John 19

19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged [to scourge; an attempt to appease the Jews; punishment not intended to kill Jesus (although those subjected to flogging sometimes died); cf. Lk. 23:16,22].

19:2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple [the color of royalty] robe

19:3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face [cf. Isa. 50:6].

19:4 Once more [cf. Jn. 18:38] Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge [not guilty of a crime punishable by death] against him.

19:5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man [Latin: Ecce homo]!”

19:6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him [Jesus: flogged, bleeding, wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe] (19:1-5)], they shouted [screamed in a fiendish rage], “Crucify! Crucify! [cf. Mk. 15:13-15]” But Pilate answered, “You [Jewish rulers] take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him [as if this would relieve Pilate of responsibility].”

After questioning Jesus (18:38), Pilate tried to use Barabbas as a bargaining chip with the Jews (18:38)—his first attempt to release Jesus. However, his gamble failed when the crowd shouted for the release of Barabbas, a rebel (18:40) and a murderer (Mark 15:7). Pilate then handed Jesus to the Roman soldiers who severely flogged and abused Him (19:1-3). Once more, Pilate told the Jews that he found no basis for a charge against Jesus (19:4).

Perhaps in an effort to play on their sympathies, Pilate presented the battered and bruised Jesus to the crowd. However, the crowd felt no pity when they saw Jesus wearing the crown of thorns and purple robe. Instead they screamed in a fiendish rage, Crucify! Crucify! For the third time, Pilate said he found no basis for a charge against Jesus.

19:7 The Jews insisted [in an attempt to justify their demand], “We have a law, and according to that law he must die [cf. Lev. 24:16; Jn. 5:18], because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

The Jews referred to Leviticus 24:16 as the basis for their insistence on the death penalty for Jesus. Jesus deserved to die, they insisted, for the sin of blasphemy. Ironically, Jesus had not violated that law as the Jews believed. Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was absolutely true. The Jews just did not believe it.

19:8 When Pilate heard this [in addition to the troubling dream of his wife (Matt. 27:19); Pilate was no doubt familiar with myths about the gods coming to earth as men (cf. Acts 14:8-13)], he was even more afraid,

Pilate was afraid when he heard the Jews say that Jesus “claimed to be the Son of God” (19:7). Superstitious pagans believed the gods sometimes appeared on earth in human form (see Acts 14:8-13). They further believed that arousing the anger of such a god would put one in great danger. Pilate had even more reason to be afraid because of his wife’s troublesome dream about “that innocent man” (Matt. 27:19).

19:9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.

19:10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free [release] you or to crucify you?”

19:11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over [to deliver, to betray] to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

19:12 From then on, Pilate tried [implies a series of attempts] to set Jesus free [Pilate could have set Jesus free on his own authority, but was fearful to do so without the consent of the Jews], but the Jews kept shouting [accusing Pilate of being a traitor to Caesar], “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

Pilate was convinced he should not crucify Jesus. Although we are not specifically told how, Pilate continued to seek Jesus’ release. Pilate had boasted to Jesus that he had the authority to either release or crucify Him (19:10). However, even though as governor he had the authority to release Jesus, he was reluctant to do so without the consent of the Jews. Pilate found himself in the uncomfortable position between an innocent man and an angry mob.

The angry Jews continued to pressure Pilate by threatening to report to Tiberius, the emperor, that he had freed an alleged troublemaker and seditionist who claimed to be a king. Though Pilate seemed to want to do the right thing, he would not sacrifice himself or his own interests to set Christ free.

Pilate refused to do the right thing, partly because of the pressure and intimidation of the Jews. Like Pilate, many unbelievers today are unwilling to sacrifice their selfish interests in order to make a decision for Christ. Sadly, that is the costliest of all mistakes one can make.

19:13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement [the place where Pilate rendered his awful decision] (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha [signifies a high place, as judgment seats are, so that the judge could be seen and heard by a considerable number of people]).

Pilate lost any resolve to release Jesus when he heard the shouts and threats of the Jews. He sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement. The Aramaic word Gabbatha signifies a high place, perhaps indicating that the judge’s seat was situated high enough so that the judge could be seen and heard by a large number of people. Pilate rendered his awful decision from that place. Matthew recorded that Pilate washed his hands before the crowd (Matt. 27:24)—an act that could not cleanse his heart of the terrible stain of his decision.

19:14 It was the day [Friday] of Preparation of Passover Week [the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread], about the sixth hour [6:00 AM (Roman time)]. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

19:15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar [pronouncement of loyalty to Caesar; a blasphemous claim (cf. Judg. 8:23; 1 Sam. 8:7); in reality they hated Caesar but hated Jesus more],” the chief priests answered.

19:16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified [the most cruel and shameful of all punishments]. So the soldiers took charge [custody; cf. Matt. 27:26; Mk. 15:15 re: scourging] of Jesus.

Pilate, more concerned about protecting his political position than the life of an innocent man, handed Jesus over to the religious leaders to be crucified. Rather than doing the right thing, Pilate “surrendered to their will” (Luke 23:25).

Crucifixion was, without question, the most cruel and shameful of all punishments. The pain and anguish associated with crucifixion was so intense that a new word was coined to describe it—the word “excruciating,” which means, “out of the cross.”

The fact that the Jewish leaders pressured Pilate to crucify Jesus points to their intense hatred of Jesus. Since Rome did not permit the Jews to execute anyone, the soldiers took charge of Jesus. In a matter of hours, the message of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah would converge on the cross and the good news of salvation would emerge from it.

19:17 Carrying his own cross [probably the crossbeam that would later be attached to the larger, vertical post], he went out [criminals commonly paraded through streets; cf. Matt. 27:31] to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).

Like other victims of crucifixion, Jesus was required to carry his own cross to the place of execution. He probably carried the horizontal crossbeam that would later be attached to the larger, vertical post. Carrying his own cross through the crowded streets only added to the humiliation Jesus experienced. Apparently, Jesus was so exhausted that He was unable to continue carrying the cross and a bystander named Simon was enlisted to carry it behind Jesus (Luke 23:26).

Jewish law forbade executions to take place within the city walls (see Acts 7:58). So, Jesus went out or was led to the place of the Skull—a place outside Jerusalem. The name of the place indicates that this was a site for executions or that it received its name because of the actual appearance of the location. Regardless of why it was so named, it was a place of death. But, Jesus’ death on the cross at that horrible place would make possible life for all who place their faith in Him for salvation.

19:18 Here they crucified him, and with him two others [criminals/robbers (Lk. 23:33; Matt. 27:38)] — one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Jesus was crucified between two others—identified as criminals (Luke 23:33) and robbers (Matt. 27:38). Some believe these other men were somehow associated with Barabbas. One of the criminals “hurled insults at him” (Luke 23:39). The other turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus answered, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ death between these two criminals fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, “He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12).

19:19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

19:20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.

19:21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written [statement indicates the permanent and abiding character of Pilate’s act; the expression of a legal decision].”

19:23 When the soldiers [four in number] crucified Jesus, they took his clothes [“part of the pay the executioners received for performing their gruesome duties” (Life Application Bible Commentary)], dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

Note: “Contrary to the paintings depicting the Crucifixion, Jesus died naked, another horrible part of His humiliation.” (Life Application Bible Commentary • John • p. 377)

19:24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot [somewhat like rolling dice] who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled [cf. Ps. 22:18] which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did.

19:25 Near the cross [the disciples fled, but these women stayed with Jesus until the end] of Jesus stood [1] his mother, [2] his mother’s sister [possibly Salome (cf. Matt. 27:55ff; Mk. 15:40ff), the mother of James and John], [3] Mary [the mother of James the younger and of Joses] the wife of Clopas, and [4] Mary Magdalene [Jesus appeared to her first after His resurrection].

19:26 When Jesus [as oldest son He was responsible for His mother’s welfare] saw his mother there [read Lk. 2:35 re: Simeon’s prophecy], and the disciple whom he loved [John; the only one of the eleven who was present at the crucifixion] standing nearby [to stand alongside], he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,”

19:27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture [cf. Ps. 69:21] would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty [cf. Ps. 22:15 re: physical reason for Jesus’ thirst].”

Jesus knew that He had completed the work the Father sent Him to accomplish—the work of making salvation available to all people. As Jesus hung on the cross, He experienced an overwhelming thirst. Dehydration was one of the most dreadful aspects of crucifixion (see Ps. 22:14-15). Jesus had suffered through a night of unfair trials, a severe flogging at the hands of Roman soldiers, and a humiliating walk to the cross. Exhausted and in agonizing pain, Jesus said I am thirsty—one of seven statements He uttered from the cross.

Seven last statements from the cross:
• “Father forgive them…” Lk. 23:34
• “…today you will be with Me…” Lk. 23:39-43
• “Dear woman…” Jn. 19:25-27
• “My God, My God…” Matt. 27:45-49
• “I am thirsty.” Jn. 19:28-29
• “It is finished.” Jn. 19:30
• “…I commend My spirit…” Lk. 23:46

19:29 [cf. Matt. 27:48] A jar of wine vinegar [a diluted vinegary wine drunk by soldiers and laborers] was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.

John recorded that a jar of wine vinegar was there. This wine vinegar was a cheap, sour wine the soldiers drank for refreshment as opposed to the pain-deadening drug that Jesus had earlier refused to take (Mark 15:23). The soldiers quenched Jesus’ thirst by dipping a sponge in the wine vinegar, placing the sponge on the stalk of a hyssop plant, and lifting it to Jesus’ lips. This action fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 69:21, “They … gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It [Jesus’ suffering, the purchase of man’s redemption; OT prophecies now fulfilled] is finished [Gr. tetelestai: “It is finished, it stands finished, and it will always be finished!” / term also used by merchants to indicate “the debt is paid in full”].” With that, he bowed his head and gave up [“to give up voluntarily”] his spirit.

The little bit of moisture from the wine vinegar apparently quenched Jesus’ thirst enough for Him to utter His final words from the cross. Jesus said, “It is finished”—a single word in the Greek language. What was finished? Certainly Jesus’ suffering was finished.

Numerous Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah were finished or fulfilled. But most important, the work of saving lost humanity by bearing “our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) was finished. Merchants used the word “finished” to indicate the payment in full of a debt. Jesus paid a debt He did not owe for those who owed a debt they could not pay. What Jesus did stands finished and will always be finished. He completed the work the Father had given Him to do (John 17:4).

Jesus’ final words from the cross are very likely those recorded by Luke, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Having declared that He had completed His divine mission, Jesus bowed his head and voluntarily gave up or handed over his spirit to the Father. John’s words accentuate the voluntary nature of Jesus’ death. Jesus’ life was not taken from Him; rather He gave His life of His own free will.

19:31 Now it was the day of Preparation [the day Jews were to get ready for the Sabbath], and the next day was to be a special Sabbath [the Passover Sabbath]. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath [considered an act of defilement (Deut. 21:22-23)], they asked Pilate to have the legs broken [made it impossible for victims to raise themselves up to breathe] and the bodies taken down.

19:32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.

19:33 But when they [soldiers] came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs [fulfilled prophecy (Ps. 34:20); read Ex. 12:46 and Num. 9:12 re: Passover lamb].

Note: The Koran denies the crucifixion and death of Jesus: “They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did.” (Koran • 4:157)

19:34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced [to stab; fulfilled prophecy (Zech. 12:10)] Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow [not a spurt as from a beating heart; indication that Jesus was actually dead] of blood and water.

19:35 The man [possibly John who was present at crucifixion (Jn. 19:26-27)] who saw [an eyewitness] it has given testimony, and his testimony is true [account of crucifixion is accurate]. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe [in keeping with the purpose of John’s Gospel (Jn. 20:31)].

19:36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken [to shatter, to crush],”

19:37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

19:38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea [a rich man (Matt. 27:57); prominent member of the Jewish council (Mk. 15:43); a good and righteous man who had not consented to what the council did (Lk. 23:50-51); Jew who prayed for Messiah to come (Mk. 15:43); a disciple of Jesus] asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph [before this day he had never openly followed Jesus] was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took [openly/publicly] the body away.

As evening approached, a man named Joseph of Arimathea summoned up courage and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Each of the gospel writers tells us something about Joseph.

• Matthew noted that he was a rich man (Matt. 27:57).

• Mark said that he was “a prominent member of the Council” and a Jew who prayed for the Messiah to come (Mark. 15:43).

• Luke added that he was a good and righteous man who had not consented with what the Council did (Luke 23:50-51).

• John noted that Joseph was a secret disciple because he feared the Jews.

Though previously afraid to acknowledge Jesus while He was alive, Joseph did not remain a secret disciple of Jesus. The death of Jesus awakened in him the courage to take a very open and public stand for Jesus. He asked for and received permission from Pilate to take the body of Jesus away for a proper burial.

19:39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus [identified as the man who came to Jesus by night each time he is mentioned (Jn. 3:1ff; 7:50-53)], the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of [spices placed between folds of the linen in order to partially embalm the body] myrrh and aloes [powdered aromatic sandalwood used for perfuming bedding or clothes; purpose probably was to counteract unpleasant odor and slow down corruption], about seventy-five pounds.

Nicodemus—identified as the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night (see also John 3:1-2)—accompanied Joseph. Sometimes, just having one other person with us can give us the courage to do things we might never attempt alone. To his credit, Nicodemus had previously stood up for Jesus among his religious peers (John 7:50-53). Nicodemus brought a large and expensive amount of the spices that were used for embalming. Although Joseph and Nicodemus had to work hastily, they prepared Jesus’ body for burial “in accordance with Jewish burial customs” (19:40).

Mary Magdalene was among a group of women that followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how the body of Jesus was laid in it (Luke 23:55). Joseph, the owner of the tomb, then “rolled a big stone in front of the entrance of the tomb and went away” (Matt. 27:60). The actions of the Joseph and Nicodemus challenge those who have been touched by Christ’s sacrifice to willingly sacrifice for His sake in helping lost people to be saved.

19:40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped [to bind] it, with the spices [spices and aromatic oil sprinkled between the folds of the linen bandage], in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

19:41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb [belonged to Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57-60); God did not allow His Servant to be buried like criminal (cf. Isa. 53:9)], in which no one had ever been laid.

19:42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation [time was close to sundown when the Sabbath would begin; burial had to be completed before sundown] and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there [in a borrowed tomb].

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