On the Gospel of John 19

John 19  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 8
But he was not easy. The majesty of the ways of Jesus gave the accused ascendency over the judge. There was in Christ something superhuman that made Pilate afraid; besides, we know that he had received warnings that God had sent to him in a way such as a Gentile could receive them; Matt. 27.: 19. But the relations of the Jews, not with Christ-that is found more clearly and in a more terrible manner in Matthew -but with Gentiles, and those of the Gentiles with God, were to be manifested with more evidence. Pilate brings Jesus back, and He is presented to us hated and rejected of the Jews, and condemned solely by Pilate upon words known to all: " Behold the Man."
It is God who presents Him to us thus. There was the Son of God as He was in this world. The world did not know Him, although it had seen Him, and His own received Him not. He was the despised and the rejected of men.
Pilate, ill at ease from a mingling of fear and of a bad conscience, and at the same time full of a feverish anxiety to maintain his authority, and to throw upon the Jews the guilt of the condemnation of Jesus, presents Him again to the Jews to tell them that he finds no fault in Him. This excites the Jews to demand with loud cries His crucifixion. Pilate wishes them to do it, as he finds no fault in Him. Then the Jews, to whom the Romans had left their own laws (except the right of putting to death), insist that Jesus deserved death because He made Himself the Son of God, which increases Pilate's uneasiness.
He goes again into the judgment-hall and asks Jesus whence He was. Where was now the judge? Jesus does not answer him, Pilate having publicly owned that Jesus was not guilty. It was not a question of instructing Pilate; who, moreover, did not seek instruction, and who, in presence of the silence of Jesus, appeals to his authority and to his power over Him. Jesus declares to Pilate that he would have none if it had not been given him from above-for the crucifixion of the Savior was in the counsels of God, and Jesus was now giving Himself to accomplish them; but that only increased the sin of Judas, who, witness of the divine power of Christ, had delivered Him up, as though there were none.
From that moment, Pilate seeks to deliver Jesus; but to avoid a tumult amongst the Jews who reproach him with being unfaithful to Cesar, since Jesus called Himself King, he resists no longer, but irritated, he derides the Jews whom he despised, and not concerning himself as to either the truth or as to Jesus, says, " Shall I crucify your King? "-hiding thus his uneasiness, his vexation, his weakness, and want of conscience. This is the occasion of the public apostasy of the Jews, who declare, " We have no king but Cesar! " The counsels of God are being fulfilled; Pilate's hands are stained with the blood of the Son of God; the Gentiles who had the authority, are guilty of His death; the Jews abandon all the privileges that they had from God, and Jesus, with His innocence judicially owned, occupies alone the place of truth and faithfulness, and gives Himself up (for He might have escaped as in the garden, or indeed at any moment) to fulfill the counsels of grace. The Gentiles are compromised without resource, the Jews lost forever upon the ground of their own responsibility, and that not only as to the law, but as having renounced all right to the enjoyment of the promises; and if God fulfill them later on for His own glory, they will be compelled to receive the enjoyment of them as poor lost sinners from among the Gentiles. Jesus, condemned purely and simply for the testimony that He bore to the truth, as had also been the case before the high priest, stands alone in His dignity and integrity in the midst of a world that ruined itself in running counter to Him, to the grace and truth come from God by Him who was in His bosom.
Here, Jesus recognizes no authority among the Jews-they were adversaries-nor in the head of the Gentiles, except for the accomplishment of God's counsels. He explains to him first the position, but denies his power, if it is not for that. To see His condemnation by the Jews we must go to the other evangelists, as Matt. 26:63-6663But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. 64Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 65Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. 66What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. (Matthew 26:63‑66), where we see Him condemned for the witness He had borne that He was the Son of God; and Luke 22 where they take upon themselves the terrible responsibility of His blood. Here, in the Gospel of John, it is only the adversaries that the Lord does not recognize. Jews and Gentiles, they disappear in the darkness of hatred, and of an act of injustice proceeding from feebleness of soul and want of conscience, and Jesus is there, having borne witness to the truth, alone, accepting the consequences from God, in order to accomplish the unspeakable work of divine love for the one and the other. Oh! that we may know better how to meditate on and realize these things!
In the history of the crucifixion of Jesus, as we have seen in Gethsemane, the sufferings are not found. If He is placed between the malefactors, it is to throw contempt on the poor Jews. But if Pilate had yielded without conscience to their violence, he by no means concerned himself with the honor of their nation, and he insolently maintains what he has written. The will of God was, that this testimony should be borne to the state of the Jews and to the rights of His Son, rejected of the people, but King of the Jews. Prophecy is accomplished with regard to them in the smallest details.
After that, we find One who has completed His blessed course; it is the Son of God. During His service here below, He did not recognize His mother. In reality His human relationships were not in question; He was the bearer of the divine word in this world, the expression of this word in His Person, and nothing else; separated from everything for this. Now that His divine ministry is ended, He recognizes this relationship, not as a link with the Jews, this was over, but as human affection. He commits her to John, the disciple He loved. To have always repelled her was not a lack of natural affection, but faithfulness, whether in His position outside the Jews (Matt. 12:4646While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. (Matthew 12:46)), or in absolute devotedness. Now that His service is finished, His affection is free, and He shows it.
Then, the last little circumstance which was to be found in His death, according to the Scriptures, being accomplished, in perfect peace declaring that all was finished, He gives up His spirit Himself. No one takes it from Him; it is He Himself who gives it up. A divine act: after having suffered everything in His soul by the forsaking of God, in perfect calmness He owns that all is accomplished; He Himself separates His spirit from His body, and gives it up to God, His Father; a divine act that He had the power to accomplish. In Luke's Gospel, we have the human side of man's faith: " Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Here it is the divine side, where He lays down His human life.
The Jews, full of zeal for the ordinances, whilst neglecting the mercy, righteousness, and love of God, desire that the bodies may not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, and a centurion is sent to put the crucified ones to death. He breaks the legs of the two malefactors; but Jesus was dead already; not one of His bones was to be broken; but to assure himself that he was not mistaken, and that (although he understood nothing of it) the world had got rid of the Son of God, he pierces His side with a spear. It was the last outrage the world inflicted upon Him, to make sure that they had done with the Son of God. The answer of grace was the water and the blood that purifies and saves. Man and God met; the insolence and indifference of hatred, and sovereign grace that rises above all the sin of man. Wonderful scene, wonderful testimony! There, where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded. The thrust of the soldier's spear brought out the divine testimony of salvation and of life.
Notice also how opportune this circumstance was. If they had pierced Jesus before His death, and had killed Him, He would not Himself have given up His spirit: if they had pierced Him without putting Him to death, His bloodshed thus would not have had the value of His death. But He gives His life Himself; He is dead, and all the value of His death, in its two aspects of purification and expiation, was manifested, when His side was pierced and the water and the blood came forth; 1 John 5.
How little the outside of what goes on in the world corresponds with the reality! Scruples and brutality hasten to take away the life of the thieves: they little thought that thus they were sending the poor believer straight into paradise! The Scriptures were being accomplished on every point. Not one of the bones of Jesus was broken, but His side had been pierced, and now God provides the rich man with whom Jesus was to be in His death. Joseph of Arimathea has obtained the Savior's body from Pilate, and he and Nicodemus place it with aromatic spices in a new sepulcher that had never been used for an interment. The sabbath being about to begin (at six o'clock in the evening), they placed the body there, so as to arrange everything becomingly when the sabbath should be passed. What a solemn moment when the earth received the dead body of the Son of God, and the world had no more of Him down here!
Remark here, in passing, how iniquity carried out to its full height, leads the weak to show themselves faithful. These two men who believed in Jesus, but whose position and riches hindered them from showing themselves openly, or only allowed one of them to do so, but in a timid and indirect way- now that all are afraid, except a few women-come out boldly. This evil in the midst of the Jews had become intolerable to them, and their position was of real service to them in their devotedness. It was the patient grace of God and His providence that brought out the rich at this moment for this service.
In the invisible world, Jesus was in paradise; as to this world, an interrupted funeral, that was all He had. Sin, death, Satan, the judgment of God, had done all that they severally could do: His earthly life was ended, and with it all His relations with this world, and with man as belonging to this world. Death reigned outwardly, even over the Son of God; serious souls who were aware of it were perplexed. But the world went on just the same; the Passover was celebrated with its usual ceremonies; Jerusalem was what it had been before. They had got rid of the two thieves; what had become of them, one or the other, did not concern society. Its selfishness was delivered from them, and from Another that troubled it by telling too much about it. But it is not the outside of things that is the truth. One of the thieves was in paradise with Christ; the other, far away from all hope; the soul at least of the Third was in the repose of perfect blessing, in the bosom of the Deity. And as to the world, it had lost its Savior, and was to see Him again no more.
But it was impossible, on account of His Person, that Jesus could remain under the power of death, although He submitted to it for us. On account of divine righteousness He was not to remain there. True Son of God, the Father's glory was concerned in His not being holden by it; He could not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. The absolute darkness that had come down upon the world, spoke on God's part of the dawn of a new and eternal day that was going to rise beyond death, for God's glory, upon those who, attached to Jesus, saw in Him the Sun of Righteousness. Sorrow, where there is faith, may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. For the righteous, light arises in the midst of darkness. Man has to be condemned, but God is sovereign in grace, glorious in righteousness. Christ, a man, had to die, according to that grace, and according to righteousness against sin; but He had to be raised according to the unfailing righteousness of God. It is the basis of the truth as regards Christ's work, but it is the principle of all God's ways with us. We must die with Him and rise with Him. If we always appropriate to ourselves this truth, for it is our privilege (Col. 2; 3) we enjoy a life that is not in this world, bearing about always in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus. If, in anything, this life of the flesh is not mortified, death must be applied to it: we experience this in the ways of God. It is the history of our Christian life down here. As to the efficacious accomplishment of the thing, it was done, once for all, on the cross.