John 18 – 19
Arrest in the Garden (18:1-14)
Jesus on Trial Before the Jews (18:15-27)
Jesus on Trial Before Pilate (18:28 – 19:16)
The Crucifixion Scene (19:17-37)
Vinegar was thin wine that had gone sour. Gall or "bile" is a bitter and poisonous plant, perhaps the Poppy, which grows abundantly in Palestine. It was offered to those who were about to die in mockery, because the poison would stupefy the brain in those moments of agony. The Lord tasted it, felt the bitterness of human ingratitude, but would not drink of it (Matt. 27:34). He would accept no alleviation of the pain. The cruel soldiers were not content with merely refusing to give Jesus refreshment; instead they aggravated and embittered His sufferings by offering Him poisonous food and revolting drink. In short, they treated Him worse than an animal. "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psa. 69:21). In Luke 23:36, the soldiers mocked the Lord by offering Him a drink (vinegar, not with gall), but their offer was in jest. It is helpful to see that the vinegar brought to Lord at the end, just before His death, is not said to be mingled with gall (Matt. 27:48, Mark 15:36, and John 19:30).8After saying, "I thirst", the Lord did drink what was brought to Him, that the scripture might be fulfilled (John 19:28). But He refused to drink the vinegar mingled with gall because it would have dulled His physical senses.9 In summary, Jesus was presented with some form of vinegar three times: first mixed with gall to dull His senses, which He refused, second to mock His thirst, and third after He said "I thirst" that scripture might be fulfilled, and also to demonstrate His Divine authority over circumstances. It is important to understand that the numbing poison Jesus refused earlier was different from what He drank afterwards.Again, in keeping with the character of John’s gospel, Christ asked for and received the vinegar in order to fulfil scripture! He submitted and received the vinegar, having a thirst to accomplish the will of God.
When the spear pierced the side of a dead Christ, both blood and water flowed out. Blood speaks of the judicial cleansing from the guilt of sin. Water speaks of the moral cleansing from the defilement of sin. Not only has the work of Christ justified us (blood) but it has also cleansed us (water) in God’s sight, in the sight of others, and in my own sight. e.g. this is how Peter could say in his Pentecostal sermon, "whom ye (Israel) have denied". Peter was clean in his own sight as well as others. It says that Christ came "by water and by blood", that is for the purpose of effecting moral and judicial cleansing (sanctification and justification).12 The Spirit of God bears witness to that. John emphasizes "not by water only". It was not the Lord's purpose in coming only to cleanse His people from moral defilement, but also to give God a righteous basis to declare us judicially "just" in His sight (Rom. 3:26). One who is only morally cleansed is not a finished product. There are many religions in the world that profess to be able to wash with water; that is, to produce a holy life. These religions are unable to wash with water, but one thing they cannot even attempt to do is wash with blood. They cannot even grasp how the guilt of sin can be put away, and how a sinner can be justified in God’s sight. Christ came, not by water only, but by water and blood. It is a distinctive characteristic of Christianity. In 1 John 5 the water is mentioned before the blood because that is the order in which they are applied to a believer. We must be born again first, then we believe on the only-begotten Son for eternal life. Even in Old Testament typology, the sons of Aaron were washed with water first, then sprinkled with blood (Lev. 8). But in John 19:34 the blood is mentioned before water because that was the order they came out in historically, and the order which has God's interests first, before man's need. The Spirit bears witness (1 John 5:6) and makes both things good to the believing soul, so that all three agree in one!
- God’s Side. The synoptic gospels give us man’s side of the gospel; i.e. Jesus as a man on earth, presented to man for him to believe on and obey, though man ultimately rejects Him. John gives us more God’s side of the gospel, and presents Jesus as the Son of God, come down to accomplish the will of the Father and to return to the Father (the burnt-offering). Therefore, in John we get more of God’s side. The blood, although it is shed for many for the remission of sins, is really for the eye of God – “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” – and it is naturally recorded in John’s gospel. On the other hand, the hours of darkness (Christ as man, forsaken by God) are mentioned in the other gospels, but not in John. The shedding of blood doesn’t really fit with the themes of the other gospels; the King in Matthew, the Servant in Mark, or even the Son of Man in Luke. It is characteristically suitable to John. Later in his first epistle, John also takes up that which is characteristically divine; i.e. Divine life, eternal life, and propitiation for sins. Among those subjects is the efficacy of the blood of Jesus Christ.
- The Lamb of God. At the beginning of John’s gospel, he records that John the Baptist saw Jesus, and remarked; “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world”. This also seems to fit with the references to the Passover in John, and the fulfilment of “a bone of Him shall not be broken” from Ex. 12. In John we have Christ as the Lamb of God, and the reference to the blood of a sacrifice is most fitting.
- To counter gnosticism. John wrote much later than the other evangelists (90 A.D.), and much of what he wrote was written to counter the gnostic heresy which was just beginning. The blood-shedding proved that Jesus was a real man; of flesh and blood (1 John 4:2). Another error of Gnosticism was that expiation for sins was unnecessary, and only moral purification was needed. John counters this by saying “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood” (1 John 5:6).
- To connect the Person and Work of Christ. Later in John’s writings He establishes that without the Person of Christ, the work could not have been accomplished. John stresses the importance of the deity and sonship of Christ. He brings out in the first chapter that “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), showing that none other than the Son of God could take away sin!
In Exodus 12:46 we read; “Neither shall ye break a bone thereof…” and in Psalms 34:20 we read "He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken." Not a bone of the Passover lamb was to be broken, and so with the Messiah when He died. This scripture is quoted in John 19:33-36 in connection with the Lord being dead before the soldiers reached Him with their clubs. This shows the Passover was completely filled by Christ. Scripture doesn't say exactly why it was important that a bone of the Messiah would not be broken. God willed it that the legs of His Son would not be broken; His body was precious. Here are several possible reasons. (1) To break a bone of the Lamb would introduce the thought of “crushing” or forcibly ending life. It was imperative that Christ lay down His own life in obedience to His Father’s will (John 10:18). No man took it from Him. And yet, while no man took His life from Him, God holds man responsible for their intentions... murder. Accordingly, in the book of Revelation, Jesus appears as "a lamb as it had been slain" (Rev. 5:6). The symbol of a "slain lamb" has the idea of an innocent victim subjected to a violent death. It says in Zech. 12:10 that Israel "shall look upon me whom they have pierced". God holds them responsible. (2) Bones are the frame of a person, and the Person of our Lord was not affected by the sufferings of the cross. His sufferings did not make Him less than He was. (3) We are not saved by his walk (leg bones) by by his blood (pierced side).There is an important difference between these two quotations. In v.36 it says “that the scripture might be fulfilled”, and that prophecy was indeed fulfilled, completely. In v.37 it just says “another scripture says”, and what followed was not the complete fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah. It is beautiful to see the connection of Zechariah 12:10 with the crucifixion. It speaks of a time when Israel will own their guilt in crucifying the Lord. Even here at the cross, the Spirit is looking forward to Israel’s restoration!
The Burial Scene (19:38-42)
- Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
- This was the turning-point. If the governor were uneasy as to the rights and interests of Caesar, the Lord could have pointed to His uniform life as in John 6:15, and to His invariable teaching as in Luke 20:25, for a perfect disproof and reassurance. But if the question originated, as it really did, with the Jews (Luke 23:2), the Lord had nothing to say but the truth in the face of Israel’s unbelief and gainsaying, nothing to do but witness the “good confession” before Pontius Pilate; (1 Tim. 6:13) and this He does with all simplicity. – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
- The governor, while satisfied that there was nothing to fear politically, could not but perceive a claim incomprehensible to his mind. – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
- He did not seriously seek an answer: an awakened conscience alone does; and grace, as it produces the desire in the sinner, gives the answer of good from God. Not so Pilate… Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
- Matthew mentions the two thieves crucified with Jesus (Matt. 27:44), Mark and Luke mention that one was to our Lord’s right and the other to His left (Mark 15:27; Luke 23:33), but only John specifically says Jesus was “in the middle”. It is in keeping with the character of John to present Christ as the center.
- Pilate (perhaps to vex the Jews, certainly to accomplish the purposes of God) affixes to the cross as the Lord’s title, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”: the twofold truth — the despised Nazarene is the true Messiah. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- W. H. J., The Languages of the Bible. Bible Treasury, 2nd Edition, Volume 1, August 1856.
- This vinegar was lifted up on a sponge, which some historians believe was a Roman form of toilet paper. Amazing submission!
- We must not confound this circumstance with that mentioned in John where the Lord says, "I thirst." In Matthew's narrative it was the stupefying draft administered to prisoners before they suffered; and this the Lord would not drink. Whereas in John, the Lord, while on the cross, fulfils a scripture. In John He is regarded, not as One who did not suffer, but withal as the absolute Master over all circumstances. Alive therefore to the honour of Scripture, and in fulfilment of a word which had not as yet received its accomplishment, He says, "I thirst." "And they filled a sponge with vinegar. . . . and put it to His mouth." He did drink the vinegar then. But here in Matthew, on the contrary, "when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink" (ver. 34) — He wished for no alleviation from man. - Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.
- “It is finished,” τετέλεσται: one word! yet what word ever contained so much? – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
- It is His divine competency that is here shown, and not His trust in His Father. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- We are cleansed by the water of death (sanctification), and we are also cleansed by blood (justification). - Darby, J.N. Notes on the First Epistle of John.
- The editor is indebted to Nick Simon and Bruce Conrad for their helpful comments on this subject.
- Ver. 20 [of Psa. 34], we know, was literally true of the Lord, though Ex. 12 seems rather the scripture referred to in John 19. – Kelly, W. Notes on Psalms.