Pilate conceded to the demand of the Jews for Jesus’ death and handed Him over to be crucified. From man’s viewpoint, Jesus suffers an utterly humiliating death. However, through His death, Jesus is exalted and accomplishes God’s most noble purpose (cf. Jn 12:23, 24, 32). Everything that happens at the cross takes place according to divine plan, which the Scripture has already foretold. Thus, the entire passion narrative clearly presents the crucified Christ as the King and the Savior.
Did You Know...?
1. “Bearing His cross” (19:17): The person who was executed would carry his own cross on his back to the site of the crucifixion. [ref]
3. “They crucified Him” (19:18): “In ancient times, crucifixion was synonymous with horror and shame, a death inflicted on slaves, bandits, prisoners of war, and revolutionaries… For hours (if not days), the person would hang in the heat of the sun, stripped naked and struggling to breathe. In order to avoid asphyxiation, he must push himself up with his legs and pull with his arms, triggering muscle spasms causing unimaginable pain. The end would come through heart failure, brain damage caused by reduced oxygen supply, suffocation, or shock. Atrocious physical agony, length of torment, and public shame combined to make crucifixion a most terrible form of death.” [ref]
4. Title (19:19): “It was not unusual for a tablet identifying the crime to be hung on the condemned as he went to the execution site, then attached to his cross for all to see.” [ref]
5. Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (19:20): Hebrew (or Aramaic) was the vernacular language of Judea; Latin was the official language of the government; and Greek was the international language of trade and commerce.
6. Sour wine (19:29) was used by soldiers to quench their thirst. [ref]
7. Hyssop (19:29) was “a small bushy plant that can grow out of cracks in walls… the branches at the end of the stalk would have formed a little ‘nest’ into which the soggy sponge is placed.” [ref]
8. “That Sabbath was a high day” (19:31): It was a special Sabbath because it was also the Sabbath of the Passover week.
9. “The Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken” (19:31): “In order to hasten death, the crucifieds’ legs (and sometimes other bones) would be smashed with an iron mallet, a practice called crurifragium (“breaking of bones”). This prevented the person from prolonging his life by pushing himself up with his legs to be able to breathe. Arm strength soon failed, and asphyxiation ensued.” [ref]
10. “A hundred pounds” (19:39): This is literally a hundred litrai, which is equivalent to 65.45 pounds. This was a large amount of spices that befitted royal burials. [ref]
Take a moment to read the passages in the Old Testament that are alluded to in this passage: Ps 22:15, 18, 69:21; Ex 12:46; Num 9:12; Ps 34:20; Zech 12:10. Looking at their contexts, what were some of the themes in these passages?
Why does the writer repeatedly point out the fulfillment of Scripture in retelling the crucifixion of Jesus?Hide Answer
It is important to know that Jesus’ death on the cross was not an unforeseen tragedy but the fulfillment of God’s greatest plan. The fulfillment of Scripture in the various events surrounding Jesus’ death underscores the truth that He is the One whom the Scriptures have written about (Lk 24:44; Jn 5:39). Just as God had guided the writers of Scripture to foretell of the coming of the King of Israel, He likewise guided the course of every event during Jesus’ work of redemption on earth in accordance with all that had been prophesied. God’s sovereign rule, so visibly demonstrated even in the suffering and death of Jesus, assures us that Jesus is indeed the Lord and the Savior appointed by God (cf. Acts 2:36)
What sharp contrast between two types of people at the cross does the narrative present to us?Hide Answer
It is clear in the Greek that the last sentence of verse 24 and the beginning of verse 25 form a contrast between the soldiers and the women below the cross. Even without knowledge of Greek, we can still discern the juxtaposition of unbelievers (chief priests, soldiers) and believers (the women and the disciple whom Jesus loved). A similar contrast can also be seen later on between the Jews and the soldiers (representing unbelievers) on the one hand and Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (representing believers) on the other.
How did each of these people perceive the words “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”?: Pilate
19:16b-221. How did each of these people perceive the words “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”?
How do you account for the attention the narrative gives to the title on the cross?Hide Answer
Although Pilate probably wrote the title out of spite for the chief priests and certainly not out of a sincere faith in the Lord Jesus, the title actually served as a proclamation to all that Jesus was truly the King of the Jews. The narrative does not spell out that this was due to God’s guiding hand, but the fact that the author goes into such detail to record the dialogue between the chief priests and Pilate indicates that what took place was significant and not a coincidence. As much as the chief priests detested the title given to Jesus, they were not able to change what Pilate had written. We are also told that subsequently, many of the Jews read this title because where Jesus was crucified was near the city (20), i.e., it was near a populated area. Whatever human intentions were at play, God’s will prevailed, and Jesus was exalted on the cross as a King.
What does this segment teach us about man’s actions and God’s purpose?Hide Answer
It is horrifying to read that right after they had crucified someone, the soldiers began to take possession of the person’s clothes (23). They were desensitized to the agony of crucifixion and completely oblivious to the fact that the Son of God was dying for the sins of mankind. Yet, even in such an appalling scene, we see the work of God. The Bible points out that the soldiers’ actions in fact fulfilled what was spoken in the Scripture. Following that, the passage adds, “Therefore the soldiers did these things” (24), emphasizing that they had unwittingly carried out the prophetic words of Scripture. As we have seen repeatedly in the Gospel according to John, God always has sovereign control over the events of history. He uses even the sinful deeds of wicked doers to accomplish His will. Therefore, our hearts may rest securely in the conviction that even when we suffer unjustly we can never fall out of the reach of God’s almighty and loving arms (Rom 8:28).
This segment records the last thing Jesus accomplished in His life on earth. What can you learn from Jesus here?
If you were that disciple, what concerns or reservations might have come to your mind?
Why do you think the descriptive term “the disciple whom He loved” is significant here? What does it teach us about being loved by the Lord and receiving His commission?Hide Answer
The term “the disciple whom He loved” suggests a special relationship with the Lord Jesus. In the Gospel according to John, we learn that God’s love towards man is manifested on different levels. While God’s love is towards the whole world (Jn 3:16), the Bible also speaks of Jesus’ love for certain individuals (Jn 11:5, 13:1). The Lord Jesus Himself teaches us that he who loves Him by keeping His word will be loved by His Father, and this love from God is to be distinguished from God’s love for the world (Jn 14:21–23). Therefore, when Jesus entrusted His mother to the disciple whom He loved, He was giving an important commission to the disciple who loved Him and was thus especially close to Him (cf. Jn 13:23–25). This disciple had won the Lord’s complete trust and his heart was one with the Lord’s. It was to such a disciple that the Lord gave the weighty responsibility of caring for His mother. Likewise, when the Lord entrusts us to do His work, it is a mark of His love toward us. It is because we are His beloved disciples that we have the privilege to be at His service. Rather than only look at how burdensome our tasks are, we ought to appreciate the fact that He deems us worthy of the responsibility.
What can you learn from the response of the disciple?
What did Jesus mean by “It is finished!”?Hide Answer
The word “finish” here relates to the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Scriptures concerning Jesus (cf. Lk 18:31, 22:37; Jn 19:28; Acts 13:29). At the same time, the word also denotes the completion of one’s duty (cf. Lk 2:39, 12:50). Combining these two notions of the word, we understand that Jesus’ words, “It is finished!” were a proclamation that God’s grand purpose of salvation through Jesus’ atoning death has been accomplished just as the Scriptures had foretold (cf. Lk 24:46;
1 Cor 15:3). All that Jesus had faithfully labored for and humbly suffered has now come to fruition. He now finally reached His hour of glory.
What can we learn here about how we ought to live our lives?
Why did one of the soldiers pierce Jesus’ side?Hide Answer
The solider did not pierce Jesus’ side to see if He had died, for verse 33 tells us that they saw that He was already dead. The only explanation the Bible gives us for the soldier’s action is this: “For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled” (Jn 19:36). Once again, we read of an account of someone unwittingly carrying out God’s higher purpose.
Through His death, Jesus became the ultimate Passover lamb who was slain for the sins of the world (Jn 1:35, 36;
1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:18, 19). The prophecy that “not one of His bones shall be broken” alludes to the Passover lamb (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12), which now found its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus on the cross. Furthermore, just as the blood of the Passover lamb kept the Israelites from death, Jesus’ blood now flowed from His side for the salvation of God’s people through the remission of sins (cf. Mt 26:28; Rom 3:25, 5:8, 9; Eph 1:7, 2:13; Heb 9:14, 13:12). Yet, when Jesus’ side was pierced, water also came out along with blood. According to 1 John 5:6, Jesus Christ came by water and blood, and the Spirit bears witness. The “water” is a reference to baptism (cf. Acts 10:47; 1 Pet 3:20, 21). Today, our Lord Jesus Christ washes us with His blood through the water of baptism under the Spirit’s witness. That is why the Bible calls Christian baptism a washing (Acts 22:16; cf. Eph 5:25, 26; Tit 3:5) and teaches us that it is necessary for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16) and for salvation (Mk 16:16; 1 Pet 3:21). This coincides with the prophecy in Zechariah about the One who is pierced (Jn 19:37; Zech 12:10). As stated in the prophecy, the people of God will look on Him whom they pierced. This promise of salvation through the crucified Savior was fulfilled on the cross. People of all nations would look upon the One who had been “lifted up from the earth” (Jn 3:14, 8:28, 12:32, 33) and pierced for their sins. In Zechariah 13:1, the prophet declares, “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” Relating this prophecy to the flow of blood and water from Jesus’ side, it becomes clear that this event at the cross marked the opening of the spiritual fountain for the remission of sins, and this is available to us today in baptism. Just as Eve was made from Adam’s side (Gen 2:21, 22), out of the side of the Lord Jesus believers today enter into a new life through the washing in baptism (cf. Jn 3:5; Rom 6:4; Eph 5:25, 26; Col 2:11–13; Tit 3:5).
Why did the writer stress the truthfulness of his testimony?Hide Answer
The writer’s emphatic testimony about the truthfulness of his eye-witness account underscores the great significance of the event. From the side of the Lord Jesus a fountain for cleansing was indeed opened. In this miraculous event, the Scripture’s promise of salvation was accomplished.
How should we respond to this true testimony?
Why is this event significant for you personally?
What did the descriptions of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus have in common?
Why were these two men commendable?Hide Answer
While they had formerly been followers of Jesus secretly, they now stepped forward to take Jesus’ body and bury Him in the tomb. In view of the atrocity that the Jews had committed against Jesus and the great danger upon the followers of Jesus, what Joseph and Nicodemus did was an act of great courage (Mk 15:43).
Based on the narrative, in what ways was Jesus’ burial special?Hide Answer
1. Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both men of prominence and authority (Lk 23:50; Jn 3:1). 2. The amount of myrrh and aloes was comparable to what was used for royal burials (Jn 19:39). 3. They laid Jesus in a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid (Jn 19:41; Lk 23:53). Such a stately and dignified burial was far different from how a crucified man would normally have been buried.