John 18 – 19

The Sacrificial Death of Christ
John 18 – 19
John 18 – 19. In these chapters we have a new section in the gospel of John. Previously, the Lord had concluded His public ministry (ch.12), and then concluded His private ministry with His disciples (ch.16), and then concluded it all with a prayer to His Father (ch.17). There was nothing left but the cross. These chapters cover the events leading up to the cross, the crucifixion and death of Christ, and His burial. In comparison to the synoptic gospels which cover many of the same events, John’s gospel brings out in a greater way the Deity and Divine glory of the Son, even in death. It is remarkable that we do not read of the Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane, nor of the abandonment of Calvary, nor the three hours of darkness. He gives the divine assessment, as One qualified to give it, of His completed work, “It is finished”. He gives up His life as an act of Himself. It isn’t so much the work that is in view in John, but the Person that accomplished it. It is the majestic Son, accomplishing the work, fulfilling scripture, and proceeding as determined back to the Father, and where He was before. Yet we also have in these chapter the guilt of all mankind established. The cruelty of the Gentiles is there, but far worse the hatred of the Jews, who had “the greater sin”. All were “gathered together” against Christ (Acts 4:27-28).

Arrest in the Garden (18:1-14)

Jesus, having said these things, went out with his disciples beyond the torrent Cedron, where was a garden, into which he entered, he and his disciples. v.1 The Garden. The Lord went with His disciples over a small stream called Cedron into a garden. This is the same stream king David passed over when he left the city in rejection (2 Sam. 15), and there was one who was seeking to betray him. It is an interesting parallel with the Lord. This garden is no doubt the same place as the garden called Gethsemane in the other gospels. The Lord’s agony in the garden, His exceeding sorrow, which He suffered in anticipation of the cross, is completely passed over in John, who of all four writers was the only one near the Lord in His agony. This is in keeping with the character of the gospel, which focuses more on the glory of His Person than on His sufferings. We know from the other gospels that Jesus was praying for “one hour” in the garden. John records nothing of the garden prayers, yet devotes an entire chapter to the prayer of John 17, which the other writers make no mention of! What a testimony to the work of the Spirit of God in inspiration!
2 And Judas also, who delivered him up, knew the place, because Jesus was often there, in company with his disciples. 3 Judas therefore, having got the band, and officers of the chief priests and Pharisees, comes there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that were coming upon him, went forth and said to them, Whom seek ye? 5 They answered him, Jesus the Nazaraean. Jesus says to them, I am he. And Judas also, who delivered him up, stood with them. 6 When therefore he said to them, I am he, they went away backward and fell to the ground. vv.2-6 Judas and the Soldiers. Judas knew the location where the Lord would be, even though he had parted company with the Lord back in ch.13. He knew that this garden was a place the Lord would go with the disciples in the evenings when He was in Jerusalem. How sad that Judas would exploit this special, inside knowledge to betray the Lord. It is noted that Judas felt it necessary to gather “the band, and officers of the chief priests and Pharisees” along with “lanterns and torches and weapons”. The lanterns and torches were perhaps for illumination because it was dark. But there was no sense in bringing weapons. The Lord had never acted in self defense before. At times when they had tried to take Him, He slipped through their midst by Divine power. It is also likely that Judas believed the Lord would be delivered miraculously as He had at other times (Luke 4:29-30; John 8:59; John 10:39). Perhaps he thought Jesus would escape and he could make some money off it. But Judas was wrong. This could be why Judas was “filled with remorse” (Matt. 27:3) when the Lord was condemned. All the soldiers and weapons were useless against His power should He chose to escape, and they were needless should He chose to surrender. Maybe they had a bad conscience? We have a beautiful statement of the Lord’s omniscience and willingness to suffer; “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that were coming upon him, went forth”. We see the Divine glory of Jesus in this; not captured, not dragged away, but going forward of His own accord. He was intent on doing His Father’s will. Notice that it is not immediately obvious to the soldiers which one was Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord was so lowly, that He was inconspicuous as being their Master. The Lord replied to their answer, “I am he”. No doubt it was a response that told them He was the One they were seeking. He identifies Himself as the rejected, “Jesus of Nazareth”, and at that Name His enemies were knocked backward to the ground, as if by the power of His Word (John 19:19). The enemies fall backward in fear, but the saints fall forward in worship!
7 He demanded of them therefore again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus the Nazaraean. 8 Jesus answered, I told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go away; 9 that the word might be fulfilled which he spoke, As to those whom thou hast given me, I have not lost one of them. vv.7-9 Jesus the Shepherd. The Lord asked them again whom they were seeking, and this would seem to be for the purpose of protecting His own disciples. At the first question power shown out, but at the second question grace shown out; “I told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go away”. Here we have the Lord acting as the Good Shepherd; “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The disciples would not be arrested and put to death. Only their master would suffer now. Like the ark of God in Jordan river, Jesus would go alone into the waters of death, and His disciples would pass over dry-shod (Jos. 3:17).1 He gives Himself up freely for them. In the other gospels it mentions the Lord’s disciples abandoning Him, but in John it is the Divine Person saying “let these go away”. It is a very different emphasis! In John it is almost like Genesis 22:6; “they went both of them together”. But even this was for the fulfillment of His own word in His previous prayer. Here it is an immediate, physical application of not losing His own; but there is a spiritual side also in the prayer (John 17:12). All of these circumstances were under the Lord’s Divine control.
10 Simon Peter therefore, having a sword, drew it, and smote the bondman of the high priest and cut off his right ear; and the bondman’s name was Malchus [‘a king’]. 11 Jesus therefore said to Peter, Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it? vv.10-11 Peter and Malchus. (See also Matt. 26:51; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50-51.) It is interesting that the identity of the disciple with a sword is only given in John’s Gospel. Perhaps this is because John wrote after Peter’s martyrdom, and so there was no possibility of offense. Peter was armed with a sword, and decided that it was time to use it. We know that the disciples had two swords, collectively (Luke 22:38). That means that at least two of the disciples were armed, but only one drew his sword. It speaks to Peter’s character that he would not only arm himself, but also be quick to draw his sword; perhaps he did this to make sure he would keep true to his words earlier in ch.13, that he would lay down his life for the Lord. Self-confidence was the root of this failure. Had he not seen the display of power in v.6? Rather than help the Lord, Peter only hindered Him by using the sword. Peter wasn’t aiming for the man’s ear, he was going for the head! Peter was seeking to help the Lord through the efforts of the flesh, and it resulted in disaster. Morally, there is a lesson in this. We can “cut off” another’s “ear” by acting in the flesh; i.e. we can cause them to turn a deaf ear to the truth. We can do personal damage with good intentions. The Lord goes not commend Peter, but simply tells him to put the sword where it belonged. In Luke 22 we find that Jesus healed this man. What grace! While these men were occupied with arresting Him, the Lord stoops down to heal the severed ear; to put right the wrong done by Peter. It is fitting that the beloved physician would notice such a detail! The Lord adds “the cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” He viewed the arrest, the cross, the sufferings, etc. all as part of a “cup”, an assigned allotment of suffering, that “the Father” had given Him. Peter did not enter into the motives of the Lord’s heart. Unwittingly, Peter was seeking to take the cup away from the Lord before He could drink it. This could never be. Jesus was determined to accomplish the Father’s will.
12 The band therefore, and the chiliarch, and the officers of the Jews, took Jesus and bound him: 13 and they led him away to Annas first; for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 But it was Caiaphas who counselled the Jews that it was better that one man should perish for the people. vv.12-14 Annas and Caiaphas. The Lord Jesus was seized by the men, tied up, and led away. Matt. 26:56 records that, at this time, all the disciples forsook the Lord and fled. John does not record this, and this is perhaps because he was an exception. It is nice to pass over the failures of our brethren. In Matthew we do not read of the Lord before Annas, but only Caiaphas (Matt. 26:57). Note that there were two high priests that year, Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas. It was unscriptural to have two high priests, but at this time the office of high priest was being used like a political toy in Judea, often passed back and forth between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and jostled for by powerful families. It could be that there was a marriage alliance between two powerful families at this time, resulting in the double high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. History also suggests a corrupt alliance between Pilate and Caiaphas. The character of Caiaphas is specially recalled here. He was a cruel and wicked man, who gave his unscrupulous and awful advice that it was better to kill one man in order to preserve the nation from the iron teeth of Rome (John 11:50). Ironically, killing Jesus would not prevent the Romans from coming, but on the contrary, it was the very thing that sealed the Jews’ fate in the government of God (Matt. 22:7).

Jesus on Trial Before the Jews (18:15-27)

15 Now Simon Peter followed Jesus, and the other disciple. But that disciple was known to the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest; 16 but Peter stood at the door without. The other disciple therefore, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the porteress and brought in Peter. vv.15-16 Peter and John. Simon Peter evidently was intent on making good on his promise, in spite of the fact that he had forsaken the Lord and fled (Matt. 26:56). But he follows the Lord, along with “the other disciple”, which is John’s humble way of identifying himself. John had some sort of connection to the high priest, and he arranged for Peter to be allowed in. Neither John nor Peter had followed the Lord as His disciples; one came as known to the high-priest, and the other through his connection. Little did John know, he was helping to put Peter in a position where he would fail miserably. It wasn’t wrong for Peter to follow the Lord, but it should have been in humble dependence. The Lord did desire His own to continue with Him in His temptations (Luke 22:28). In Peter we see that both responses, fight and flight, are wrong.
17 The maid therefore, who was porteress, says to Peter, Art thou also of the disciples of this man? He says, I am not. v.17 Peter’s First Denial. Peter’s self-confidence had carried him to the palace, but now he was in a place where his own strength could not sustain him. He was previously unwilling to heed the Lord’s warnings, and so he must learn the hard way. So with us, if we are unwilling to believe God’s Word, we may have to learn by hard experience. The maid who kept the door (a porteress) asked Peter if he was also a disciple of Jesus. Peter denied this emphatically; “I am not”. Notice that the maid says “also”, indicating that she knew John also was the Lord’s disciple. But he questioned Peter, not John. This was providentially allowed by God that Peter’s proud boasting would be tested, and that the Lord’s word would be fulfilled. Here in John the emphasis is on the Son of God standing alone before His accusers.
18 But the bondmen and officers, having made a fire of coals (for it was cold), stood and warmed themselves; and Peter was standing with them and warming himself. v.18 Standing at the enemy’s fire. The men built a fire, and it was noted as a cold night. Morally too, it was a cold night. Man was rejecting his Savior; what could be colder than that? So much of what we see that man has built in this world is to fill that void left by rejecting the Savior; to warm their cold hands so to speak. Peter came, no doubt to the circle gathering there, and was warming himself beside a fire built by the men. He was trying to blend in with the enemies of Christ. What an awful place to be! Lot sat in the enemy’s gate, Samson slept in the enemy’s lap, and Peter warmed himself by the enemy’s fire. But Peter was there in his own strength. It is amazing how far the energy of the flesh can carry us, but in the end it will fail us. It is interesting that after the resurrection, the Lord too built a fire of coals (John 21), and it was by that fire that Peter was restored. What a striking connection!
19 The high priest therefore demanded of Jesus concerning his disciples and concerning his doctrine. 20 Jesus answered him, I spoke openly to the world; I taught always in the synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews come together, and in secret I have spoken nothing. 21 Why demandest thou of me? Demand of those who have heard, what I have spoken to them; behold, they know what I have said. vv.19-21 Concerning Jesus’ Doctrine. It would seem that the trials of the Lord before the Jews, which are compressed into one scene in other gospels, took place in two phases: before Annas, then before Caiaphas. The first attempt to condemn the Lord was through His disciples and His doctrine. He does not respond about His disciples, and does not put Peter or John on the spot. They were digging for evidence about something He taught, but the Lord would not indulge them. He had openly taught “in the synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews come together”. When He says “in secret I have spoken nothing” it means the Lord didn’t have a double tongue, preaching peace in public and insurrection behind closed doors. It does not negate the fact that the upper room ministry was in private. The point is that they knew what He taught, or had access to those who had heard Him. How sad to think of this inquisition being conducted by the high priest. The role of a priest was to be that of gracious intercession, not of inquiry; “and the judges shall make thorough inquiry” (Deut. 19:18). Apostasy had rendered the most gracious of institutions as an instrument of corrupt judgment.
22 But as he said these things, one of the officers who stood by gave a blow on the face to Jesus, saying, Answerest thou the high priest thus? 23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me? 24 Annas then had sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. vv.22-24 Abused by the Jews. We have the account of the first physical violence done to the Lord Jesus. Amazing that God allowed this to happen! When religious man has no answer for the truth, he lashes out with violence to suppress it. How different the blessed Lord; “he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (Isa. 53:9). Once physical abuse has started, it generally gets worse. One of the officers felt that Jesus’ words were disrespectful to the High Priest, and lashed out indignantly. He was seeking to defend the majesty of the high priest, but instead he insulted the majesty of the Son of God! How easy it is for religious zeal to blind the mind to the majesty of Christ. Graciously, the Lord answered him in a way that showed there was no fault with what He had spoken. Compare with Paul, who responded in the flesh (Acts 23:3). After this, it seems that Annas wanted to get rid of the Lord, and sent him “bound” to his son-in-law Caiaphas. We read the details of the trial before Caiaphas in Matt. 26:57-68. The blessed arms that stretched out to do such good were bound by men who were themselves blinded by religious pride.
25 But Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said therefore to him, Art thou also of his disciples? He denied, and said, I am not. 26 One of the bondmen of the high priest, who was kinsman of him whose ear Peter cut off, says, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? 27 Peter denied therefore again, and immediately the cock crew. vv.25-27 Peter’s Second and Third Denials. Peter’s second and third denials were by the fire, not by the door. These were more public. Notice that it does not say Peter was warming himself “with them” as in v.18. Perhaps Peter had lingered at the fire after the men had left. There is a danger of seeking to warm ourselves in the fellowship with the world (“with them”), but there is also a danger of desiring the warmth of this world’s fire even in private. The men standing around asked Peter it he was the Lord’s disciple, and Peter denied it. Then another person, one who had actually been in the garden when Peter used his sword, asked more pointedly of Peter; “Did not I see thee in the garden with him?”. Notice that the questions get more and more pointed. God ordered the circumstances so there was no question in Peter’s mind; “and immediately the cock crew”. The Lord’s prophecy was accurate! From other gospels we know that Peter remembered the Lord’s words, and suddenly was filled with deep sorrow, marked by bitter weeping. How much better if Peter could have put his trust in the Lord; “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” (Prov. 29:25). But though his failure was grievous, we find that Peter was later restored to the Lord, and then to a place of public service before the other apostles (John 21:15-23). The Lord can still use His servants after they have failed. Peter was so thoroughly restored that he was used by God to preach to the nation of Israel after the Day of Pentecost; “ye denied the Holy One and the Just” (Acts 3:14). What about us? Are we capable of denying the Lord? Yes. If there is an opportunity to identify ourselves with Christ, and we hide from making our Christianity known, we are essentially denying the Lord. 

Jesus on Trial Before Pilate (18:28 – 19:16)

28 They lead therefore Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium; and it was early morn. And “they” entered not into the praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but eat the passover. v.28 The Sanctimonious Hypocrisy of the Jews. The time was now early morning. The arrest happened in the late evening, and the Jews held the Lord under arrest all night. The Jews refused to enter the praetorium on the Passover day, and therefore they “went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled”, and made Pilate come out to speak with them (v.29), then go back inside to speak with Jesus (v.33). As well as show the punctilious and sanctimonious hypocrisy of the Jews, this fact also explains why the conversation is structured the way it is. They didn’t know it, but they were delivering up the True Passover to be sacrificed. Note that there was some flexibility as to when the Passover could be sacrificed; “between the two evenings” (Exodus 12:6). The last supper and the true Passover both took place within that preparation day. They were careful not to be ceremonially defiled, but they were unwittingly sealing their own fate in the government of God.
29 Pilate therefore went out to them and said, What accusation do ye bring against this man? 30 They answered and said to him, If this man were not an evildoer, we should not have delivered him up to thee. vv.29-20 A Groundless Accusation. Pilate asked the Jews the accusation that they had against Jesus. This of course was a necessary step in his process of judgment. The answer the Jews gave was totally groundless; “If this man were not an evildoer, we should not have delivered him up to thee”. In other words, “You leave the matter of what he’s done up to us, and just take our word for it”. What a travesty of justice! So proud, they thought Pilate should accept their presence as proof of Jesus’ guilt. The only reason they were coming to Pilate was to use his authority to put Jesus to death (v.31). 
31 Pilate therefore said to them, Take him, ye, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said to him, It is not permitted to us to put any one to death; 32 that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled which he spoke, signifying what death he should die. vv.31-32 Authority to execute. Naturally, if Jesus had committed some crime against the law, He could be punished by the Jewish courts. But they weren’t seeking a minor punishment. They were seeking capital punishment. Pilate must have immediately realized how determined they were. The Jews did not have sufficient authority to carry out capital punishment, because they were under Roman authority; “It is not permitted to us to put any one to death”. They had lost ius gladii (literally, “the right of the sword”, or the legal right to exercise capital punishment) in A.D. 6, when Palestine became a Roman province. For this reason, they needed to take Jesus to the civil authorities; enter Pontius Pilate. In Acts 7 the Jews stoned Stephen, in their wild rage, without consulting the Romans. There may have been a special motive here with Jesus’ execution, in the Jews following the law more carefully. Whatever the case, this was all part of the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, that the Jews would put Jesus to death through the instrumentality of Gentiles; “Him… ye [Jews] have taken, and by wicked hands [Gentiles] have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). Whatever the complicity of the Gentiles in the crucifixion might be, the Spirit of God reveals that the Jews were behind it fully. The Jews would normally have stoned their criminals (as Stephen was stoned), but Jesus must be crucified in fulfillment of Psa. 22:16, “they pierced my hands and my feet”. That meant Jesus would receive a Roman trial and, if He was convicted, a Roman execution. Even this was for the fulfillment of scripture, not only of Psalm 22, but the Lord’s own words about being “lifted up” (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32); “that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled which he spoke, signifying what death he should die”.
33 Pilate therefore entered again into the praetorium and called Jesus, and said to him, Thou art the king of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered him, Dost thou say this of thyself, or have others said it to thee concerning me? 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thy nation and the chief priests have delivered thee up to me: what hast thou done? 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my servants had fought that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence. vv.33-36 Jesus’ Kingdom. Pilate asked the Lord if He were the king of the Jews. The Lord did not immediately reply in the affirmative, although we know He later did (Matt. 27:11). In John we have the Lord with individuals, and here we have the Savior working to reach Pilate’s conscience. He asked Pilate if the question were a genuine concern about the interests of Caesar; “Dost thou say this of thyself, or have others said it to thee concerning me?” It seems like Pilate was on trial! Was Pilate just doing his job, and checking to see if the Lord was actually a threat to the stability of the region, or was he looking to satisfy the Jews? In this case the Jews had prompted the question, which Pilate, disgusted by the Jews, ceded by saying “Am I a Jew? Thy nation and the chief priests have delivered thee up to me: what hast thou done?”. The Lord was no threat to Caesar (John 6:15). He could say, “My kingdom is not of this world”. His kingdom at that time was of a heavenly character, focused on a rejected but glorified Christ, and so it would not function as the world does, by asserting its claims through force. Notice that, even if the Lord’s kingdom were earthly, His servants would not revolt against Caesar, but rather fight that He “might not be delivered up to the Jews”. The Jews were really at work here, using the “wicked hands” of the Gentiles to accomplish their awful plan. But the Lord’s kingdom was not from this world, and therefore it took a totally different character. How sad that many Christians today fail to understand the character of the kingdom of heaven at the present time. In the future, when the Lord appears, His kingdom will have a different character (2 Thess. 1:8), and His servants will certainly fight, and blood will be shed, enemies conquered, etc. But the kingdom of Christ, now or ever, is not of this world. It’s authority is from above, and even in the future, the armies of heaven will not fight on their own charges, but following the Conqueror who leads onward to victory! Many are seeking to advance the interests of Christ with methods that are borrowed from the world, and that run contrary to what Jesus said here.2
37 Pilate therefore said to him, Thou art then a king? Jesus answered, Thou sayest it, that I am a king. I have been born for this, and for this I have come into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice. 38a Pilate says to him, What is truth? vv.37-38a Jesus’ Purpose. Pilate then, assured that Jesus was no threat to Caesar, asked a further question, and this would seem to be asked of his own volition, out of personal curiosity; “Thou art then a king?”3 The Lord answered straightforwardly, and this is what is called “the good confession” in 1 Timothy 6:13; “Thou sayest it, that I am a king. I have been born for this, and for this I have come into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.” The good confession goes far deeper than the kingship of Christ. It involves who He is as the truth. As the truth, Jesus revealed what man is, and who the Father is. This was the true reason why the Jews had delivered Him up. They rejected the truth. They did not want to hear that a man must be born again. They did not want to hear that the Father’s heart is toward all men. They did not want to hear that the Son is equal with the Father. They were not “of the truth”, and so they did not hear His voice as God’s Faithful Witness. Yes, Jesus was a king, but the deeper reason why the Jews had delivered Him was that He bore witness of the truth, and this was the very reason for the Lord to come into the world. Paul, in writing to Timothy, told him to follow the Lord’s example when under attack by those who would detract from the sound doctrine he was maintaining. “I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot…” (1 Tim. 6:13-16). The Lord set the perfect example of One who was on trial for the truth, and His life was at stake. He did not swerve from the truth, but answered fully. That was the good confession. Am I willing to confess the truth – the whole truth of who the Lord is – in the face of death? Our calling is to follow Christ Jesus. Pilate must have known that he was not in the company of those who hear the Lord’s voice. Pilate’s response reveals his cynical, skeptical attitude toward truth; “What is truth?” Notice that he doesn’t wait for an answer; it was a statement in the form of a question. Pilate’s conscience was not touched, and so he abandoned the inquisition. He was not seriously searching for the truth.4
38b And having said this he went out again to the Jews, and says to them, I find no fault whatever in him. 39 But ye have a custom that I release some one to you at the passover; will ye therefore that I release unto you the king of the Jews? 40 They cried therefore again all, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. vv.38b-40 Barabbas. Pilate was now satisfied that Jesus was no political threat, either to Caesar or the Jews. Yet he had a difficult situation to deal with, and wanted an easy way out. As part of Roman political tolerance, the Romans would release one Jewish prisoner at the time of Passover, to commemorate the release of Israel from Egypt. Pilate did not want to put a man to death on the eve of the greatest holiday in Judaism, for he knew Jesus had disciples. Hoping to put some sense into them, Pilate recalled the custom of releasing a prisoner, and suggested that Jesus be released. Notice that Pilate insists on using the term “the king of the Jews”. By linking Jesus with the Jews, calling Him their king, he was insulting the Jews as well as trying to manipulate their will. But nothing could change the minds of these murderous Jews. It only drew out their hatred even more, and also exposed their true lack of moral compunction. The Jews asked instead for Barabbas to be released. Barabbas was in prison with a number of men who had made insurrection against Rome. He was “a robber” and he also “had committed murder in the insurrection” (Mark 15:7). Did not the Jews’ choice of Barabbas reveal what their hearts were like? It is striking that the name Barabbas means “son of the father”. This man was Satan’s “son of the father” in contrast to the blessed Savior, the true Son of the Father! They released a robber, and condemned a Giver!
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him2 And the soldiers having plaited a crown of thorns put it on his head, and put a purple robe on him, 3 and came to him and said, Hail, king of the Jews! and gave him blows on the face. vv.1-3 Mockery of the Soldiers. Now we see the cruelty of Pilate and the Romans come forth. Pilate had Jesus scourged, which was totally unjust. Perhaps he was hoping to satisfy the Jews short of putting Him to death, or else trigger some lurking sympathy for the prisoner. Roman scourging was an awful form of torture, and deeply humiliating. Jesus endured it patiently, in perfect obedience to His Father’s will. The scriptures “I gave my back to the smiters” (Isa. 50:6) and “The ploughers ploughed upon my back; they made long their furrows” (Psa. 129:3) were fulfilled when they scourged Jesus. When the soldiers take command of the situation, something comes out that was not seen before. The cruelty of man is seen, not the hot hatred of the Lord’s religious enemies, but the cold cruelty of those who perhaps had never met the Lord. They were just “average” soldiers, but man is a tyrant by nature, and this was quickly made manifest. Man, when given absolute power over others, invariably descends into barbarous cruelty, finding pleasure in the humiliation and suffering of others. The soldiers understood that Jesus had been arrested for claiming to be the King of the Jews. The proceeded to mock the Lord in the capacity of king. “A crown of thorns” is a mockery of royalty. There are two words in the New Testament translated crown; one is ‘wreath’ or ‘crown’, the other is ‘diadem’. Crowns are rewards for service and accomplishments. Diadems are worn by right and title, as by royal birth. Here the word is ‘wreath’ and it is the same word used in Hebrews 2:9. Man awarded Jesus with a crown of thorns, but God seated Him at His right hand and gave Him a crown of glory and honor! Thorns are the fruit of the curse (Gen. 3:18), and unwittingly these soldiers depicted the work Jesus would shortly accomplish as the Lamb of God. They put on Him “a purple robe”. In Matthew it was a scarlet cloak, here it is purple. Evidently this robe was partly scarlet and partly purple, or a blend, but each evangelist is led to record the details suited to the character of each gospel. Purple is the color of nobility, and in Mark and John the emphasis is on the Lord’s being the Son of God, while in Matthew it is on His being Messiah. It was a false robe however, for the purposes of mocking Jesus. Incidentally, Herod’s soldiers did a similar thing (Luke 23:11); evil minds think alike. Perhaps the most cruel of all, the soldiers then mocked the Lord, saying “Hail, King of the Jews!” Such behavior is fitting only for a king, but the soldiers did so in cruel mockery. Their feigned reverence was cruely coupled with physical abuse; “and gave him blows on the face”. Their war-hardened hands delivered the blows. How deeply Christ must have felt the sting of it, in more ways than one. And yet, the moral dignity of Christ shown through it all!
4 And Pilate went out again and says to them, Lo, I bring him out to you, that ye may know that I find in him no fault whatever. 5 (Jesus therefore went forth without, wearing the crown of thorn, and the purple robe.) And he says to them, Behold the man! 6 When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw him they cried out saying, Crucify, crucify him. Pilate says to them, Take him ye and crucify him, for I find no fault in him. 7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, because he made himself Son of God. vv.4-7 No Fault in Him. Pilate made another attempt to release the Lord. He proclaimed “I find in him no fault whatever”. He wanted to bring Jesus out as a bedraggled, pitiful, even comical figure. He hoped they would be satisfied that Jesus had suffered enough, and that some spark of compassion might be found within these people. This would show that Jesus was no threat to the Jews, and Pilate hoped they would let Him go. But it says here “Jesus therefore went forth without”. He went forth of His own accord, in perfect control of Himself. Pilate exclaimed “Behold the man!” They had done so much to humiliate Him, yet as He came forth, He had a royal dignity that could not be mocked. Pilate had never seen humanity in such perfection. The more they did to humiliate Him, the more that dignity shone forth! Rather than evoke pity, this sight further enraged the Jews, who called for Jesus to be crucified; “When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw him they cried out saying, Crucify, crucify him.” Pilate is the typical specimen of a politician. He had no conscience, and would readily have the faultless Lord tortured and abused to gratify the Jews, but did not want blood on his own hands. Pilate tried desperately to push the responsibility away from himself. But the implacable Jews keep bringing it back to him. Pilate was trying to play the Jews, but the Jews were playing him. The hearts of many were revealed. The Jews finally come to the root, the deepest object of their hatred; the fact that Jesus made Himself equal with God (John 5:18); “We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, because he made himself Son of God”. The truth is that Jesus never “made himself” the Son of God, He always was the Son of God. Even in this we see the hand of God. The Son would not die for a lie, but for the truth.
8 When Pilate therefore heard this word, he was the rather afraid, 9 and went into the praetorium again and says to Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Pilate therefore says to him, Speakest thou not to “me”? Dost thou not know that I have authority to release thee and have authority to crucify thee? 11 Jesus answered, Thou hadst no authority whatever against me if it were not given to thee from above. On this account he that has delivered me up to thee has the greater sin. vv.8-11 Conversation with Pilate. Pilate was afraid when He heard the Jews’ revised accusation. This wasn’t the fear of faith, but rather a sense of dread or uneasiness. This man was not normal. In frustration, Pilate returned to question the Lord further. But this question was nothing more than a desperate man looking for a way out. Pilate had already declared that Jesus was guiltless, and he had also declared his ambivalence toward the truth. To the question “Whence art thou?”, the Lord Jesus did not answer Pilate, and the Roman governor became angry. Pilate vaunted his perceived authority over the Man standing before him; “Speakest thou not to me? Dost thou not know that I have authority to release thee and have authority to crucify thee?” The Lord responded this time, correcting Pilate. Jesus declared to Pilate that he really had no power of his own, and the authority he did have was given him “from above”. This perfectly agrees with Rom. 13:1, that “the powers that be are ordained of God”. If it were not God’s will, Pilate would be powerless against this one, the Divine Son of God. Pilate was abusing his authority, but Jesus did not rebel against it. He was submitting to the cup which His Father had given Him! But if Pilate – who as a Gentile was ignorant of the testimony to the Divinity of Christ – was in the wrong in condemning a guiltless Person, how much greater the sin of the Jews who had such a testimony – Judas being a sample – and in the face of it delivered Jesus up? The greater light a person has, the more responsible they are; “on this account he that has delivered me up to thee has the greater sin”.
12 From this time Pilate sought to release him; but the Jews cried out saying, If thou releasest this man, thou art not a friend to Caesar. Every one making himself a king speaks against Caesar. v.12 The Jews Manipulate Pilate with Threats. The Lord’s words to Pilate appear to have had an effect, because “from this time Pilate sought to release him”. However, the governor’s efforts were only within the scope of what could be done and still appease the Jews. If he really had wanted to release the Lord, Pilate could have done so. But the reality of the governor’s moral condition was manifested by what he ultimately did, or did not do. The Jews attempted to put Pilate in a corner by polarizing his choice politically. He was either a friend of Jesus, or a friend of Caesar. How typical of politics! But their accusation was a lie; “every one making himself a king speaks against Caesar”. Jesus was no threat to Caesar, and in fact He publicly taught otherwise; “render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s” (Luke 20:25).
13 Pilate therefore, having heard these words, led Jesus out and sat down upon the judgment-seat, at a place called Pavement, but in Hebrew Gabbatha; 14 (now it was the preparation of the passover; it was about the sixth hour;) and he says to the Jews, Behold your king! vv.13-14 The Judgment Seat of Pilate. It seems that when Pilate heard the polarizing statement of the Jews, he knew they were seeking to jeopardize his office, if not his head. He then led Jesus out to a raised platform, called “the judgment seat”. It is interesting that the Greek word here is ‘bema’, which means ‘raised platform’, or ‘dais’. It is the same word for the platform Herod sat on in Acts 12:21 on that fateful day when he refused to give God the glory. But it is also the same word as Paul uses in reference to the judgment-seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). Every bema-seat of worldly monarchs has been corrupt. One day, Christ will have His true bema-seat, and He will judge righteous judgment (Isa. 32:1). Who will stand before that judgment seat? John notes that it was still “the preparation of the passover”, which meant it was the day before the Sabbath, and “the sixth hour”, which (since John reckons time as the Romans), would be our 6:00 AM. The sun would be just rising on the horizon (c.p. Mal. 4:2, an altogether different Sun-rise) when Pilate presented the humiliated person of Jesus before the Jews; “Behold your king!” The exact time is noted.
15 But they cried out, Take him away, take him away, crucify him. Pilate says to them, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. 16 Then therefore he delivered him up to them, that he might be crucified; and they took Jesus and led him away. vv.15-16 A final opportunity. The Jews were incessantly calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate made a final, weak attempt to release the Lord, but it was also an insult to the Jews; “Shall I crucify your king?” The Jews were forcing Pilate’s hand by invoking Caesar (v.12), so Pilate would force them to say something they didn’t want to say. It was spite. The Jews were willing to say something they hated because they hated the Lord even more. The Lord had no quarrel with Caesar, and when put in a similar position by the Jews, He recognized the claims of Caesar, and also those of God (Mark 12:17). Pilate did not bring God into his thoughts. However, this was a final opportunity for the Jews. They made their choice by saying, “We have no king but Caesar”. The Jews had now denied their Messiah. At last Pilate gave into the Jews’ demands, and condemned Jesus to death.

The Crucifixion Scene (19:17-37)

17 And he went out, bearing his cross, to the place called place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha; 18 where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on this side, and one on that, and Jesus in the middle. vv.17-18 Circumstances of the Crucifixion. It is notable that while Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention Simon of Cyrene sharing the burden of the Lord’s cross, John makes no mention of it. In John the emphasis is on the Deity of Christ, and the glory of His Person as the Son of God, in the character of the burnt offering, and as such He lays down His own life. Was our Lord’s physical body weakened by the torture He had endured? Yes. But in John that aspect is not emphasized. Instead, the Lord carries the burden “by Himself” (Heb. 1:3), all the way to Golgotha. The Hebrew word “Golgotha” is interpreted by the evangelist as “the place called ‘Place of a Skull'”. No doubt it was commonly called “the place of a skull” because it was an execution site, and was a place where birds would scavenge the corpses of executed men down to the bare bones. Morally however, a skull is an empty head, and the scene that unfolded at this awful sight revealed that the wisdom of this world is but foolishness with God (1 Cor. 1:20; 2:8). The two others crucified on the right and the left are mentioned, but their character and crimes are passed over in John. Perhaps the reason is that in John we have the glory of the Son of God emphasized, rather than the humiliation of His martyrdom death.5
19 And Pilate wrote a title also and put it on the cross. But there was written: Jesus the Nazaraean, the King of the Jews. 20 This title therefore many of the Jews read, for the place of the city where Jesus was crucified was near; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, Latin. 21 The chief priests of the Jews therefore said to Pilate, Do not write, The king of the Jews, but that “he” said, I am king of the Jews. 22 Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written. vv.19-22 The title over the cross. It was customary for the victim of crucifixion to have a “title” written over the cross, that onlookers might understand who the criminal was, and the crime he was accused of. Since Jesus had done no crime, and since Pilate knew this and also knew Jesus had been delivered for political reasons, he had the placard over Jesus’ cross state the truth that Jesus had claimed; “Jesus the Nazaraean, the King of the Jews”. The full accusation, by comparing all four gospels, reads: “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. Only in John is the part recorded “of Nazareth” or “the Nazaraean”. This was an insult to Jesus and to the Jews. The title “Jesus of Nazareth” was insulting because it spoke of His humble beginnings in the outcast region of Galilee. 6 It is quite possible that this was a backhanded way for Pilate to mock the Jews, identifying their king as a crucified man from Nazareth, and showing the public how Rome could dispense with any form of “Jewish royalty”. How wonderful that in speaking from heaven to Saul of Tarsus, the most zealous of all Jews, Jesus would speak of Himself as “Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 22:8), no longer on the cross, but glorified in heaven! In the wisdom and sovereignty of God, no crime was listed, and the title actually proclaimed the truth! Here we find that the Jewish leaders complained about this title, but Pilate refused to change it; “What I have written, I have written”. God was in control! This title it was written in Hebrew (likely Syriac or Aramaic7), Greek, and Latin. What was called Hebrew was likely Syriac or Aramaic, and was the language of the Jewish country people, who would have been arriving for the feast. Greek was the language of the common Roman citizen. Latin was the language of the Roman government. The truth that Jesus was the King of the Jews was declared for all the world to read! On another line, you could say the religious aspect (Hebrew), the cultural aspect (Greek), and the political aspect (Latin) of the world had rejected Him.
23 The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took his clothes, and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and the body-coat; but the body-coat was seamless, woven through the whole from the top. 24 They said therefore to one another, Let us not rend it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled which says, “They parted my garments among themselves, and on my vesture they cast lots.” [Psalm 22:18] The soldiers therefore did these things. vv.23-24 Jesus’ garments and coat. Jesus was not only denied basic humanitarian needs, but He was treated like an animal. The soldiers took Jesus’ clothes, and tore them in four parts, one for each soldier. But the “vesture” or coat was seamless, one woven piece from the top to the bottom. Because to rend such a coat would ruin it, they chose to gamble or “cast lots” for it. It was truly inhuman treatment, but it amazingly fulfilled Psalm 22:18, written by David 1000 years before, which describes this very thing, attributed to the “dogs” that encompassed our Lord, “an assembly of evil-doers”. This was all done before His very eyes. One great thing that differentiates humans from animals is that we wear clothing. What deep suffering our Lord must have endured as those last memoirs of human identity were stripped from Him. But even this was done by the soldiers, and permitted by the Lord, “that the scripture might be fulfilled”. Surely, even at this moment He was perfectly in control! A helpful application has been made of the coat, that it pictures the indissoluble Person of Christ. The divine and human natures joined together in one, indissoluble union, which “no man knoweth… but the Father” (Matt. 11:27). Try as man might, he cannot divide or scrutinize the Person of the Son!
25 And by the cross of Jesus stood his mother, and the sister of his mother, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 26 Jesus therefore, seeing his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, says to his mother, Woman, behold thy son. 27 Then he says unto the disciple, Behold thy mother. And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. vv.25-27 The women standing by, instruction to John. It is quite interesting that while all the disciples forsook the Lord (although John apparently returned), the women-followers of the Lord, who were by nature “the weaker vessel” (2 Pet. 3:7) are found standing “by the cross”. These three Marys were women that had ministered to the Lord in His life, and each had a special relationship with Him, each attached to Him in a genuine, if natural way. Each had stood by the cross through our Lord’s humiliation, and through the hours of darkness. No doubt each woman was stricken with grief. Mary of Magdala was a poor woman “out of whom he had cast seven demons” (Mark 16:9), and who afterward followed Jesus around and “ministered unto Him” (Luke 8:2-3). Mary “the wife of Cleopas” and is called in Matthew “the mother of James and Joses”. Mary the mother of the Lord was also at the cross, beholding these things.  Perhaps at this time the prophecy of Simeon was fulfilled; “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35). Our Lord had been absorbed with the work of making atonement, but that aspect of His sufferings was now past. Christ had a human responsibility to His mother, as it would appear Joseph had died some years earlier. It is amazing that Christ on the cross would see to the care of His own mother, before He died! This is the human nature seen in its perfection in the Lord even here on the cross. John, who styled himself “the one whom Jesus loved”, was standing by also, and Jesus committed the care of His mother to the young disciple. An appreciation of the Lord’s love fitted John for this precious responsibility. Whether or not there was a blood-relationship there, the Lord knew John would be the best one to commit His mother to. The Lord instructed John to basically adopt Mary as his own mother, and Mary to depend on John as her own son. He did not commit Mary to the care of His brothers, perhaps because they did not at that time believe on Him (John 7:5). See 1 Tim. 5:16, the expression; “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them…”. What a charge for John to be given! John immediately obeyed, fully embracing the charge; “from that hour the disciple took her to his own home”. But again, this was a testament to the perfect, Divine control that Jesus had over all circumstances.
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now finished, that the scripture might be fulfilled [Psalm 69:21], says, I thirst. 29 There was a vessel therefore there full of vinegar, and having filled a sponge with vinegar, and putting hyssop round it, they put it up to his mouth. 30 When therefore Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; and having bowed his head, he delivered up his spirit. vv.28-30 Vinegar and Victory. Jesus knew that all things were now finished. This would indicate that the three hours of darkness unfolded between v.27 and v.28, and His death was imminent. Just before the Lord Jesus laid down His life, He said “I thirst”. This is not the same occasion as earlier when the soldiers taunted Him with “vinegar and gall” (Matt. 27:34), but it was just as humiliating.

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 then refused it. He did not taste it because He didn't know what it was, but to show the people that He knew what it was, and that He would not drink of it (Matt. 27:34). Jesus would accept no alleviation of pain, but He surely felt the bitterness of human ingratitude. 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 tasted then 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.
Receiving the vinegar was the last thing to be fulfilled, and therefore Jesus cried “It is finished”. By comparing with Luke 23:46 and Matt. 27:50 we can see that Jesus said this with “a loud voice”, showing that He did not die of exhaustion. In fact, the three English words are really just one Greek word; “tetelestai!”10 It is what we call “the victor’s cry”. The Lord had finished everything proper to Him as man and Savior, including the work of redemption, glorifying God, fulfilling prophecy, and discharging the responsibilities of human relationships, the sum total of His life offered up as a burnt offering. John doesn’t record Him saying “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”, because the emphasis here is His Divine glory, not His trust in His Father.11 The Son gives the divine assessment, as One qualified or competent to give it, of His completed work. After all was completed, then He purposefully “bowed his head” (Matt. 8:20) and “delivered up his spirit”. The Son laid His life down as a sovereign act of His own Divine will. It is the majestic Son, accomplishing the work, fulfilling scripture, and proceeding as determined back to the Father, where He was before. No one but the Lord could do this; “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death” (Ecc. 8:8). In death, the Lord’s human spirit was separated from His body. But this state of death was not to be prolonged!
31 The Jews therefore, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for it was the preparation, (for the day of that sabbath was a great day,) demanded of Pilate that their legs might be broken and they taken away. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first and of the other that had been crucified with him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead they did not break his legs, 34 but one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. vv.31-34 Dead already; blood and water. There has been much discussion about the meaning of “the preparation”, and some would attempt to place the Lord’s death on a Wednesday or Thursday. I suggest a commentary of W. Kelly as a helpful resource on this issue. The “preparation” was the day of the 14th of Nissan, when the passover was to be killed and eaten. It began Thursday evening at 6:00 PM and ended Friday evening at 6:00 PM. The Lord kept the Passover with His disciples at the beginning of “the preparation”, and He was offered as the true Passover towards the end of that same Jewish day. Read more… The “day of that sabbath” would refer to the Pascal Sabbath, which immediately followed the preparation day. On this day the seven-day feast of unleavened bread would begin. It was “a great day” because it was a regular sabbath and a feast-sabbath. The Jews wanted to hurry along the process, not wanting the body of Jesus to interfere in their religious celebration (Deut. 21:23), and “demanded of Pilate that their legs might be broken and they taken away”. By breaking the legs of the condemned man, it would render the act of pushing upwards to breathe impossible, and death would quickly follow. The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, but Jesus was dead already. Why? He had laid down His own life! One soldier “pierced his side” – the place of affection –“with a spear”, perhaps to ensure that Christ was dead, and “immediately there came out blood and water”. As everyone knows, and especially these soldiers, a dead body does not bleed! It might slowly leak, but not “immediately” pour forth. This was a supernatural event.
Blood and Water. “This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood” (1 John 5:6). Both the blood and the water are important.

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!

Why is the Blood Mentioned in John? It is significant that the only gospel writer to record the blood-shedding is John. The other Gospels do mention the blood, but only in connection with the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20). There are several reasons why the blood is only mentioned in John:13
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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). 
  4. 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!
Blood from a Dead Christ. It is significant that the blood was shed after Christ’s death. The work of atonement is threefold: (1) the sufferings, which are not mentioned in John, (2) the death of Christ, and (3) the shed blood. The blood is like a token of a life offered up; “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). All the value of the offering is contained in the blood. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). Scripture is silent on the blood from the Lord’s other wounds, which was more connected with His martyrdom sufferings. The atoning blood was shed from the side of a dead Christ, and that is the only blood scripture mentions.
35 And he who saw it bears witness, and his witness is true, and he knows that he says true that ye also may believe. v.35 John’s True Witness. John was the only disciple we know of that witnessed the death of Christ, and he bore witness to what he saw, and firmly attested its truth. Notice that John saw the blood and water with his own eyes, and he never forgot it. Years later he would write of it in his first epistle (1 John 5:6). But John gave a reliable witness “that ye also may believe”. See also John 21:24.
36 For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of him shall be broken.” [Exodus 12:46; perhaps Psalms 34:20]14 37 And again another scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they pierced.” [Zech. 12:10] vv.36-37 Scripture Fulfilled. 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 broken 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!
Scripture only records believers seeing the Lord Jesus after this time. No unbeliever saw Him after His body was taken down from the cross. Man’s time with Him was done. It was God’s time. But the world will see Christ again as in Zech. 12:10; Rev. 1:7.

The Burial Scene (19:38-42)

38 And after these things Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly through fear of the Jews, demanded of Pilate that he might take the body of Jesus: and Pilate allowed it. He came therefore and took away the body of Jesus. vv.38 Joseph takes the body. The work of atonement being complete, God saw to it that the body of Jesus would be cared for (as with the leg bones, v.36). Were it not for this action, the body of Jesus might otherwise have been discarded in a mass grave. The two disciples that were used in this work were unlikely characters. Joseph of Arimathaea was “a disciple of Jesus”, but up until this time had had been a disciple “secretly through fear of the Jews”. He was a rich man (Matt. 27:57), and a respected councilor of the Jews (Mark 15:43). Perhaps his wealth and status made it difficult for him to publicly confess Christ. It would seem that the scene of the cross so touched this man’s heart that he was compelled to come forward and identify himself as a disciple. In Mark we read that he “went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus” (Mark 15:43). Pilate allowed Joseph to take the body away. Joseph and Nicodemus had much to lose, including their standing in the Sanhedrin (Joseph was a member as well; Mark 15:43), but this did not deter these ones from coming forward. Surely this is an example of the Lord’s words; “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).
39 And Nicodemus also, who at first came to Jesus by night, came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. v.39 Nicodemus. Nicodemus also was noted in ch.3 as coming to Jesus by night, probably out of fear. No doubt the Lord’s words in John 3 continued to work in Nicodemus’s soul, and we read of him again in John 7:50, taking a cautious but decided step toward the light. We cannot help but think of him standing at the foot of the cross, recalling the Lord’s words; “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, thus must the Son of man be lifted up that every one who believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal” (John 3:14-15). Nicodemus came, along with Joseph, and contributed burial spices; “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight”. But how much better for them to have followed the Lord in His lifetime than to wait until after He had died. 
40 They took therefore the body of Jesus and bound it up in linen with the spices, as it is the custom with the Jews to prepare for burial. v.40 Preparation for burial. God saw fit that the body of His Son would be cared for by gentle and loving hands. He allowed the Lord Jesus to be buried according to the custom of the Jews. Practices in funerals, weddings, etc. vary from culture to culture, and the Word of God gives Christians liberty to practice in accordance with their customs, so long as it doesn’t go against scripture. However, there are customs that are against scripture. Cremation might be an example of a burial practice which, while it may be necessary at times, is not an intelligent practice.
41 But there was in the place where he had been crucified a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 There therefore, on account of the preparation of the Jews, because the tomb was near, they laid Jesus. vv.41-42 The garden tomb. The garden near the cross reminds us of the garden of Eden with the tree of life in the midst. The old creation began with a garden, and the new creation begins with a garden! The actions of Joseph unwittingly fulfilled Isa. 53:9, which says “And men appointed his grave with the wicked, but he was with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence, neither was there guile in his mouth.” Once the atoning work was complete (the sufferings, death, and blood-shedding) God stepped in providentially to overrule any further intentions of men against His Servant and His Son. Men had “appointed” a grave for the dead Christ with the other malefactors; perhaps a mass grave for executed convicts. But instead, God moved Joseph of Arimathea to offer his “new tomb” for the body of the dead Christ. It was cruel hands that nailed Jesus to the cross, but it was loving hands that took His body down. The reason is given in Isaiah: God refused to have His Son buried with criminals, because He was not one; “he had done no violence, neither was there guile in his mouth”. Instead, Jesus was “with the rich” in His death! The tomb was new (hadn’t been used before), and the linen winding-cloth was clean. We get a little picture of this in the law of the burnt offering, which parallels our Lord in John’s gospel. After the fire had consumed the sacrifice, the priest was to “put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place” (Lev. 6:11). The sacrifice of Christ was now completed. In this case, the sacrifice consumed the fire! The dead body of Christ was what was left, sort of like the ashes that remained after the burnt offering. God wanted the priests to care for those ashes, because they were the memory of the sacrifice. In like manner, God saw fit that the body of Jesus would be laid to rest in a “clean place”… how touching! The last sentence shows that the burial of Jesus took place very shortly before the end of the preparation day, the following day being a Sabbath.
  1. Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. W. H. J., The Languages of the Bible. Bible Treasury, 2nd Edition, Volume 1, August 1856.
  8. This vinegar was lifted up on a sponge, which some historians believe was a Roman form of toilet paper. Amazing submission!
  9. 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.
  10. “It is finished,” τετέλεσται: one word! yet what word ever contained so much? – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. The editor is indebted to Nick Simon and Bruce Conrad for their helpful comments on this subject.
  14. 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.