Notes on John 19:1-30

John 19:16‑30  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The Christ-rejecting word was passed. Their allegiance to the Roman was a lie, their mad guilt manifest in getting rid of Messiah and God Himself and all their faith and hopes. The Jews abhorred subjection to Caesar; they owned neither his right nor their own sin, which was the occasion of his supremacy. But they abhorred the Messiah more,1 not their idea but the reality according to God. They had not a thought nor a feeling, not a word nor a way nor a purpose, in common with Jesus; and this because He brought God near to them in grace, because He manifested man in perfect dependence and obedience to God, and their will with a bad conscience rejected both. Hence the cross was to them most repulsive. “We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever; and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” Yet was the law plain enough that the Messiah should be rejected by man, especially by the Jew, and die that death of curse, the terrible sin of man, yet God's atoning sacrifice for sin. But will, governed by Satan to serve a present purpose in pursuance of man's lusts and passions, blinded them to His word and to their own suicidal wickedness; as ere long they were about to prove their rebelliousness to Caesar, and have the Romans come and take away their place and nation, but not before they had filled Jerusalem with the spectacle of their own penalty till there was no room left for more crosses and wood failed to make them: so Josephus.
“Then therefore he delivered him up to them that he might be crucified. They took then Jesus, [and led [him] away]; and bearing for himself the cross he went out unto the place called of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha, where they crucified him, and with him two others, on this side and on that, and Jesus in the middle. And also Pilate wrote a title and put [it] on the cross; and there was written, Jesus the Nazarean, the King of the Jews. This title therefore many of the Jews read, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, in Latin. Therefore said the high priest to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews, but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.” (Vers. 16-22.)
Faith alone preserves from the power and wiles of the devil. Pilate and the Jews were wholly opposed in their thoughts and wishes; but God was not in the thoughts of the one more than of the others. They had each his own way, but all astray, and now they show themselves the open enemies of righteousness as well as of grace, incapable of discerning the clearest ways, marks, and proofs of God present in love to man, no matter how low He might come down. The cross of Christ makes all and every one manifest. Pilate under pressure of fear for his own worldly interests gave up Jesus to their malice, though knowing Him innocent; and He bearing His cross went forth to the place of a Skull, Golgotha, in Latin Calvary. There was He crucified with peculiar indignity, a robber also on either hand, as a robber had been preferred to Him. Yet God took care that even there a fitting testimony, from whatever motive in Pilate's breast, should be rendered, to Him in the inscription on the cross; the despised Man of Nazareth was the Messiah. Where were the Jews if He was their King? The keenest adversaries of the true God, blindly fulfilling His terrible prophecies of their unbelief and wickedness under a self-complacent zeal for His name and law. There stood His title, read by many, for the place was near the city, written in the tongues not of the officials only, nor of the polite world, but of the Jews; and all the efforts of their high priests but riveted it to the cross under the pertinacious and irritated and scornful spirit of the procurator.
But the lowest played their part at the cross as well as the highest, men used to arms no less than the ministers of the sanctuary; and every class, every man, showed out there what each was in selfish indifference to the grace and glory of the Son of God, who suffered Himself to be numbered with the transgressors.
“The soldiers therefore, when they crucified Jesus, took his garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and the vest; but the vest was seamless from the top woven through the whole. They said therefore to one another, Let us not rend it, but let us draw lots for it whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled that saith, They parted my garments for themselves, and for my vesture they cast lots. The soldiers therefore did these things.” (Vers. 23, 24.) Little thought the soldiers who had charge of the execution, beyond their poor perquisites. But God's eye was now as ever on His Son; and He had taken care in His word to mark it. For in one of the most manifestly Messianic psalms, Psa. 22, stands written, a thousand years beforehand, the minute prediction of the soldiers' appropriating the garments of the Savior in a way unmistakably applicable to Him. He is the object of scripture, though unbelief sees it not and has a will against it, because His person is as unknown as our own need of divine mercy in the cross. With what interest the Holy Spirit contemplated, as we should, every detail of His suffering, and of man's behavior at that hour! God counted Him not less worthy because the object of such indignities, and of all moment to make it known beforehand. The very minuteness of what is mentioned bears witness to the accurate reality of the prophecy. He is the demonstrated as well as rejected Messiah. His glory made it due to Him to name the particulars, which also bear witness of the depth of His grace in humiliation, that God and man might be fully shown out, and that word be proved His word in the face of every gainsayer.
But faith and love gathered near the dying Savior some of very different mind. “Now by the cross of Jesus stood his mother, and the sister of his mother, Mary the [wife] of Cleopas, and Mary of Magdala. Jesus therefore seeing his mother and the disciple standing by whom he loved, saith to his mother, Woman, behold thy son. Next he saith to the disciple, Behold thy mother; and from that hour the disciple took her unto his own [home].” (Vers. 25-27.) These were among the women who had followed Him in His ministry and had ministered to Him in life; there they stood in His rejection by the cross, when the Lord shows how little asceticism rises to the truth. He had been absorbed in the work for which He was sent by the Father; no honey mingled with the offering, any more than leaven: salt was never absent, nor the unction; of the Holy Ghost. All had been in the consecrating power of the word and Spirit of God and to God. But perfect human affections were there, though the work undertaken in communion with the Father had filled heart and lips and hands with the higher object to the glory of God. Yet eternal interests, where thus taken up, do not efface or dishonor nature or its relationships according to God; and the Lord here marks this by commending in the most solemn and touching way John to His mother as son, and Mary to John as mother: a loving trust honored from that hour. How sweet for the loved disciple to remember and record! And how strong the contrast with superstition, no less than as we have seen with asceticism! And what a testimony in all to His own entire superiority to overwhelming circumstances!
“After this Jesus, knowing that all things were now finished, that the scripture might be accomplished, saith, I thirst. A vessel [therefore] was standing there full of vinegar; and they, having filled a sponge with vinegar and put hyssop round [it], put [it] up to his mouth. When therefore Jesus received the vinegar, he said, It is finished, and bowing his head delivered up his spirit.” (Vers. 28-30.) It is not only that in human tenderness He provides for all left behind in that supreme moment, but He thinks of scripture in spirit or in terms not yet fulfilled. No doubt there is the distressing physical effect expressed of all that mind and heart and body had endured till then; but His last request is here bound up, not with His want only, but with His undying zeal for the word if only a single thing lacked to make it honorable. Every word that proceeds through God's mouth must be fulfilled; and had He not said of Messiah, “My tongue cleaveth to my jaws,” and “In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink"? Then, having drunk, the Savior says, “It is finished” with a divine calm as perfect here, as His expression elsewhere of His unfathomable suffering.
Of none but Jesus, is it or could it be said that he gave up, παρέδωκεν, the ghost; which is wholly distinct from the expired, ἐξέπνευσεν, of Mark and Luke, confounded with the former by our translators. To expire could apply to any one's death, the blessed Lord being man as truly as any other; to give the spirit up, as said in. John, expresses His divine glory though a dying man, as the One who had title to lay down His life no less than to take it again.