Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 8, 2001
The Crucifixion of Jesus
Please turn with me to John 19:16 this morning. We are going to be examining the crucifixion of Jesus, but before we do, I need to remind you of what has occurred to this point. It has been just over a month since we were last in our study of John, and it is important that we understand the context of any passage if we are going to understand its meaning.
In chapter 18 and the first part of this chapter John records the events of Jesus’ arrest and trials. Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the garden of Gethsemane. Judas had brought the officers from the chief priests and pharisees along with a Roman cohort to a place he knew Jesus would be. A quiet place removed from the crowds in Jerusalem who might riot if Jesus were arrested publically. They came with their swords and clubs, but it was Jesus who was in control of the situation. After Jesus had caused all of them to fall over when He declared His identity and had secured the release of His disciples, He allowed Himself to be arrested.
The trial before Annas and Caiaphas were in violation of Jewish Law, but truth and justice has never stopped the self-righteous from pursuit of their goals. These religious hypocrites condemned Jesus for blasphemy, but it was still Jesus that was in control, for His claim to be the Son of God was true.
Delivered to be Crucified (16)
Jesus was then brought before the Pilate, the Roman Procounsel. The trial before Pilate proved Jesus’ innocence. Pilate sought to free Him, but His own fear of the Jews also made him seek to appease the Jews. Pilate mistreated Jesus horribly, but this was not enough to appease them. The Jews cried out that if he released Jesus that he would not be a friend of suspicious Caesar Tiberas. They rejected Jesus as their king and claimed allegiance to Caesar.
Pilate failed in every respect for he lacked the character to carry out true justice. He cared about himself more than anything else. Verse 16 states, So he then delivered Him to them to be crucified. Pilate tried to wash his hands of the matter and proclaim himself innocent of the blood of Jesus which he was about to shed. But only that shed blood could cleanse him from his sin. Pilate had the authority to have Jesus crucified, but Pilate was not in control. As Jesus had pointed out in verse 11, Pilate only had authority because it came from a higher source. Pilate was in the judges’ seat, but it was Jesus who was in control.
Bearing the Cross to Golgotha (17)
They took Jesus therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.
John is succinct in his account. The “they” here refers to the Jewish officials accompanied by the Roman soldiers that would actually carry out the crucifixion. Luke tells us of the journey to the place of crucifixion and Jesus’ exhaustion and collapse under the weight of the cross that He was bearing. Remember that Jesus had been up all night. He had the emotional and mental strain of the Last Supper, the prayer in Gethsemane, and the arrest and trials. He had the physical strain of the physical abuse including being hit, flogged and the crown of thorns. The common practice was for the condemned to carry their own cross to the place of their crucifixion. That was part of the humiliation. Jesus collapsed and a man named Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross the rest of the way.
I have pointed out in earlier sermons that the cross was the necessary way for Jesus to die. John made this point in 18:31,32 that the Jews had brought Jesus to Pilate for this reason. They were not against putting someone to death by mob action. They previously attempted to kill Jesus by stoning and they would kill Stephen in the future, but they could not crucify anyone and this was necessary. They wanted to destroy Jesus’ reputation and to accomplish that they needed to show Jesus to be cursed by God. Deut. 21:23 states that anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed by God, so crucifixion would accomplish their purpose. Yet, that was exactly why Jesus did have to die on a tree. Jesus Himself said in John 3:14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Jesus who was without sin would become sin for us and bear its curse that we might be saved (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13).
They finally came to the Place of the Skull, called “Golgotha” in Hebrew. There is a lot of spilt ink trying to figure out exactly what this meant and its exact location. We get the word “Calvary” from the Latin “Calvaria” which also means “skull.” Was it because the place resembled a skull? Or perhaps because it was a place of execution? Or a place where many skulls could be found? There is even a fanciful legend that the skull of Adam had been found there. Frankly, we do not know for sure. We are also unsure of the exact location except that the Bible records that it was outside the gate of the city (19:17,18), but near to the city wall (19:20), near a highway (Matt. 27:39) and that there was a garden with tombs in the immediate vicinity. The problem with finding the exact location is that the topography of the area has changed over the centuries with Jerusalem being destroyed several times since then. Gordon’s calvary located about 250 yards from the Damascus Gate is one of the possible locations.
Between Sinners (18)
There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.
When the procession arrived at the Place of the Skull, the crucifixion itself began. There were several types of crosses used by the Romans to crucify people. There was the giant “X,” another that looked like a capital “T” and the kind used here that looked like a dagger or lower case “t.” The reason we know this was design Jesus was crucified upon is that Pilate had a title posted “above” Jesus head, so there had to be a place above Jesus’ head for this to be posted.
The victim of crucifixion would be laid down on top of the cross and then fasted to it with arms out-stretched. The might be tied to it, or as in the case of Jesus, spikes would be used to nail them to it. After the victim was fasted to the cross, it would be lifted up and the post would be slid into a hole to hold it up right. The cross only had to be high enough to lift the victim off the ground.
Crucifixion was designed to prolong and increase the agony of death. The Romans generally would not use this on their own citizens, but reserved it for slaves, non Roman citizens and those convicted of the grossest crimes. Among crucifixions agonies were severe inflammation, the swelling of wounds were the nails had been driven through, the pain of torn tendons, muscles strained from the contorted position of the body and the effort to lift one’s self to breathe, a throbbing headache, burning thirst and the constant feeling of suffocation. Suffocation is what eventually causes death. In order to breath, the victim would have to lift themselves by their outstretched arms and push down on their feet shattered by the spikes. Eventually, the victim could no longer lift themselves to draw in any air.
As horrible as the physical torture of the cross would be, that is not the emphasis here for it is not the worst part of the suffering Jesus endured. It has been said that only the damned in hell know what Jesus suffered when he died on the cross. In a sense that is true for they suffer the eternal death of separation caused by their sins, but they have never been in heaven. Jesus descended from the regions of infinite delight in the closest possible fellowship with the Father to the abysmal depth of bearing the curse of sin that caused Him to cry out, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)
The Title (19-22)
The Inscription (19-20)
While Jesus was suffering on the cross the antagonism between Pilate and the Jews continued. It was common practice for a sign of some sort to be posted above the person being crucified to let anyone passing know what crime that had been done. This served as a warning to others about committing such a crime for fear of being crucified too. Verse 19 tells us what Pilate wrote in regards to Jesus. And Pilate wrote an inscription also, and put it on the cross. And it was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 20 Therefore this inscription many of the Jews read, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, [and] in Greek
The sign was posted in the local language (Hebrew), the official language of Rome (Latin), and what had become the international trade language (Greek). In this way everyone that might see this would be able to know what the sign said. The interesting thing about what Pilate wrote about Jesus is that it did not accuse Him of any crime. It only stated Pilate’s conclusion about Jesus identity. A conclusion that was the truth. A conclusion that infuriated the Jews
The Jews Objection (21) And so the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.'”
They did not like the truth. Their purpose in having Jesus crucified was to destroy His popularity. This sign did not fit that purpose for it stated Jesus’ identity as King of the Jews as a fact. From Pilate’s standpoint this was an insult to the Jews. It is the sense of, “Rome is superior, for here is your king, tortured and crucified.” The Jews wanted this changed so that it was only a claim which they could then say was a false claim as evidenced by His crucifixion.
Pilate’s Resolve (22)
Pilate had been defeated in his effort to release Jesus and appease the Jews at the same time. He had given in to their demands as far as he would. He had already condemned an innocent man to death. He would not give in any further. Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Again we find that man is not in control. This was God’s doing. The whole world could read the title, for Jesus was suffering on the behalf of all mankind. There would be those saved from every “tribe, tongue, people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). What Pilate wrote was God’s proclamation to all men. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18)
Gambling for His Clothes (23-24)
At this point in time, this was just another routine crucifixion. They went about the normal activities including the dividing between themselves of the clothing of those being crucified.
23 The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and [also] the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. 24 They said therefore to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, [to decide] whose it shall be”; that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”
Even in this we see God’s hand at work, for the activity of the soldiers in dividing Jesus’ clothes fulfilled prophecy made over 1,000 years earlier by David in Psalm 22. Mark 16:24 specifically states that they cast lots for the clothes thus fulfilling the prophecy in detail. According to what John says here, there would have been four soldiers assigned to this detail. Not every article of clothing would have been of equal worth, so they cast lots (possibly throwing dice of some sort). Normal articles of clothing would have included head gear, sandals, belt, and an outer garment. Each soldier got one of these however the lots were cast. However, there was also the tunic, which was worn next to the skin, and this particular one was a very good one being “seamless, woven in one piece.” Rather than tearing it, they gambled for it too.
Present at the Cross (25-27)
John does not tell us of all the events that occurred at the cross. For example, he did not record Jesus prayer for the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him, for they did not know what they were doing (Luke 23:34). John writes near the end of his life, some 30-40 years after Matthew, Luke and Mark had written their accounts. He has an expectation that his readers would have already been familiar with one of these earlier gospel accounts. John gives us some additional information that gives us additional insights to Jesus’ character. In verses 25-27 we find that he not only tells of the women present at the cross, but also of Jesus care for His mother, Mary, and making sure she would be taken care of by John.
The Women (25)
25 Therefore the soldiers did these things. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the [wife] of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
This is an interesting list because by comparing to who is mentioned by Matthew and Luke we can make some reasonable conclusions about the identity of these women. There is Mary, the mother of Jesus. There is also Mary Magdalene, a woman from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons (Mark 16:9). Here we also have listed “His mother’s sister” and “Mary of Clopas.” Matthew and Mark both list “Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses.” Matthew also lists “the mother of the sons of Zebedee,” which would have been James and John. Mark also lists Salome. If these references are to the same women, then Mary, the mother of James the Less and Joses is also Mary, the wife of Clopas and Salome is the mother of James and John and also the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. James and John would have been Jesus’ first cousins.
Care of Mary (26-27)
In verses 26,27 John brings out Jesus care for His mother. 26 “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He ^said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He ^said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own [household.]
If the identity of the women is correct, Jesus entrusts the care of His mother to her nephew, John, Jesus’ disciple. Some have questioned this wondering where Jesus’ brothers were and why Mary was not entrusted to their care. The simple fact is that they were not present and at that point did not believe Jesus to be who He claimed to be. If you think about it for a minute, it was probably not too easy to grow up with a perfect brother. Jesus Himself would have been a great brother, but people are sinful and they do not like to have their sin exposed even if just be example. I wonder if Joseph and Mary could have resisted the temptation to correct their other children by saying, “why can’t you be more like Jesus?” Whatever their home life had been like growing up, at this point they do not believe Jesus is the Christ (John 7:5). That would come after the resurrection (Acts 1:13; Gal. 1:19). At this point, John is present and is the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2). Jesus could trust John to take care of Mary.
But that brings up another point that should be made here. Jesus calls Mary, “woman,” instead of Mary. This was not rude or disrespectful to her. Mary’s heart would have already been sorrowful enough seeing Jesus on the cross. Calling her “mom” would have added to that, but more importantly, Jesus had to emphasize a different relationship that she must have with Him. He was on the cross dying for her sins too. She needed to recognize Him for His true identity as her savior and Lord. John would now take on the role a son would have normally taken. Jesus even saw to it that the small details were taken are of. Jesus love and compassion is the same for us. He knows each of us personally and intimately. He will take care of us. Let me add here that this passage alone exposes the foolishness of Maryolotry practiced by Roman Catholics and others. Jesus relationship to Mary is being her Creator, Lord and Savior.
The crucifixion continues and there is only one more detail to complete before Jesus can yield His spirit. 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ^said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon [a branch of] hyssop, and brought it up to His mouth.
Again we find that Jesus is the one who is actually in control even though many would think of Him as being the victim. He does all things according to the will of the Father and fulfills all the prophecies concerning Him as the Messiah, including the details of His own crucifixion. The Scriptures referenced to being fulfilled here are Psalm 22:15 and 69:21. By this time Jesus had endured the verbal abuse by the religious leaders, soldiers and one of the thieves also being crucified. But there was also the repentant thief and Jesus promised Him that they would be together that day in Paradise.
The jar of sour wine was what the soldiers would drink. Luke indicates that the “they” here would refer to these soldiers doing this deed. It was not necessarily an act of compassion, for the design of crucifixion was to prolong the agony as much as possible, and lapsing into unconsciousness would end the agony. Hyssop was common to the area and the stick or reed from it with the sponge attached to it would only have to be about two feet long for the soldier to reach Jesus’ mouth with it.
It’s Finished (30)
The end now comes
30 When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.
Notice that Jesus “gave up” His spirit. It was not taken from Him. Jesus had said this would be true back in John 10:18 ” No one has taken it away from Me , but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” Even on the cross at the time of His death, it was Jesus that was in control. Jesus life could not be taken away before the time appointed by His Father (John 8:20), and it could not be extended past when Jesus would lay it down by His own initiative. These are not things a man can do. Jesus was not a human victim of religious jealousy and Roman power, but the Son of God fulfilling all the prophecies and finishing the work of redemption in His own perfect timing. The jealous Jews thought they were manipulating Roman power to accomplish their own desires, but the truth was that God was using their evil intent to accomplish His own purposes in bringing salvation to man. God did that in the life of Joseph (Gen. 50:20), and He still does that today. That is why Peter and James can both speak of rejoicing in the midst of the tribulation of this world (Rom. 5, James 1). God can use even the evil that we might suffer for good.
Jesus said, “It is finished.” The prophecies to that point had all been fulfilled and the ones remaining were so sure to be fulfilled that Jesus could speak of them as being done. The work of redemption was completed as Jesus gave up His life as the payment for man’s sin. Jesus’ burial and resurrection were still to come, but Jesus had already said those things would take place (Mt. 16:21; Mk. 8:31; Lk 18:33). Jesus declaration that “It is finished” was also His proclamation that the rest of His prophecies and promises would also be fulfilled just as everything else had to that point.
“It is finished” is the hope of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is what makes true Christianity different from every religion, for in them there is always work that still must be done to obtain salvation, whatever their concept of that may be. In the Eastern mystical religions, Nirvana cannot be reached without many reincarnations in which the individual must strive to improve their Karma until they can obtain Nirvana. Islam includes many works that must be done to try to please Allah and gain His acceptance. Paganism may have many gods, but the idea is still the same of doing many works to try to appease the gods and gain their favor. The same is also true in “Christian” cult groups. They do not gain salvation from the completed work of Jesus Christ. They always have some additional work that must be done. It is true in Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Christian Science and yes, the Roman Catholic church too. Because I declare the Biblical truth that Jesus’ work on Calvary is sufficient for the payment of all my sins, the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic church declares that I am anathema.
Yet, that is the truth of Jesus’ death on the cross. “It is finished” and there is nothing else that I can do to gain God’s forgiveness or His favor. It is given to my by His grace and mercy. My good works are done out of a response of love to Him because of His love for me. My salvation from sin and its eternal penalty is all based in Jesus completing the work of redemption on my behalf, and not in me or my ability to earn it.
What is your hope based in? If it is not in Jesus alone, then your hope will prove to be false in the end. Today is the day of repentance. Turn from your sin and pride to Jesus Christ alone for salvation from your sin and its penalty. If it is in Jesus alone, then rejoice regardless of whatever circumstances you may find yourself. Follow Jesus’ example. Trust and obey the Lord and see His glory shine through you to everyone who comes in contact to you.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times crucifixion is mentioned 2) Talk with your parents about Jesus death and what it means to them and to you.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the context of John 19:16-30? What had Jesus already suffered? Why did Pilate deliver Jesus over to be crucified? What was Pilate’s culpability in Jesus’ crucifixion? Why didn’t the Jews just stone Jesus? Why did Jesus have to die on a cross? Was Jesus a victim? Why or why not? What kind of cross was Jesus crucified upon? Why did the Romans use crucifixion as a method of execution? What physical agonies would someone being crucified suffer? What was the worst thing Jesus suffered during His crucifixion? Why did the Jews object to the sign Pilate posted above Jesus’ head? Why did the soldiers gamble for Jesus’ clothes? Why is this significant? Who was present at Jesus’ crucifixion? How did Jesus arrange for the care of Mary? What does verses 26,27 indicate about the foolishness of Maryolotry? What is the significance of Jesus being given the sour wine? Who was in control of Jesus death? What did Jesus mean by saying “it is finished”? What is the difference between Biblical Christianity and false religions/cults? What is necessary for you to be saved from your sins? What are you trusting to get you into heaven?
Delivered to be Crucified (16)
Pilate was in the judges’ seat, but it was _____________ who was in control.
Bearing the Cross to Golgotha (17)
Location: outside the gate of the city (19:17,18), but near to the city wall (19:20), near a highway (Matt. 27:39) and that there was a garden with tombs in the immediate vicinity. Gordon’s Calvary is a possibility.
Between Sinners (18)
Jesus’ greatest suffering was not physical, but the __________________________ while bearing our sin (Mt. 27:46)
The Title (19-22)
The Inscription (19-20)
It was written in ____________, _________________, and ____________.
The Jews Objection (21)
Pilate’s Resolve (22)
What Pilate wrote was God’s proclamation to all men
Gambling for His Clothes (23-24)
Present at the Cross (25-27)
The Women (25)
The Care of Mary (26-27)
Jesus does not call Mary His mother, for her relationship to Him now is that He is her Creator, Lord and Savior
Psalm 22:15; 69:21
It is Finished (30)
Even on the cross at the time of His death, it was Jesus that was in __________ (John 8:20)
God can use even the _______ intentions of people to bring about His good plan (Gen. 50:20)
“It is finished” is the hope of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is what makes true Christianity different from every religion and cult, for in them there is always work that still must be done to obtain their idea of salvation.
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