The Agora
Bible Commentary

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John 19

Joh 19:1

THEN PILATE TOOK JESUS AND HAD HIM FLOGGED: "The lash was a long leather thong, often studded with nails and pieces of bone and sharpened pellets of lead. The prisoner was bound to a pillar in such a way that his back was exposed and he was unable to move, and then the lash was laid on. The victims usually lost consciousness under this scourging; many of them emerged from it raving mad; and not a few died under it" (Barclay). When wielded with force, it tore away large chunks of flesh, exposing veins, inner muscles, and sinews. Called by some "the half-way death".

"Hoping that mangling an innocent man with the savage Roman scourge would suffice as a compromise." As though Jesus were half-innocent and half-guilty.

Joh 19:2

A CROWN OF THORNS: But the crown of thorns became a crown (stephanos) of victory. There is a crown of pride (Isa 28:3), which no one should wear. A crown of thorns (Mat 27:29), which no one can wear. And a crown of life (Jam 1:12), which everyone may wear. "In making fun of the king of the Jews, they were mocking, not Christ, but their own Caesar, and every Caesar, king or ruler than ever had been, or will be. They were making human power itself a subject of scorn). Thenceforth, for all to see, thorns sprouted under every golden crown, and underneath every royal robe there was stricken and smitten flesh" (M Muggeridge). From that time forward, every power and every pretension of foolish mankind would appear ludicrous alongside the one true crown, the crown of thorns worn by Jesus. From that time forward, the only meaningful power would be that which originated in his suffering.

A PURPLE ROBE: Was the robe at Christ's trial purple (Mark 15:17; John 19:2,5) or scarlet (Mat 27:28)? Many commentators state that the two colors were often confused, and dismiss the matter casually as "purple, or scarlet", as if to say it does not matter. Purple was the color of royalty, whereas the common Roman soldiers' cloak was scarlet (so we are told). Perhaps the cloak initially thrown over Jesus' shoulders was scarlet, belonging to one of the soldiers; but that it was further augmented by a purple scarf or cape, since the intention of his mockers was clearly to portray Jesus as king.

Joh 19:3

See Phi 1:13; 2:8,10; 3:10; Psa 72:11; Isa 45:23; Rev 5:8-14; Jer 20:2; Lam 3:30; Mic 5:1; Mat 5:39; 1Co 4:11; 1Pe 2:20.

Joh 19:4

I FIND NO BASIS FOR A CHANGE AGAINST HIM: Even at this late point, Pilate is still trying to find a way to release Jesus.

Joh 19:5

Pilate futilely expects to arouse sympathy by this spectacle.

HERE IS THE MAN!: The answer to "What is truth?" (Joh 19:38). Cp vv 26,27.

Joh 19:6

YOU TAKE HIM...: But the Jews needed the Romans, to put Jesus to death.

Joh 19:7

WE HAVE A LAW: What law? (1) A Roman law: Christ claims to be equal of Caesar, and thus is guilty of treason. But the truth cannot be blasphemy! (2) Irony: 'By our law (Jewish law) he ought to die (an unconscious ref to the necessity of Messiah's sacrificial death); cp Joh 11:50,51.

Joh 19:9

BUT JESUS GAVE HIM NO ANSWER: His silence was more eloquent that any words!

"What was the single most amazing thing that Jesus did? Was it the overcoming of the tempter in the wilderness? Was it acts of healing? Of raising the dead to life? Was it even hanging on the cross?

"I submit that the single most amazing thing that our Lord did, was to be silent.

"Jesus was on trial. He was set upon by a band of none-too-gentle soldiers, under orders to whisk him away to a night-time court. False witnesses accused him. Malicious council members conspired against him. Falsely pious leaders plotted with evil intent against him. And all the while, Jesus knew that he was right, and they were wrong.

"Before them was a loved Son. The accused was the only one who was truly blameless. The only one who really cared in his heart for the nation that these brutish elders thought they were saving from the Romans. Before them was someone who had only and always given of himself for others. The only one who had the power to truly do good. The only one who had the power to throw off the true yoke. Jesus was silent.

"Jesus was not powerless. He could have confuted the lies. He could have shouted down the insinuations as well as the blunt accusations. He could have put them in their place. He could have annihilated their arguments. He could have used his power to hurt them, or destroy them, and escape. He was right, and they were all wrong. Jesus was silent.

"How do we react, I wonder, to words spoken against us? Do we consider that they may be justified? Most times they probably are, and we are blind to our own failings.

"More often, perhaps, we are blinded by our sense of justice. We are quick to excuse ourselves, and even quicker to attack supposed injustice against ourselves. We may lash out most often against those closest to us. When we are tempted to react in such a way, let us think on the mind of Christ. 'Let this mind be in you...' " (Mike Bull).

Joh 19:10

I HAVE POWER: A power which, ironically, Pilate had been striving mightily to be rid of.

Joh 19:11

GIVEN TO YOU FROM ABOVE: Acknowledging that all power comes from God.

THE ONE WHO HANDED ME OVER TO YOU: Jesus correctly places the greater responsibility at the feet of the Jewish leaders.

Joh 19:12

The words and actions of Jesus leave Pilate terrified. He is now in a vice, with no way out; he struggles harder.

PILATE TRIED TO SET JESUS FREE: Perhaps at some obscure exit from Antonia, or by a group of soldiers conveying him away safely.

IF YOU LET THIS MAN GO, YOU ARE NO FRIEND OF CAESAR: "Amicus Caesaris": the most coveted title of a Roman official. The final straw! A threat to "destroy" Pilate in Rome, if he does not comply with their wishes.

Joh 19:13

SAT DOWN: Poss, "seated him" (ie Jesus) on the judgment seat: Cp v 14: "Here is your king." (Cp Exo 24:10; Rev 3:21: Jesus enthroned on the Pavement!)

Joh 19:14

SIXTH HOUR: Roman calculation: approx 6 AM.

Joh 19:15

WE HAVE NO KING BUT CAESAR: Cp Hos 10:3. And by crucifying Jesus they prove it! A renunciation of their birthright; an abandoning of their destiny.

Joh 19:16

TOOK CHARGE: Paralambano = "received". They "received" him, not to believe him (as in Joh 1:11,12), but to crucify him. Is it possible for us to "receive" Jesus the same way (Heb 10:28,29)?

KJV adds "and led him away". Cp Isa 53:7 with Act 8:32.

TO BE CRUCIFIED: The practice probably originated in Asia Minor, being adopted by the Persians and Phoenicians -- who also impaled, speared, stoned, strangled, drowned, burned, or boiled victims in oil. Crucifixion reached Europe in 3rd century BC, and was adopted by the Romans as a strong deterrent to crime or rebellion.

The patibulum, or cross-piece, was probably the portion of the cross carried by Christ; it weighed -- alone -- about 100 lbs. The stipes, or upright piece, was probably permanently erected at the site of executions.

Crosspiece laid on ground, then attached to upright stake. Spikes in ankles and wrists. Lifted and jolted into place. Severe pain. Heat. Thirst. Flies. Difficulties in breathing. Dust. Abuse from observers. Shame of nakedness (Mar 15:24; Psa 22:18). Hallucinations? Depression (the "shadow of death")?

A small seat was prob attached to the stipes, so that the crucified man might sit periodically, to relieve the strain and weight put on the arms and shoulders. In this way, and because the will to live would be so strong in most men being executed, the whole process of crucifixion would be considerably lengthened, and the suffering prolonged. Death would come, eventually, by asphyxiation... when it would become too difficult to hold oneself up so as to draw breath.

Joh 19:17

See Lesson, Golgotha.

CARRYING HIS OWN CROSS: Which was also carried by Simon the Cyrenian: Mat 27:32; Mar 15:21; Luk 23:26.

HE WENT OUT: Cp Heb 13:12-14.

"Jesus 'went forth' as the sin offering and was taken 'without the gate' (Heb 13:12). He bore 'the cross for himself' (RV), doing in literal fact what he had urged as a spiritual necessity for all who follow him; and in its full significance he bore it for himself, that others might then enter the fellowship of his sufferings that they might partake of the exaltation which is his because of obedience unto death. And the shape of the hillock where he was crucified had the ominous name -- 'place of a skull.' The mockery of his claims was maintained to the last; they put him in the place of honour, 'in the midst.' Seditious men were crucified with him, as though his kingship was over such. He who had resisted the offer of the kingdoms of the world and their glory, who had refused the popular appeal that he should be king, was now lifted up as though enthroned over those who would have striven to make Israel free. As a crowning irony Pilate wrote a title, placed over the head of Jesus: 'Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews' " (CJo 212).

Joh 19:18

THEY CRUCIFIED HIM: Crosspiece laid on ground, then attached to upright stake. Spikes in ankles and wrists. Lifted and jolted into place. Severe pain. Heat. Thirst. Flies. Difficulties in breathing. Dust. Abuse from observers. Shame of nakedness (Mar 15:24; Psa 22:18). Hallucinations? Depression (the "shadow of death")?

AND WITH HIM TWO OTHERS: More detail in Luk 23:32,39-43.

JESUS IN THE MIDDLE: Cp Isa 53:12. Jesus in the midst, as though he were the worst of the lot!

Jesus in the midst of: (1) thieves: Joh 19:18; (2) his disciples: Joh 20:19; (3) the teachers of the Law: Luk 2:46; (4) two or three: Mat 18:20; (5) the lampstands: Rev 1:13; (6) the throne: Rev 5:6.

Joh 19:19

See Lesson, SSuperscription on cross, the.

Four handwritings: Upon the stone (Exo 20:2);
upon the wall (Dan 5:24); upon the ground (John 8:6); upon the cross (Mat 27:37; Mar 15:26; Luk 23:38; John 19:19).

Joh 19:20

NEAR THE CITY: When one is slain near a city, the elders thereof are to offer sacrifice: "Our hands have not shed this blood" (Deu 21:1-9). But ct the Jews: "His blood be on us and our children!"

Joh 19:22

Pilate, already a SPEAKING prophet (v 5), becomes a WRITING prophet also!

Joh 19:23

The disposal of Jesus' personal effects: his purse to Judas (Joh 13:29), his clothes to soldiers (Mat 27:35; Mar 15:24; Joh 19:23), his mother to John (Joh 19:27), his "spirit" to God (Luk 23:46), and his body to Joseph (Joh 19:38).

UNDERGARMENT: "A long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin. The Gr 'chiton' presents some difficulty in translation. Most modern readers would not understand what a 'tunic' was any more than they would be familiar with a 'chiton.' On the other hand, attempts to find a modern equivalent are also a problem: 'shirt' conveys the idea of a much shorter garment that covers only the upper body, and 'undergarment' [NIV] (given the styles of modern underwear) is more misleading still" (NETn). A special garment, like the priestly tunic (see following note).

THIS GARMENT WAS SEAMLESS: The robe of a priest: Exo 28:32. One garment // one body: Joh 10:16; 17:11,20,21. Ct the garment which WAS rent, representing the division of the tribes: 1Sa 15:27,28; 1Ki 11:31.

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: The veil of the Most Holy (God's garment?) was torn from top to bottom (Mat 27:51; Mar 15:38), but Christ's garment was not torn! His priestly garment -- like his flesh (Heb 10:22) -- is the true "veil of the Most Holy".

FROM TOP: "Anothen" (Joh 3:3,7,31) may sig "from above", ie from heaven! Cp v 11: power from above!

Joh 19:24

TEAR: From Greek "schizo" (cp Engl "schism"). And so, let us not bring "schism" into the one Body of Christ!

SO THIS IS WHAT THE SOLDIERS DID: "There is an interesting and perhaps not altogether unprofitable speculation as to what happened to the clothes of Jesus that day. No Bible support for this idea is forthcoming, yet it has a certain inherent probability about it.

"The scene is readily imagined: the Roman soldiers sitting close to the crosses and busy with their dice. Standing nearby (by special permission doubtless), the group of faithful women, and John with them. Their thoughts as they saw the garments of their Lord being lightheartedly gambled for may well be imagined. Probably one of them (his mother? cp 1Sa 2:19) had made that seamless robe with her own hands. And now it and the rest were to be sold for the price of a drink in some tavern in the city! In these circumstances it would be strange indeed if one of the group did not come across to the soldiers and quickly do a deal for what they had just shared out.

"Now a further consideration. When Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples as a normal clothed person. Is it an altogether irrelevant and irreverent question to ask: 'Where did he get his clothes from?' A possible answer is, of course, that one of the angels brought them from heaven. But another answer, not impossible, is that those garments acquired from the soldiers were hurried away for laundering, and at the end of that day of anxiety and sorrow someone who was present when Jesus was laid in the tomb of Joseph brought them, now sweet and clean and free from the dust, blood and sweat which had soiled them, saying: 'Lay these by his side. He will surely need them before long.'

"But this is only a guess.

"Perhaps Zechariah's prophecy about the 'filthy garments' of Joshua-Jesus calls for a literal, as well as a figurative, fulfilment (Zec 3:3,5)" (WGos 773).

Joh 19:25

Consider the effect on Mary (cp Luk 2:34,35).

NEAR... STOOD: They stood near to minister, but then through shock (or modesty at nakedness, or because the soldiers drove them away) they removed "a distance" away (Mat 27:55).

The Roman historian Tacitus states that family or friends were forbidden to show open grief or approach very near the cross where a loved one is being crucified; those who continued to violate this law could be themselves crucified!

3 different "Marys": Mary/Miriam sig "bitter".

Joh 19:26

Vv 26,27: See Lesson, Sayings from the cross.

DEAR WOMAN, HERE IS YOUR SON: Jesus as the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15). Mary as the new "Eve", the mother -- through her son -- of all living!

DEAR WOMAN: A word of tenderness, affection, not disrespect. Used by Christ at beginning of ministry, in Cana (Joh 2:4), and at end (here).

Joh 19:27

HERE IS YOUR MOTHER: Even in intense suffering, his first thoughts were for others.

THIS DISCIPLE TOOK HER INTO HIS HOME: Perhaps only temporarily: John took Mary away from the scene, and to his own house, or that of his family, in Jerusalem. (Afterward, John probably returned -- so as to witness the final events, which he reports: cp Joh 21:24. Did Mary return also? see Luk 2:35.)

The disposal of Jesus' personal effects: his purse to Judas (Joh 13:29), his clothes to soldiers (Joh 19:23), his mother to John (Joh 19:27), his "spirit" to God (Luk 23:46), and his body to Joseph (Joh 19:38).

Joh 19:28

See Lesson, Sayings from the cross.

Has been often misread: "...that the scripture might be fulfilled, [he] saith, I thirst." To assert that Jesus said "I thirst" just to fulfill one small prophecy (Psa 22:15) as the only one which he had not yet fulfilled, is a trivialization of Scripture. Here the word "fulfilled" is not the normal word for the fulfillment of prophecy (not, for example, the same as in Joh 19:24,36); its meaning is: "that the scripture might be finished...(ended, or completed)". Jesus was reciting the psalm, but was too parched to go on, and at Psa 22:15 ("My tongue cleaveth to my jaws") he desperately needed a drink, and having received it, he was able to go on to the end ("It is finished"), spoken with head uplifted.

I AM THIRSTY: As Jesus asked drink of the Samaritan woman: Joh 4:7.

Joh 19:30

See Lesson, Sayings from the cross.

IT IS FINISHED: "Teleo": to complete, to perfect, to conclude. (1) Cp Psa 22:31. What is finished? (a) OT prophecies, symbols, types, sacrifices, and (b) NT activities, teaching. See Dan 9:24; Luk 9:31. The cry of the sufferer, whose suffering is finished; the cry of the servant, whose work is done; the cry of the conqueror, whose victory is won; the cry of the artist, whose masterpiece is completed; the cry of the traveler, whose journey is finished. (2) The exact Greek phrase has been found on papyrus business documents -- on receipts, meaning, simply, "paid in full"!

Joh 19:31

THE LEGS BROKEN: This would hasten death by making breathing impossible. Also, if his legs were broken, he could not be the Passover "lamb" (see v 36).

"Breaking the legs was a barbarous method adopted to hasten death, probably instituted as much to add horror as to terminate sufferings. The legs were crushed with a hammer somewhat like a sledge, and the shock would bring speedy death" (Johnson). "No detail shows more vividly the agony of crucifixion than the fact that this fracture of the legs was actually considered a merciful mitigation and was sometimes even purchased at a price" (Cicero).

Joh 19:32

AND BROKE THE LEGS OF THE FIRST MAN... AND THEN THOSE OF THE OTHER: This would hasten death by making it impossible for the victim to lift himself and exhale, thus leading to death by asphyxiation.

Joh 19:33

Why did Jesus die sooner than the 2 thieves?: (1) An intense period of work, sleeplessness preceding arrest; (2) thieves may not have been scourged; (3) thieves may have been tied to stakes, rather than nailed.

Joh 19:34

Could poss be read: "But one of the soldiers HAD PIERCED his side." In other words, this had happened a while earlier, and the spear thrust was the immediate cause of death. (The sacrifices were slain by the shedding of blood; Jesus the passover lamb -- Joh 1:29; 19:36,37 -- must have died the same way. Importance of the shedding of blood: Rom 3:25; 5:9; Col 1:20; Eph 1:7; 2:13; Heb 9:22; 13:20; 1Pe 1:18,19.)

SPEAR: 2Sa 23:7; Zec 13:1; 12:10.

BLOOD AND WATER: A combined witness: 1Jo 5:6. Both blood and water appear in cleansing of leper: Lev 14:5,6.

WATER: Poss, a clear liquid from heart cavity, collected in large quantity due to unnatural position and tremendous strain on heart. See 1Co 10:3,4; Exo 17:6.

Cp also John 4:14; 7:37,38: References to "springs" of living waters invokes such passages as Psa 36:9; 46:4; 87:7. Also, Isa 12:1; Zech 13:1; Ezek 47:1-5; Rev 22:1. (The latter two Psalms passages probably referred, in the first instance, to Hezekiah's Conduit, and the Gihon spring.)

Joh 19:36

NOT ONE OF HIS BONES WILL BE BROKEN: Christ as the Passover lamb: Joh 1:29; 1Co 5:7. Cp Psa 34:20; Num 9:12.

Cp also Psa 6:2; 22:14; 35:10. But how does this square with Psa 51:8? Possibly, "broken bones" in Psa 51 should be seen not as literal, but as figurative -- considered as simply parallel to "broken spirit" and "broken heart" of v 16.

Joh 19:38

Vv 38-42: Joseph and Nicodemus and thief on cross. How many others believed that Jesus would be raised? Mary? Joh 12:7.

Vv 38,39: Joseph and Nicodemus: these two men were in a unique position to bury Jesus: (1) members of Sanhedrin (Joh 3:1; 7:50; Mar 15:43), making them aware of events before they happened; (2) their status made Pilate accessible to them.

The disposal of Jesus' personal effects: his purse to Judas (Joh 13:29), his clothes to soldiers (Joh 19:23), his mother to John (Joh 19:27), his "spirit" to God (Luk 23:46), and his body to Joseph (Joh 19:38).

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: An "honorable counsellor" (Mar 15:43), ie one of the 14 priests forming a standing committee just below the High Priest, who regulated everything connected with Temple worship (Temple 100). A Joseph -- a just man -- at the beginning, to care for Jesus. And another Joseph -- a just man -- at the end, to care for Jesus.

HE CAME AND TOOK THE BODY AWAY: A courageous gesture -- to identify oneself with Jesus publicly. (The Sanhedrin made provision for the brothers of an executed criminal to claim the body. Where was James?)

Joh 19:39

MIXTURE OF MYRRH AND ALOES: Anointing oil for a priest (Psa 45; Exo 30:23,24; Isa 61:1,2,10). Anointed a priest, although dead! A dead priest!

ABOUT SEVENTY-FIVE POUNDS: A tremendously large amount! More than were used, reportedly, at the burials of the greatest Caesars! "If the aloe and myrrh were in dried or powdered form, a whole row of sacks would be necessary to carry this weight, and Nicodemus must have had assistance to be able to transport the load. The transport would have been even more difficult if the substance was dissolved in wine, vinegar or oil" (Kersten, Gruber).

Joh 19:40

...WITH THE SPICES, IN STRIPS OF LINEN: Some spices also to line recesses where body laid. Some burnt to leave tomb fresh and sweet (cp Asa's burial: 2Ch 16:14).

JEWISH BURIAL CUSTOMS: That is, not as the custom of the Egyptians: removing, as they do, brains and viscera before embalming. At the resurrection, Christ's body was complete (sym body of ecclesia too) (CJo 217).

Joh 19:41

Resemblances between Christ's birth and Christ's death: (1) virgin womb / virgin tomb; (2) Joseph, a just man / Joseph, a just man; (3) conceived by Holy Spirit / raised by Holy Spirit. Thus, at resurrection, "God loosed the birth-pains of death" (Act 2:24), and Jesus became "the firstborn from dead" (Col 1:18).

A GARDEN: A 2nd garden, where the 2nd Adam (1Co 15:45) was put to "sleep', so that his "bride" might be formed out of his (pierced) side (Gen 2:21-23). Where the first Adam failed, the last Adam succeeded.

IN WHICH NO ONE HAD EVER BEEN LAID: From a virgin womb to a "virgin" tomb: see Psa 139:13-19. Such a tomb would be uncommon in Palestine, where one tomb-cave usually sufficed for a whole family. But here Christ, when raised, will "see no corruption" (Psa 16:10). Also, no one could later produce bones out of this tomb, trying to refute the claim of the resurrection.

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