THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN CHAPTER 19, VERSES 1 TO 12:
19:1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him.
19:2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on him a purple robe,
19:3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands.
19:4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him.
19:5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
19:6 When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find no fault in Him.
19:7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.
19:8 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
19:9 And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
19:10 Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?
19:11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin.
19:12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar
19:1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus- note the “therefore”, giving the explanation for the action. Pilate has just pronounced his verdict, “I find in Him no fault at all”. In other words, the Roman law had nothing against Him. Pilate was “determined to let Him go”, Acts 3:13, so this is his last attempt to achieve this. He is fearful of Caesar finding out he has executed an innocent man, with possible violent repercussions on the part of the Jewish population.
And scourged Him- he tries to appeal to the pity of the priests by this last act. Roman scourging was a brutal and cruel punishment. It was called “The first death”, because the victims often died under it. Paul was scourged five times, but he is careful to tell us it was “of the Jews”, 2 Corinthians 11:24, so it was not Roman scourging, but the Jewish form, which, although severe, was more humane. “Forty stripes save one” was their rule, to ensure that forty was not exceeded through a counting error. The Jews handed Christ over to “wicked (lawless) hands”, Acts 2:23, the hands of Gentiles, those who were not restrained by the law of Moses.
There is a possibility that Pilate did the scourging himself, but he probably delegated it to the soldiers who were specially trained to administer the punishment. The victim would be tied to a post and lashed with leather whips to which were tied jagged pieces of metal or bone. (Excavations in Jerusalem have discovered a room in what is probably the Roman Praetorium. The roof is held up by pillars, but in the centre of the room is a single pillar, which does not support anything…). The psalmist had anticipated this treatment when he wrote, “The ploughers ploughed upon My back: they made long their furrows”, Psalm 129:3. And Isaiah prophesied of God’s Servant, “His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men”, Isaiah 52:14. The measure of the astonishment at His suffering will be the measure of the astonishment when He comes in glory- “As many were astonied…so shall He sprinkle many nations”.
19:2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe,
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns- He has claimed to be king, we shall give Him a crown! In a coming day it will be said of God, “Thou settest a crown of pure gold upon His head”, Psalm 21:3. The soldiers give Him a crown composed of the fruits of the curse which the First Adam brought in. But Christ will “restore that which He took not away”, Psalm 69:4, including the blessing for creation after the curse is removed.
The thorns were probably from a tree which has vicious two-inch long thorns. By plaiting them they ensured that they pierced from all directions. The nerves of the head are specially sensitive.
And put it on His head- there is no reason to think they did this gently. The word “put” is used in the phrase translated “wounded him” in Luke 10:30. It has the idea of inflicting a wound, so the crown was put upon His head with the intention of wounding Him. God said to Adam, “thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee”, Genesis 3:18, and now sinful men are bringing forth thorns for the last Adam.
And they put on Him a purple robe- John only mentions the crown and the robe, and omits the reed, (the mock sceptre), the bowing of the knee, (the mock homage), and the spitting, (the mock anointing).
Purple was the imperial colour, worn by the Caesars. They are mocking His claim to be king of a petty province of Rome.
19:3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands.
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! The word “Jew” is a title of disgrace, only being used after Israel had gone into captivity. The name King of Israel is a Divine title, Isaiah 43:15, a title of dignity therefore. Nathaniel rightly worshipped Him as King of Israel, John 1:49. It is true, however, that the Lord did answer to the name King of the Jews, in Matthew 27:11; this was one measure of His self-humiliation.
And they smote Him with their hands- slapping Him to try to provoke Him, perhaps. To an Easterner this was a cruel insult. So they insult at the same time as they “worship”.
19:4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him.
Pilate therefore went forth again- another “therefore”, being a repeat of the first in verse 1, meaning he was trying to get Him released. He has to go forth because the Jews will not enter a Gentile’s house, being afraid of coming into contact with leaven at the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They had no scruples about this later on, in Matthew 27:62.
And saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you- Pilate is trying to excite pity, but he should have been administering justice. The Jews were normally scrupulously fair in their judgements, especially in capital cases, and ensured that the advantage was always with the accused. But this Man is different, for His righteousness condemns their unrighteousness, and they hate Him for it, John 3:20.
That ye may know that I find no fault in Him- this is the second time that Pilate, representative of Caesar, ruler of the world, has declared formally that Jesus of Nazareth was not guilty.
19:5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe- the soldiers would later remove this robe and put His own clothes on Him, Matthew 27:31, for it was for these that the soldiers gambled at the foot of the cross.
The priests should have been the first to come to His aid, but sadly they are the first to condemn Him. Jacob had prophesied that instruments of cruelty would be in the habitations of Levi, and his anger and wrath would be fierce and cruel, Genesis 49:5-7, and now it is coming to pass.
And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! He appeals to them on the level of common humanity and decency, but they have another, religious agenda. Even Judas said, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood”, Matthew 27:4. They even treated that remark with contempt.
19:6 When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find no fault in Him.
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him- they are unmoved by the pitiful sight, so enraged are they. Religious rage is the worst rage of all, especially when it supposes it is defending the interests of the True God.
Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him- is he bluffing, knowing they have not this right, as they themselves said in 18:31? God had seen to it that the death penalty was taken out of their hands just a few years previously, because that would mean stoning, and this might break His legs, contrary to prophecy, John 19:36.
Or is he granting them the right temporarily so that he could escape the guilt of crucifying Him? But it was by wicked hands, (that is, the lawless hands of the Gentiles), He was to be crucified. The Jewish authorities and the Gentiles must be responsible for His death, Acts 4:27. It is the princes of this world that crucified Him, 1 Corinthians 2:8.
For I find no fault in Him- they must do it, if anyone does, because Pilate again pronounces Him guiltless according to Roman law. This is the third time he has said this, in 18:38; 19:4, and now here.
19:7 The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God’.
The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and by our law He ought to die- the law of Moses required that those who blaspheme the name of the Lord should die, Leviticus 24:16. Also, those who tried to turn Israel away from the worship of the God of Israel were to die, too, Deuteronomy 13:1-5. This is what Antichrist will do with his image in the temple, yet the majority of Israel will receive him. See John 5:43.
Since the Jews did not believe it when He said, “I am My Father are one”, and therefore to worship Him was to worship God, they thought He was attracting worship to Himself away from the God of Israel.
Because He made Himself the Son of God’- that is, made Himself out to be the Son of God by His claims. It was not that they believed that a man could turn himself into the Son of God.
They had avoided this charge when accusing Him before Pilate, even though that was the charge by which they condemned Him in the Sanhedrin, Matthew 26:63-66. These men are manipulative and devious, stopping at nothing to gain their ends. They accused Him of being a king so that Pilate would think Him to be a rebel against Rome, but now they have been wrong-footed by Pilate, so revert back to a charge about which they have a law. They forgot that their law also said, “Thou shalt not wrest the judgement of thy poor in his cause. Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked”, Exodus 23:6,7.
19:8 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid- he had been made afraid by the report from his wife about her dream, Matthew 27:19. To a superstitious pagan, dreams were full of meaning, especially if it was more like a nightmare, causing his wife to “suffer many things”, as she put it. He had heard from his wife just before he had released Barabbas and condemned Christ. Now something even more worrying is told him. Nothing has been said to Pilate before about Him claiming to be the Son of God. They have called Him a malefactor, John 18:30. Then they tried the charge of forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, Luke 23:2. Again, they said He stirred up the people, from Galilee to Jerusalem, Luke 23:5. Pilate understood them to mean He perverted the people, Luke 23:14, but neither Herod nor Pilate believed this. Now, as a last resort, they bring forward the charge that they were silent about before, because they did not think Pilate would think it worthy of consideration. Their cause is desperate.
19:9 And went again into the judgement hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art Thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
And went again into the judgement hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art Thou? He is not asking where He was born, or who His parents are. Pilate is fearful that the gods have sent one of the ‘sons of the gods’ to judge him. The Lord has already distinguished between being born, and coming into the world, 18:37, but this is lost on Pilate.
But Jesus gave him no answer- it is important to notice that sometimes Christ answered, and sometimes He did not, when asked questions during His trials. The prophet had said that He would be dumb before His shearers, so He only answered when He was not being shorn of His own glory. When it was a question of the honour of His Father, or the defence of His disciples, or to rebuke the injustice of His accusers, He spoke.
19:10 Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?
Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest thou not unto me? He is amazed that this Galilean peasant should dare to remain silent when questioned by the representative of Rome. But He does not speak because Pilate has already condemned and scourged Him, contrary to justice, (for he pronounced Him innocent and then condemned Him to death), and to co-operate in that would be untrue to Himself as the Just One.
Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee? God has put a sword in the hand of the rulers he ordains to be in government. That sword is for the punishment of evildoers, and those who resist that power. We read of this in Romans 13:1-7. So Pilate was right to a certain extent, for he represented a God-ordained ruler, namely Caesar.
19:11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin.
Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above- Pilate was clearly ignorant of the true source of his power. He thought it came from Rome, but he learns now that it comes from heaven. However, Pilate’s power only extended to the punishment of evildoers, and Christ was not one of these. So the only way Pilate can have real power against Christ is by special licence from God, in order that His purpose might be worked out in the death of His Son.
Therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin- Pilate’s sin was great, in that he had condemned a man he himself declared to be innocent. But Caiaphas’ sin was greater, since he should have had an enhanced sense of justice, as instructed by the law of God.
19:12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him- he had been doing this repeatedly, but now there is fresh urgency.
But the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar- they have now completely abandoned the pursuit of justice, and are simply playing on Pilate’s fears. For his part, Pilate is more fearful of Caesar than he is of God. “The fear of man bringeth a snare”, Proverbs 29:25.
19:13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying- the thought that Jesus was the Son of God had preyed on his superstitious fears, but now the priests have preyed on his political fear of the wrath of Caesar, 12. The Caesar at that time, Tiberias, reacted harshly against failure in his governors. If Pilate lets a rival to Caesar’s throne go free, (especially when Jerusalem is crowded with perhaps a million excitable Jews), his life would be in jeopardy. Will Pilate fear God rather than men? The answer is clear.
He brought Jesus forth- formerly he had gone out to the Jews, but now brings the prisoner out, so that they can see Him, and Pilate can sit on his judgement seat in full view of the crowd. He is still trying to play on the self-esteem of the Jews, to enable him to release Jesus. Peter says that Pilate “was determined to let Him go”, Acts 3:13.
And sat down in the judgement seat in a place that is called the Pavement- Roman judgement seats were often portable, and now Pilate sets his down on a paved area, to formally pronounce sentence. We should remember that he has already had Jesus scourged, which should only have taken place if He had been found guilty. Justice is not being done. The Jews have broken their laws, and Pilate has broken the law of Rome.
Isaiah tells us that in a day to come, “kings shall see, and arise”, 49:7. The kings of the earth will stand in that day, and Christ will be seated on “the throne of His glory”, Matthew 25:31.
But in the Hebrew, Gabbatha- why does John tell us the Hebrew name? This is striking, because Gabbatha does not mean Pavement, but refers to the elevated spot with the pavement in front of it. John will tell us about Golgotha in verse 17. Is he linking the two? Gabbatha means “an elevated spot”. Is he contrasting this with Calvary’s hill? One has on it the representative of worldly justice, the unjust Pilate, and the other the Just One Himself. The one is passing earthly sentence on a sinless man; the other is bearing the sentence for sinful man.
19:14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, “Behold your King!:
And it was the preparation of the Passover- the word Passover was used for the 14th day of the first month, but it was also used for the whole of the eight days of the Feast of Passover and of Unleavened Bread. “Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover”, Luke 22:1.
This is not preparation for the Passover, for the Passover lamb had been slain the previous day, and the Passover meal eaten in that night. The disciples had asked, “where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?” Matthew 27:17. By this they meant the Passover meal at night, after the lamb had been slain in between 3pm and sunset, (which is what is meant by “between the two evenings”, Exodus 12:6, margin; the word evening is dual in number there).
Edersheim says, “the evening of the 14th to the 15th is never called in Jewish writings “the preparation for”, but “the eve of” the Passover”. Mark defines “the Preparation” for us, “And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath”, 15:42.
And about the sixth hour- this has caused difficulty, because Mark 15:25 says, “and it was the third hour, and they crucified Him”. He has already described the crucifixion in the previous verse, and now he deliberately puts a time to it. So it is very clear that Christ was crucified at the third hour, which to a Jew meant 9 o’clock in the morning, since their daytime began at 6am. Various suggestions have been made to solve this problem, such as John using Roman time which some believe made the day begin at midnight.
Consider the following: Roman governors and other judges had a small tablet with a hinged lid. On the inside was a layer of wax on which they would record the main details of the case they were trying. There would be the record of the promise to appear; attestation that the defendant had appeared; the planned day of the hearing; important individuals who were taking part in the trial; the successive stages of the trial; the judgement pronounced. So John may be recording here what Pilate himself wrote in his tablet, which explains why he put the time of the trial at “about the 6th hour”, or about 6 am. The time mentioned may therefore be when the trial started, according to Pilate, a Roman, therefore it is in Roman time.
And he saith unto the Jews, “Behold your King!’ This is Pilate’s last attempt to avoid crucifying the Lord. He is appealing to their pity again, although that has failed once already, verses 4,5. There, the word was, “Behold the man!” This appealed to their pity as men. Now it is “Behold your King!” He is appealing to their self-esteem as a nation. He is pouring scorn on their suggestion that such a pitiable sight could conceivably be mistaken for the King of the Jews.
If he can get them to drop the charge of being a king, (which affects Pilate’s position, for he must defend Caesar from rivals, however petty they may seem to be), then he can also drop the charge of being the Son of God, as having no relevance to Roman law, and which does not threaten the Roman peace.
19:15 But they cried out, Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
But they cried out, Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him- their response is the same as before, except that they say “Away with Him” twice over, and not just “crucify Him”. They want to be completely rid of Him, not just put on a cross. They want to rid their thoughts of Him, for He touches their conscience.
Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar- this is the public rejection of Christ as King by the leaders of the nation. But they go further, because ideally the nation was a theocracy, and God was their king. By saying they have no king but Caesar they reject the Kingship of God that Christ came to manifest.
When Israel wanted a king in Samuel’s day, he felt rejected. But God said that it was He who had been rejected, for He was Israel’s true King, see 1 Samuel 8:5-7.
The Rabbis said at the fall of Jerusalem, “The sceptre has departed from Judah, and Messiah has not come”. Hosea said, “The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king…afterward shall the children of Israel return”, Hosea 4:4.
19:16 Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.
Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified- there seems to be a deliberate vagueness here as to whom He was delivered. It reads as if He was delivered to the Jews, in John, but in Matthew, Mark and Luke it is to the Roman soldiers, (although that was before He was scourged and mocked). John is emphasising the guilt of the rulers of the nation, just as Peter, Stephen and Paul did in their addresses in the Acts of the Apostles.
Christ rode into Jerusalem and presented Himself as king, John 12:15, “Behold thy king cometh”, and now He is taken as king out of the city, His claim rejected.
And they took Jesus, and led him away- if the previous statement sounded as if He was handed over to the Jews, now it is made clear that the Romans were involved too, as Peter said, “Ye (Jews), by wicked hands (the lawless hands of Gentiles), have crucified and slain”.
19:17 And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
And He bearing His cross went forth- this is the incident that is used in Hebrews 13:12,13 to exhort us to follow Him outside the camp. We are to go forth unto Him, showing that He is outside still. This action makes Jerusalem the “city next to the slain man”, Deuteronomy 21:1-9. Under the law, it was the city next to a slain man that was held responsible. Under grace the word was, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”, Luke 24:47.
Into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha- Jewish tradition said Goliath’s head was buried there. When Christ bowed His head on the cross, the word is the same as “turned to flight the armies of the aliens”, Hebrews 11:34, as happened when David slew Goliath. Golgotha was the place where the greatest giant of all, Satan himself, was defeated, and his forces routed, Hebrews 2:14.
19:18 Where they crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
Where they crucified Him- the gospel writers spare us the gruesome details.
The books of Moses give foreshadowings of Calvary; the psalms the feelings; the prophetic books the foretellings; the gospels the facts; the epistles the forthtelling of the meaning.
He is crucified, a Gentile mode of execution. All His bones were out of joint, but they were not broken, as the Scripture foretold. By causing His bones to be out of joint men thought they had put a stop to Christ’s working. In fact, He did His greatest work with all His bones out of joint.
Crucifixion was a disgrace, a disposal, a deterrent. A Roman orator said that it was the “most degraded death that could be meted out to any man”.
The doctrine of the cross is that the crucifixion of Christ has ended, (a) our relationship with Adam, for “our old man was crucified with Him”, Romans 6:6. The expression “our old man” meaning our pre-conversion selves as linked to Adam.
And (b) our relationship with the world, and its relationship with us, Galatians 6:14.
And two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst- is this the order in which they were crucified, or were there soldiers allotted to each victim, so that they were crucified at the same time? When the soldiers came to brake the legs at the end, they came to Jesus last, but they did not break His legs.
He is crucified as King, and in mockery men put on one side a robber, as His Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the other side is a murderer, as His Home Secretary.
19:19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross- the procedure was for the accusation against the victim to be written on a piece of wood, and nailed to the cross. It seems Pilate personally wrote this title, a further jibe at the Jews for having such a person for their king. The title recorded the crime for which the man was crucified. Christ’s only “crime” was to claim to be King. Matthew’s gospel is written to assure us His claim is genuine. There are more references to Christ as King in John’s gospel, the gospel of His Deity, than there are in Matthew, the gospel of His sovereignty, for ‘King of Israel’ is a Divine title, Isaiah 43:15.
In Matthew’s gospel there is no record of Christ being at Jerusalem, “the city of the great King”, Matthew 5:35, until He went there to die. In John, however, the gospel is built around His visits to Jerusalem, for that was, ideally considered, “the place of “The Name”, i.e. where God dwelt.
And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS- none of the gospel writers gives us all of the title, but selects what is relevant to his purpose.
Matthew- “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”. The name and the claim.
Mark- “The King of the Jews”. Emphasis not so much on His name but on His office as King, in effect, He is God’s Servant to reign.
Luke- “This is the King of the Jews”. Emphasis on the person, “this person is…”
John- “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews”. John is the only one to mention Nazareth. Literally it is “Jesus the Nazarean”. The King was to be born at Bethlehem and reign in Jerusalem, but Pilate highlights disreputable Nazareth. Again, he is scorning the Jews.
19:20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
This title then read many of the Jews- Jerusalem would be full of pilgrims at Passover time. Some say as many as three million. We can see why the authorities did not want to arrest Christ on a feast day, Mark 14:2, and why they wanted the bodies removed quickly, John 19:31. They feared that Jews from other countries might be curious about this Jesus of Nazareth, and begin to question why He had been crucified if He had done such good.
For the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city- the maiden in the Song of Solomon found her beloved a little way past the watchmen that patrolled the walls, Song of Solomon 3:3,4.
He still has the outside place, but He is not so far removed that men cannot seek and find Him. He separates Himself from the “camp” of Israel, but as in Moses’ day, the “tabernacle” is outside the camp, and those who seek the Lord will go unto Him there, see Exodus 33:7,8. He tabernacled amongst Israel, John 1:14, and now is tabernacled outside the camp, yet even though they have rejected Him He is not far away.
And it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin- the language of the Jews, the men of religion; of the Greeks, the men of philosophy and learning; of the Romans, the men of politics. This is all there is to the world as far as power and influence are concerned. They are the languages of the princes of this world, that crucified the Lord of Glory in ignorance, 1 Corinthians 2:8. Hebrew addresses the soul through religion. Greek addresses the mind through philosophy. Latin addresses the will through politics. The Lord addresses the heart.
He is King, with sovereign power, able to bring in a superior way of worshipping God; a superior way of thinking; a superior way of governing.
By the cross He has shown Himself “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”, 1 Corinthians 1:24. He has power superior to David, and wisdom superior to Solomon. And He is able to bring Israel back, like Josiah did.
Only Luke and John tell us about the three languages. Luke, the Greek man of earthly learning, puts Greek first, then Latin, then Hebrew. John the Jewish man of Old Testament learning puts Hebrew first, the language of the Old Testament, then the Greek, the language of the New Testament, then Latin, the language of the occupying Romans.
19:21 Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews.
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate- only in John is there objection from the priests, and only John tells us about the demand that His body be taken away before evening, “because it was the sabbath day”, verse 31. Scripture said nothing about the Sabbath day in the command about removing bodies, Deuteronomy 21:22,23. They were afraid that there would be more opportunity for the crowds to come if it was a rest day. We know “they feared the people”, Mark 12:12.
Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews- they wish it to be a statement by Christ rather than of Pilate. Then it would not look as though His claim was recognised.
He had been prepared to agree that He was King of the Jews, Matthew 27:11, for it was the time of His humiliation, and “Jew” is a title of disgrace, only being used after Israel had gone into captivity. He will reign as King of Israel, and King of kings. Nathaniel was right to address Him as King of Israel. The context of those words reminds us of the Millenial reign, John 1:43-51.
19:22 Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
Pilate was, by all accounts, a very stubborn man, and also held the Jews in contempt. He will not allow them to have the last word. He has had Him crucified because of His claim to Kingship, with its implied threat to the supremacy of Caesar. To simply accuse Him of claiming to be King is not strong enough to enable Pilate to escape censure.
19:23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part- they must have removed these garments in order to put Him on the cross, and now they come back to claim them. It seems from this that there were four soldiers allotted the task of crucifying Christ, besides the centurion in overall charge.
How humiliating and depressing this was! Humiliating, because His basic necessities were being taken away from Him without permission, showing that He was thought of as having forfeited all rights as a human being. Was it not expressed beforehand in the psalm, “But I am a worm, and no man”, Psalm 22:6?
It was depressing, because to be deprived of clothing in such circumstances means that there is no further use for them. As Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither”, Job 1:21.
The normal clothing for a Jewish man consisted of a head-dress, sandals, a girdle, and an outer tunic, and an inner tunic, referred to in the next verse as a coat.
That which these things symbolised were of no account to the soldiers, they thought of them just as items of clothing, blood-soaked at that. But to the believer, how suggestive these garments are.
We could think first, how that His inner coat must have still smelled of the spikenard that Mary had poured upon Him. That ointment lasted many days, so it is said. Mary of Bethany did not need to be at the cross, but her ointment must have comforted the Saviour in His sufferings. She did not need to be at the sepulchre, for she had kept the ointment against the day of His burying, as the Lord had said, John 12:6, but had changed her mind, and anointed Him beforehand. Nor did she need to be at the empty tomb, for she had learnt of Him at His feet, and had heard from Martha His own words, “I am the resurrection and the life”. How could such an one stay in the tomb- He must rise in three days as He said He would.
What of His head-dress? It speaks of His recognition of the headship of His God over Him. Paul writes, “the head of Christ is God”, 1 Corinthians 11:3. When He took manhood, the Son of God accepted the place of subjection to His Father. This does not alter His relationship to the Father as sharing His Deity. But it does mean that having been “made in the likeness of men”, Philippians 2:7, He accepts the place of subjection that man has. Sadly, men rebel against the idea of the headship of God, but the Lord Jesus is the believer’s glorious example, for He gladly submitted to the authority of His Father over Him as a man.
We should remember that every believing man has Christ for his head, and every believing woman has the man for her head, which is why she covers her head when engaged in spiritual exercises. The man does not cover His head during spiritual exercises because now that Christ is back in heaven, he, the man, is responsible for the exercise of authority on earth, and therefore to signify this he does not were a head-covering when engaged in activities God-ward. He is the image and glory of God, says 1 Corinthians 1:7.
Then there were Christ’s sandals. This would tell of His pilgrimage, for He said to the disciples, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father”, John 16:28. Or again, as John wrote of Him, “Jesus…knowing that He was come from God and went to God”, John 13:3. In His ministry in the upper room, the Lord was not only preparing His disciples for the shock of His departure, He was preparing them for their departure also, and teaching them “the way”. They were to wear the sandals of pilgrimage too, and seek to “walk even as He walked”, 1 John 2:6.
Then there was His girdle, the sign of service. How busy He had been! He said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work”, John 9:4. And again, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many”, Mark 10:45.
Now the girdle of service is left to His people, for He said, “If any man serve Me, let Him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour”, so as we follow His steps, we shall find service to engage in, and then be where He is in heaven, John 12:26.
Then there was His outer coat, that which was His appearance to the world. This would speak of His character as He moved amongst men. Men might blame Him and scorn Him, but they could not deny the good He had done and been. These features should mark His people too, for the apostle urges us to “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lust thereof”, Romans 13:14, and again, “as many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ”, Galatians 3:27.
And also His coat- there must have been something special about this garment, for if it had been of little value they would have ripped it into four. This is not to say that the Lord was wearing a rich man’s garment, for that would not suit His character, for He had become poor in so many senses, 2 Corinthians 8:9. Rather, it showed the love and devotion of the one who had given Him the garment. For He is worthy of the best that we can give Him. We will surely not give the Lord of glory that which is second-hand or second-best.
Caiaphas had rent his garments; the vail was rent, the rocks, too, but not this coat. Nothing personal to Christ must be spoilt. His Father will see to that. Possibly the garments of the thieves were torn already through their violent life-style. But this one “had done no violence”, Isaiah 53:9.
These garments must have been stained with His blood, after the scourging. Joseph’s coat was dipped in the blood of a goat to deceive his father Jacob, Genesis 37:31-35. But Christ’s Father in heaven was able to discern perfectly what those blood-stained robes meant. They told of His total surrender to His Father’s will. To have blood-stained garments would be the very last thing Jacob would wish for his favourite son. Yet this is the will of God regarding His Beloved Son, His Only-begotten.
If His outer garment symbolised His character, that which was evident to men, the coat, or inner tunic is that which is close to Himself, and unseen, speaking of that which is personal, of His very nature. We are not told the material this coat was made from, but whatever it was, was a product of the earth, whether linen, cotton or wool. It would not be a mixture of these because that was prohibited by the law, Leviticus 19:19, and the Lord Jesus kept the law perfectly. The mixing of fibres in a garment suggests compromise, and there was none of that with the Lord Jesus.
Now the coat was without seam- how like Christ it is to have coat without seam. For a seam is a place of weakness, where the material is vulnerable to being rent. The Lord spoke of old garments rending when He was giving teaching about the way the old covenant was to be replaced by the new, Matthew 9:16. His garment is not rent at all, for He brings in that which is eternal, and which shall never need replacing. The high priest had rent his garments during the trial of Christ, 26:65, even though this was forbidden, Leviticus 21:10. But it symbolised the end of the Levitical system of priesthood. Christ’s priesthood is for ever, Hebrews 7:21.
Woven from the top throughout- this too is deeply significant in connection with Christ. The garment is made in one piece, with no additions afterwards. There was nothing that needed to be added to Christ, He was complete in His person. Of course He “increased in wisdom and stature”, Luke 2:52, but what was growing was what was there from the beginning. The believer is to grow in Christ-likeness until the goal is reached, even “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”, “the perfect man”, Ephesians 4:13,15.
As the weaver began the work on this garment, the first thing to emerge from the loom was that which was to be the top of the garment. The Lord Jesus presented a stark contrast in His words to the Pharisees. He said, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world”, John 8:23. How searching these words were to the men who stood before Him in their long white Pharisee-robes. But these were but a covering for their unrighteousness. He was so different, coming from heaven as He did, and remaining in touch with heaven.
19:24 They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be- if there were five items of clothing, (head-dress, girdle, sandals, outer garment, inner garment), why did not the centurion claim the best article? Or does “they said therefore among themselves” mean that the soldiers are agreeing amongst themselves without the centurion knowing? A few hours later he will affirm that Jesus is the Son of God, and a righteous man- this is his appreciation of His person (represented by the inner garment), and character, (represented by the outer garment). He chose the better part. In any case, the word from Christ, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, must have been in marked contrast to the reaction of the other two men, and made a deep impression on him.
That the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith- the soldiers are not doing this so that Scripture might be fulfilled, for they have no interest in that. It could be read “to the fulfilling of Scripture”.
‘They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots’- these are words from Psalm 22:18. John does not quote the first verse of that psalm, as Matthew and Mark do, for “Eli Eli, lama sabachthani” are expressive of the Lord’s feelings as the Sin Offering, abandoned of His God. John’s theme is the Burnt Offering, and so he is interested in linking Christ with the Old Testament, and the way in which He was prepared to surrender His will to the Father even to the extent of being deprived of His basic needs.
How graphic is this scene. At the foot of the cross there are those who are gambling with one another. But that is what their lives were like. As Roman soldiers they fought Caesar’s battles. If they were slain, they were slain. If they survived, they survived. They believed their lives were games of chance, their fortunes in “the lap of the gods”. But on the cross above them there was one who was “delivered by the determinate will and counsel of God”. His death was not a chance, but His choice, for He was acting in line with the will of God. It is this truth that gives what He did on the cross such meaning.
These things therefore the soldiers did- John is affirming the fact, reminding us that he was an eye-witness of the event. Perhaps this suggests that the soldiers were not really allowed to do this, so John is saying that, contrary to custom, they did it on this occasion.
19:25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother- this is the occasion foretold by Simeon when he said to Mary, “a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also”, Luke 2:35.
The other reference to Mary in John’s gospel emphasises that links with Christ must be spiritual. “Woman, what have I to do with thee, Mine hour is not yet come”, John 2:4, so spiritual relationships with Christ are established through His death.
The Catholic system calls Mary “Redemptrix”, claiming that she is able to mediate salvation. This is blasphemous. There is one mediator, not two, even “the man Christ Jesus”, and He gave Himself a ransom for all, so there is no need or room for anyone else, 1 Timothy 2:4. Mary is not on the cross but beside it.
And His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene- only those standing by the cross before Christ died, (whether standing near or far off, Matthew 27:56), whose name was Mary are given a name. So He is surrounded by those whose name means “bitter”. After He has died Salome is named, Mark 15:40. She, Mary the mother of James, and Mary Magdalene, bought sweet spices after the bitterness of the cross was over, Mark 16:1.
Was Miriam, (meaning “bitter”) named because of the bitter affliction in Egypt under Pharoah? Yet she sang in triumph on the banks of the Red Sea, Exodus 15:20,21, for the people had been saved from their affliction.
The waters of Mara were made sweet after the tree was cut down and thrown into them, Exodus 15:23-25.
Naomi asked to be called “Mara”, for, she said, “The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me”, Ruth 1:20,21. Yet she was soon to hold an ancestor of David, Solomon, and Christ, in her arms, Ruth 4:16,17.
It is very unlikely that we should understand “His mother’s sister” to be “Mary the wife of Cleophas”, or else there would be two sisters named Mary in the same family at the same time. (Cleophas should not be confused with the Cleopas of the Emmaus road, Luke 24:18).
This means there were four women and one man beside the cross. And there were four soldiers and a centurion also.
We must admire the courage of these women and John to stand by the cross, for there were not only common bystanders there jeering, but chief priest, and scribes also. To associate with Christ was to be in danger. We are all called to suffer with Him, 2 Timothy 2:12. And Paul wrote of the sufferings of Christ that he was able to share, Colossians 1:24.
19:26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son!
When Jesus therefore saw His mother- later on, as described in Psalm 22:9,10. He would think how He had been cast on the Lord from the womb, and lived a life of utter dependence. (It is possible to trace allusions to the cries from the cross in Psalm 22). Now He will commit His mother to the care of another, having discharged His responsibilities as a son. He had honoured His father and mother, yet His days were not long upon the earth, as the promise attached to that commandment said, Exodus 20:12. He forfeited His rights under the law, for He was made a curse, and the blessing was withheld from Him.
We see from this incident that His dealings with His mother in John 2:4 and Matthew 12:46-50 were not a slight upon her, but the maintaining of righteous principles. Relations with Christ must be spiritual, not natural.
And the disciple standing by- this is usually thought to be John. In the upper room He was leaning on the bosom of Jesus; here he is standing by the cross of Jesus; in John 20:4 he is running to the tomb of Jesus; in John 21:22 he is waiting for the coming of Jesus. In Revelation 1:17 he is seen falling at His feet.
Whom He loved- this does not mean that the Lord loved John more than, say, Andrew, for He said to them all that He loved them as His Father loved Him, John 15:9. It means that John is so aware of the love of the Lord for him, that he feels free to describe himself in this way. It was John who later wrote, “We love Him because He first loved us”, 1 John 4:19. We ought to notice that in John 20:1, where we read of “Simon Peter, and…the other disciple, whom Jesus loved”, the expression “whom Jesus loved” applies to Peter as well as to John.
He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! His care for His mother will extend beyond His death. One of the features of the last days is “without natural affection”. He is requiting His parent, as Paul exhorts us all to do.
“Behold thy son” did not mean He was no longer her son, but meant she had gained another son. He was confident that John would be a true son to her, as indeed church history says he was, caring for her until her death.
19:27 Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home- it seems that all the apostles were lodging in or near Jerusalem at this time, see 20:2. Was it at Bethany, which would be another reason why Mary of Bethany is not at the cross. (Just as Lazarus is not mentioned in Luke 10:38-42, because it was the feast of tabernacles, and he would be in the temple perhaps). They may have been in separate houses, though, for it seems Mary Magdalene had to run to find Peter, then to find John, suggesting he was elsewhere, no doubt to avoid all being arrested at one place.
It seems that Mary Magdalene moves away at this point, (for Matthew 27:55,56 describes her as being at a distance), and the other two accompany Mary home to where John was staying. It is unlikely that a fisherman from Galilee would have his own house in Jerusalem, so it says much for whoever he was staying with that it was called “his own home”. The expression “every man went to His own home”, John 7:53, is different to “took her to his own home”. The former uses the word for house, the latter simply means John’s own things, meaning, probably, that John took Mary to a place he called his own at that time. Many pilgrims stayed in Jerusalem for the Passover.
19:28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
After this- there are over three hours between verses 27 and 28. John makes no mention of the mockery of the bystanders, (he is more interested in those who were sympathetic as they stood by), or of the conversation with the repentant thief, or the darkness, or the cry “Eli, Eli, lama, sabacthani, Why hast Thou forsaken Me? We could explain the absence of reference to the last two, because John is concerned to tell us only what he witnessed, and he no doubt was with Mary during the hours of darkness, only returning to Calvary when it ended. John’s sensitive spirit recoiled from the railing of men, including that of both thieves at first. His theme is the burnt offering aspect of the death of Christ, so he does not emphasise the desertion because of sin.
Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished- the word is the same as that translated “finished” in verse 30. It is a characteristic of John’s gospel to highlight the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, just as the head of the animal for the burnt offering was specially mentioned. He is acting with Divine intelligence as to what satisfies God. He had spoken in anticipation in John 17:4, “I have finished the work Thou hast given Me to do”. The work was given Him from the Father, but was foreshadowed in the Old Testament scriptures. Now He is going to speak in anticipation again. In order to announce He has finished the work He needs His throat to be refreshed. Psalm 22 is His own description of His condition, and He says there, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws”, verse 15. This will prevent Him crying out in triumph, which He fully intends to do.
In Psalm 22 Christ is concerned lest four things prevent Him from announcing that His work is finished. They are the sword, the power of the dog, the lion’s mouth, and the horns of the unicorns.
God has put a sword into the hand of those who rule. The apostle Paul spoke of these things when he wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil,” Romans 13:1-4.
So power has been given to rulers to do three things: To execute those who murder; to punish those who resist their authority, (for those who do this resist God); to execute wrath upon the evil-doer.
Now Pilate, representative of the power of Caesar as he was, had made decisions about two men. He had convicted Barabbas of murder, insurrection, and robbery, Mark 15:7; John 18:40, yet had released him. And he had, (against his better judgement, John 18:38), convicted Jesus Christ of insurrection, for this was what the Jews accused Him of before Pilate, with the words, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a King”, Luke 23:2. It was also the implication behind the accusation over the cross, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”.
Now if the death of Christ is the direct result of Pilate using the “sword”, then it will go down in the record books that He was an evil-doer and an insurrectionist. The only way of avoiding this is for Christ to lay down His own life, thus keeping the initiative. It was His soul that was delivered from the sword, for His soul-longing was to obey the command of His Father to lay down His own life. He is not asking to be delivered from the sword of Divine Justice spoken of in Zechariah 13:7.
The power of the dog.
We have been told of the dogs in Psalm 22:16, and here we meet them again. There it was in connection with Him being crucified, as they pierced His hands and His feet, and gambled for His clothes. Now they have power of a different sort. The Jewish authorities would soon ask Pilate that the legs of the victims be broken to hasten their death, because the next day, that began at 6pm, was drawing near. These Gentile dogs have the power to wield the club that will break Christ’s legs, and cause His almost immediate death, for He will no longer be able to push Himself up so as to breathe.
The lion’s mouth.
We have been told of those who were lion-like, in verse 13, the princes of this world. But now the prince of this world is mentioned, the one who the Lord Jesus prophesied would come. We know from Hebrews 2:14,14 that this one had the power of death in Old Testament times. This was because men had a sinful nature, and as such were in the domain of Satan, for the wages of sin is death, and they were in bondage to him because of their fear of death. This is not true of Christ personally, but He is acting as representative of sinful men, and has been made sin. Satan thinks he has power over Him, and asserts that power with his mouth. In other words, accuses Him before God. He is the accuser of the brethren, Revelation 12:10, and uses every opportunity and excuse to do so. That Satan has not the power of death over Christ is true, but the impression will be given that it is so, unless Christ keeps the initiative, and is strengthened to lay down His life of Himself, and not through external pressure.
The horns of the unicorns.
Despite not having received any answer to His pleadings thus far, the Lord Jesus is confident that His God has heard, and will answer at the moment of His choosing. That moment is about to come. The unicorn was a wild ox, and a group of such animals are here pictured as lowering their heads for the final charge at their victim. We read of bulls of Bashan in verse 12, symbolising the ceremonially clean but morally unfit priesthood. Here they are again, but this time they are exposed in their true character as wild, fierce and vicious. They had already shown that to be the case, for we read that the chief priests “were the more fierce”, as they accused Him before Pilate, Luke 23:5. Their fierceness is coming to a climax, for they are concerned lest the bodies hang on the cross after the end of the day, at the twelfth hour. So they “besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away”, John 19:31. Their request was granted, and the soldiers brake the legs of the malefactors, “but when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs”, verse 33.
Unknown to the priests, the request of Christ had been granted, strength had been given Him, and He had not only cried “It is finished”, but had given up His spirit to God, John 19:30.
So it was that He did not die by the sword of Caesar as if He was a malefactor; His death was not hastened by the Roman club; He was delivered from the mouth of the lion, and the horns of the unicorns did not impale Him and cause His death. His trust in God had been vindicated, His work had been completed, and the sin-bearing was over.
That the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst- He will only ask to be relieved somewhat, (a) after His sin-bearing is over, (and it is, for He now reverts back to saying “Father”), and (b) so that He may fulfil the last scripture that is outstanding. It is a vital scripture, and He is intent on fulfilling it. It is not that some scripture foretold that He would say these words, (as, for instance, Psalm 22:1 foretold His cry “Eli, Eli…”), but the scripture to be fulfilled is the whole of what was written in the Old Testament about His sufferings and death. They are about to be completely finished, and He needs to declare this. He had come into the world with the intention of doing God’s will, Hebrews 10:5,7, and now He leaves the world announcing He has done it.
The cry of the Sin-offering concerning His thirst, is answered by the giving Him drink in the Burnt offering gospel.
19:29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar- the Lord had been offered wine or vinegar before. In Matthew 27:34 the soldiers gave Him “vinegar…mingled with gall”. Then they crucified Him, verse 35, so presumably the drink was offered before He was put on the cross. But when He tasted what it was, He would not drink. Gall is poisonous, and He was destined to die by crucifixion, not poisoning. This may be the same vinegar they gave Him at the end, but then it was without the gall, and He accepted it. Then in Mark 15:23 we read, “and they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but He received it not”. If this is a different drink, then it was possibly that which the “daughters of Jerusalem” provided out of compassion for the victims on the cross. The soldiers, realising He would not have His life cut short, offer Him this drink, but He will not have His senses dulled, for it is His soul, (that is His person in its entirety), that is to be made an offering for sin, Isaiah 53:10, and He will go into the suffering fully alert. He has transactions with God to go through with in the hours of darkness, and He wishes to be fully aware of everything. This also ensures than none of His people can suffer more pain than He. He can sympathise fully. Then there was the drink that the soldiers offered Him mocking Him. “And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar, and saying, “If Thou be the king of the Jews, save Thyself'”, Luke 23:36.
So there was the wine of mercy; the wine of sympathy; the wine of mockery, and now the wine of necessity. He receives it because it will serve His purpose.
And they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth- hyssop was a small shrub that grew on walls. This shows the Saviour was not very far from the ground, or else the hyssop branch would not reach. Solomon “spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall”, 1 Kings 4:23. Notice the “even unto”, which we may compare to the “unto…even” of Philippians 2:8. The mighty cedar tree would symbolise Christ in His majesty, (“in the form of God”), whereas the lowly hyssop would remind us of His humiliation, even unto death on a cross. John does not quote any scripture about this incident, for the words of Psalm 69:21 had been fulfilled when the soldiers offered Him vinegar and gall.
19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar- instead of a throat dried like a potsherd, and His tongue cleaving to His jaws, making it difficult to articulate words, His throat and mouth are refreshed, and He is able to cry with a loud voice, (as the other gospels tell us He did, Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37).
What is it that is finished?
Consider the following:
1. The sacrifices are finished. Not because they were faulty, but because they were temporary, and now they are rendered obsolete by the supreme sacrifice. “It” would indicate the whole range of sacrifices. With regard to these it is said, “He taketh away the first that He may establish the second”, Hebrews 10:9. Just as Christ had purged the temple of its sacrifices on former occasions, so now again, and for the last time, He renders the temple system outdated.
For three hours the temple rituals had been hampered, if not stopped, by the thick darkness that had covered the earth. Now the light has returned, and the sacrifices could resume. But as they did so a voice rings out to tell that they were now obsolete.
The gospel writers are careful to document the time at which things happened at Calvary, so we know that the time from His crucifixion to the end of the hours of darkness was six hours, from the third hour to the ninth, Mark 15:25,33,34. It was during this period, from the offering of incense at the third hour, to the offering of it again at the ninth hour, that the worshippers would be bringing their sacrifices, whether they be burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, or sin offerings. Yet at the end of it all, there sounds out a loud cry across the temple courts, and amazingly, it comes from the Man on the central cross. “It is finished”, He declares, or “It is fulfilled”. The will of God expressed in sacrifices and offerings has been brought to its climax, and now, with a word, He “taketh away the first, that He may establish the second”, Hebrews 10:9. And it is by that will that believers have been perfected by His one offering. We see how important it is, then, for Him to have strength, not only to cry this cry with loud voice so as to reach the temple courts, but also to commit His spirit to God, laying down His life in wholehearted surrender to His Father’s will.
2. The Scriptures concerning the suffering of Messiah are fulfilled. As He said to the disciples after His resurrection, “all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me”, Luke 23:44.
3. The work given Him to do is accomplished. He had declared the Father in all the variety of His attributes. Nothing of what God is has not been expressed by Christ.
4. The battle with the forces of darkness is over, and He has triumphed, for He is about to give up His own life, showing the Devil’s power is broken. He foretold that as a result of His lifting up on a cross the prince of this world would be cast out, John 12:31. This will be finally enacted when the Devil is cast into the lake of Fire, Revelation 20:10. In the mysterious ways of God he is still allowed some liberty. One reason for this is that God’s children may show their growth in Divine things by overcoming him by the use of the Word of God, 1 John 2:14.
And He bowed His head- even though His strength had been dried up, yet He is energised enough by the vinegar not only to cry out in triumph, but also to deliberately bow His head before He gave up His spirit. Normally the head would drop after the life was ended, but Christ shows His total control of the situation by this simple act. The word for “bow” is also used in Hebrews 11:34, where it is translated “turned to flight”. It was faith which caused the Philistine army to be put to flight by David, having fought and defeated Goliath. So here, for “Goliath” has been defeated, and his army of evil forces routed utterly.
The Saviour said that the foxes had holes, (where they went to rest in the daytime), and the birds of the air have their nests, (where they go to rest in the night-time), but the Son of Man had not where to lay His head. Now He lays His head to rest whilst hanging on the cross, the only resting-place man gave Him.
And gave up the ghost- by “ghost” is meant the spirit of man. It is written in the Old Testament, “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it”, Ecclesiastes 8:8. So it is not in the power of man to retain his spirit. Even is a man commits suicide, he still does it in God’s permissive will. He has not gained the initiative, even though he might think he has. It is God that gives men breath, Daniel 5:23; Acts 17:25, and only at the moment of His choosing does a man die. The Lord Jesus is real man, and so is bound by this principle. But there is an over-riding principle, namely, that He had come to do His Father’s will, and His Father gave Him commandment to lay down His life of Himself, and not let anyone take it from Him. He would be bound by this principle, and, having authority to lay down His life, does so in obedience to His Father. He was obedient even to the extent of death on a cross, Philippians 2:8, even though that sort of death would usually render any other man unable to control his actions. With Christ it was different, for He was in total control.
Luke gives the actual words He spoke, for as a doctor, Luke was very interested in death, and carefully records the manner of this death, Luke 23:46. He is also very interested in the manhood of Christ, and part of what He took when He became man was the ability to die. He records that the Saviour said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit”. He not only commits His spirit in line with Psalm 31, but also commends it, confident that there is nothing that the Father does not find commendable about His spirit. He is confident also, in line with Psalm 16:9,10, that His soul and body will be preserved and watched over by His Father. His soul would not be abandoned permanently in hell, neither would God suffer His Holy One to see corruption as to the body.
It was the practice of godly Israelites to quote the words of Psalm 31:5 when they retired to bed after the day’s work was done, saying, “Into thy hand I commit my spirit”. Satisfied they had done God’s will during the day, they commit their spirit to God for safe keeping until the morning light. So it was with Christ in a far higher sense. He had worked the works of Him that sent Him while it was day, and now the night had come, John 9:4. Content that He has fulfilled His Father’s will in every detail, He confidently commits His spirit to God, safe in the knowledge that He will keep it until the morning light of resurrection, when He would take His life again.
19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
The Jews therefore- the “therefore” does not follow on from the previous verse, but introduces the next incident John records. He says nothing of the exclamation of the centurion, just as he had not recorded the conversion of the repentant thief. He will not record favourable words, or unfavourable ones, like the jeering of the bystanders. He wants to emphasise his testimony as an apostle and an eye-witness.
Because it was the preparation- this is not the preparation for the Passover feast, in the sense of the Passover plus the Feast of Unleavened bread, “which is called the Passover”, Luke 22:1, for that had already begun. Edersheim says that this phrase was never used by the Jews for the preparation for the Passover. The Passover had been sacrificed the previous afternoon, between “the two evenings”, that is, between 3pm, (when the sun started to decline), and 6pm, (when the sun set). And the Passover supper had been eaten that night.
This is a reference to the preparation of the Passover”, that is, the preparation for something during the eight-day feast begun on the Passover day. The question is, what is it preparation for? Those who believe the Lord died on a Friday will say that it is the preparation for the normal Sabbath day. Passover, it is said, was on Thursday April 6th, in AD 30, and on Friday April 3rd, in AD 33.
That the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day- the Scripture they had in mind reads, “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance”, Deuteronomy 21:22,23. But there is nothing about the Sabbath day in those verses; it applied to any day of the week. So why are the authorities concerned about the bodies being on the cross on the Sabbath day? The answer is surely that Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims, thousands of them. They will have opportunity to survey the scene outside the city walls. If there are three victims dying in agony on crosses, they will be curious. And they will specially curious if they discover that one of them has the title “King of the Jews” over His head. Questions will be asked, and the priests are obviously concerned that there might be a popular rising against them once the people learn of their wicked dealings.
Besought Pilate that their legs might be broken- the Jewish authorities have no control over the crucifixion process, so have to ask Pilate to grant their request. The Jews ask for the body to break it, Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body to care for it.
The breaking of the legs would not only mean excruciating pain, but also would prevent the victims pushing themselves up so that they could breathe. Death soon came in those circumstances. God had seen to it that His Son had died by a means that did not involve the breaking of bones, as would be the case if h
He had been executed by the Jewish means, namely stoning. All His bones were out of joint, Psalm 22:14, but none was broken. God had seen to it that the nailing of hands and feet to the cross did not break any of His bones.
And that they might be taken away- they wish to rid the scene of the sight of these men. Hypocrites that they were, they would say it was because of God’s requirement. Really, it was because of their fear of the multitudes. Ironically, Christ was taken away, but by loving hands, to be laid, not in a hastily dug grave at the foot of the cross, but in a new tomb nearby.
19:32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
The pathway of these men had been crooked and devious, and they walked in sin. It was fitting that their life should end in this way. Why did the soldiers go to the men either side first?
19:33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs:
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already- these are experienced executioners, and know what a dead man looks like. They did not appreciate the significance of His cry when He committed His spirit to God. They probably thought it was a pious hope. Whereas they came to exercise the authority of Rome over Him, they did not realise He had already exercised the authority given to Him by His Father.
They brake not His legs- they are restrained from breaking them “to make sure”, even though they are not restrained from piercing His side. They had received instructions to do so, but a Divine hand is restricting and allowing. He has been crucified according to the “determinate will and foreknowledge of God, Acts 2:23, and this part of the proceedings is no exception. The reason why they are not allowed to break His legs is given to us in verse 36.
19:34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side- this is the last act of man in connection with the body of the Lord Jesus. Never from this point on will He be touched by man. Is this a spontaneous action on the part of the soldier, with God allowing it, to fulfil scripture, just as He did not allow the braking of the legs, to fulfil scripture?
The fact this was easily done would suggest that those crucified were not far off from the ground, as is often depicted by artists. This also means that John was easily able to see what happened.
And forthwith came there out blood and water- since He is God’s Holy One, who will not even see corruption from outside, it is no surprise to find that the blood of Christ is not congealed and beginning to putrefy, as if He was subject to corruption, but runs freely from His side as if He is still alive. The Lord Jesus has taken flesh and blood, but that does not mean He was corrupt in body, for Adam had a body that was incorrupt, before he sinned. God pronounced everything very good after He had made man and woman, so there was no corruption anywhere. Corruption came in through the fall of man, Romans 8:19-22. Christ is the start of the new creation, and no corruption shall be there either.
Some see in this blood and water what John wrote of later on, when he penned, “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. The reference there is to the fact that the gospel does not just involve Jesus Christ as one introduced to public ministry after His water baptism, but also Jesus Christ, introduced to His heavenly ministry by His death. But John may see a symbol of this in the blood and water from His side.
Others will speak of this blood as the blood that saves. But the gospel uses the word “blood” as a figure for the life given up, not specifically of the physical blood. God said to Israel, “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”, Leviticus 17:11. So it is blood in connection with sacrifice that makes atonement, and blood as the life of the flesh. So the blood stands for the life, or soul. So when we read that the Messiah would “pour out His soul unto death”, Isaiah 53:12, then we understand that this means “He will die by His own will”. This is the shedding of blood of which God speaks. The blood that flowed from the side of Christ was as a result of man’s act, and not His, and therefore is not Him pouring out His soul. It is the blood of a living man given in death that saves, whereas this blood is coming from a dead body. Significantly, John does not link this blood with atonement when he explains the meaning of the spear-thrust. He sees significance in the non-use of the club, and the use of the spear.
19:35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
And he that saw it bare record- John is concerned to assure us that he is an eye-witness of the things he tells us about. This is especially the case because of the unique phenomenon of the water and blood flowing from a dead body.
Peter spoke of the qualification to be an apostle- “Wherefore of these men who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, until that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection”, Acts 1:21,22. John was one of these apostles; but so was Matthew, yet the latter did not stand by the cross. So it is important to notice that the apostles were witness to the resurrection, even though they were not witnesses of the resurrection actually taking place. They were inspired of the Spirit of Truth to write the truth.
To bear record is perhaps a slightly different idea to bearing witness. The latter can be done by word of mouth, whereas to bear record includes the idea of John writing something down to make it available to a wide readership. So a link is established between the man who stood by the cross, and we who read his account in the 21st century.
And his record is true- in a court of law, statements that are made must be supported by the witness or testimony of others. In Jewish law, a man’s own testimony was not allowed, unless accompanied by the witness of others. This is why the Pharisees disputed Christ’s right to testify about Himself. The testimony of Christ, if it were unsupported by others, would not be valid, but since it is supported, then it is allowable.
This is how the conversation went in John 8:14-19:
8:14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.
As He had explained in 5:30-32, His will was the same as the Father’s, (for He had come to do the Father’s will alone). They would readily admit that Jehovah’s judgement was right, for Abraham had said so, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”, Genesis 18:25, so if He is equal with God, His judgement is right, too.
In 5:31 He had said “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true”. The sense of this is “If I bear witness of Myself without any support from anyone or anything else, My witness is not allowable as evidence in My case”. Jewish law would not allow a man to testify himself, unless there was at least one other to support him. That the Son has Another, is seen in the next verse, for He says, “There is another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of Me is true”.
Because He is conscious of the fact that He came forth from the Father to do His will, (a fact which implied His Deity, and therefore His ability to bear witness of Himself, as the Father does), and also that He was going back to the Father via the cross, in order that the will of God might be perfected, then He knows that what He witnesses about Him is true to fact. Because they denied these relationships with the Father, they deprived themselves of the benefit of the proof they give. Those who reject the testimony of Christ must not be surprised if they do not understand.
8:15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
The reason for their inability to understand these things is now highlighted. They were not born again, and were mere men in the flesh, despite their zeal for religion.
He, on the other hand, had not come to judge but to save. “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but the world through Him might be saved”, John 3:17. This truth is illustrated in this very chapter, where the Lord says to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee”. He did not condemn the woman, for if He had done so, she could not have got saved afterwards. He did condemn her sin, however, with the words “Go, and sin no more”.
8:16 And yet if I judge, My judgement is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me.
Leaving aside the fact that He had not come to judge, nevertheless at any time when He does judge, we may rest assured that His judgement is true, for He is in perfect harmony with the Father who sent Him, and the Father would not judge in an untrue way. As He said elsewhere, “I can of My own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgement is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which sent Me”, John 5:30. What the Lord Jesus had said about not being able to do anything of Himself in verse 19, is repeated here in connection with judgement. What He does is judge, but only as He hears His Father judging. It is not in the nature of Divine Persons to act independently of one another, so this is what the Lord means when He says “I can of Mine own self do nothing”. Being a Divine person, He cannot act out of harmony with the Father and the Spirit. He singles out the speaking that causes most animosity, that of judging, and assures His hostile listeners that when He judges He does so perfectly fairly and truly, since His will is in harmony with that of God the Father.
8:17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.
8:18 I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me.
Notice the logic of this argument. If they were prepared to accept the united testimony of two mortal, fallible men, why should they refuse the united testimony of two of the members of the Godhead? The only reason is because of unbelief, which is now addressed.
8:19 Then said they unto Him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know Me, nor my Father: if ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also.
Notice they do not ask “Who is Thy Father”, but “Where?”. They are thinking on a purely natural level. They are not interested in knowing Him as a person. They are laying a trap so that a further discourse like that in John 5 can be given, so that will have a fresh reason to bring Him before the authorities. It is too late for this however; they have heard the truth throughout His ministry, and have not believed it. Just as He refused to perform yet another miracle, a sign from heaven, after three years of signs, Matthew 12:39, so here He refuses to satisfy the curiosity of unbelief.
The Lord answers them as if they had asked the right question. But He does not answer that question, since they would never understand about His Father if they did not know Him, or in other words, know Him. He would declare later on to His own, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”, John 14:9. To know the Son is to know the Father.
Returning to John 19:35.
It might be asked how this relates to John’s statement, “And he that saw it bear record, and his record is true”. The point is that just as the Lord Jesus had a Divine person, the Father, to endorse what He said, so the apostles had a Divine Person, the Spirit, to endorse what they said. John wrote, (and it is the next verse after the mention of water and blood), “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son”, 1 John 5:9,10.
Of course John is not saying we accept without question the testimony of everyone, whether they are trustworthy or not. He is referring to what the Lord said, as already quoted from John 7:18, “It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true”. The law was referring to court-conditions, when men were required, (under penalty if they lied), to give a true witness. In those circumstances we accept the testimony of two credible and sane eye-witnesses. If we accept the testimony of mere men, John argues, we should the rather accept the testimony of Divine persons. And the Father and the Spirit both testify to the Son, and those who believe receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and He indwells them. They now have the witness in themselves, and need not to rely on man, for they have the testimony directly from God.
And he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe- John is confident that what he is saying is true not only because he was present at the cross and saw events unfold before his very eyes, but also because he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and so has the testimony in his own spirit. That being the case, we ought to believe, not only the testimony of a man like John, but also the testimony of the Spirit of God who indwelt John and who indwells us. The whole purpose of John’s writings was either to bring us to initial faith is Christ, John 20:30,31, or to encourage us to continue in the faith, 1 John 5:13.
19:36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, ‘A bone of Him shall not be broken’.
For these things were done- a reference to the non-breaking of His legs, and the piercing of His side. They were not trivial and meaningless things, but had deep significance.
That the scripture should be fulfilled- not that the soldiers set out to fulfil scripture, but rather, that what they did or did not do was over-ruled by God, so that whilst it was their act, it was His will. And since that will had been expressed beforehand in Old Testament Scripture, they unwittingly fulfilled the prophecy.
‘A bone of Him shall not be broken’- despite the fact that the human hand and foot contain many bones, God saw to it that not one was broken when He was nailed to the cross.
The relevant scriptures are these:
“neither shall ye break a bone thereof”, Exodus 12:46
“nor break any bone of it”, Numbers 9:12.
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: Not one of them is broken”, Psalm 34:19,20.
The first Scripture is the word of God through Moses in connection with the original Passover night. The lamb was to be without spot and blemish, because no lamb with a broken bone was acceptable. The lamb had been scrutinised for four days, and if any of its bones was broken this would have become evident. The Lord Jesus was in the public eye after His baptism, (we could think of the Father’s commendation at that time as the selection of the Lamb of God), and was closely watched by men. There was no fault found in Him. It is true men blamed Him, but they did not have just cause to do so, and He was in fact, as Peter says, “without blemish and without spot”, 1 Peter 1:19. We read of John the Baptist that “looking on Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God”, John 1:36. This testimony is especially valuable because John was the greatest prophet among those that are born of women, Luke 7:28, and as such was intelligent as to God’s thoughts.
The second scripture is found in the instructions God gave in the case of those who could not keep the Passover in the first month because they were “in a journey far off”, Numbers 9:10. In that situation they could keep the Passover in the second month. This looks on to the future, for Israel has, so to speak, ‘missed the first Passover’, not recognising that “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us”, 1 Corinthians 5:7. They have been in a journey far off since 70AD, for they have been scattered amongst the nations. If they will return to God, they will find that there is provision for them even after their long lapse.
The third scripture makes the prediction more personal, and are the words John quoted, for whereas in Exodus and Numbers the pronoun is “it”, in Psalm 34 it is “Him”. The person in view is a righteous man, persecuted and afflicted, but He keeps all his bones. The psalm was written by David, and he had reason to repent of failure, and ask the Lord to wash him from his sin, and make him to hear joy and gladness as he was restored to fellowship, “that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice”, Psalm 51:8. As a shepherd, David had often needed to break the bone of a lamb that persisted in straying into danger. With its leg broken, it kept close by the shepherd, and by the time its leg-bone was knit together again, it had learnt its lesson, and would not stray again. David had strayed from the Lord his Shepherd, and had been severely disciplined for it, but now he has repented and his broken bones are healed.
The Lord Jesus never strayed from the pathway of obedience to His Father, and therefore never needed to be disciplined. He was the truly Righteous Man, who walked in the paths of righteousness, Psalm 23:3. It is fitting, therefore, that His bones should not be broken, even after His death. He was confident that His Father would preserve Him, even as to the body.
19:37 And again another scripture saith, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced’.
And again another scripture saith- notice that John does not say this Scripture has been fulfilled. The quotation in verse 37 was about what did not happen; this one is about what did happen.
‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced’- just as the scripture in Numbers looks on to a future day for Israel, so does this one. It is a quotation from Zechariah 12:10 which reads, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplications: And they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn”. Notice that the three persons of the Godhead are here, for there is “Me”, and “Him”, and “the Spirit of grace”. Yet remarkably, it is the Lord of Hosts who says “Me whom they pierced”, and yet they mourn for “Him”. And the “Him” is God’s only-begotten and His firstborn, titles of the Lord Jesus.
The reference is to the second coming of Christ, and John describes it thus, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen”, Revelation 1:7.
We see how important is an apparently simple matter of whether the Lord’s legs were broken, for the piercing with the spear would most likely not have taken place is His legs had been broken, for we do not read of the two malefactors having their side pierced.
So it was that in Jerusalem that day there was a dead body that could not be confused with anybody else. For it was the only one with a pierced side and unbroken legs.
19:38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
And after this Joseph of Arimathaea- we learn from the gospels that Joseph was “a rich man of Arimathaea, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple”, (Matthew); “an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God”, (Mark); “a counsellor, and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God”, (Luke).
An honourable counsellor was a member of the inner circle of the Sanhedrin, so he was a very high official amongst the Jews.
He waited for the kingdom of God, so was looking for the Messiah, and came to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth was He.
He was a good and just man, who had not agreed to the decisions of the Sanhedrin about Christ, (for he was just, and saw their injustice). Nor did he agree with their actions, (for he was good, and saw their actions were evil).
He came from Arimathaea, which Luke, (always interested in detailed historical matters), tells us was a city of the Jews. He tells us this because in Old Testament times the city was reckoned to be in Samaria, but the boundary was changed. It is possibly the same as Ramah, or Ramathaim-zophim, the birthplace of Samuel, 1 Samuel 1:1.
Being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews- we read in John 12:42,43 that “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God”. Joseph would be amongst this company, but at this point he comes out into the open, thus showing he realised it is much better to have the praise of God than of men.
Why did Joseph change sides? Isaiah 53:9 will help us with this question.
Isaiah 53:9 And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.
And He made His grave with the wicked- verses 7 and 8 have described the way men treated the Lord Jesus. They oppressed and afflicted Him, sought to destroy His character, and at last took Him and slaughtered Him on a cross. In all this it seemed as if they were in control, and that He was the helpless victim of circumstances, but this verse tells us it was not so. The apostle Peter emphasised this on the day of Pentecost when he declared that the nation of Israel had by means of the wicked hands of the Gentiles crucified Him, and allowed that crucifixion process to continue until He was slain, Acts 2:23; they callously allowed Him to suffer, and only planned to curtail His sufferings because the feast day was near.
There was another dimension to this, however, as Peter points out at the same time. The fact is that He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Men were only allowed to do what they did because it was part of God’s plan. Indeed, the basis of God’s plan. Now Isaiah 53:10 tells us that the pleasure of the Lord prospers in the hand of the Lord Jesus. As God’s Firstborn Son, as well as His Only begotten Son, He was charged with the task of administering God’s affairs. Not in any dispassionate way, but personally, and a major part of those affairs involved Him in suffering of different sorts. He suffered in life, as earlier verses of the chapter have told us; He suffered in the three hours of darkness, as verse 5 has told us; He suffered injustice and cruelty at the hands of men, as verses 7 and 8 clearly show. But He not only suffered in these ways, as He carried out the will of His Father, He was in control as He did so. So, for instance, we find verses 7-9 alternate between passive and active. He was oppressed…He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth. Passive in oppression and affliction, but active in not opening His mouth. He is brought…He is dumb. Men bring Him, and He passively allows this, but He actively remained as dumb. So also in verse 8. He is taken…He was cut off…stricken. But then the active, He made. Each time the active is the answer to the passive. So when He made His grave with the wicked, He was responding to something that He had passively allowed, but during which He was totally in control.
The question is, of course, in what way was He in control so that He made His grave with the wicked? And if He was in control in this matter, why did it not happen? And how can He make His grave with the wicked and with the rich at the same time? So tightly interwoven is this prophecy that it can be fulfilled in the experience of only one man.
We need to notice that the word wicked is in the plural, and the word rich is in the singular. So there are wicked men, and there is a rich man. The word for wicked used here is an actively bad person. We know that all have sinned, but not all set out to be actively bad. We are told in verse 12 that the Lord Jesus was “numbered with the transgressors”, and the word transgressors means persons who have broken away in revolt against just authority. The words are quoted by Mark when he describes the Lord Jesus being crucified between two thieves. So we begin to see a picture building up of Christ in some way making His grave with wicked men by being crucified. He submitted Himself to arrest, trial and execution, knowing that normally the end result of that process was to be flung unceremoniously, (and in company with the others crucified with Him), into a pit dug at the foot of the cross. But even though it is true that He submitted Himself to the process of arrest and all that followed, nonetheless He was in complete control of the situation. He did not call for the legions of angels that were at His disposal, Matthew 26:53. He did not allow His followers to try to prevent His arrest, and rebuked Peter for attempting it, and remedied the damage he had done with his sword. He could have any moment passed through the midst of them and gone His way, as He had done several times during His ministry when the crowds were hostile. He did none of these things. And by thus not resisting He ensured that His grave would be with the others crucified with Him, even though this was a distasteful prospect, and normally to be avoided at all costs.
It is interesting to notice that the words “He was numbered with the transgressors” are quoted twice in the gospel records. Once by Mark as he records the crucifixion, as we have noted, but prior to that by the Lord Jesus as He is about to leave the Upper Room and make His way to Gethsemane, Luke 22:37. So these words bracket together the whole series of events from the arrest in Gethsemane, to the crucifixion at Golgotha.
There is a big problem, however, with this situation, and it is this. It is vitally important that the Lord Jesus be put in an easily identified and publicly-known grave, and, moreover, is put there on His own. If He is buried at the foot of the cross with the two thieves, who is to know whether He has risen from the dead? In theory those near of kin to the thieves could even come to the place, remove the body of their relative, and claim he had risen from the dead! And even if this is unlikely to be attempted, the followers of the Lord could be accused of doing the same, and pretending that He had risen.
There is also the consideration that the psalmist prophesied by the Spirit that God would not suffer His Holy One, meaning the Messiah, to see corruption, Psalm 16:10. There would certainly be corruption in a grave at the foot of the cross, with the remains of many criminals mingling together there. Now of course whilst the whole of creation is in the bondage of corruption, nonetheless only humans are morally corrupt. So the requirement is that the Lord Jesus must be buried in a marked grave, which has had no-one else in it before, and has no-one else in it whilst He is there. Only in this way can it be sure that the one who was put into it is the one who came out.
How is this situation going to come about? It will be necessary for this grave to be more than a marked grave in the ground. It will need to be secure and unused. This involves expense, and the Lord Jesus had not the material resources to arrange for this to happen. Yet our passage says “He made His grave…with the rich in His death.” It is certainly not that He had influential friends who could rise to the occasion in this matter. His followers were poor, as He was. And yet in a real sense He does arrange this matter, for our passage says “He made His grave…with the rich”.
In the event, the rich individual pinpointed in this passage was Joseph of Arimathaea. He was not a prominent member of the disciples that followed the Lord. In fact, he was only a disciple secretly, because he feared the Jews, and what they would think of him. For he was a counsellor, meaning that he was a member of the Sanhedrim, and as such was one of those spoken of in John 12:42,43, which reads, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God”. Luke records that “the same had not consented to the counsel and the deed of them”, Luke 23:51. The “them” referring to his fellow-members of the Sanhedrim.
He was assisted by a Pharisee, Nicodemus, who also was a secret disciple, and who is designated by John as “he that came to Jesus by night”, reminding us of his conversation with the Lord Jesus in John 3. He presumably was a member of the Sanhedrim since he is described as a ruler of the Jews, John 3:1. He seems to have had great influence amongst them as we see from John 7:45-53. The chief priests and Pharisees had sent officers to arrest the Lord Jesus, no doubt on the pretence that He had interrupted the temple services by crying out, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink”, verse 37. The officers returned without Him, and when the Pharisees protested at this, Nicodemus said, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear Him, and know what he doeth? Thus he showed himself to be prepared to defend the interests of Christ in a small way, and to appeal for justice to be done. Things have changed, now, however, for he has to make a decision. He cannot be neutral about Christ any longer, and something makes him side with Christ publicly, like Joseph of Arimathea.
We might well ask ourselves what it is that convinced them of the genuineness of Christ’s claims. Remember, our answer must be in line with what the prophet said, which was, “He made His grave…with the rich in His death. We notice that the words “in His death” are only applicable to His grave with the rich. The prophet did not say “He made His grave with the wicked in His death”. So to all intents and purposes He was destined for a grave with the wicked; but in the event, and by His own ordering, His grave was actually with the rich in His death.
We are told several things about the character of Joseph. First, that he was a good man, the direct opposite of the wicked men between whom the Lord Jesus was crucified. Second, that he was just man, meaning he was diligent in trying to keep the law, in direct contrast to the transgressors, who rebelled against all law. Third, he waited for the kingdom of God, showing that he had a longing for the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Fourth, he was a rich man, so is a candidate for the role marked out in Isaiah 53. Fifth, he was an honourable counsellor, which implies that, (as indeed was the case), there were members of the Sanhedrim who were not honourable. Sixth, he was prepared to make sacrifices, for he gave up his own tomb in favour of the carpenter from Nazareth. And seventh, he came from secret discipleship to open and bold discipleship at last.
It is the first three qualities that we need to focus on. Now a reading of the gospel records will show that the whole council, meaning the Sanhedrin, of which Joseph was a member, were present at the first trial before Caiaphas. Matthew 26:59 reads, “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death”. Here is the first test for Joseph. He is a just man, and he must ask himself whether justice is being done here. He is a good man, and must ask himself if the prisoner is being treated respectfully.
The following rules governed the arrest of prisoners, and Joseph must know that already those rules have been broken.
1. The arrest should have been done voluntarily by those who were witnesses to the crime. It was illegal for the temple guard acting for the High Priest to make the arrest.
2. The arrest should not have been at night, and constituted an act of violence. This is why the disciples were preparing to prevent it. Malchus was probably one of those foremost in the arrest. If Peter had been preventing a legal arrest, he should have been arrested. The fact he was not, showed the authorities knew they were in the wrong.
3. The prisoner was bound, which was unnecessary violence, since he was surrounded by only a few men, and the arrest party consisted of many.
4. The prisoner was taken to Annas first, but he was not the proper magistrate.
5. He was interrogated at night, which was prohibited by law.
6. He was detained in a private house.
7. He was struck gratuitously before any charges had been brought, John 18:22.
And now the first trial before Caiaphas is taking place, and Joseph has further questions to answer, for he is a member of the body that is conducting this trial. Consider the following:
1. The trial was conducted at night, which was illegal. All proceedings of law were prohibited at night.
2. No trial was allowed on a feast day, under penalty of being null and void.
3. He was ill-treated in a private house, (Matthew 26:67,68), with Caiaphas not preventing it, and before a proper hearing had taken place. This was against Jewish law.
4. The trial was conducted by Caiaphas, who was prejudiced, because he had already said that it was expedient for one man (meaning Christ), to die for the nation, John 11:49-52.
5. Caiaphas acted as judge and accuser.
6. He allowed the prisoner to be ill-treated, even though no sentence had been passed, Luke 22:63-65.
And then, the morning comes, and Mark tells us “the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council”. So Joseph must be present at this meeting also. Now further rules are broken, as follows:
1. Witnesses should come forward voluntarily, but these were “sought”, after the attempt to find honest witnesses against Christ was unsuccessful, Matthew 26:59,60.
2. Witnesses who did not speak the truth were to be stoned to death.
3. If witnesses did not agree, the case was to be dismissed immediately. This did not happen.
4. The prisoner was put on oath, an attempt to force him to incriminate himself, which was illegal, for the confession of an individual against himself should not produce a condemnation.
5. If the accused wished to speak, he was to be given the most profound attention.
Now at some time during these proceedings Joseph made a stand. We read that he “had not consented to the counsel and deed of them”, Luke 23:51, the “them” meaning the other members of the Sanhedrim. Their deliberations, and what they had done, both by sins of omission and by commission, he disagreed with strongly. But there was more than the breaking of rules involved here. The prisoner is special, and is making dramatic claims. There was something about the way those claims were made that convinced Joseph. What that was is told us in the next phrases in Isaiah 53:9. “He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth”. The reason why Joseph came forward to offer his tomb, is because there was no violence with Christ, and because he came to believe that when He testified as to His person, there was no deceit in His mouth.
Peter tells us that “when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered He threatened not”, 1 Peter 2:23. There was something about the way Christ presented Himself, His poise, His calm, His answers, and His restraint under the most intense provocation that so impressed Joseph, that he was resolved to distance himself from the decision of the Sanhedrim. It is too late to resign membership, but he can “bring forth works unto repentance” by honouring Christ in His death, in contrast to the dishonour done to Him in His life.
The testimony of the Lord Jesus revolved around His claim to be the Son of God, and the Messiah, and the Son of Man. Joseph comes to believe that those claims were true, and resolves to act accordingly. His mind is made up, he must absolve himself from complicity in the crime of murdering the Son of God, by repentance and faith in Him, as Peter exhorted the rest of the nation to do at Pentecost, six weeks later.
Now this is very powerful testimony from within the council-chamber itself, and from one who was present as a member of that council. It is also a powerful rebuke for those who remained steadfast in their hostility towards Christ after His resurrection.
Returning to John 19:
Besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus- so it is that after the Lord Jesus has died Joseph steps boldly forward. Each one of the steps in the burial of the Lord Jesus is carefully documented, and there is no room for doubt to any fair-minded person that He who was put, dead, in Joseph’s tomb, was He who rose the third day.
We know from John 19:31 that the Jewish authorities demanded that the victims be taken down before the Sabbath began at 6 o’clock in the evening. Neither Jew nor Gentile authority had any interest in taking down anything other than dead bodies. The Gentiles because their government and power was involved, and the Jews because they wanted above all else to see Christ dead. So it is that the soldiers hasten the death of two thieves, but find Christ is dead already. They must be sure however, so what stops them breaking Christ’s legs? The answer is given to us by the apostle John, who was there as a witness. It is because the Scripture had said that as the true Passover lamb His bones must not be broken. But still the soldiers must be satisfied, and so must the centurion, for he is soon going to be asked by Pilate if Jesus of Nazareth is dead. So it is that the side of Christ is pierced, and the evidence that death has recently taken place is seen in the issuing forth of blood and water, no doubt meaning the watery fluid that surrounds the heart. So it is that there is a unique body in Jerusalem, a crucifixion victim without broken legs, and with a pierced side. The other two victims have broken legs and un-pierced sides.
So it is that Joseph now goes to Pilate, and begs the body of Jesus. We now have the remarkable sight of a rich man begging, and his request is granted. As a rich man, Joseph had longed to be able to gain many things; now his only desire is to be associated with a dead body, for he is a changed man, and the things of earth that money can buy have now lost their attraction.
Pilate is surprised that the victim is dead. It is more than his position is worth for him to allow a body to be taken down from the cross when it is not dead. The victim may recover, and thus escape justice. Pilate may even have faced the death penalty himself if this should happen.
He therefore summons the centurion to him, and verifies it from him as the man in charge of the crucifixion, who, as a professional executioner, will certainly know whether a person is dead or not. Mark 15:44 reads, “And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead”. He does not simply ask the centurion to send a message, but has a face to face conversation with him. There is no possibility of a note being forged and passed off as a message from the centurion, or later, a note passed off as a message from Pilate. This also ensures that the centurion knows who Joseph is, for both are now before Pilate at the same time. Notice that Pilate wants to know if He has been dead a while, for it might have appeared He had died, but then He may have revived. So the next verse says, “And when he knew it (that is, that he had been dead a while) he gave the body to Joseph”.
Pilate grants the body to Joseph, but why should he do so? It was customary to allow close relatives of the deceased victims to take the body if they wished, but Joseph is not one of these. So why does Pilate allow it? Of course, one reason is that the Scripture says that Christ will be with the rich in his death; but Pilate has no interest in furthering the fulfilment of Scripture. Is it because he has a guilty conscience? His last conversation with Christ had been on the fact that He was Son of God. Superstitious Pilate was no doubt fearful lest he had killed a “son of the gods”, and would receive Divine vengeance. Perhaps this is his feeble attempt to repair the damage resulting from his clumsy and cowardly dealing during the trial. In any event, he grants the body to Joseph, in effect signing Christ’s death certificate, and thus proclaiming with all the authority of the world-empire of Rome that Jesus of Nazareth was really dead. When John says “Pilate gave him leave”, he uses a word for leave which is used by Luke in Acts 21:40, “and when he had given him licence”. So Pilate has formally licenced, as the representative of Roman law, that Jesus Christ is really dead.
Not only does Pilate give Joseph leave to have the body, but he also commands the centurion to put this into effect, as we learn from Matthew 27:58, “Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered”.
So the jurisdiction of Rome still controls the body until the moment Joseph takes it down from the cross. Every stage of the proceedings depends on the one before.
So it is that well-known man, with the authority of the centurion and through him of Pilate, takes a body certified as dead down from the cross. He does this in full view of everyone, for the place of execution was near the city, John 19:20. John tells us that the title on the cross was readable from the highway; so also must the action of Joseph be easily observable. Moreover, he takes the body down in full view of the Roman authorities, and also, no doubt, of the Jewish authorities also, who are anxious to ensure that the bodies are taken down before 6 o’clock that evening, when the Sabbath day will start. They also have a commandment from God to not allow hanged bodies to remain after nightfall, but to ensure they are buried the day they died, Deuteronomy 21:22,23.
So it is also that He is not taken down by one of His long-time followers, who could be said to have an interest in trying to get Scripture fulfilled. A new convert, who has not spoken to Christ at all as far as the record goes, is now the centre of the action.
19:39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night- John is the only one to mention Nicodemus in this connection. He highlights that Nicodemus was the one who came by night, but now he is coming into the light of day in open allegiance to Christ.
And brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight- Joseph gave his tomb, and bought fine linen, Nicodemus brought spices. They are intent on giving Christ a royal burial, after His death between two thieves. He became poor, but from now on He shall be rich in glory, and these two men anticipate the process.
Joseph had to buy the linen, for it was not something he would need to keep, but Nicodemus seems to have had the spices to hand, for he brought them, as if he already possessed them. Were they for some other purpose? Just as Mary of Bethany had kept the spikenard, and then brake the box, so it could not be gathered up again, Nicodemus is going to devote a costly gift to a dead man in a tomb. It is said that spikenard clings to the clothing for days, so Christ’s clothing as He went to the cross reminded Him of the devotion of Mary. Now the fragrance of myrrh and aloes will linger in the tomb. But Mary had already anointed Him for the burial, and did not need to be present here. Hers is a better part, for she lavished her gift on Him when He could appreciate it.
The word “pound” does not mean an English pound. Rather, it amounts to about five English pounds. The wise men gave Him myrrh, for as the Psalmist said, “I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up”. Myrrh was bitter to the taste, flowed like tears from a pierced tree, and yet yielded a sweet fragrance. So the bitter experiences of Christ in life and death have yielded a sweet fragrance to God. The juice of the Aloe Verae plant was bitter, but was used for embalming.
19:40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Only reverent hands touched the body of Jesus after His side had been pierced. His Father is caring for Him in death.
The body is wound in linen, so that there is no possibility of revival and escape from the clothes. One of the things that convinced John that Christ had risen was the way the linen clothes were lying, as if the body was still within, but the napkin was in a separate place, showing that there was in fact no body there because there was no head. This is why Joseph used linen clothes, not a linen cloth, for there would be need for two separate pieces.
The body is buried in the Jewish manner, which means that strips of linen cloth are wound round the body, with fragrant spices between the layers. Even if the Lord Jesus were still alive, it would be impossible for Him to extricate Himself from these grave clothes.
All this is done outside the sepulchre, for it is not until the process is finished that the body is placed within, as both Matthew 27:59,60, and Mark 15:46, 47 show. John seems to go further, for he alone tells us the position of the tomb in relation to the place of crucifixion, but mentions the wrapping in linen before saying where the tomb was, thus suggesting that the wrapping was done near the cross, and then the body was taken to the tomb. In any event, all is under the watchful eye of unbelieving men. There is no possibility of bodies being switched in transit, with a disciple substituted for Christ, and disappearing from the tomb, with Christ’s dead body buried in a secret location. All is open and transparent.
Joseph is of Arimathea, a city of the Jews, as Luke carefully tells us. (Arimathea was in Samaria in Old Testament times, but with boundary changes it was classed in New Testament times as a city in Judea. Luke is a world-class historian, and wants us to have the facts in our minds. He draws attention to this relatively obscure matter so that we realise he is competent. We can trust Luke even in apparently inconsequential matters like boundary changes, so we can trust him also in the vital matters also). Yet Joseph’s tomb is not in Arimathea, but Jerusalem. This shows his strength of commitment to the things of God, for he wishes to be buried near the centre of Messiah’s kingdom, for which he waited, and yet it is ordered of God so that his tomb is near the place of crucifixion for the burying of Christ. He must associate with the place of sacrifice before he can associate with the throne.
It is not only important that the body of the Lord Jesus should be immediately identifiable, (which was ensured by the fact that He is the only one of the three persons crucified that day who had unbroken legs and a pierced side), but He must be placed in a readily identifiable tomb. A tomb, moreover, which has no dead bodies in it before Christ’s dead body is placed there, and no dead body in it until He has come forth. Moses’ burying place is unknown, no doubt lest it be turned into a shrine. The tomb of Christ must be known, and yet it was not turned into a shrine. As we read the Acts of the Apostles we look in vain for any reference to the sepulchre, apart from when the resurrection of Christ is preached.
19:41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
It is fitting that just as life and death were first experienced in a garden, so death should be defeated in a garden, so that those who believe may have a life that cannot be touched by death.
We are told several things about this sepulchre:
Matthew 27:60- “his (Joseph’s) own new tomb, which he had hewn out in a rock”.
Mark 15:46- “a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock”.
Luke 23:53- “and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid”.
John 19:41- “a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid”.
John 19:42- “the sepulchre was nigh at hand”.
So it was Joseph’s own sepulchre, prepared for his own burial. This being the case, and since this was a last-minute decision on the part of Joseph, there would be no point in having any secret passageway away from this tomb through which to take away a body. Such a thought would not have crossed Joseph’s mind. It was hewn out in a rock, so it was clearly identifiable, in contrast to the graves at the foot of the cross. It would also be impregnable. As already mentioned, Matthew is not embarrassed when he tells us that the rocks were rent when Christ died, and he even implies that because of this some Old Testament saints came out of their tombs after Christ’s resurrection. He has no reason to hide these facts, for he is confident that when the rocks were rent, Joseph’s tomb was unaffected. If it had been, Joseph would not have offered it for use.
The tomb was never used before, so the one who was laid there was the one who came out again.
It was near the place of execution, which itself was near the city, so was well known and could not be mistaken for another. In any case, the Jewish authorities clearly know which tomb it is, for they set a watch over it.
19:42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
So it is that, assisted by Nicodemus, Joseph carries the body and lays it in the sepulchre, and then rolls the stone to the entrance. This was no doubt a stone like a millstone, in a stone channel which sloped towards the entrance, so it was comparatively easy to roll it down, but more difficult to roll it up and away.
It reads as if the body was laid in the tomb as a temporary measure, since John seems to imply that they laid the body there because it was nearly 6 o’clock, and the Sabbath was about to begin. It was indeed a temporary measure, but not for the reason Joseph and Nicodemus thought. He would be gone in three days, gloriously risen. They would be prevented from moving the body by the presence of the guard, and the seal.
Joseph departs, Matthew 27:60, his task completed. But the authorities are not satisfied. The chief priests and Pharisees go to Pilate to make a request. They do so on the Sabbath day, so the urgency of the matter makes them endanger the sanctity of the day. They had refused to go in to Pilate because it was the Passover, John 18:28, but they are willing to go to a Gentile’s residence on a day of unleavened bread, even though it may contain leaven. They have a conscience about Christ even when He is dead. They even command Pilate to act, and he, also with a guilty conscience, agrees to do as they say, even though at other times he showed he loathed them, and stubbornly refused their requests. Pilate’s words are “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can”. So they had already organised a watch of the tomb, but now have permission to tamper with a private sepulchre.
They went with Pilate’s authority, and seal the stone, and set a watch. We may be sure that under no circumstances will they seal the tomb without assuring themselves that the body is still there. They will also be very careful to examine the tomb to make sure that the earthquake that occurred when Christ died, Matthew 27:51,52, and which rent the rocks in the area, has not damaged the rock-hewn tomb of Joseph, thus providing a means of access for disciples without the watch knowing. Having satisfied themselves on these matters, they fasten the stone to the rock-face and place a seal in such a way that any movement of the stone will break the seal.
Despite all these precautions, sometime between 6 o’clock on the Sabbath evening, and 4 o’clock on the first day of the week, (the hour at which it begins to get light in Palestine in April), Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Israel’s Messiah, rose triumphantly from among the dead, to die no more. Death could not hold Him any longer, for He is God’s Holy One.
As He Himself said:
I am the first, and the last:
I am He that liveth, and was dead;
and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen,
and have the keys of hell and of death”.