We now come to the fourth and final scene in John’s passion narrative of Jesus. And this is probably this most important scene in the entire narrative, because we now come to the death and burial of Jesus. And this is the most important scene because without the death and burial of Jesus could be no resurrection. And without the resurrection we have no hope. And without Jesus’ brutal and agonizing death there would be salvation available for sins. We are going to spilt this last and most important scene into three parts: the crucifixion of Jesus, the death of Jesus and the burial of Jesus. And today we are going to cover the crucifixion of Jesus.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others —one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”—19:16b-22
Jesus began the journey to Golgotha carrying his own crossbeam. The vertical beam remained at the crucifixion site, but Jesus was made to carry the horizontal part of the cross. John does not mention it, but at some point along the way, Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the crossbeam the remainder of the distance. John refers to the location of Jesus’ crucifixion by both its Greek (“place of the Skull”) and Aramaic (“Golgotha”) names. Golgotha was located outside the city walls. The actual crucifixion is narrate with few details. The brevity of the description, which is similar in each gospel, may be due to the fact that the brutality of crucifixion was well known.
Two criminals were crucified with Jesus. It was common practice to include a placard for each condemned man indicating his crime. Pilate had a notice placed on Jesus’ cross, and the wording infuriated the religious leaders. It was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. Aramaic was the language of the Jewish people, Latin the language of the Roman government and Greek the language spoken by people throughout the empire. What Pilate meant as a taunt to Jesus and the Jews was in reality true, and now Pilate was proclaiming Jesus’ kingship in multiple languages. Even in that dark moment, Jesus was declared to be a king. The Jews demanded that the placard be rewritten, but Pilate stubbornly refused to change it.
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
“They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.”
So this is what the soldiers did.—19:23-24
John states three times in this large section that particular events took place to fulfill the Scriptures. The soldiers responsible for policing the crucifixion site got the few possessions of the crucified person. The soldiers divided up Jesus’ outer garments but cast lots for his more expensive inner garment. Only John adds details regarding the inner garment. The fact that it was seamless made it more valuable than Jesus’ other possessions. If the soldiers had divided it, it would have been ruined. Unwittingly, the soldiers’ actions fulfilled Psalm 22:18, which describes the king’s enemies gambling for his garments. This fulfillment reinforces the reality of God’s control over the events down to the seemingly most insignificant details.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.—19:25-27
As the soldiers gambled for the meager possessions of a dying man, Jesus demonstrated selfless concern for his mother. There can be no more stark contrast in attitude between this world’s kingdoms and Christ’s kingdom. Jesus turned his attention to his mother as death approached. Only John includes this emotional exchange that demonstrates Jesus’ selflessness. And what we see here is that even during the agony of a horribly cruel death, Jesus is concerned about the welfare of his mother. He appoints “the disciple whom he loved” (John) to take care of her. Caring for assisting helpless and needy family members is a responsibility we have until death. The focus here is on the responsibility of children for their dependent parents. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we discuss the death of Jesus.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
2 Kings 9:14-10:31, Acts 17, Psalm 144:1-15 and Proverbs 17:27-28
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