The chief priests and temple officers shout for him to be crucified. They back Pilate into a corner, saying that they have no king but Caesar. He reluctantly orders his crucifixion. The soldiers divide his garments. He hands his mother over to the disciple whom he loved. Jesus dies when he gives up his spirit. His side is pierced. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus work together to bury him.
As I write in every introduction:
This translation and commentary are for everyone who needs an online reference, but the commentary is mainly for readers in developing and persecuting countries, where Christians cannot afford or do not have access to excellent printed Study Bibles or commentaries. The main goal is missional.
The translation is mine. I offer it only to learn what the Greek says. It tends to be literal, but complete literalness and readability are impossible, so I had to make adjustments.
Readers can go to biblehub.com and use the interlinear link to look up every Greek word, and then the links go to every occurrence of the word. They can also visit biblegateway.com for many translations.
A GrowApp section is offered after every passage of Scripture, which asks challenging questions for deeper discipleship.
Links are provided for further study.
Jesus Is Sentenced to Die (John 19:1-16a)
1 So then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and placed it on his head and tossed a purple robe around him. 3 They kept coming up to him and kept saying, “Greetings, King of the Jews!” And they kept giving him slaps. 4 Then Pilate went back outside and said to them, “Look! I am bringing him outside to you, so that you may know that I find no basis of a charge in him!” 5 So Jesus came outside, wearing the thorny crown and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “See! Here is the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they shouted, saying, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “You take him yourselves and crucify him, for I do not find a cause (of accusation) in him!” 7 The Jews replied to him, “We ourselves have a law, and according to the law he ought to die because he made himself the Son of God!”
8 So when Pilate heard this statement, he feared even more 9 and went back into the residence and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus did not give him an answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You do not speak to me? Don’t you know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus replied to him, “You have no authority whatsoever against me, except what is given to you from above. For this reason, the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” 12 From this time on, Pilate began to look for a way to release him. But the Jews shouted, saying, “If you release him, you are no ally to Caesar! Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar!”
13 Then, when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat in his judgment seat on the place called the Stone Pavement, which in Aramaic is called Gabbatha. 14 It was the Preparation Day for the Passover. It was the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Here is your king!” 15 So these shouted, “Away, away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests replied, “We have no king but Caesar!” 16a So then he handed him over to them, so that he would be crucified.
Since the verb believe and the noun faith are so important in John’s Gospel, I would like to plant word studies at the beginning of each chapter. Then you can scroll back up here to read what the terms mean. I add this word study one more time because this is online writing, so costs per printed page is not a concern.
The verb believe (verb is pisteuō, pronounced pih-stew-oh) and the noun faith have to penetrate one’s whole being. Now let’s study them more formally.
The noun faith is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or pis-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us.
A true acronym:
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
One has to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. The bottom line is that for John’s Gospel believing and faith must not get stuck in an intellectual assent. “I believe that God exists and Jesus lived.” This may be a good start, but everyone who believes or has faith must put their complete trust in God’s Son.
Now let’s move on.
Quick historical writeup before we begin:
Pontius Pilate: The Christian creeds remember him as the governor under whom Jesus Christ suffered (1 Tim. 6:13) (see the Apostles Creed). The NT calls him governor while other sources call him prefect (his official title). Pontius was his nomen (tribal name) and Pilate was his cognomen (family name). His praenomen (personal name) is nowhere recorded. He came to power in A.D. 26. He was an anti-Semite. He brought into Jerusalem the insignia of the Roman military bearing the image of Caesar. He planted armed Roman soldiers, disguised as civilians, among the populace. This may have been the historical occasion for Luke 13:1, which says that Pilate mingled Galilean blood with their sacrifices. It is surprising then that he felt pressure from the Jewish authorities to put Jesus to death. However, he could have believed his position in the empire was precarious; John 19:12 says that if he released Jesus he would be no friend of Caesar. The NT writers were eager to show that he was innocent in regards to Roman law. Yet the only way the Jewish Council could convict Jesus was to accuse him of claiming to be king. Pilate’s name does not appear in Judea after A.D. 36/37, and this indicates he was removed shortly after he slaughtered Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim (Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).
He can be looked up online now.
So it seems that Pilate saw no basis of an accusation in him. He was apparently sincere and was intent on releasing him. However, he was not thinking this through. If Jesus made himself king of the Jews, then he opposed Caesar or the emperor. The establishment Jews were about to remind him of this opposition in vv. 12 and 15.
Then the soldiers took to their mammalian nature and mocked a man who was apparently weak—never mind that he could have called down twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53). I am reminded of this verse: “… by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8, ESV). And “although he was a son, he learned obedience by what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8, ESV). Death was the ultimate act of obedience, but until that moment (19:28-30), there are other stages of obedience. Being flogged and slapped and then mocked by the purple robe and wearing the thorny crown are the earlier stages of learning obedience. The flogging, depending on which weapon is used, is designed to leave the body in a bloody pulp, because the straps of the whip were embedded with pieces of metal or bones. The flogging itself could bring about the victim’s death. The crown of thorns was probably the Phoenix dactylifera or the date palm, which could radiate outward and serve for a crown. (Please look these images up online.)
Flogging: Mark 15:15 says a scourging or flogging happened after Pilate delivered the death sentence, while John says here in v. 1 that he was beaten before the sentence. How to resolve this? Jesus received, first, the least severe flogging (fustigato), intended to appease the Jewish establishment. Then, second, he got the severest kind (verberatio) after the sentence of crucifixion was pronounced (Carson, comment on v. 1). But as usual, this sequence of events does not matter (to me at least). See v. 14 for more comments on the bigger perspective.
Pilate brought Jesus out to the Jewish establishment because maybe the governor thought his disfigurement would placate their irrational wrath. Pilate saw no basis for an accusation of death against Jesus. So now will you stop pressuring me (Plate) to execute him?
“crown”: the word is used of wreaths of victory, for winners, for example, at the Games. A palm tree’s greenery can be used to make a crown of mockery, because the thorns radiate outwards (Morris, comment on v. 2, note 5). Think of the crown on the Statue of Liberty. So the purpose is more mockery, not physical torment.
However, if you insist on believing that the thorns inflicted further torture, then look up online the Euphorbia milii.
When the Roman soldiers mocked and slapped Jesus, they were really expressing their contempt for Jews generally, not so much against their representative named Jesus of Nazareth. In effect: “Here is what we think of you Jews and your government and nation! We put a crown of thorns on him and a purple robe and call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ This is how we show our contempt for you Jews!” (HT: Bruce, comment on v. 6).
Zech. 6:12 says “Here is the man, whose name is the Branch.” Here is the man in Latin translation says, “Ecce homo!” “Behold the man!” This is how the phrase came into English. Apparently there is an arch over the Via Dolorosa titled the Ecce Homo arch. It marks the starting point of the Via (Mounce, comment on v. 5). Klink sees the title as coming from Gen. 3:22, where God pronounces judgment on the Frist Adam, while Jesus is in the process of reversing the judgment of guilt. Jesus will take the guilt on himself (comment on v. 5). He also sees a connection to 1 Sam. 9:7, where Samuel introduces Saul, Israel’s first king. The royal context here in John 19 and the one back in 1 Sam. 9 match up. But Klink really highlights Gen. 3:22.
But the chief priests and officers of the temple did not respond as Pilate had hoped. They shouted the death penalty over him. They were fulfilling Caiaphas’ unwitting prophecy about it being better that one man die for the nation, instead of the nation perishing, because Jesus’s mission was to change Israel (and the entire world) (11:49-53). Israel, as it was then configured, and steeped in the sacrificial system and the opinions of the sages about the law of Moses—the Talmudic oral traditions and later writings—would have come crashing down.
This is Pilate’s third declaration of Jesus’s innocence (see 18:38 and 19:4) (Mounce, comment on v. 6).
Klink sees that in vv. 6-7 the Gospel is unconsciously spoken by the two protagonists. Pilate pronounces Jesus’s sinlessness, and the Jews claim his death fulfills the law. Excellent insight (He gets it from another commentator, Edwyn Hoskyns).
“Son of God”: Let’s look into some more systematic theology (as I do throughout this commentary). Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters, though, surprisingly, in John’s Gospel we are not called “sons,” but “children.” Only Jesus is the Son. In any case, on our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
Now that we have opened up some systematic theology about the Son in relation to Father God, let’s discuss even a little more systematic theology: The Trinity. The Father in his role as the Father is over the Son; the Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.
However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant.
Function or role: the Father is over the Son during the Son’s incarnation and carrying out the plan of redemption.
In their essence or essential natures: Father and Son are equal.
The chief priests, elders, and teachers of the law conclude that he committed blasphemy (see Luke 22:69-71), which deserves death (Lev. 24:10-16, 23). They sentence him to death—all because they could not interpret Scripture correctly. The punishment was stoning the guilty party (Lev. 24:16), but that’s not the Roman method of execution.
Now the question is: Can they make the charge of blasphemy stick before the Roman authorities? They did not allow Jews to execute people (except for a Gentile entering unlawfully into the temple holy place). No, they could not make it stick, so they have to add politics to the charge against him. They falsely accuse him of making himself king (implied in 15:1-5 and stated in Matt. 27:11). And there is no king but Caesar.
In any case, the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law are still swimming around in human ignorance. They are about to advocate the crucifixion of their true Messiah, which also fulfills Scripture they don’t understand: Is. 53. The Messiah has to suffer and die. Their ignorance is just irony—the irony of justice. God did not reveal who his Son truly was to them. So some call this divine irony. God uses people’s arrogance and ignorance, combined, so they can lead themselves into judgment, out of their own free will, dark and unenlightened though it may be.
Darrel L. Bock wrote a book on blasphemy happening before the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and particularly before the Mishnah was collected in AD 200. Commentator Osborne summarizes Bock’s finding:
1.. Blasphemy centered on the misuse of the divine name and acts of blasphemy.
2.. Few were allowed to approach the throne of the holy God—not even the archangel Michael was allowed to sit on the right hand of God, so Jesus’s claiming he was about to sit at the right hand of God was blasphemy.
3.. This was not a capital trial but a hearing, so the Sanhedrin did not have to be technically correct.
4.. Sources of the information of the trial was plentiful (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus), so this trial / hearing is not a fiction.
5.. Two levels of blasphemy: Jesus claims to have comprehensive authority from God; and then he claims to be the judge of Jewish leaders (violating Exod. 22:28 on not cursing God’s leaders). This latter claim could be used against Jesus because he could be accused of challenging Rome’s authority.
Source: Grant R. Osborne, Matthew: Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010), p. 999.
Even though Pilate was a hard-bitten Roman prefect, as a man of his time, he would have had a “rich vein of superstition” in him (Bruce, comment on vv. 8-9). It was now being exposed. If Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, then to a Greek or Roman this was no capital offense. A strong flogging might cure him. However, Jesus must have made an impression on Pilate because sometimes “more is caught than taught.” Jesus had a divinity about him. “Where are you from” could imply that Pilate believed Jesus had a divine source or origin.
To cover up is uneasiness, Pilate throws his weight around, when Jesus was silent. I have authority to release you or crucify you. Now Jesus finally replies. Pilate is not the one with the authority; only God is. Jesus said the authority comes from “above,” which means a heavenly derivation. The authority comes from God. So how does this work out? The chief priests handed Jesus over because of their blasphemy laws. But their motive was also political, as Caiaphas himself admitted even without his knowing it (John 11:49-53). Jesus was about to overturn their entire system. Pilate was a pagan Roman also acting under the authority of the emperor, and in fact he was intent on releasing Jesus. So if both Caiaphas and Pilate were acting under God’s authority to bring about Jesus’s crucifixion, then Caiaphas has the greater sin because he has sinister, political, and envious motives and does not see things clearly.
Another option is that the one who has the greater guilt is Judas, but this is not likely because he is now out of the picture, and he was a weak pawn. Judas handed Jesus over to the Jewish establishment, not to Pilate. So, the real contest is between the sin and guilt of Caiaphas or Pilate. Jesus says the one (singular participle) who handed him over has the greater sin or guilt.
God will not take down the Roman empire in A.D. 70, but he will take down the Jerusalem temple, as judgment on the Jerusalem establishment for rejecting his Messiah.
Pilate is using the Greek term exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah) to mean imperium—a commission to speak for the emperor in far-flung provinces. Pilate had this authority, as the emperor’s lieutenant. But Jesus was reminding him that he was a near-passive actor in God’s purposes. I say near-passive because humans have free will. And Pilate was on the verge of releasing Jesus, but the chief priests and officers played their trump card or winning hand: Jesus cannot be released because he was in competition with the emperor. So God can uses even unjust circumstances and deficient worldviews to bring about his purposes in the human mind. Pilate’s freedom was painted into a very small corner, but he still could have released him, even though this decision may have cost him his political career. Therefore, he bears some responsibility, but Caiaphas is guiltier because he could not recognize the Suffering Servant in Is. 52:13-53:12 (and other passages), and he was the religious leader of the people of Israel. He had received God’s authority from God and the privileges and responsibilities of the high priesthood. Pilate was a mere pagan.
Bruce points out that “friend of Caesar” (which I translate as “ally of Caesar”) was not an official title as it was under Vespasian (ruled AD 69-79), though the title was appropriate politically at the time of Jesus in an unofficial sense (comment on v. 12).
Klink (comment on v. 12), referring to a sympathetic Jewish commentator (Joseph Blinzler), note that the irony is rich for the Jews of two thousand years ago. In saying they are allies with Caesar, the Jews have become Roman, so to speak, thus relinquishing their God-given right to be God’s people and their God-given King for life in paganism. And this happens during Passover, the time to celebrate liberation!
The judgment seat can also be called the tribunal; it was a raised platform on which the Roman magistrate discharged his judicial functions (Bruce, comment on v. 13). Now, ironically, Jesus will one day sit on his judgment seat (bēma, pronounced bay-mah) at final judgment, representing God (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). He will then be the one who judges.
“Aramaic”: John uses the generic “Hebrew” either for the Hebrew language or the related Aramaic dialect,
Bruce identifies the Pavement Stone beneath the Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”) arch and the convent of Our Lady of Zion. Originally it measured 3,000 square yards (a little smaller than 3,000 square meters). It has been further identified as the courtyard of the Antonia fortress.
A few translations say that Pilate had Jesus sit on the bēma seat, as some sort of mockery with a divine purpose behind it, meaning that Jesus is the true judge, thought Pilate and the chief priests do not realize it. However, the Greek reads that the subject of the two verbs “brought” and “sat” is Pilate.
“sixth hour” this was at 12:00 or noon. Jesus was going to die when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered. But there were so many lambs being slaughtered to feed the Passover pilgrims that the bloody event happened over a long period.
Mark indicates that Jesus was crucified at 6:00 a.m. (6:00h); One option is to believe that Mark followed the Palestinian method of counting the hours from sunrise (the third hour was 9:00 a.m. or 9:00h), while John was counting by the method by the custom in Asia Minor, which starts the counting from midnight (the sixth hour would be 6:00 a.m.). (Mounce, comment on v. 14).
In partial agreement, Morris is probably right, when he says that both texts are approximates for the morning hours. He also quotes Roman historian Pliny who says: “The actual period of a day has been differently kept by different people: the Babylonians count the period between two sunrises, the Athenians that between two sunsets … the common people everywhere from dawn to dark, the Roman priests and the authorities who fixed the official day, and also the Egyptians and Hipparchus, the period from midnight to midnight (Natural History, 5.188).
I like Carson here:
More than likely we are in danger of insisting on a degree of precision in both Mark and John, which, in days before watches, could not have been achieved. The reckoning of time for most people, who could not carry sundials and astronomical charts, was necessarily approximate. If the sun was moving toward mid-heaven, two different observers might well have glanced up and decided, respectively, that it was ‘the third hour’ or about ‘the sixth hour.’ Mark’s concern is to set the time frame in which three hours of darkness occur (Mark 15:25, 33). By contrast, John’s point appears to be the proceedings had dragged on quite a long time, beginning with the ‘early morning’ (18:28) commencement of the proceedings before Pilate. During all this time it became ever clearer that justice demanded Jesus be released while evil’s tide rolled inexorably on and brought him to the cross—the evil of the Jews, the evil Pilate, the evil of all those for whom the Lamb of God died. (comment on v. 14a)
In other words, don’t demand precision before the invention of atomic clocks. That sounds reasonable to me.
“preparation of the Passover”: It was also preparation of the Sabbath, both days coincided and provided a special and holy occasion (see comments at v. 31).
To coordinate the timeline between the Synoptic Gospels and John, see my summary of Carson’s analysis at John 13:1 and 27:
No one’s faith in the Lord should be so brittle that it snaps in two whenever these textual differences or discrepancies appear. We are simply examining a passage in the OT where the high priesthood was within a family and the term is familial and flexible. Faith in the resurrection of Jesus, his Lordship, and his Sonship—his divine status—does not hinge on whether it was Abiathar or Ahimelech. The whole of the four Gospels moves towards the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and proclaims his Lordship and Sonship; the truths of the four Gospels do not stand or fall on these tiny elements in various passages. We must teach the new generation coming up not to have such brittle faith but to keep the plain thing the main thing—his resurrection, his Lordship, and his Sonship. Those three truths are the foundation of our salvation.
See these posts in a fifteen-part series on the reliability of the Gospels:
14. Similarities among John’s Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels (celebrate the countless numbers of similarities in the arc of the storyline!)
15. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels: Conclusion (start here for summaries of each part with links back to them)
There are two extremes in the battle for the Bible. One is “total inerrancy,” a term that devout theologians and Christian philosophers came up with in 1974 to describe the Bible. Then they and others wrote up a document called “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” (1978) (It is available online). The problem is that the Statement’s drafters attached so many exceptions in their articles that it is difficult to believe that “total” means much. The other extreme is seen in the post-Enlightenment (≈1600-1800+), postmodern (today) hyper-critics who gleefully make too much of unanswered questions. Both extremes place unreasonably heavy demands on documents that are two thousand years old (at least), before the Gutenberg press was invented in the mid-1400s.
I urge a more balanced and realistic approach to the authority and inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. For salvation and faith in Christ and discipleship in him, the Bible is absolutely infallible and inspired and authoritative. On incidental matters and history, it is highly reliable and accurate (e.g. Jerusalem is in the south and Galilee is in the north; ancient civilizations like Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon really existed and struggled with and influenced ancient Israel; Baal really was a pagan deity; Rome dominated first-century Israel, and thousands of other examples). So let’s learn deep, life-changing truths from Scripture and apply them to our lives. Let’s be confident in Scripture in its historical and cultural data. But let’s not place heavy, anachronistic, and modern demands on it. And our faith must not snap in two when tiny, nonessential details don’t quite add up.
‘Total’ Inerrancy and Infallibility or Just Infallibility? (my high view of Scripture and an overview of the Battle for the Bible)
The Battle for the Bible is an American issue. I encourage all Christians outside of America not to get involved with it.
Now let’s move on.
Pilate again present their king to him. Does Pilate and the chief priests know what they are talking about, or are the victims of irony? He really is their king, but they are ignorant of this divine truth. This is Johannine (adjective of John) irony.
Recall that irony means that you believe you know something but you really do not. In the Book of Job, Job and his friends really believed they knew the ways of God, and maybe they did a little, but when God showed up in Chapters 38-42, he set them straight. They did not know as much as they had once believed. They were victims of irony. Here, neither Pilate nor the chief priests knew what they were talking about; the chief priests were unable to see their true king, and Pilate did not know he was the true king.
Pilate wants the chief priests to recognize that Jesus was their king, but he is speaking with mockery or under the power of ironical ignorance. But not only so they not recognize him, they insist that Pilate must take him away or remove him and crucify him. Caesar is the only sovereign they recognize, and up to a point this was true because he did give them freedom to practice their religion, but ultimately they did not want his authority to rule over the Chosen People. Come to think of it, maybe some of them did, just to keep the peace. But then again—no. They remembered how Assyria conquered the northern kingdom and the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom, all ordained by God as judgment. This was religious and national humiliation. Shouting that their only king or emperor was Caesar risked offending Jewish patriots, but they would take the risk, to get rid of Jesus.
“handed (him) over”: Beasley-Murray says that this verb indicates a judicial sentence, and a semi-official use of the term is seen in Matt. 5:25: they will hand you over to the synagogues (note on v. 16, p. 343). This same verb will appear in v. 30, when Jesus hands over his spirit to his Father. See my comments there.
In any case, Bruce is right theologically: “And in fact that these words were spoken towards midday on Passover Eve, he implies something else: Jesus is the true paschal lamb, about to suffer death at the appropriate hour of the appropriate day for the life of his people” (Bruce, comment on vv. 14-15).
Klink says that the establishment Jews are speaking truthfully, for they reveal their true loyalties are with the Romans, who maintain their power (comment on v. 15).
John implies that Pilate pronounced the sentence of death while sitting on his judgment seat. Now comes the crucifixion.
GrowApp for John 19:1-6a
A.. Jesus willingly submitted to mistreatment for your salvation. How does this show his love for you?
Jesus Is Crucified (John 19:16b-27)
16b So they accompanied Jesus, 17 and as he was carrying the cross by himself, he went out to the Place of the Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, with him two others on either side, and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had an inscription written and placed on the cross, which was written: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” 20 Then many Jews read this inscription because it was near the place of the city where Jesus was crucified, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write ‘King of the Jews,’ but instead, ‘He claimed, “I am King of the Jews.”’” 22 Pilate replied, “I have written what I have written.”
23 Then the soldiers, when they crucified Jesus, took his garments and divided them in four parts, for each soldier, and also the shirt, which was seamless, woven throughout from the top. 24 So they said to each other, “Let’s not tear it, but let’s cast lots for it, for whose it will be.” So that this Scripture was fulfilled, saying:
They divided my garments for themselves,
And they took lots for my shirt. [Ps. 22:18]
Then the soldiers did these things.
25 His mother and the sister of his mother, and Mary, wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene were standing at the cross. 26 Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother!” And from that moment on, the disciple took her into his household.”
The soldiers—four of them, we learn in v. 23—accompanied Jesus in the sense of compelling him to carry the cross-piece of the instrument of death. The upright stake was probably already there. Jesus went out means that he left the precinct of Pilates praetorium or residence and exited through one of the gates (Heb. 13:12). Lev. 24:14 and Deut. 17:5 says that execution were to happen outside the city.
The familiar English word Calvary is from the Latin word calvaria, which also means skull. Where was the Skull-Place? Probably outside the second north wall—the third north wall was not begun until later. Since the praetorium is probably the Antonia fortress, the Via Dolorosa is the correct route (Bruce, comment on vv. 16b-17).
The Synoptics say that Simon of Cyrene was compelled to help Jesus carry the horizontal crossbeam. Bruce: “John is not deliberately contradicting the Synoptic account of Simon the Cyrene, whose services were commandeered by the military to carry Jesus’ cross after him; he is rather emphasizing that, as at his arrest in the garden, Jesus is still in command of the situation” (comment on 16b-17). The Greek “by himself” could be translated “for himself” (without a theological interpretation!), or Bruce simply translates it “his cross.” Also, Carson is right. Jesus carried the cross as far as the gate of the city. He collapsed there in the weakness from the flogging, and then the soldiers ordered Simon to carry it. On the Via Dolorosa, Simon took over at the fifth station (comment on vv. 16b-17).
John omits Simon because he is focusing on Jesus’s resolution and to endure the pain and suffering. Beasley-Murray says that Jesus sets an example of discipleship by carrying his own cross, as we are called to do (comment on vv. 16b-1, p. 345). Also, Simon may have been known in certain communities, say, in Rome, and Mark names him, and Matthew follows Mark, and Luke may have arrived in Rome and picked up this tradition. For John, Simon was unknown. Remember, the Gospel writers are free to omit and include data points as they have slightly different purposes. Our faith should not be so brittle that it snaps in two when these differences emerge. See v. 14 for more information about not having brittle faith.
The first half of this verse is stated clearly and forcefully. “They crucified him.” They fastened his arms on the crossbeam, attached it to the vertical pole or stake, and hoisted the upright post up in the air, as it thudded into the hole that was dug. A piece of wood may have been attached to the upright beam, which formed a little seat, but not to relieve the victim, but to prolong the agony. Nails were used for Jesus’s crucifixion (20:25).
Google an image of one nail piercing each forearm and one nail through both heels together.
Two brigands or insurrectionists were crucified on either side of him. Here is Luke’s fuller version:
39 One of the criminals who had been hung there was slandering him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 The other one responded, rebuking him, and said, “Don’t you fear God, because you are under the same condemnation? 41 We are getting paid back justly, getting what we deserve for the things we’ve done. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he began to say, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth: Today you shall be with me in paradise!” (Luke 23:39-43)
They were also freedom fighters, as Barabbas was. All this is to fulfill the prophecy: Jesus was numbered with the transgressors (Is. 52:12).
The Greek literally says that Pilate wrote the inscription, but we should not take it literally. Pilate ordered it to be written on a placard. However, Morris and Mounce say Pilate did write it, just to tweak the Jewish establishment, in a kind of grim revenge. (comment on v. 19). The Latin word for the inscription is titulus, and in Greek is it titulus, so Greek borrowed from Latin in this case (usually it is the other way around: Latin borrows very heavily from Greek). It was written in Hebrew or Aramaic (Aramaic was the language of the people and is very closely related to Hebrew). Latin was the official language of the Roman army, and Greek was the common language of the eastern provinces of the Roman empire.
We often see the four letters on a modern depiction of the titulus INRI, which stands for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeaorum, which literally reads: Jesus (the) Nazarene, King of (the) Jews).
The purpose of the titulus was to warn future criminals. He was being charged with sedition. The place of crucifixion was outside the city by a roadside. Matt. 27:39 and Mark 15:29 say that people “passing” by insulted him, indicating on a roadside. Plus, it was the custom of the Romans to place crosses on the roadside to warn people. It was a public execution.
Jesus wore a tunic or shirt worn against the body (chitōn, pronounced khee-tone) and the outer garment (or cloak), which is plural in vv. 23 and 24 (himation, pronounced hee-mah-tee-on). Carson says it is in the plural because the clothing includes a belt, sandals and head covering (comment on vv. 23-24). The tunic was seamless, while the cloak could be divided into four parts, probably by the seams.
It was an historical fact that the soldiers who crucified a man could claim a few perquisites (perks) of their grim job, and one of the perks was the clothing. So John was not making it up just to fulfill Ps. 22:18. The soldiers were fulfilling this verse without their knowledge, but such is the way God works. He orchestrates events in ways that we cannot figure out.
That link has a table of OT and NT verses. However, fulfillment of OT verses is also done through the pattern and themes and concepts and overarching narrative of Scripture, beyond quoted verses. Examples: he fulfills the sacrificial system, the Passover, and even Israel itself, which failed historically in its mission, while Jesus is currently succeeding in his.
A little sidebar observation: the soldiers divided the clothes up four ways, so we can conclude that there was four men there, overseeing the whole process (see Acts 12:4).
Some believe that that the sister of Mary (mother of Jesus) is Salome (Mark 15:40). That is, Matt. 27:55 says that an unnamed woman, the mother of James and John, was watching the crucifixion from a distance. Mark 15:40 says that Salome was there. Then John 19:25 says that an unnamed woman was the sister of Mary (Jesus’s mother). If this unnamed woman is Salome, this would make James and John Jesus’s first cousins. This would explain, in part, why he chose Capernaum as his adopted hometown and ministry base up north in Galilee. Zebedee and his two sons had their fishing business there. And if the beloved disciple was John, and he likely was, then this explains why he handed his mother to him (John 19:27). (Jesus’s brothers may have been indifferent to him and his mother who believed in her Son.)
However, Matt. 27:55, Mark 15:40 and Luke 23:49 say any number of Galilean women were watching the crucifixion from a distance. So the unnamed woman could be one of them. For Mark, the woman named Salome may simply be a well-known witness in his community or to him. In contrast, Matthew dropped her name (or never knew it) because for him she was not a well-known witness (Bauckham p. 50).
Therefore, I am skeptical about the sister of Mary was Salome, but who knows? It could be true. You decide.
“Clopas”: Sometimes his name is spelled Cleopas, which is the Greek form, while Clopas is the rare Semitic form. This is just a variation in spelling. Trust me. If anyone has researched names in America, these variations do exist, sometimes in the same document!
Who was Clopas?
New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham, who has researched all the names in the four Gospels and the rest of the NT, in Israel and the surrounding areas, writes:
If the names are of persons well know in the Christian communities, then it also becomes likely that many of these people were themselves the eyewitnesses who first told and doubtless continued to tell the stories in which they appear and to which their names are attached. A good example is Cleopas (Luke 24:18): the story does not require that he be named and his companion remain anonymous. There seems no plausible reason for naming him other than to indicate that the was the source of the tradition. He is very probably the very same person as Clopas, whose wife Mary appears among the women at the cross in John 19:25. Clopas is a very rare Semitic form of the Greek Cleopas, so rare that we can be certain this is the Clopas who … was the brother of Jesus’s father Joseph and the father of Simon, who succeeded his cousin James [Jesus’s brother] as leader of the Jerusalem church … Cleopas / Clopas was doubtless one of the relatives of Jesus who played a prominent role in the Palestinian Jewish Christian movement. The story Luke tells would have been essentially the story Cleopas himself told about his encounter with the risen Jesus. Probably it was one of the many traditions of the Jerusalem church which Luke incorporated in his work. (p. 47)
In short, Cleopas was Joseph’s brother and Jesus’ uncle, His wife’s name was Mary (John 19:25). He’s the one who told this story to Luke (or maybe his son or other relative did, if Cleopas had already died). Cleopas’s story got worked into the Gospel of Luke. And Luke knew its source or traditionist or story teller. That’s why Luke named him.
Who was the traveling companion? It could be Cleopas’s son Simeon who succeeded James in leading the church at Jerusalem (Bruce, comments on v. 25b, referring to church historian Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.11).
Mary Magdalene was named for the village Magdala on the western shore of the Lake of Galilee, near Tiberias.
The beloved disciple (or literally “the disciple whom Jesus loved”) is the same one mentioned in John 13:23. Jesus ordered the beloved disciple to take care of his mother, apparently because his brothers were still too unsympathetic to his cause. His mother must have come around to it, as time went on because in Mark 3:20-21 and 31-35, his mother and brothers were about to take in custody.
“Woman”: the experts tell us that two thousand years ago, and in that culture, “woman” was not rude. It was equivalent to “madam” or “ma’am” (Mounce, comment on v. 26). Maybe so, but Jesus does seem to distance himself from her. Jesus would no longer be just the son of Mary, but the King of kings and Lord of lords. Honoring one’s parents, the fifth commandment (Exod. 20:12), does not mean obeying them and remaining a child. They can offer advice when you are of age, but they cannot boss you around. Yet, Jesus, even while dying on the cross, was concerned enough to care for her.
“his household”: it could be translated as “his own home.” It is the same phrasing as in John 1:11, which says: “He came to his own people, but his own people did not receive him.” (The word “people” was added for clarity.)
GrowApp for John 19:16b-27
A.. While Jesus was dying for the sins of the whole world, he was surrounded by the mundane: soldiers and criminals. How does this speak to you calling out in the world? Are you surrounded by the oblivious world? How should you minister to them?
Jesus Dies (John 19:28-30)
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that everything had been completed, in order that the Scripture may be completed, said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was standing in the middle. So they wrapped a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and brought it to his mouth. 30 Then when Jesus received the sour wine, he said, “It is accomplished!” And bowing his head, he handed over his spirit.
Jesus was accomplishing everything by being on the cross. But he had one tiny detail to complete, which is about the sour wine. The four soldiers may not have known they were fulfilling Scripture, but Jesus did. Which Scripture? Ps. 69:21 says that for the Psalmist’s thirst they gave him vinegar or sour wine to drink. And Ps. 22:15 says that the Psalmist’s tongue cleaves to his jaws. Jesus really was thirsty, since his body was suffering and dehydrated in the heat of the day.
In Mark 15:23 Jesus refused wine mixed with myrrh, which was a sedative, when he arrived at the place of execution. Its purpose was to dull the pain. “Jesus resolved to die with an unclouded mind” (Bruce, comment on vv. 29-30). Here in vv. 28-29, the soldiers offered him oxos, sour wine or vinegar, which is used to revive the senses and full consciousness (Mark 15:36). So let’s not confuse the two liquids.
Now what about the hyssop here in v. 29 and the reed to stick (Mark 15:36)? John may be using symbolism, in reference to he Passover ceremony where hyssop is used (Exod. 12:22 and in a purification ritual (Num. 19:6, 18; Ps. 51:7). Another more historical possibility is that the sponge was soaked with sour wine with hyssop put into it and was brought to Jesus’s mouth on a stick with the hyssop at the end of the stick.
But once again, I caution the reader against having a brittle faith when these differences emerge. Answers are available, and I believe Bruce has provided it. See v. 14 for more comments about not having a brittle faith.
Now we reach the accomplishment of the main mission beyond the tiny details. Jesus says, “It is accomplished!” The verb is teleō (pronounced teh-leh-oh), and it is in the perfect tense and passive voice (tetelesthai, pronounced teh-teh-less-thy). Many scholars say that the passive voice in some contexts reflects the “divine passive”: that is, God is working behind the scenes orchestrating the event in question, even though he is not the explicit subject of the verb. This brilliant idea works in v. 30, too. God is helping Jesus to accomplish the mission of dying for the sins of the whole world.
Further, Jesus had said, “I have glorified you on earth by completing the work which you had given me to do” (John 17:4). The verb for “completing” is the same here. Back in 17:4, Jesus was praying to his Father, and Jesus was confident that he was about to fulfill his mission.
Now it is up to the Father to vindicate his Son by resurrecting him.
Mounce: “That by his voluntary death on the cross he brought to completion the redemptive purpose of the incarnation is a theological utterance of profound significance” (comment on v. 30).
“handed over”: this is the same verb which John has used for Judas handing over Jesus to the Jewish authorities (6:64, 71; 13:2, 11, 21; 18:2, 5) and the Jewish establishment handing him over to Pilate (18:30, 35, 36; 19:11), and Pilate handing him over to be crucified (19:16). Now, however, in this context, Jesus is in charge, and he handed over his spirit to his Father. John 10:18 says that no one takes Jesus’s life from him, but he lays it down on his own accord. He received this authority from his Father. So Jesus used this authority and literally handed his life-spirit to his Father. (I am gratified to see that Beasley-Murray has the same insight, comment on v. 30, p. 353).
Further recall that John used the verb in v. 16a to indicate a judicial sentence. I would like to believe that Jesus is handing over his spirit to the Father in the Great Exchange, the judicial switching of our guilt transferred over to him vicariously (representatively) or judicially, and his righteousness or innocence transferred over to us vicariously or judicially. Our guilt is imputed (reckoned or accounted) to him, and his innocence or righteousness is imputed to us.
However, you can translate the verb “handed over” as “committed” if you wish, without the deeper theology.
“Spirit” here does not mean the Holy Spirit, but Jesus’s human spirit.
We can be sure that at this moment many lambs were being slaughtered, which took a long time, perhaps from yesterday to right then and even later, in order to feed all the pilgrims in Jerusalem.
So let’s explore the theology of the death on the cross.
Now a little more theology. If Jesus dies on the cross, did his divine nature die? No. His divine nature lived on, but his body and humanity died. We can understand this if we look at our lives. When we die, our spirits live on, but our bodies die. So only a part of us dies. When Jesus died his divine nature lived on, and incidentally, so did his own spirit.
Let’s look more deeply at the atonement, which is connected with Jesus’s death on the cross.
Atonement literally means in English at-one-ment or being one with God or being reconciled to him (the -ment suffix means “the result of”).
It is the extensive and costly process of reconciling sinners to God.
The Hebrew verb is kapar (used 102 times) and is generally translated as “to atone,” “to wipe clean,” and “to appease.” In Gen. 32:20, Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to “wipe” (atone) the anger off his brother Esau’s face. As it turned out, Esau was not angry because time healed his wounds, and he was prosperous. The main point, however, is that sacrifice and gifts atone for or wipe away just wrath. The sacrifice of an animal during the sin offering (Lev. 4:1-5:13), for example, was to atone for the worshiper’s own sins, by blood manipulation primarily. Then God’s judicial wrath would be lifted and he would smile on his people again. Jacob and Esau were reconciled, and God and his people were reconciled.
The NT Greek nouns are hilasmos (used twice and pronounced hih-lahs-moss) and hilastērion (also used twice and pronounced he-lah-stay-ree-own). The first noun appears in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 and means “an atoning sacrifice, propitiation.” Propitiation means “satisfaction” or “appeasement.” Jesus is the sacrifice that atones for sins. Our sins destroyed and separated us from God, but the sacrifice of Jesus reconciles us to God (1 John 1:6-7).
For more information, please click on this post:
Once again, to forestall objections that falsely accuse God of being primitive or petty, please see this post:
Is. 6 is a wonderful passage that describes a holy man—Isaiah—in the very presence of God, and he saw himself as undone and ruined, because he was an unclean man living among an unclean people. God reached out to him and put a coal on his lips to speak with power and anointing. God cleansed him.
Is. 27:9 talks about the extreme need of Israel’s sins to be removed, and one way to do this was to cut down fertility poles and crush altars to false gods. But this would not bring about reconciliation for all of humanity, forever, but the need for it is clear.
Dan. 9:24 speaks of Israel living in exile seventy years to finish transgression and atone for their wickedness. The verb “atone” means to “wipe away” or appease or placate God’s righteous demands.
John 1:29 shows John the Baptist proclaiming to the people about Jesus, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”
Source Atonement: Bible Basics
Why was the blood of Jesus necessary, and what does it accomplish?
Personally, I like how the blood of Jesus cleanses, by faith, our guilty consciences from past sins. And I like that last point about the blood of the Lamb tramples underfoot the accusation of Satan. The thing is—when he accuses us, he knows which sins we have committed. But in Christ we realize that Satan’s accusations are lies, because God already wiped clean and forgave and released our sins. They no longer apply.
Source: Why the Blood of Jesus?
What did the cross accomplish for us?
First, the cross put to death the curse of the old law. Paul wrote to the Galatians that according to the old law, everyone who hanged on a pole was cursed (Deut. 21:23), so Christ became that curse in our place (Gal. 3:13). Now the curse of the law is broken over us, so God does not judge us in his justice-wrath-judgment. We are in Christ and are spared his wrath.
Second, the cross took away our sins. The power that the law and regulations was broken and canceled over our lives, by the cross. Those things used to condemn us but now through the cross we have forgiveness of sins (Col. 2:13-14). 1 Peter 2:24 says that Christ himself bore our sins in his body, which happened at the cross (Is. 53:5).
Third, the cross reconciled us to God. Paul writes that humanity used to be divided by ethnic and cultural differences, but through the cross, all humans are made into one new human, united in Christ (Eph. 2:16). The fullness of deity lived in bodily form in Christ, and now God reconciled all things to himself by his cross and the blood that was shed there.
Fourth, the cross brought us eternal life. Jesus taught that when he was lifted up on the cross, so that everyone who sees him and believes can have eternal life.
Fifth, the cross triumphed over our enemies. As noted, Col. 2:15 says all the decrees issued against us were canceled, and Christ dragged behind him all of his enemies like a roman emperor led captive people in his victory parade.
Source: Why the Cross?
What is reconciliation, and how does Christ’s death on the cross accomplish it? Reconciliation is when God calls us to surrender fighting him and become his friend. He doesn’t have to move, but we do. He did act, however, by sending his Son to die.
First, God’s law and holiness required payment for human degradation and sin, if redemption is to be done. God cannot ignore or overlook sin. So how can humankind be reconciled or brought near to God, with such a wide gulf? Christ willingly became a sin offering in our place (substitute) and paid the penalty of sin that engulfed humankind. Now reconciliation between God and humans can take place because Christ is the mediator between the two. God can be just and the justifier of humanity (Rom. 3:26).
Then, second, there is another point of view. Redemption is a gift. Out of his love God gave his all through his Son and his Spirit. Humanity that was plunged into sin and darkness and the devil’s kingdom overcomes by Jesus atoning life and work. God maintains his justice, expresses his love and triumphs over darkness and Satan.
Source: What Is Redemption in the Bible?
That last link has tables, comparing the different accounts of Jesus’s death.
GrowApp for John 19:28-30
A.. Jesus said, “It is accomplished” or “it is finished.” He finished his mission and accomplished your salvation, by dying on the cross, for you. What does this mean for your entire life?
His Bones Are Not Broken, His Side Is Pierced, He Is Buried (John 19:31-32)
31 Then the Jews, since it was the preparation day, and in order that bodies not remain on the cross, for it was the great day of the Sabbath, requested Herod that their legs would be broken and they would be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and then of the other one crucified with him. 33 But upon coming towards Jesus, when they saw him already dead, did not break his legs, 34 but instead one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and instantly blood and water came out. 35 And the one who saw has testified, and his testimony is true, and he knows that he speaks truly, so that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place so that the Scriptures may be fulfilled, “His bone shall not be broken.” [Exod. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20] 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on the one whom they pierced” [Zech. 12:10].
38 Afterwards, Joseph of Arimathea, though a secret disciple because of fear of the Jews, requested that he may remove the body of Jesus. Pilate permitted him. So he went and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus also came—the one who first came to him at night, carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Then they took then body of Jesus and wrapped it strips of linen cloth with the aromatic spices, as it is the custom of the Jews for burial. 41 There was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 So there, on account of the preparation of the Jews, because the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus.
The Sabbath begins on (our) Friday evening (about 6:00 p.m. or 18:00) and continues all day on (our) Saturday and ends at sundown (about 6:00 p.m. or 18:00). Therefore, the first day of the week begins on Saturday evening (about 6:00 p.m. or 18:00) after sundown and continues throughout (our) Sunday until sundown (about 6:00 p.m. or 18:00). The preparation day means that they got things ready for the day of rest before sundown on Friday. Jesus died on Friday afternoon. Therefore, the two kind-hearted, high level followers of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had to hurry to depose the body from the cross and put it in a new, never-used tomb.
It seems that the Passover and the afternoon before the Sabbath coincided. Preparation day was for both the Passover and the Sabbath. The convergence of the two days was a double blessing. This is why John calls preparation day, literally, the “great day.”
Deut. 21:22 says that a hanged man should not be left on the tree after sundown. The Romans could ignore Jewish religious law, but the Jewish establishment sent representatives to Pilate because exposing the dead bodies would be offensive when Passover and the Sabbath coincided.
Breaking the legs was an established Roman habit to hasten the death because the crucified man would not be able to lift himself up to breathe, so asphyxiation or suffocation took place, and the dying man died more quickly.
Or more precisely: “The weight of the body fixed the thoracic cage so that the lungs could not expel the air which was breathed in, but breathing by diaphragmic action could continue for a long time so long as the legs, fastened to the cross, provided a point of leverage. When the legs were broken, this leverage was no longer available and total asphyxia followed rapidly” (Bruce, comment on v. 31).
It was a gruesome task to break the legs. Perhaps a sort of sledgehammer was used.
Jesus was crucified with two criminals (Jesus was not a criminal but was treated as one). One or two soldiers worked on either side of Jesus and broke the legs. But when they came to Jesus, they saw his lifeless body. They must have wondered why he had died so quickly (see Mark 15:44). In any case, one of the soldiers took his spear and pierced his side, and at once blood and water flowed out. He wanted to make sure Jesus was dead, to see if the body would jerk. The stab must have gone deep. A dead body does not bleed, so evidently the spear tip punctured the pericardium (the sac around the heart) and the blood and “water” leaked out (Mounce, comment on v. 34). However, the pericardium sac may be too far up to have been punctured. So a seco0nd option is possible. When the chest cavity has been severely injured, liquid could gather between the pleura lining the rib cage and the lining of the lung, the clearer liquid at the top and deep red layer at the bottom. If the chest cavity was pierced toward the bottom, both kinds of liquid would flow out (Carson, comment on v. 34).
Why did he pierce the side? John does not say, but an early tradition says the right side (Bruce, comment on vv. 32-34). During one of the appearances after the resurrection, Jesus will allow Thomas to touch his side, to see where the spear pierced him (20:27), but from this verse we still don’t know which side. Does it matter that much? Not to me.
Why does John mention the blood and water, which probably came from the pericardial sac? Bruce takes the angle that John wanted to refute forms of Docetism, which says that Jesus appeared to be in the flesh and did not really die. (The Quran, supposedly “revealed” in the seventh century, erroneously picks up Docetism and says that Jesus did not really die, but only appeared to do so, in 4:156). John refutes this false belief in his epistle, though Bruce doubts that there is a connection between the water and blood here and the water and blood in 1 John 5:6-8. But upon reading those three verses in 1 John, I see that John writes that Jesus came by water and blood—in other words, fully human. So there must be a connection. I do not take a symbolic reading here.
However, Klink is adamant about the symbolism, calling any austere Bible interpreters “canonically tone-deaf.” He sees the blood as real, yes, but it also symbolizes the sacrificial blood of the Passover lamb (John 1:29, 34). The water is, of course, also real, yet it further symbolizes the Spirit (John 7:37-38), who was poured out from Jesus.
Morris agrees that the blood and water were real, of course, yet the blood symbolizes the Passover sacrifice and the water symbolizes the Spirit (comment on v. 34).
You can run with this interpretation if you want. They may be right.
John’s purpose is for this testimony to build up the readers’ faith. This agrees with 20:31, which says that these things have been written so that the readers may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And 21:24 says that the Beloved Disciple of 21:20 (see 19:26) testifies and wrote these things. And we know his testimony is true. Who is the we? Probably the ones who published the Gospel. And here in 19:35, somebody is writing that the one who saw the blood and water flow out is telling the truth and is a reliable witness. It seems this disciple was alive at the time the Gospel was published. So we have a mystery. But this puzzle is secondary to the main purpose, which is, as noted, to believe in Jesus.
John freely references four verses in the OT. Let’s take a look at them.
Ps. 34:20 says that God delivers a righteous man and guards all the bones of this righteous one. This agrees with Luke 23:47 where a centurion proclaims that Jesus was righteous (or innocent).
Exod. 12:46 and Num. 9:12 say that the Passover lamb must not have his bones broken. John has been coinciding the Passover and the crucifixion of Jesus. John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus was the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world early in his Gospel (1:29, 36), thus establishing a major theme, finally fulfilled in Chapter 19.
In Zech. 12:10, God promises that when he defeats the nations who attacked Jerusalem, he will pour out on the house of David and on the people of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplications, so that they will look on him whom they have pierced. They shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only child. This verse can easily be interpreted by Christians who knew the OT, specifically Jewish converts to the Jesus Movement, as referring to God’s Messiah. Piercing him means piercing God (so to speak). Then God will pour out his Spirit on the people of Jerusalem, which happened in Acts 2 with Pentecost.
Once again, please see this table of quoted verses from the OT and NT:
The four Gospels writers believe that Jesus not only quoted verses from the OT, but also major themes and patterns and concepts. See vv. 23-24 for more comments.
Arimathea: the exact location remains unknown (BTSB on Luke 23:51), but the best guess is Ramathaim, the birthplace of the prophet Samuel, northwest of Lydda (Bruce). You can google these locations.
Joseph was a prominent member of the Jewish council and court (Sanhedrin) (Mark. 15:43). He did not consent to the condemnation of Jesus (Luke 23:51). He was a disciple of Jesus, but only in secret, because he feared the Jewish leadership. Luke 23:50 says that Joseph was a good and righteous man. One way we can know he was good and righteous is that he did not agree with the Sanhedrin’s plot and action to execute Jesus. And he showed kindness to Jesus’s body. Who knows? Maybe Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection and thanked him for his kindness.
In Luke 23:51, Joseph was expecting or waiting for the kingdom of God. This expands the definition of why he was considered a good and righteous man. He probably did not know what the kingdom really was, but he sensed that Jesus was the main source of it. Now what would happen to his kingdom expectation? He may have not considered the resurrection, so his hopes must have crashed and burned. Yet, he had the courage to get the body.
Speaking of courage, he approached Pilate and asked for the body, when the other disciple abandoned him. Pilate must have thought about it. Did the governor shake his head in disappointment that he got involved in the whole sorry “trial”? Or did he just say yes and told Joseph to go? If his heart was softened, then he probably did say something about the recent events. Mark 15:44 says that he asked a centurion whether Jesus had died so quickly. He was amazed when the centurion confirmed it. It usually took two to three days for the crucified man to die.
No doubt, since Joseph was rich and it took more than one man to physically move the body, he had his servants take down the cross and level it on the ground, the lifeless body moving, the head bobbing with the descent of the cross. Then Joseph ordered his servants to unfasten the body by pulling out the spikes.
The rock-hewn tomb was probably specially chosen for Joseph. In any case, no other body was lain there before (see also Luke 23:53). This act of generosity showed extra kindness and respect.
Bruce notes that Roman law handed the body to its next of kin, but not for sedition. Joseph had high enough authority to approach the governor.
All four Gospels mention Joseph, but only John’s Gospel mentions Nicodemus coming to help. He had appeared in John 3:1-15, where Jesus told him had had to be born again. Then in 7:50-52, he rebuked the council because they did not give him a chance to to explain his actions. It is good to see two rich and powerful men working together to show kindness. As noted, if Jesus appeared to Joseph to express gratitude, then surely he did the same to Nicodemus, but of course the NT is silent about it. Jesus did appear to five hundred at one time (1 Cor. 15:6). Maybe those two men were there.
Such a huge amount of weight was costly, indicating his wealth. The Roman pound was about 12 ounces or 325 grams. No doubt Nicodemus also had servants to help him. The process was to spread the aromatic spices in powder form on the winding cloth. The men also put it on the body, so that both it and the cloth absorbed them. The Jews did not remove the internal organs, as the Egyptians did.
Why such an elaborate and costly burial? The men must have wanted to give Jesus a royal burial. After all, this inscription said “King of the Jews.” Nicodemus and his partner, Joseph, may have expressed defiance at the mockery and they believed in the truth of the inscription.
The two men had to hurry, because Jesus died around 3:00 p.m. (15:00) (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). Where was the nearby garden? It was outside the city and is probably under the Church of the Resurrection of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Bruce, comments on vv. 41-42).
Klink also sees a connection with garden here and the first garden in Gen. 2:8-16. He refers us to his comment on 18:1, and I summarized his views there (comment on v. 41).
Further, in ancient literature around the time of the OT, Klink says there is a connection between gardens and kings. Since Jesus is the unique King of kings, of course he must be buried in a garden tomb, where no one had been placed.
GrowApp for John 19:31-42
A.. Jesus was buried. All hope seemed lost. But the resurrection is coming. Have you ever lost hope, but then God restored it to you?
Beasley-Murray George R. John. Word Biblical Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 1999.
Borchert, Gerald L. John 12-21. New American Commentary. Vol. 25b. Broadman and Holman, 1996.
Bruce, F. F. The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. Eerdmans, 1983.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 1991.
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Vol. 1. Baker Academic, 2003.
Novakovic, Lidija. John 11-21: A Handbook on the Greek Text. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor UP, 2020.
Klink, Edward W. John. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2016.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to John. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1995.
Mounce, Robert H. John. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.