John 19

John 19:1

Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him.

(a) Pilate; see entry for Luke 3:1.

(b) Scourged Him. Pilate has just declared Jesus to be without guilt (John 18:38), so why punish him with scourging? This unjust act shows that Pilate feared the mob. Alternatively, Pilate may have thought that by scourging Jesus he could save him from crucifixion. If so, he was mistaken.

Jesus experienced three severe beatings on the day he was crucified: (1) he was beaten while in custody and awaiting trial before the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:63), (2) he was beaten after his trial (Matt. 26:67, Mark 14:65), and (3) he was scourged and beaten by the Roman soldiers in the Praetorium (Matt. 27:30). The third beating was arguably the worst for not everyone survived the brutal Roman scourge.

John 19:2

And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him;

(a) A wreath or crown of thorns was put on his head and a reed-like sceptre put in his hand to ridicule the one who claimed to be king (Matt. 27:29).

(b) A purple robe. The robe may have come from Pilate’s wardrobe or it could have been the elegant robe with which Herod dressed Jesus (Luke 23:11). Jesus had been mocked by Herod and his soldiers, and the Roman soldiers continued this mockery.

John 19:4

Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.”

I find no guilt in Him. For a second time, Pilate announces that Jesus has done nothing deserving of death (John 18:38).

John 19:5

Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!”

Behold, the Man! The chief priests presented Jesus as a threat to empire, and Pilate, after having him scourged and mocked, responds with, “This broken man is supposed to be a threat?!”

John 19:6

So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.”

I find no guilt in Him. For a third and final time, Pilate announces that Jesus has done nothing deserving of death (John 18:38, 19:4). By all the rules of evidence and due process, Jesus must now be released. But Caiaphas and the chief priests have one card left to play.

John 19:7

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

(a) The law. The law here is the Law of Moses, the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31, John 1:17). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.

(b) He ought to die. The Jews weren’t troubled that Jesus’ followers called him a messiah – messiahs come and go – but claiming to be God’s Son was a blasphemy worth of death (John 5:18).

(c) The Son of God. On the face of it, this seems like a misstep by the chief priests. Why should Pilate care that Jesus has been found guilty of breaking a Jewish law about blasphemy? But the chief priests aren’t speaking to the Roman; they are speaking to the Jews. Like kerosene, these words will ignite the crowd into such a frenzy, that the governor will be forced to act.

John 19:8

Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid;

(a) This statement. Pilate became alarmed when he heard that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God.

Pilate had tried to introduce shields or images of the Emperor Tiberius into Jerusalem. (Josephus says busts; Philo says shields.) This greatly angered the Jews because the worshipping of images was expressly forbidden in the Ten Commandments. These images (or shields) bore the inscription Divi Augustus Filius, as in “Tiberius, son of the divine Augustus.” Pilate was forced to back down in the face of implacable Jewish opposition. When ordinary men claimed to be the Son of God, it was like taking a lighted match to a powder keg. Pilate had good reason to be alarmed.

(b) Afraid. This is the first time we have learned of Pilate’s mental state which has been one of growing alarm and fear. With so many Passover pilgrims visiting the city, Jerusalem is a tinderbox. He has tried several times to nip this crisis in the bud, but Jesus is the problem who just won’t go away. Pilate is feeling the heat and his resolve is starting to crack.

John 19:9

And he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

(a) The Praetorium; see entry for John 18:28.

(b) Where are You from? Pilate knows Jesus is from Galilee (Luke 23:6, John 19:19). His question is more like, “Where did you come from?” Before this morning, Pilate had never heard of Jesus. Now Jesus has become his biggest problem.

John 19:10

So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”

Do You not know? It’s meant to be a threat, but it’s really the cry of a man squeezed between forces far larger than he understands.

Pilate is facing a difficult choice. Outside he hears the bloodthirsty chants of the mob. Inside he faces a man he knows to be innocent. Caught between his conscience and the crowd, he wonders why the condemned man will say nothing to support his case. Does he not realize that his life is in the balance?

John 19:11

Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

(a) Given you from above. In other words, “Pilate, you’re not as powerful as you think you are. No man, not even you mighty Roman, can take my life from me” (John 10:18). This is not to absolve Pilate of his responsibility in the crucifixion of Jesus, but to contextualize his actions in the larger drama of an ancient cosmic battle.

(b) He who delivered Me to you. It was Satan who moved Judas and Caiaphas to feed Jesus to the Roman machine.

(c) The greater sin. Jesus has grace for Pilate. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “This is not entirely your fault. You have been ambushed by an ancient and treacherous enemy.” Again, this is not to absolve Pilate of the massive mistake he’s about to make. But Jesus recognizes that Pilate is in an awful situation, and he feels for the fearful man before him.

John 19:12

As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.”

(a) Pilate made efforts to release Him. Every time Pilate spoke to Jesus, he resolved to set him free. But each time he returned to the cauldron of the courtyard, his resolve wilted under the demonic intimidation emanating from the mob. Like Judas, Pilate was listening to the wrong crowd.

(b) You are no friend of Caesar. Caiaphas and the chief priests have discovered Pilate’s weakness. Pilate was a career man, answerable to a bureaucracy that had little tolerance for chaos and disorder. He has been told that Jesus is a king and he has heard the angry mob. But now his own neck is on the line. To be on the wrong side of Caesar is unthinkable. Finally, Pilate comes to his awful conclusion.

John 19:13

Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.

The judgment seat or bema seat was the place the Roman governors sat when pronouncing judgments. The apostle Paul found himself standing before Gallio’s judgment seat (Acts 18:12) and said we would all one day stand before God’s judgment seat (Rom. 14:10) or the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10).

John 19:14

Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!”

(a) The day of preparation was the day that preceded a Sabbath and, on this occasion, the weeklong Festival of Unleavened Bread.

(b) Passover was well underway and Jesus and his disciples had celebrated the feast the previous evening (Luke 22:11, 15). However, some Jews, such as the chief priests, would have observed Passover on that day (our Good Friday; John 18:28). Since the Festival of Unleavened Bread was generally referred to as Passover (Luke 22:1), John is not wrong in calling it the day of preparation for the Passover

(c) The sixth hour. Mark records Jesus’ crucifixion as taking place at the third hour after sunrise (Mark 15:25), while John says Jesus was sentenced about the sixth hour. How do we reconcile this apparent inconsistency? Some say that John is using Roman time, which is measured from midnight. If so, Jesus was sentenced at around 6am and crucified around 9am. However, this interpretation is inconsistent with John’s habit of using Jewish time elsewhere (e.g., John 4:6). Nor does it fit the timeline. The Sanhedrin took Jesus to Pilate at dawn (Matt. 27:1) and much happened after that, including a trip to Herod (Luke 23:7). There simply isn’t enough time to fit in all the travels and events of the morning and have Pilate sentence Jesus at 6am.

A better conclusion is that Mark and John’s times are approximate and overlapping. In the first century, people did not measure time as precisely as we do. The safe conclusion is that Jesus was crucified somewhere between mid- and late-morning. Further reading: “Good Friday Timeline.”

(d) Behold, your King! Pilate tried to diminish the threat of Jesus by presenting him as a broken torture victim. “Behold, the man” (John 19:5). When that didn’t work, he ironically embraced the charge brought against him by the Jews. “Behold, your king!”

John 19:15

So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

The chief priests have finally convinced Pilate to sing from the same song sheet. Pilate knows Jesus is no threat to Rome and that the chief priests have brought Jesus out of envy (Mark 15:10). And the chief priests know the governor will do nothing to get offside with Caesar. Thus they have reached an unlikely and unholy alliance. Both the religious and political authorities now perceive that Jesus is a threat to their way of life. Since his other-worldly kingdom does not fit in the world they have created, Jesus must go.

John 19:19

Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

(a) Jesus the Nazarene. A Nazarene was someone from Nazareth, a Galilean town of little consequence. In Judea, Jesus was known as a Nazarene (Mark 10:47, John 18:5, 19:19), in fulfilment of prophecy (see Matt. 2:23).

(b) The King of the Jews. It was the practice to display the charge for which condemned criminals had been crucified.

John 19:25

Therefore the soldiers did these things.
But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

(a) His mother Mary was one of at least three Marys standing by the cross. All four Gospel writers refer to Mary as the mother of Jesus. See entry for Matt. 1:18.

(b) His mother’s sister could be the same woman identified as the mother of Zebedee’s sons and also known as Salome (see entry for Matt. 27:56). If so, she was Jesus’ aunt on his mother’s side.

(c) Mary the wife of Clopas was probably also Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Matt. 27:56) According to Catholic and Orthodox traditions, Clopas was the young brother of Jesus’ father Joseph. If so, Mary was Jesus’ aunt on his father’s side. So present at his crucifixion was Jesus’ mother and two aunts.

(d) Clopas. Some scholars believe this is an alternative spelling of the name of the disciple Cleopas, whom Jesus encountered on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:18).

(e) Mary Magdalene; see entry for Luke 8:2.

John 19:26

When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”

(a) The disciple Jesus loved was John; see entry for John 13:23.

(b) Woman. Mary was an extraordinary woman, highly favored by God, and honoured by the Church. Yet nowhere in scripture does Jesus refer to her as mother. Instead, he calls her woman (John 2:4).

If you asked Jesus who his mother was, he would reply, “My mother and brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). Jesus was not being disrespectful to Mary, but like Melchizedek, he was “without father and mother” in the usual sense (Heb. 7:3).

John 19:30

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

It is finished. Jesus’ rescue mission was concluded and so was the old covenant. The old covenant that began when Moses received the law, ended when Christ fulfilled it.

Further reading: “When did the Old Covenant end?

John 19:31

Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

(a) The day of preparation was the Friday that preceded a Sabbath or special feast (Mark 15:42). Good Friday was doubly special as it coincided with the Passover and preceded the Feast of Unleavened Bread that began on the Sabbath.

(b) A high day was a special Sabbath, just like Easter Sunday is a special Sunday. This Sabbath fell during the Passover Festival, so it was a special Sabbath indeed. Jesus is not only our Passover lamb, he is our Sabbath rest as well.

However, some speculate that a high day is an extra Sabbath, and that this was a week of two Sabbaths (see entry for Matt. 12:40). However, there is nothing in the Gospel accounts to hint at two Sabbaths. Jesus was crucified the day of preparation (Friday morning, the first day) and his empty tomb was discovered the day after the Sabbath (Sunday morning, the third day). Further reading: “Good Friday Timeline.”

John 19:38

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body.

(a) After these things. Since Jesus was on the cross around 3pm (Matt. 27:46), and in the tomb by sunset (7pm), it would have been late afternoon when Joseph visited Pilate.

(b) Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:43). He had not consented to their plan to kill Jesus (Luke 23:50-51) and was probably excluded from the trial (see entry for Luke 23:51).

(c) Asked Pilate. It would have taken courage for a secret disciple of Jesus to face Pilate (Mark 15:43). A governor who ordered the execution of innocent men might not hesitate to crucify his followers.

John 19:39

Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.

(a) Nicodemus. Like Joseph, Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin (John 3:1). He had defended Jesus in the council (John 7:50-51) and for that reason may have been excluded from the midnight trial held at Caiaphas’s house.

(b) Come to Him by night; see John 3:1.

John 19:40

So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

The burial of Jesus was done in haste. Jesus’ body was still on the cross at around 3pm (Matt. 27:46), but wrapped and in the tomb before sunset at 7pm.

John 19:42

Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The Jewish day of preparation; see entry for John 19:31.

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