn’t ask to be born. Deal with where you are and don’t whine about where you aren’t.
So, my point is that you are in a condition here where you don’t get to make the rules. God, the Scriptures teach us, is gracious and compassionate and those who wish to know Him will find Him. The point here is that a response is needful. Just mere intellectual assent is not enough. There has got to be the issue of personal reception. As I often put it, belief in Jesus is not assent to a proposition, but trust in a person.
So, I say that propositional truth always points beyond itself to personal truth. But, revelation demands a response. The Gospels are not there to inform us but to transform us. Therefore, it requires a response and that is the uncomfortable position that the Gospels leave us in, frankly. It is one of the reasons, by the way, why the Gospels have been subjected to more scrutiny and more vilification than any other ancient texts. This is because of its power. Whenever there is something that powerful, it will cause trouble. It is like stirring up a hornet’s nest. Demonic desires would be to keep people from reading the Gospel to see what it really says; better to hear it from a second, and third, and fourth account. My desire is to get people to read these Gospels directly. I have this special little book and it is the message of John. I often give it to people. It is small, so I’m not giving them some giant text. If I can get them to read that, at least I have them in a situation where they can more intelligently assess who this Jesus was and what He really said. You need to make an intelligently informed decision.
You will make the decision to either accept Him or reject Him, so wouldn’t it be a good idea, at least, to check out the evidence instead of relying on what others have said? Now, we these two transgressors here and in Isaiah 53:12, and this text was written some seven centuries before the Crucifixion, and it reads, “Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” We have a remarkable image here of how Jesus fulfills prophecy and we will see that many more are fulfilled as well. A criminal would wear a placard identifying his crime and this was Pilate’s insult to the religious establishment. In verse 18 we see, “There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the Cross. It was written, ‘Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews’.
Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.” The point is that the “chief priests were telling Pilate not to write, ‘King of the Jews’, but that He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’. Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written’.” What do you suppose was going on in Pilate’s mind when he did that? I think it was more than just getting back at the Jewish leaders. I think there was some doubt in his own mind that He had been the King. It was against his own will to crucify Him, and so this might have been a last possible tribute to Him. Again, however, regret is not the same as repentance. There are some apocryphal books that talk about the conversion of Pilate and Claudia, his wife, but they are just that. There is not much historical warrant for it. Now, it is interesting here that Hebrew is the language of religion, Greek the language of philosophy, and Latin the language of law. All three combined to crucify the Son of God.
A Centurion and four soldiers would usually be assigned to do these executions. In verse 23, “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it will be’. This was to fulfill the Scripture: ‘They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots’.” This is a fulfillment of Psalm 22, verse 18. At this time the people would revile Jesus and so we also have this account in the parallel Gospels. Look at Psalm 22:18, to vividly see, again, that reviling. Part of that reviling is also in Psalm 22, verses 12 to 18, “Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have surrounded Me. They open wide their mouth at Me, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue cleaves to My jaws; and you lay Me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me.” The word ‘dogs’ is often used in reference to the Gentiles. “A band of evildoers has encompassed Me; they pierced My hands and My feet. I can count all My bones, they look, they stare at Me;” and then, again, verse 18, “They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” This is very strong picture of the fulfillment, particularly in Mark’s Gospel. I Will read you some verses from Mark 15 and this supplements what we are reading here in John. In Mark 15:29-32, we see, “Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, ‘Ha, You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself and come down from the Cross’. In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves, and saying, ‘He saved others; He can not save Himself. Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the Cross, so that we may see and believe’. Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.” At first both did, but in the end one changed and repented.
So, you have a picture here of tremendous rejection, a culmination of that rejection. Going back to our text, we see in verse 25, “Therefore the soldiers did these things, but standing by the Cross of Jesus were His mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” If you put the Gospels together, you get three Marys and Solome who were near the Cross at first. Then we see them again and they are further away from the Cross, standing at a distance. Mary, I believe, was experiencing something that was predicted even before Jesus’ birth. Turn to Luke, chapter two, and it illustrates this very point. It was on her heart even before her son was born. In verse 34, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed, and a sword will pierce even your own soul,” speaking, here, to Mary, “to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
So, she understood these things, but she also knew what would ultimately take place. Now it is being fulfilled. What is interesting, as we go on to the next verse, when we look at Jesus, even on the Cross, He fulfills His responsibilities as a son. He gives His choicest disciple the responsibility to care for her. Verse 26, “When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son’. Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother’. From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.”
So, He was making provision for her. We later see her, in Acts 1:14, and she is awaiting Pentecost with the other disciples in the Upper Room.
So, she is found yet again in the book of Acts. If we go to verse 28, we see, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, ‘I am thirsty’.” This is also a fulfillment of Psalm 22 and also Psalm 69, as well. A few verses from that Messianic Psalm and you have a feeling for that. It is good to know of these Messianic prophecies, and Psalm 69 has a number of them. Beginning with verse three we see, “I am weary with My crying; My throat is parched; My eyes fall while I wait for My God.” Verse 15 reads, “May the flood of water not overflow Me, nor the deep swallow Me up, nor the pit shut its mouth on me,” and verse 21, “They also gave Me gall for My food and for My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” Back to verse four and we see, “Those who hate Me without a cause are more than the hairs on My head.” You will recall that Jesus quoted this earlier, in John 15. Verse eight of this Psalm is also something He quoted, when He said, “I have become estranged from My brothers and an alien to My mother’s sons.” This He spoke in John 7. There is an emphasis here on reproach as well. From verse 19, “You know My reproach and My shame and My dishonor; all My adversaries are before You.” Returning to John, and verse 30, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished’.” It is possible that He received this so that He could speak. His mouth could have been so dry that He was unable to speak. The verse concludes, “And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” There are actually seven statements made from the Cross. “I have completed the work that You sent Me to do.” Tetelestai—it is finished—is what He cries out. The debt was paid on full.
The blood of the sacrifices could only cover sin, but the blood of the Lamb of God took away the sins of the world. Again, from John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Also, I would invite you to consider the words of Hebrews chapter nine, verses 24 to 28. “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed and for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”
So, this is an anticipation of His Second Coming, which will be coming of power and glory. Let’s consider, then, seven statements from the Cross. The first three, actually, relate to the needs of others. The first one was to those who crucified Him. That would be found in Luke 23, verse 34. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” are the first words uttered by Jesus on the Cross. The second statement is found in Luke’s Gospel as well, and it is to the believing thief. It is told in verses 39 to 43 of Luke chapter 23. “One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself, and us’. But the other answered, and rebuking him said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong’. And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come in Your Kingdom’. And He said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’.”
So, he actually promises to this criminal, the one who believed, that he would be with Him in Paradise. The third saying from the Cross is found here in our Gospel, John 19, and particularly in verses 25 to 27 and it involves His mother. We just read how He made provision for John to take His mother under his wing. Then, in the fourth case, it turns from the need of others to His relationship with His Father. It is found in Matthew 27, verses 45 to 50. “Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani’, that is, ‘Father, why have You forsaken Me’?” This is a quote, as you know from the first verse of Psalm 22, that same Messianic Psalm we looked at before. It is a fulfillment of that as well. “And some of those standing there, when they heard it, began saying, ‘This man is calling for Elijah’. Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. But the rest of them said, ‘Let us see if Elijah will come and save Him’. And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.”
So, we have the original theme of others, and then His Father, and the fifth statement from the Cross has to do with Himself. The last three, in fact, focus on Himself, and first of all, His body.
So, in John 19:28, we see, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, ‘I am thirsty’.” Earlier Scriptures we looked at indicated that it would occur on the crucifixion. The next statement is found in verse 30, the sixth statement, and this is concerning His soul and it says, “Therefore when Jesus received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished’. He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” But, there is one more that takes place. The seventh is in Luke’s Gospel. In Luke 23:46 we see, “And Jesus, crying out in a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit’. Having said this, He breathed His last.” Jesus did not die by asphyxiation, although that was what crucifixion was designed to do. He died of His volition, and He gave up His spirit. The soldiers, when they saw that He had died, were quite surprised. It was not an ordinary sequence. In any event, we see that the first three statements deal with others and then with His Father and then with Himself. And so, if we tie all these seven statements together we see a kind of ‘mini-theology’ and how He is concerned for the needs of others, and how He wrestles with the separation from His Father, and how He is obedient; body, soul, and spirit, to the work that God has called Him to do. The death of Jesus, as you know, is a major theme in John’s Gospel.
It is pictured as the slaying of a lamb in chapter one. It is depicted as the destroying of the temple in chapter two. It is seen as the lifting up of a serpent in chapter three. It is focused upon as a shepherd laying down his life for his sheep in chapter ten. It is seen as the planting of the seed in the ground in chapter twelve. Jesus’ death was not an accident. It was a Divine appointment. We have to keep this in mind. His death was voluntary; He willingly dismissed His spirit. Again, I refer you back to John chapter ten, and a very important statement. He says, in verses 17 to 18, “For this reason the Father loves Me because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” It was a voluntary submission to His Father.
Jesus dismissed His spirit at three o’clock, about the time the Passover lambs were being slaughtered, although the horrific agony went from twelve o’clock to three o’clock. From nine to twelve He was hanging on the Cross, but then it turned dark. Now, interestingly enough, in verse 31 to 37, the Roman soldiers did not do what they were commanded to do. We see, “Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” As you know breaking their legs would prevent them from holding themselves up. Again, the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association describes this very reality. When He is inhaling, He is having to push down because inhalation is active in normal breathing but is passive in a crucified victim.
So, to exhale, which is passive in normal breathing, becomes active in a crucifixion, you have to push down to do that. Of course, that becomes an agonizing process. So, the cruelty of this death is caused by your instinct to live. You see the idea there? The only way that you could hasten the crucifixion, then, would be to break the legs so that the victim could no longer push Himself up.
So, they wanted to get Him down for the high, holy day, because, as you know, the Jewish day was from six o’clock to six o’clock. So, Jesus, by the way, was crucified on Nisan 14, which is the day of Passover and He was crucified at the same time as the Passover animals were being slaughtered in the temple. This was not an accident. He was raised, and not accidentally, on the feast of First Fruit and He sent the gift of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the symbolic meaning of the feast of Pentecost. All of these fulfillments took place. Let me continue on in out text. “So the soldiers came along and broke the legs of the first man and of the other man who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.
But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” Now, if we turn to Zechariah chapter 12, we see in verse ten, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” As I understand it, this is an image of how the people of God will eventually acknowledge that this was really the One who was their Messiah. Also, in Revelation chapter one, you see this imagery as well. In verse seven, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”
So, the piercing is the fulfillment if the Scripture in Zechariah. It is intriguing to me that by not breaking His legs, they fulfilled Exodus chapter 12, which said that not a bone was to be broken in the Passover lamb. It is also repeated in Numbers chapter 9, verse 12. But, they did do what they were not supposed to do, and that was piercing His side. But, by so doing, they fulfilled the prophecy inadvertently. Now, John makes an unusual comment next, but there is a good reason for it. In verse 34, “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.” I think that he is saying this here as proof that Jesus did have a real body. It is proof of that. In 1st John chapter one, verses one to four is really a commentary on how he saw and beheld. He experienced a real death, then, and this is to counteract an early form of Gnosticism that actually denied that Jesus was the Christ and this developed more and more in the second and third centuries with these Gnostic Gospels.
Now, he goes on to say, “For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, ‘Not a bone of Him shall be broken’.” Verse 38 reads, “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who had first com to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.” It is interesting that from this point on no unbelievers touched the body of Jesus. Once He had accomplished His work, no unbelievers touched His body. God, I think, prepared these two very influential men, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, to prepare His body for burial. Otherwise the body would have been carried off and thrown in a ditch, along with the other thieves. I think this a clear fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 53, another text we were looking at earlier. Specifically, in verse nine, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.”
So, again we see fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. It is interesting that Joseph and Nicodemus had enough cloth and spices necessary for His burial. We also know that Mary and the other women planned to return after the Sabbath and complete the burial procedures. We see this in each of the Synoptic Gospels, although it is not recorded in John. Now, the text goes on to say, “So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” A new tomb like that, hewn out of the rock, would have been a very expensive proposition. “Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” Jesus finished the work of a new creation. If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away, and behold, new things have come.
So, now He would rest as the Sabbath was about to begin. Then, on the third day, He would rise from the dead. Let me point out something here. A lot of people are troubled with this idea of three days and three nights, thinking He was going to in the grave three days and three nights, just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. How, then, could He have been crucified on Friday and raised from the dead on Sunday, if it is supposed to be three days and three nights? The answer to that is that is a Jewish idiom. There are a number of texts, for example, in Esther, which talk about how they prayed for three days and three nights, and then it says, “On the third day.” Here is how it worked. In the Jewish reckoning, and it is even in the Talmud, a portion of a day shall be reckoned as a whole.
So, you had a portion of the first day, all of the second day, and a portion of the third day. That is three days and three nights in the Jewish idiom.
So, this indicates a Friday crucifixion and I think it holds best with the text. Now that we have tied these threads together, are there any closing questions? .
(Q)(A): No, He did not die of asphyxiation, but rather He gave up His spirit. Asphyxiation, that is to say, the inability to breathe, would finally take over. A person could only hold themselves up so long. Typically the victim would die from an inability to breathe. This could often take many hours and the Jews, knowing this, had to hasten that process because they wanted the bodies off before sunset because that was the beginning of a high day and it was associated with the Sabbath connected to the Passover. .
(Q)(A): Yes, He chose to die. I think that is why the Centurion said, when he saw the way Jesus died, “Surely, this Man is the Son of God.” My point is that a Centurion, who does the grisly work of execution again, and again, and again, said, basically, that this one is different. He never saw anyone die as this Man died. You see the point there?
So, that is an extra addition that would intimate that Jesus, having said it was finished, then said, with aloud voice, “Into Your hands I commend My spirit.” Then He breathed His last. Again, I think it illustrates the point that, “No one takes My life from Me. I have the authority to pick it up and I have the authority to lay it down.” I think there is a consistency about that and it would make perfect sense. He did die a real death, but He died volitionally, not as a tragedy, but as a Savior. He came for this purpose and it was His submission to His Father’s will so we can now actually have a relationship with God. Keep in mind that Christ did not die for our sins merely to cleanse our sins. That is the basis on which He can now have a fellowship with us. The cleansing of sin is needful, but that is only the means by which He could be restored to an intimacy with us. Do you see that point? It is the means for the restoration of a right relationship. We now have peace with God, before we did not. .
(Q)(A): That is correct. The very time was not accidental. He died at the very time when the Passover lambs were being offered. It was even said in Exodus 12 that it would be in the afternoon, and so it on the same day and at the same hour and it is no accident. He had authority to lay it down. He also had the authority to take it up, which we will see next week in John 20. .
Let me close, now, in a prayer. Father, we thank You for Your goodness, Your grace, Your love, this inexpressible gift is beyond our ability to really comprehend, but we want to thank You again for the imperishable and infinite gift of forgiveness through this price that was paid through the blood of the sinless One, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. I pray that we would respond. I pray that if any of us don’t know Him that tonight would be the night we would come to respond to His gift and invite Him into our lives, thanking Him for the freedom and forgiveness of sins, and for coming into an intimate relationship with Him. For those of us who have done that, I pray that we might press on to a heart of gratitude and of discipleship, that we might become conformed to the image of Your Son. We pray in His name. Amen.