A. Jesus is condemned to crucifixion.
1. (1-4) Pilate hopes to satisfy the mob by having Jesus whipped and mocked.
So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands. Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”
a. So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him: Previously Pilate said of Jesus, I find no fault in Him at all (John 18:38), yet he commanded this severe, brutal punishment for a Man he knew was innocent. It has been suggested that Pilate wanted to help Jesus, hoping the mob would be satisfied with the scourging.
b. Scourged Him: Pilate gave the order, so Jesus was scourged according to Roman practice. The blows came from a whip with many leather strands, each having sharp pieces of bone or metal at the ends. It reduced the back to raw flesh, and it was not unusual for a criminal to die from a scourging, even before crucifixion.
i. Scourging had three purposes. It was used to punish prisoners, and to gain confessions of crimes from prisoners. Also, in cases of crucifixion scourging was used to weaken the victim so he would die more quickly on the cross. Pilate hoped that this punishment of his prisoner would satisfy the crowd. “Neither, then, as part of the capital punishment, nor in order to elicit the truth; but in the ill-judged hope that this minor punishment might satisfy the Jews, Pilate ordered the scourging.” (Dods)
ii. “The victim of this severe punishment was bound in a stooping attitude to a low column and beaten with rods or scourged with whips, the thongs of which were weighted with lead, and studded with sharp-pointed pieces of bone, so that frightful laceration followed each stroke.” (Dods)
iii. “It literally tore a man’s back into strips. Few remained conscious throughout the ordeal; some died; and many went raving mad.” (Barclay)
iv. “It is a further example of the reserve of the Gospels that they use but one word to describe this piece of frightfulness. There is no attempt to play on our emotions.” (Morris)
c. The soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!”: Everything about this was intended to humiliate Jesus. The Jewish rulers had already mocked Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 26:67-68). Now the Roman powers mocked him as king.
· The soldiers twisted a crown of thorns: Kings wear crowns, but not crowns of torture. The specific thorn-bushes of this region have long, hard, sharp thorns. This was a crown that cut, pierced, and bloodied the head of the King who wore it.
· Put on Him a purple robe: Kings and rulers often wore purple, because the dyes to make fabrics that color were expensive. The purple robe was intended as cruel irony.
· “Hail, King of the Jews!” Kings are greeted with royal titles, so in their spite they mocked Jesus with this title. It was meant to humiliate Jesus, but also the Jews – saying, “This is the best King they can bring forth.”
· The soldiers also struck Him with their hands, beating and mocking Jesus simply to gratify cruelty and wickedness.
· The Gospel of Matthew adds that Jesus was stripped, given a reed as mocking a royal scepter, that the soldiers bowed their knee before Jesus, offering mocking homage and honor to Him, and that they spat on Jesus.
i. We can also decide to do the opposite of what these did to Jesus. “Oh, that we were half as inventive in devising honor for our King as these soldiers were in planning his dishonor! Let us offer to Christ the real homage that these men pretended to offer him.” (Spurgeon)
d. That you may know that I find no fault in Him: Pilate repeated the statement first recorded at John 18:38, declaring Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing. As a judge Pilate had both reason and responsibility to set Jesus free with no punishment instead of the humiliation and brutality that He endured.
i. “Pilate made five several attempts to release our Lord; as we may learn from Luke 23:4, 15, 20, 22; John 19:4, 12, 13.” (Clarke)
2. (5-6) Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd.
Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.”
a. Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe: Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd as One beaten and mocked, with blood, sweat, and spit all over His body. Perhaps Pilate hoped the sad sight would make the crowd feel sorry for Jesus.
i. “This crown He continued to wear to the end: both Origen and Tertullian, two of the earliest Fathers of the Church of east and west, assert that He was crucified with it on His head.” (Trench)
ii. “Many a crown has been secured by blood, and so is this, but it is his own blood; many a throne has been established by suffering, and so is this, but he himself bears the pain.” (Spurgeon)
b. Behold the Man: Pilate invited the crowd to look at this suffering One, and to look with careful consideration (behold). There is a sense in which Pilate spoke for God here, who invites all humanity to behold the Man, to see the Man of men, the Perfect Man, the tested and approved Ideal of all humanity.
i. “The man is contemptuous. Pilate is saying in effect ‘Here he is – the poor fellow. Can you really think that such a caricature of a king is really a danger either to Israel or Rome?’” (Tasker)
ii. “If ye be men, take pity upon a man so miserably misused; and if ye be good men, let him go who is innocent.” (Trapp)
iii. Pilate thought he might save Jesus through humiliating Him. Some modern people also do that; they think that by saying Jesus is not God or that He wasn’t right about everything they can “save” Jesus, keeping Him relevant to a modern, progressive, scientific age. Such attempts are as wrong as what Pilate did.
iv. “Whatever Pilate’s intention, the vision of Jesus failed to arouse in the hearts of the multitude any pity for Him, and they clamored for His death.” (Morgan)
c. When the chief priests and officers saw Him: We aren’t told the immediate reaction of the crowd; perhaps they did feel a moment of sympathy for this remarkable, strong man in such circumstances. Whatever the crowd felt, the religious leaders immediately screamed “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”This was pure hatred, man’s hatred of God.
i. “Some pity may have stirred in the crowd, but the priests and their immediate dependents silenced it by their yell of fresh hate at the sight of the prisoner.” (Maclaren)
ii. “So afterwards the primitive persecutors cried out, Ad bestias, ad bestias, Christianos ad leones, To the beasts, to the beasts, Christians, to the lions, imputing the cause of all public calamities to them, as Tertullian testifieth.” (Trapp)
d. You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him: For the third time, Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent of all charges.
i. “Pilate must have realized that the Sanhedrin could not execute the sentence. His apparent relegation of Jesus to them was an act of sarcasm.” (Tenney)
3. (7-11) Pilate learns of the charge against Jesus.
The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
a. Because He made Himself the Son of God: In John’s account, with this the religious leaders showed their true charge against Jesus. They wanted Him dead not because He claimed to be King of the Jews, but because He claimed to be God, the unique Son of God.
i. “It is certain that the Jews understood this in a very peculiar sense. When Christ called himself the Son of God, they understood it to imply positive equality to the Supreme Being.” (Clarke)
b. He was the more afraid: Pilate was not angry or amused when he learned that Jesus made Himself the Son of God, he was more afraid of Jesus than ever. Pilate saw something in Jesus – even beaten, bloodied, and spat upon – that made him think that it could be true that the Man before him was more than a man.
i. “It may be that the comparative the more afraid should be given a superlative force, such as it often has in New Testament Greek, and rendered ‘exceedingly afraid’.” (Tasker)
ii. “He can scarcely be called a religious man, but the news that his prisoner had made divine claims scared the governor…every Roman of that day knew of stories of the gods or their offspring appearing in human guise.” (Morris)
c. Where are You from: Pilate wanted Jesus to defend Himself and give Pilate more reasons to let an innocent Man free. He wanted Jesus to explain what made Him different than the dozens of other prisoners Pilate had judged. Yet Jesus already told Pilate that He was King of a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36); Jesus already said where He was from. Therefore, Jesus gave him no answer.
i. Though he already had the answer, one could say Pilate asked the right question. “His question is almost the most pertinent question that can be asked about Him, for to know where Jesus comes from is to know the most important thing about Him.” (Tasker)
4. (10-11) Pilate and Jesus speak about power.
Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
a. Are You not speaking to me: Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus would not speak to defend Himself. He couldn’t believe that Jesus would not beg for His life as many others had done. Pilate also couldn’t believe that Jesus was not awed and intimidated by the representative of Rome who judged Him.
i. “Me is very emphatic in the Greek; it is the refusal of Jesus to speak to one who possesses such supreme human authority that amazes Pilate.” (Tasker)
ii. The general silence of Jesus before His accusers and judges fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7: And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.
b. Do You not know that I have power: Pilate was amazed that Jesus was not intimidated by his power as judge to condemn and crucify. In his understanding of power, Pilate felt that he held the power position and was mystified that Jesus didn’t see it.
i. Pilate thought he had power, but what he had was the power to do wrong, to do harm. He didn’t have the power to do what was right. The right thing to do was to release an obviously innocent Man instead of sending Him to death, but Pilate was weak before the strength of the religious leaders and the crowd they commanded. To say, “I have power to do what the crowd wants me to do” is to say you have no power at all.
ii. The same man who claimed to have all power tried to wash his hands of the decision (Matthew 27:24) claiming, “I didn’t really want to do this.”
c. You could have no power at all against Me unless it have been given you from above: Jesus answered, explaining the true nature of power to Pilate. In the thinking of the Roman governor, Rome had the power. In reality, God held the power.
i. Jesus understood that Pilate had power; He simply insisted that this power was granted by God and not inherent in Pilate or Rome.
d. The one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin: Jesus didn’t say Pilate was without sin; simply that the religious leaders were guilty of greater sin.
i. “He that delivered me could be a reference either to Judas or Caiaphas and the language of the evangelist seems to be deliberately vague.” (Tasker)
ii. “The verb ‘hand over’ (Gk. paradidomai) has been used repeatedly in the earlier part of the narrative to denote Judas’s act of betrayal.” (Bruce)
5. (12-13) Pilate brings Jesus out for judgment.
From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
a. Pilate sought to release Him: We sense panic in the Roman governor. The panic was greater when his wife told him to let the accused free because of a dream she had (Matthew 27:19-20). He knew this innocent Man, a Man not like any other prisoner he had seen before, should be set free – yet he felt the full force of the crowd and religious leaders demanding His crucifixion.
i. From then on: “Can be interpreted in either a temporal sense ‘from that moment’; or inferentially, as in RSV, ‘Upon this’. The latter is more probable. Pilate is flattered by what Jesus has said in verse 11 and in consequence tries still harder to release Him.” (Tasker)
b. If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend: By some accounts (such as Boice), Pilate was an unremarkable man who only had his position because he married the granddaughter of the emperor. Holding his position only by relationship, Pilate would be greatly concerned that the relationship was damaged. The religious leaders and the crowd knew Pilate’s weak point and they pressed upon it.
i. “Humanly speaking, the mention of Caesar sealed Jesus’ fate.” (Morris)
ii. “The phrase ‘a friend of Caesar’ was more than a casual allusion to Roman patriotism. It usually denoted a supporter or associate of the emperor, a member of the important inner circle.” (Tenney)
iii. “He wanted so much to be a friend of Caesar. But he was not Caesar’s friend; he barely knew Caesar. And what is even more significant, Caesar was not his friend at all.” (Boice)
c. He brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat: Pilate was ready to deliver his final judgment, presenting Jesus both before the crowd and the judgment seat. In truth it was Pontius Pilate who was on judgment, not Jesus Himself.
i. Gabbatha: “That is, an elevated place; from gabah, high, raised up; and it is very likely that the judgment seat was considerably elevated in the court, and that the governor went up to it by steps; and perhaps these very steps were what was called the Pavement.” (Clarke)
6. (14-16) The crowd rejects Jesus and Pilate sentences Him to death.
Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” But 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!” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.
a. It was the Preparation Day of the Passover: This again raises the difficult chronological questions previous mentioned at John 18:28. John’s point is nevertheless clear: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) is ready for sacrifice at Passover.
i. About the sixth hour: This introduces a point of some controversy, because Mark states the crucifixion was at the third hour (Mark 15:25). Several attempts have been made to reconcile John 19:14 and Mark 15:25.
· Some think John and Mark used different reckonings of time. “Westcott gives good reasons for supposing that this evangelist, instead of reckoning hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., as was the Jewish custom, reckoned them from midnight to noon, and noon to midnight – a practice which we know from the Martyrdom of Polycarp was in use in Asia Minor at the time that document was written, and which is still followed in the West today. On this reckoning, it was… about 6 a.m. when Pilate passed sentence on Jesus.” (Tasker)
· Some think that John and Mark never intended exact markers of time. “The ‘third hour’ may denote nothing more firm than a time about the middle of the morning, while ‘about the sixth hour’ can well signify getting on towards noon. Late morning would suit both expressions unless there were some reason for thinking that either was being given with more than usual accuracy. No such reason exists here.” (Morris)
· Some think the problem is with early errors by copyists of the text and John originally wrote the third hour. “We must certainly suppose, as did Eusebius, Theophylact, and Severus, that there has been some very early erratum in our copies; whether the interchange of 3 and 6, which when expressed in Greek numerical letters, are not unlike one another, or some other, cannot now be determined.” (Alford)
b. Behold your King: Pilate offered this sacrificial Lamb before the people for their inspection. He may have meant to mock Jesus and the crowd, presenting a thorn-crowned, bloodied and beaten Man with a purple rag across His ripped-open back as their King. The crowd saw Jesus in all His misery and dignity and responded by screaming, Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!
i. “The words Behold your King seem to have been spoken in irony to the Jews – in the same spirit in which afterwards the title was written over the cross.” (Alford)
ii. But they cried out: “Probably the well-attested imperfect tense should be followed, giving the sense ‘they kept shouting’. It was the persistence of the Jews in making a political issue of the case that was wearing Pilate out.” (Tasker)
iii. There are times when people are angry enough with God and His goodness that they think or wish Him dead. It is far more common for people to simply want God to disappear; for people to wish away with Him, away with Him!
c. We have no king but Caesar: The crowd rejected Jesus and chose Barabbas, a revolutionary against Rome. In the crazy and contradictory manner common among crowds, they both chose the revolutionary and swore allegiance to Caesar.
i. “Driven by hate, they deliberately disown their Messianic hope, and repudiate their national glory. They who will not have Christ have to bow to a tyrant. Rebellion against Him brings slavery.” (Maclaren)
d. Then he delivered Him to be crucified: It appeared that Jesus was on trial before Pilate, but in an even greater sense Pilate was on trial before Jesus. Pilate failed his test. In fear of the crowd he sent a Man he knew to be innocent to a tortured death. Thus the ancient creed notes, Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
i. “You may do today exactly what Pilate did. He is simply an example of a man who lacks decision of character, who does not possess the courage of his convictions, who tries to compromise with wrong, who disobeys conscience through fear of personal loss.” (Erdman)
B. The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.
1. (17-18) Jesus is crucified.
And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.
a. And He, bearing His cross: According to Roman custom Jesus carried His cross from the place of sentencing to the place of crucifixion, the Place of a Skull. Before the Romans put a man on a cross, they put the cross on the man, forcing him to carry it in a public procession intended to draw attention to the condemned, his crime, and his fate.
i. “It was normally the cross-piece (patibulum), and not the complete gibbet, that the condemned man carried into the place of execution; the upright stakes were probably standing there already.” (Bruce)
ii. “Since Tertullian (adv. Jud., 10) a type of this has been found in Isaac’s carrying the wood for the sacrifice.” (Dods)
b. They crucified Him: The Persians invented crucifixion, but one could say that the Romans perfected it and made it an institution. It was the form of execution reserved for the worst criminals and the lowest classes. Crucifixion was designed to make the victim die publically, slowly, with great pain and humiliation. This was the form of death God ordained for Jesus to die, and the death that He submitted to in the will of God.
i. Crucifixion was so awful and degrading that polite Romans wouldn’t talk about it in public. The Roman statesman Cicero said of crucifixion: “It is a crime to bind a Roman citizen; to scourge him is an act of wickedness; to execute him is almost murder: What shall I say of crucifying him? An act so abominable it is impossible to find any word adequately to express.” The Roman historian Tacitus called crucifixion “A torture fit only for slaves.”
ii. The Gospel writers do not give a detailed explanation of crucifixion. There were several reasons for this.
· Their original readers were familiar with the practice, so they needed no explanation.
· The Gospel writers take care to not use language or descriptions that could manipulate the emotions; they simply tell the story.
· The greater suffering of Jesus was inward and spiritual; even greater than His outward and physical suffering.
iii. Archaeologists discovered in 1968 the remains of a man crucified in Jesus’ era. The study of the remains revealed that the victim was nailed to the cross in a sitting position, both legs over sideways, with the nail penetrating the sides of both feet just below the heel. The arms were stretched out, each stabbed by a nail in the forearm. Dr. Nico Hass, Hebrew University anatomy professor described it as “a compulsive position, a difficult and unnatural posture,” meant to increase the agony of the sufferer. (Tenney and others)
iv. “There was a horn-like projection (the sedile), which the crucified man straddled. This took some of the weight of the body and prevented the flesh from tearing from the nails.” (Morris)
v. According to Dr. William Edwards in the Journal of the American Medical Association, death from crucifixion could come from many sources: acute shock from blood loss, being too exhausted to breathe any longer, dehydration, stress-induced heart attack, or congestive heart failure leading to a cardiac rupture. If the victim did not die quickly enough, the legs were broken, and the victim was soon unable to breathe and died of suffocation.
c. And two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center: There were three scheduled for crucifixion on that day, the two others and Barabbas. Jesus took the place of Barabbas. This was another way that Jesus was identified with sinners in His death.
i. “The whole of humanity was represented there: the sinless Saviour, the saved penitent, the condemned impenitent.” (Plummer, cited in Dods)
d. And Jesus in the center: This was literally true; of the three crosses, Jesus was in the middle. Yet as a concept, there are many ways that it could be said that it was Jesus in the center.
· Jesus was centered among humanity. Jesus never distanced Himself from common men, and freely interacted with those thought to be great men. From His incarnation, through His whole life, He lived as one of us. Jesus died among men and women, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, high class and no class, the educated and the uneducated, the religious and the secular, the guilty and the innocent, the weepers and the mockers, those deeply moved and those indifferent, those who hated Him and those who loved Him.
· Jesus was centered among sinful men. His enemies thought this would make His sufferings worse. They thought it would bother Him more to see the low company He died with. In His death the righteously religious mocked Him and His disciples forsook Him; yet Jesus was centered among sinners to the end.
· Jesus was centered among confusion. Matthew 27:46-49 says tells us that when Jesus cried out in agony to His Father, the people around Him didn’t understand and some even thought it kind of amusing.
· Jesus was centered between believing and rejecting. Matthew 27:44 told us that both robbers mocked Him, but Luke 23:39-41 tells us of a change in one of the criminals. The last human voice testifying to Jesus was a criminal converted right before his death. The disciples were gone and all Jesus healed and taught were nowhere to be found. The religious leaders mocked Him and spit upon Him, and even the faithful women were silenced by their grief. Yet there was one lone human voice that told the truth about Jesus when all others were silent.
· Jesus was centered between saved and perishing. The thief on the cross was the last companion of Jesus on this earth before His death – and Jesus brought Him to salvation. Not with a sermon, but with every sermon He had already preached, every righteous deed He had done before. This was perhaps the only comfort to Jesus on the cross. Still, one thief was saved, but one was lost, and Jesus was in the center between them. To pass between one side and the other, you must go through Jesus.
· Jesus was centered between God and man. Jesus on the cross took all the punishment our sin deserved. At the cross Jesus was both the priest and the offering.
· Jesus was centered in all God’s history and work. We do not look at Jesus in the center with pity, as if we should all feel sorry for poor Jesus. He was the winner at the cross. This was the greatest victory of all time.
2. (19-22) Pilate’s public description of Jesus and His supposed crime.
Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
a. Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross: This was according to Roman custom. The one to be crucified had his crime written out and the title hung around his neck as he carried his cross to the place of death. Then the title was placed at the top of the cross, so all would know the reason for the crucifixion.
i. “It was customary for the condemned person to wear a placard giving his name and the nature of his crime.” (Tenney)
ii. “A board whitened with gypsum such as were commonly used for public notices.” (Dods)
b. The writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS: Pilate wrote the name of Jesus, the same name by which He was identified and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:5). He also wrote what was said to be the crime of Jesus, (at least in the original charge brought to him) that He claimed to be King of the Jews (John 18:33-34).
i. Even in His death, Jesus was identified with humble and obscure Nazareth. Even in His death, Jesus was recognized as a King. Kings of this world take their throne through others dying. Jesus was proclaimed as King to the whole world through His own death.
ii. The title was also a proper justification of the sinless nature of Jesus. On either side were criminals with descriptions of their crimes; on the cross of Jesus it simply described who He was, which was no crime at all because it was true.
c. Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city: The Romans wanted crucifixion to be a public event. They wanted many to see the wretched victim, read of their crime, and be warned. This also confirms that Jesus was crucified outside the walls of the city (Hebrews 13:12), but close to the city and likely close to an often-used road.
d. It was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin: Pilate wanted this statement regarding Jesus to be as public as possible. This is also an unknowing prophecy of how the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and reigning as King would be published to every nation and language, that it was from the beginning intended as a global message.
i. “Aramaic, for the local inhabitants; Latin, for the officials; Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean world.” (Tenney)
ii. “In Hebrew, for the Jews who gloried in the law; in Greek, for the Grecians who gloried in wisdom; in Latin, for the Romans who most gloried in dominion and power.” (Trapp)
iii. Ancients such as the Romans often used abbreviations, so it may be difficult to recreate the exact letters.
e. Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but, “He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’”: The religious leaders objected to Pilate’s title. They felt it was false, because they did not believe that Jesus was the King of the Jews. They also believed it was demeaning, because it showed Rome’s power to humiliate and torture even the “King of the Jews.”
f. What I have written, I have written: Pilate finally found the courage to stand up to the Jewish rulers, but on a relatively unimportant matter. One may say that despite himself, Pilate honored the King of Truth (John 18:37) with this true description of who He was, in both His humility and His glory.
i. “That is, I will not alter what I have written. The Roman laws forbad the sentence to be altered when once pronounced; and as this inscription was considered as the sentence pronounced against our Lord, therefore, it could not be changed.” (Clarke)
3. (23-24) Soldiers divide Jesus’ clothing in fulfillment of prophecy.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says:
“They divided My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.”
Therefore the soldiers did these things.
a. Then the soldiers: A Roman crucifixion was supervised by soldiers, both to keep order and to make sure the condemned actually died.
b. Took His garments: On the cross, Jesus retained no material possessions. Even the clothes on his back were taken and His tunic was awarded by a bit of petty gambling.
i. “Men were ordinarily crucified naked (Artemidorus II. 61). Jewish sensitivities, however, dictated that men ought not to be publicly executed completely naked, and men condemned to stoning were permitted a loin-cloth (M. Sanhedrin VI. 3). Whether the Romans were considerate of Jewish feelings in this matter is unknown.” (Lane, commentary on Luke)
ii. “Apuleius has the comparison ‘naked as a new-born babe or as the crucified.’” (Dods)
iii. This shows that Jesus came all the way down the ladder to accomplish our salvation. He let go of everything – even His last bit of clothing – becoming completely poor for us that we could become completely rich in Him. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says it like this: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
c. The tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece: The main garment Jesus wore (the tunic) was made well enough that it was better to not tear it into four parts, as each of the four soldiers had already received one of His other garments.
i. Jesus’ seamless tunic reminds us of His role as our great High Priest, because Exodus 28:31-32 tells us that the High Priest wore a seamless garment.
d. Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: The soldiers did this in an unknowing fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 22:18. As the Son of God died for the sins of the world men carelessly laughed and played games at His feet.
4. (25-27) Jesus entrusts His mother into John’s care.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
a. There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother: It is difficult to comprehend the agony of Mary as she saw her Son crucified. She was witness to the pain, humiliation, shame, suffering, and death of her Son.
i. As Mary and Joseph brought their newborn son Jesus to the temple for dedication, a godly man named Simeon saw Jesus, took Him in his arms, and blessed the baby Jesus. Yet he also said this to Mary: Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also (Luke 2:35). Mary experienced this throughout the ministry of her Son as He was rejected, opposed, slandered, and plotted against. Yet this was the ultimate fulfillment of that solemn promise. Of all those who looked upon Jesus at the cross, none suffered as Mary did.
b. His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene: These faithful women were there with Jesus through His agony on the cross, to honor Him and to support His mother Mary. Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene were also among those who first discovered the empty tomb, evidence of the resurrection of Jesus.
i. “It is probable that ‘his mother’s sister’ here is to be equated with Salome (Mark 15:40), and that she was ‘the mother of the sons of Zebedee’ (Matthew 27:56), who was standing at a distance with the other women when Jesus died.” (Morris)
c. The disciple whom He loved standing by: This was the author John’s humble way to refer to himself in the story, as he does four times in his Gospel (John 13:23, 19:26, 21:7, 21:20). John told us that he was at Jesus’ crucifixion and saw these things with his own eyes (John 19:35).
d. He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son”: Jesus consciously cared for His mother to the end, showing that even on the cross His attention was directed to others and not upon Himself. If there was ever a moment when Jesus deserved to be self-focused, this was it; yet He remained others-centered to the end.
i. Clarke on Woman, behold your son: “It conveys no idea of disrespect, nor of unconcern, as has been commonly supposed. In the way of compellation, man! and woman! were titles of as much respect among the Hebrews as sir! and madam! are among us.” (Clarke)
ii. Clarke also suggested that Jesus did not call her mother from the cross because the sound of that name in those circumstances would only add to her agony.
iii. “There was no specific direction given to John to entertain Mary. It was quite enough for the Lord to call his attention to her by saying ‘Behold thy mother.’ How I wish we were always in such a state of heart that we did not need specific precepts, a hint would suffice.” (Spurgeon)
e. From that hour that disciple took her to his own home: John and Mary each obeyed this solemn command of Jesus from the cross, though it was a remarkable thing that Jesus commanded. Mary had other children born after Jesus, and there are references to both the half brothers and sisters of Jesus (Matthew 12:46-47, 13:55-56, John 2:12 and 7:3-10). Despite this, Jesus left the care of His mother Mary to John the disciple and apostle.
· Perhaps Jesus did this to emphasize that our relationships in Him and in the Kingdom are even more important than those by blood.
· Perhaps Jesus did this to honor the one disciple (we know of) who was courageous enough to stand with Jesus and be present at the crucifixion.
· Perhaps Jesus did this because His siblings did not follow Him as disciples during His earthly ministry and did not yet believe on Him, and Jesus wanted to leave His mother with a believer.
· Perhaps Jesus did this knowing that John was the only disciple who would die a natural death and would outlive even the siblings of Jesus.
· Perhaps Jesus did this out of simple wisdom and foresight.
i. Behold your mother! Significantly, Jesus did not need to tell John, “Take care of My mother.” All Jesus needed to do was describe the new relationship and He knew the rest would properly follow. In the same way, there are many commands for a holy life that Jesus need not specifically give to us; if the relationship is ordered right, the conduct will flow from it.
5. (28-30) Jesus’ great proclamation and death.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
a. Knowing that all things were now accomplished: Jesus knew that His great work, His life and death work on the cross was fulfilled. He then made preparation to yield His life and die, having finished the work.
· There was a time before all things were accomplished (Luke 12:50).
· There was a time when all things were accomplished, when Jesus actually became the target of God’s wrath and judgment of sin, when He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
· There was a time after all things were now accomplished and Jesus successfully offered Himself as a substitute sin offering for humanity.
b. I thirst: Jesus didn’t accept a pain-numbing drink at the beginning of His ordeal (Mark 15:23), but now He accepted a taste of greatly diluted wine, to wet parched lips and a dry throat so He could make one final announcement to the world with a clear, loud voice.
i. “Thirst is a common-place misery, such as may happen to peasants or beggars; it is a real pain, and not a thing of a fancy or a nightmare of dreamland. Thirst is no royal grief, but an evil of universal manhood; Jesus is brother to the poorest and most humble of our race.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Appetite was the door of sin, and therefore in that point our Lord was put to pain. With ‘I thirst’ the evil is destroyed and receives its expiation.” (Spurgeon)
iii. A vessel full of sour wine was sitting there: “The mention of the vessel betrays the eye-witness.” (Dods)
iv. Sour wine: “It is, of course, not to be confused with the drugged wine, the ‘wine mingled with myrrh’ of Mark 15:23, which Jesus refused, but was the wine taken to the cross by the soldiers for their own refreshment during what normally was a long time of waiting.” (Tasker)
v. Put it on hyssop: “The very mention of hyssop would take the thoughts of any Jew back to the saving blood of the Passover lamb.” (Barclay)
vi. We can connect all things were now accomplished with the words I thirst. When Jesus said I thirst, the worst was over – the price had been paid and He was ready to announce it. When the sinner says “I thirst” the worst is over, because if they bring their thirsty soul to Jesus He will satisfy.
c. It is finished! Jesus’ final word (tetelestai in the ancient Greek) was the cry of a winner. Jesus had finished the eternal purpose of the cross. It stands today as a finished work, the foundation of all Christian peace and faith, paying in full the debt we righteously owed to God and making peace between God and man.
i. A single word can change everything. “Not guilty” in a court of law changes everything. “Fair” on the playing field changes everything. When a woman says “Yes” to a marriage proposal it changes everything. “Goodbye” can change everything. Yet, there has never been a single-word said that has impacted history than what Jesus said in John 19:30.
ii. At some point before He died, before the veil was torn in two, before He cried out it is finished, an awesome spiritual transaction took place. God the Father laid upon God the Son all the guilt and wrath our sin deserved, and He bore it in Himself perfectly, totally satisfying the wrath of God for us.
iii. “It was a Conqueror’s cry; it was uttered with a loud voice. There is nothing of anguish about it, there is no wailing in it. It is the cry of One who has completed a tremendous labor.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “Jesus died with the cry of the Victor on His lips. This is not the moan of the defeated, nor the sigh of patient resignation. It is the triumphant recognition that He has now fully accomplished the work that He came to do.” (Morris)
v. “The verb telew (teleo, ‘to finish’) was used in first and second centuries in the sense of ‘fulfilling’ or ‘paying’ a debt and often appeared in receipts. Jesus’ statement ‘It is finished’ (tetelestai, tetelestai) could be interpreted as ‘Paid in full.’” (Tenney)
vi. It was all finished, paid in full, accomplished.
· The types, promises, and prophecies were finished.
· The sacrifices and ceremonies of the priesthood were finished.
· His perfect obedience was finished.
· The satisfaction of God’s justice was finished.
· The power of Satan, sin, and death was finished.
vii. “From the gates of Eden the blood of sacrifice had begun to flow, augmented by the confluent streams of the years. From that moment, however, not another drop need be shed. The types were finished now that the Antitype had been realized.” (Meyer)
viii. “Has he finished his work for me? Then I must get to work for him, and I must persevere until I finish my work, too; not to save myself, for that is all done, but because I am saved.” (Spurgeon)
d. Bowing His head: This speaks of a peaceful act, like lying down on a pillow to sleep. Jesus did not hang His head in defeat; He bowed it in peace.
i. “Elsewhere in the Gospels the same phrase as is here used of Jesus’ reclining his head in death us used of reclining one’s head in sleep (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:28, ‘the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’); the implication here may be that he voluntarily reclines his head, ready now to sleep the sleep of death.” (Bruce)
ii. Bowing His head: “We have the minuteness of an eye-witness, on whom every particular of this solemn moment made and indelible impression.” (Alford)
e. Gave up His spirit: No one took Jesus’ life from Him; He, in a manner unlike any man, gave up His spirit. Death had no righteous hold over the sinless Son of God. He stood in the place of sinners, but was never a sinner Himself. So He could not die unless He gave up His spirit.
i. As Jesus said, I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. (John 10:17-18)
ii. “He gave up his life because He willed it, when He willed it, and as He willed it.” (Augustine)
iii. “No one took His life from Him: His death was a voluntary surrender: a surrender which He had authority to make, because the authority to surrender His life was accompanied with an authority to resume it (John 10:18).” (Trench)
iv. Jesus’ work as a substitute on the cross, connected to His yielding to death on the cross, made for the most important act of this most important life. This is reflected even in ancient secular histories. The existing mentions of Jesus in ancient extra-biblical literature each highlight His death on the cross.
· A letter written by Mara bar Serapion to his son (ca. AD 73).
· Josephus, the Jewish historian (ca. AD 90).
· Tacitus, the Roman historian (ca. AD 110-120).
· The Babylonian Talmud (ca. AD 200).
C. Immediately after the death of Jesus by crucifixion.
1. (31-32) The need to remove the bodies from their crosses.
Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him.
a. Because it was the Preparation Day: This refers back to John’s statement at John 19:14 and raises the same difficult chronological questions previous mentioned at John 18:28.
b. That the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath: Normally those executed by crucifixion remained affixed to their cross for days as a grim warning of the consequences of disobeying the Roman government. Yet because of the approaching Sabbath (and because it was a high day, associated with Passover and its week), the religious leaders demanded that the Romans take away the disgusting sight of three crucified men.
i. “Their consciences were not wounded by the murder of Jesus, but they were greatly moved by the fear of ceremonial pollution. Religious scruples may live in a dead conscience.” (Spurgeon)
c. The Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken: The breaking of the legs of a crucified man hastened his death because he could not support himself from his legs or feet helping him to take a better breath.
i. “The only way a crucified man would obtain a full breath of air was to raise himself by means of his legs to ease the tension on his arms and chest muscles. If the legs were broken, he could not possibly do so; and death would follow shortly because of lack of oxygen.” (Tenney)
d. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other: Answering the request of the religious leaders, the soldiers hastened the death of the men on either side of Jesus.
i. This was brutal work for rough men. They likely used an iron bar or a heavy club. “To secure speedy death the crucifragium, breaking of the legs with a heavy mallet or bar, was sometimes resorted to: as without such means the crucified might in some cases linger for thirty-six hours.” (Dods) This breaking of the legs must have been terrifying for a man still alive on a cross.
ii. “Lactantius says. l. iv. c. 26, that it was a common custom to break the legs or other bones of criminals upon the cross; and this appears to have been a kind of coup de grace, the sooner to put them out of pain.” (Clarke)
iii. The archeological finding referenced at John 19:18 “Was apparently subjected to this treatment: one of his legs had sustained a clean fracture from a single blow with also cracked the other.” (Bruce)
iv. “The penitent thief entered into Paradise that very day, but it was not without suffering; say, rather, that the terrible stroke was the actual means of the prompt fulfillment of his Lord’s promise to him. By that blow he died that day; else might he have lingered long.” (Spurgeon)
2. (33-34) The confirmation of the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
But when they came to Jesus and 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.
a. They came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead: These soldiers had (presumably) supervised many executions on the cross. They knew when a man had died and when he was still alive. It was their experienced judgment that said Jesus was already dead.
i. Mark 15:44-45 add that Pontius Pilate asked the supervising centurion for confirmation of the death of Jesus, and the centurion confirmed that He was dead.
b. One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear: The customary way to make sure of the death of a crucified man was to club and break the legs. After doing so to the first two victims, it was entirely normal for this soldier to do the same to Jesus – he was even presumably ordered to do it. Yet he did not; instead he pierced His side with a spear and unwittingly fulfilled several prophecies, mentioned below.
i. “As the wound inflected by this spear thrust seems to have been a hand-breadth wide (John 20:25) it may be presumed the soldier meant to make sure that Jesus was dead by giving Him a thrust which itself would have been fatal.” (Dods)
c. Immediately blood and water came out: This was taken as absolute confirmation that Jesus was dead. The gash in His side from the point of the spear flowed forth with a substance that looked like blood, and a substance that looked like water.
i. There are some who regard this as something of an on-the-spot autopsy of Jesus, revealing that His actual cause of death was of a ruptured (burst) heart. The thinking is that in such cases, the sack surrounding the heart (normally filled with a watery substance) fills with blood. If that sack is opened and its contents allowed to flow outside the body, it would look like an issue of blood and water (because the two substances do not mix, something like oil and water). Normally this would be a trickle; perhaps there was something supernatural at work to demonstrate this sign.
ii. Augustus Toplady used this image in his great hymn, Rock of Ages:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power
iii. Toplady’s idea is prominent under the Old Covenant, where both blood and water were often used in the priestly service of atoning for and cleansing of sin. “Take all the types of the Old Testament together, and you will gather this, that the purification of sin was typically set forth by blood and water. Blood was conspicuous always, you have no remission of sin without it: but water was exceedingly prominent also.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Spurgeon gave an additional thought of what this shows us: “One of these old divines says that Jesus Christ was typified by our first father, Adam. As Adam fell asleep, and out of his side Eve was taken, so Jesus slept upon the cross the sleep of death, and from his side, where the spear was thrust, his Church was taken.”
3. (35-37) John’s solemn assurance; the fulfillment of Scripture.
And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”
a. He who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe: John gave solemn assurance that he was present at the crucifixion of Jesus and saw these things with his own eyes. He also explained the reason for his testimony: so that the reader may believe.
i. In particular, the sight of the blood and water mentioned in the previous verses had an impact on John. Later in one of his letters (1 John 5:6) he described Jesus as He who came by water and blood. This description has puzzled many commentators, unsure if John meant the waters of baptism or the water mentioned in John 19:34.
ii. Nevertheless, the manner and certainty of the death of Jesus is an essential part of our Christian belief. This is truly so that you may believe. What John has told us about the death of Jesus to this point already leads us to belief.
· The innocence of Jesus leads us to believe.
· His great dignity under suffering leads us to believe.
· The manner of His death – crucifixion – leads us to believe.
· The title on His cross leads us to believe.
· The gambling for His clothes leads us to believe.
· The love for His mother leads us to believe.
· The cry, “It is finished!” leads us to believe.
· His peaceful giving up of His spirit leads us to believe.
· The certainty of His death leads us to believe He was really resurrected from the dead.
b. These things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled: Remarkably, what seemed to be a random choice by an anonymous Roman soldier – to pierce the side of Jesus instead of breaking His legs – was done that the Scripture should be fulfilled.
c. Not one of His bones shall be broken: This prophecy of Psalm 34:20 (as well as Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12) was unknowingly and accidently (on man’s part) fulfilled. Nevertheless, its exact fulfillment shows the providence and guidance of God, and leads us to believe.
i. The Roman soldier was commanded to break the legs of the crucified men, yet for some reason he did not break Jesus’ legs. This was a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy.
d. They shall look on Him whom they pierced: This prophecy of Zechariah 12:10 and 13:6 was unknowingly and accidently (on man’s part) fulfilled. Nevertheless, its exact fulfillment shows the providence and guidance of God, and leads us to believe.
i. “The piercing has been done, but the ‘looking upon’ with ‘mourning’ and ‘supplication,’ such as Zechariah foretells, lies in the yet future.” (Trench)
4. (38-42) Jesus is lovingly buried by two hesitant disciples.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 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. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.
a. Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly: In this final step of the earthly work of Jesus before His resurrection, the Son of God remained passive. God raised up two previously secret disciples (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus) to receive the body of Jesus and give it the best burial they could in the short time they had before sundown and the start of Sabbath (Luke 23:54).
b. Asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: Customarily, the bodies of crucified criminals were left on their crosses to rot or be eaten by wild animals. But the Jews wanted no such horror displayed during the Passover season, and Romans were known to grant the corpses of executed men to friends or relatives for proper burial.
i. “The Roman custom was to leave the body to birds and beasts of prey.” (Dods)
ii. “The Jews of that day regarded proper burial of the dead as most important. Many went out of their way to see that fellow-countrymen received proper burial, and this may have had something to do with Joseph’s action.” (Morris)
iii. God used these men to protect the body of Jesus. “As Achilles dragged Hector by the heels round the walls of Troy, so would Satan have liked that men should have mauled the dead body of Christ. He would have cast him to the dogs or to the kites if he could have had his way; but so it must not be.” (Spurgeon)
c. Then they took the body of Jesus: It is not precisely said, but the implication is that Joseph and Nicodemus did this themselves. They were wealthy and influential men (Matthew 27:57, Mark 15:43, John 3:1) who could find servants to do the work for them; yet they did this themselves.
i. “The narrative implies, though it does not mention (as St. Mark and St. Luke do), that Joseph himself took the Body from the cross.” (Alford)
ii. The removal of the bloody, dirty body of Jesus from the cross and the iron spikes that held it must have been difficult both practically and emotionally.
d. Bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury: Joseph and Nicodemus did what they could to wrap the body of Jesus with the myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds Nicodemus brought. Before the body was wrapped it had to be prepared. One of the customs of the Jews in preparing a body for burial is the requirement to remove all foreign matter from the body and to carefully wash it.
i. They examined His entire body and found broken pieces of thorn all over the head. They saw His bloody, matted hair; the terrible bruising of the face, the areas of beard pulled out, the dry and cracked lips. They turned the body over to see His shoulders and arms are riddled with splinters; each one was removed with care. The back, from the shoulders down, was a bloody open wound from the terrible scourging suffered before the crucifixion. His hands and feet were smashed and bloodied. On the front – just beneath the rib cage – there was a gaping wound made from the spear thrust that confirmed His death. Worst of it all were the eyes that did not open; the voice that did not speak.
ii. We can only imagine what deep, life-long impressions this left upon both men and how for the rest of their life the smell of those particular spices would bring back every mental detail.
iii. As these two men did this – men who were experts in the law – they must have known that they were fulfilling prophecy; the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 that said the Messiah would be with the rich at His death. Here the body of Jesus was, at the hands of two rich men – who customarily would have had a servant do such humble, bloody work. Yet they knew they had to do it themselves.
iv. This was a strange work for these two men to do; yet it was also strange that Jesus, in the plan of Godhead, passively submitted to it. Conceivably, after Jesus accomplished all things and yielded His life, Jesus could have sprung from the cross in a super-hero like flash of power and glory five minutes – or five seconds – after His death. Yet in the plan of God the Father, He hung lifeless on the cross for some period of time – long enough for Joseph to gain an audience with Pilate and receive permission to take the body. He hung on that cross until His body was laboriously removed, and hurriedly buried according to Jewish custom.
v. In God’s plan this burial of Jesus was so important that it is said to be one of the essential components of the gospel itself (1 Corinthians 15:3-4. We can consider many reasons for this.
· This burial fulfilled the Scripture. Isaiah 53:9 says, And they made His grave with the wicked; so that meant the Messiah would be buried in a grave – and He was.
· This burial fulfilled the promise, the prediction of Jesus. Jesus said that He, like Jonah, would be buried away for three days (Matthew 12:40), and so it had to be fulfilled.
· This burial demonstrated that Jesus was truly dead; it was proof of the glory of the coming resurrection. No one could tell Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus that Jesus did not really die.
· This burial was important because burial spices and preparations protected His holy body from decay; as it was said in Psalm 16:10: You will not allow Your Holy One to see decay.
· This burial gave both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus a way to proclaim their relationship with Jesus; it called them out of their state of secret discipleship.
· This burial and the days of Jesus in the tomb tested the faith and devotion of the disciples; it made them die a certain kind of death for those days they knew Jesus lay in the tomb.
· This burial and the days of Jesus in the tomb were ways to prove that at the cross Jesus defeated not only sin, but also death. The burial and the empty tomb show that Jesus conquered sin and death.
· The days in the tomb were important because there was important work for Jesus to do during that time in the tomb. 1 Peter 3:18-20 tells us that Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison; though there isn’t as much explanation on all this as we would like to have, it seems that as the body of Jesus lay lifeless in the tomb, His Spirit went to Hades, the abode of the dead. There He led the faithful dead to heaven, in light of His then-completed work on the cross. He also preached a message of judgment and coming condemnation to the evil spirits that were imprisoned in the depths.
· This burial was another great and final connection of the Son of God with the humility of man. There was a transaction aspect to the great work of Jesus on the cross; but there was so much more. There is also a radical identification aspect; where Jesus connects with you in every way possible, and He invites you to connect with Him. He was buried with us, in the humiliation of utter humanness. We are buried with Him – spiritually by faith, ceremonially by baptism. He identified with us; we by faith identify with Him.
vi. Myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds: “The enormous quantity has been accounted for as a rich man’s expression of devotion, or as required if the entire body and all the wrappings were to be smeared with it.” (Dods)
vii. “The quantity of one hundred Roman pounds (75 lbs. avdp.) revealed both Nicodemus’s wealth and appreciation of Jesus.” (Tenney)
e. The garden tomb in which no one had yet been laid: Matthew 27:60 tells us that this tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea himself. A rich man like Joseph would probably have a tomb that was carved into solid rock; this tomb was in a garden near the place of crucifixion.
i. A typical tomb of this type had a small entrance and perhaps one or more compartments where bodies were laid out after being somewhat mummified with spices, ointments, and linen strips. Customarily, the Jews left these bodies alone for a few years until they decayed down to the bones, then the bones were placed in a small stone box known as an ossuary. The ossuary remained in the tomb with the remains of other family members.
ii. The door to the tomb was typically made of a heavy, circular shaped stone, running in a groove and settled down into a channel, so it could not be moved except by several strong men. This was done to ensure that no one would disturb the remains.
iii. In the place where He was crucified there was a garden: “To a deep-seeing eye like that of John, this proximity was more than a coincidence. John felt that there was an inward harmony between the garden and the cross.” (Morrison)
iv. “The fall of the first Adam took place in a garden; and it was in a garden that the second Adam redeemed mankind from the consequences of Adam’s transgression.” (Tasker)
v. In which no one had yet been laid: “If they buried him in an old tomb, the Jews would say that he had touched the bones of some prophet or other holy man, and so came to life.” (Spurgeon)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission