What Does John 19 Teach Us About the Scourging, Crucifixion, and Burial of Jesus Christ?

This study reviews the brutal scourging of Jesus, Pilate’s sentencing of the Lord to death, the horrific crucifixion of the Son of God at Golgotha, and His burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

Exposition of John 19

The Scourging and the Sentencing of the Messiah

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Having released Barabbas to the mob, Pilate has no recourse but to deal harshly with Jesus; specifically, have Him scourged (a brutal whipping with cords embedded with jagged potsherds) [v. 1].

Not only do the soldiers whip Christ, but they also mock Him afterwards, dressing Him up as a king complete with a crown of thorns and a purple robe, and feigning respect for His position with the cry of acknowledgment, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Immediately thereafter, they top off their sadistic fun by slapping Jesus around (vv. 2-3).

Ecce Homo!

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Perhaps seeking a compromise (as Charles Ryrie reasonably suggests), Pilate brings a battered, bloody Jesus out before the Jews.

Claiming that he finds “no fault in Him,” the governor presents Christ to them with the infamously sarcastic Ecce homo! “Behold the Man” (vv. 4-5). The sight of Jesus elicits from the frenzied rabble a hate-filled demand for His crucifixion—a vociferous, bloodthirsty cry that convinces Pilate that he cannot appease the Jews (v. 6a).

[Perhaps the Roman’s very attempt to satisfy them backfired because the Jews saw the whole scene as an insult to them as well as to Jesus.]

The governor tries to evade the distasteful task of executing one whom he considered innocent by attempting the already once-defeated ploy of “passing the buck” to the Jews (v. 6b; cf. 18:31). Their leadership does not permit him, but demands Jesus’ execution. This time, however, they substitute a religious crime—blasphemy (which they would have rightly assigned if Jesus’ claim to deity was, in fact, false)—for the decidedly political one (“King of the Jews”) that they originally used to force Pilate to interrogate the Lord (v. 7).

Pilate: “Where Are You From?”

Fearful of any number of consequences for his upcoming decision—Ryrie delineates them (New Testament Study Bible, 199)—the Roman approaches Christ again (Whom the soldiers had apparently returned to the Praetorium after publicly displaying Him), and asks him, “Where are You from?” (vv. 8-9a).

When Jesus remains silent—He has no need to answer again, for Pilate knows what He told him before—the governor tries to assert his authority over Christ, still unaware of the Lord’s true identity (vv. 9b-10).

Jesus informs His interrogator that God, the ultimate Power, had delegated authority to Pilate; without it, the Roman governor could have absolutely no say in this matter (v. 11a).

Caiaphas, who delivered Jesus to Pilate, bears greater guilt and responsibility than does the governor (v. 11b).

Appearing again before his hostile audience, Pilate once more seeks Jesus’ release; the Jews, however, dismiss this strategy and revert to the political angle to apply further pressure upon the embattled governor (v. 12). Wanting to avoid additional trouble from his lord, the emperor Tiberius, Pilate sits in judgment of Christ at Gabbatha, the Pavement (v. 13).

[According to Ryrie, Gabbatha was “part of the Castle of Antonia at the NW. corner of the temple area beneath Ecce Homo arch” (200).]

On Friday at midday (the sixth hour), the Roman derides the Jewish leaders by presenting Jesus to them as their king, and he still appears to try for a last-minute stay of execution (vv. 14-15a).

[His diction makes him sound as if he is mocking the Jews. If so, it’s a strange method to persuade them to let Jesus go.]

Although they did not know that they were blaspheming God, the chief priests communicate this fact by asserting Caesar as their only king (v. 15b).

The Crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah

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Pilate delivers Jesus up to his soldiers who lead Him cross-laden to the Place of the Skull, i.e., Golgotha (vv. 16-17). At Calvary—Luke’s name for the site (23:33)—, they crucify Jesus between two others. Above His head, they affix a sign upon which Pilate ordered his people to write the Lord’s name, His place of residence, and His title in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (vv. 18-20). When the chief priests object to the governor’s choice of title—that is, “The King of the Jews”—the latter refuses to change it from what he apparently regarded to be the truth to what the Jews wanted it to say (vv. 21-22).

[Whether Pilate continued his mockery of the Jews by indicating to them through the sign that their King is a crucified criminal, or Jesus convinced him of His identity and he wanted to acknowledge it, is a debatable point.]

John next relates how the four Roman executioners unwittingly fulfilled Scripture—namely, Psalm 22:18—by dividing Jesus’ garments into four shares and casting lots for His seamless tunic (vv. 23-24).

[John mentions how the apparent high quality of this piece of clothing resulted in the meticulous fulfillment of Scripture.]

Jesus: “John, Take Care of My Mother”

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Three Maries, all special to Jesus, stand at the foot of His cross (v. 25). As they witness Christ’s last moments, the Lord arranges for His mother’s future under the Apostle John’s protection (vv. 26-27).

[Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic Church has interpreted Jesus’ words “Behold your mother!” to mean the exact opposite of His intention stated in the last half of verse twenty-seven.

A proper cultural reading of the text does not assign any special spiritual authority to Mary.]

After caring for Mary’s needs, Jesus knows that His work is done; He asks for and receives a drink of sour wine (“I thirst”), fulfilling the Scripture that indicated His extreme dehydration accompanying crucifixion (cf. Psalm 22:15) [vv. 28-29].

Jesus: “It is Finished!”

Having tasted the vinegar, Christ utters, “It is finished,” and He gives up His spirit (v. 30).

[The Greek text reads tetelestai for these last words.

Jailers stamp this word on a prisoner’s certificate of debt when he completes his sentence, signifying the full payment of the penalty (cf. Col. 2:14). Jesus’ death paid believers’ sin debt against God.

In addition, one should note that Christ gave up His spirit; no man took His life from Him (cf. 10:18.]

Blood and Water

Jesus dies around 3:00 PM– sundown on the day before the Sabbath (the Preparation Day).  Thus, the Sabbath—rapidly approaches.

Not only to put this dirty, unfinished business behind them before the Sabbath begins—the Sabbath that year was a “high day”: the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread—but also to avoid violating the law  that stated that executed criminals should not remain hanging overnight, but should be buried on that same day (see Deut. 21:23), the Jews ask the governor to hasten the deaths of the condemned by breaking their legs (v. 31).

The soldiers, having carried out this order on the other two crucified men, subsequently discover that Jesus had already died (vv. 32-33a); therefore, since breaking his legs is now unnecessary, they leave them alone, thus fulfilling Scripture (vv. 33b, 36; cf. Ps. 34:20; Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12).

[The passages from the Law speak about preserving intact the legs of the Passover lamb; the Psalm refers to God’s protection of the righteous.]

However, just to assure himself that Jesus is dead, one of the soldiers thrusts a spear into the Lord’s side (v. 34).

When John, an eyewitness, sees blood and water exiting the wound, he marvels at this phenomenon, for it signifies that Jesus’ heart had ruptured (v. 35).

Besides citing the fulfillment of the “no broken bones” prophecy, the apostle also records another Scripture that the soldier’s deed brought to mind (v. 37; cf. Zech. 12:10).

[Another group of spectators—those witnessing Christ’s return to Earth—will fulfill the Zechariah passage.]

Nicodemus and Joseph Bury Jesus

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Two disciples of Jesus—one currently secret (Joseph of Arimathea) and one formerly secret (Nicodemus)—now care for the Lord’s body (vv. 38-39; cf. John 3). Joseph secures permission from Pilate to take it away (v. 38), and Nicodemus brings a considerable supply of embalming spices to the tomb (v. 39). There they perform the customary Jewish burial, binding Jesus’ body with linen strips and the spices, and lay the Lord in a new, unused sepulcher located in a garden near Golgotha (vv. 40-42a; cf. Is. 53:9).

All this work they complete before sunset on the Day of Preparation (v. 42b).

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