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PART VI. (B.)
II. THE CRUCIFIXION AND BURIAL OF JESUS
1. The scourging of Jesus and the mockery, etc., by the soldiers in the Prætorium (John 19:1-3).
2. The attempt of Pilate to deliver Jesus, the bitter outcry of the Jews, and their charge against Jesus as having “made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:4-7).
3. The fear of Pilate on hearing this. He again questions Jesus in the judgment hall, and again seeks to deliver Him (John 19:8-12).
4. Pilate yields to popular clamour (John 19:12-16).
5. Jesus is led to crucifixion (John 19:17-18).
6. The title on the cross (John 19:19-22).
7. Dividing and casting lots for His garments (John 19:23-24).
8. The mother of Jesus committed to the care of the beloved disciple (John 19:25-27).
9. The cry of physical agony (John 19:28); the shout of spiritual victory (John 19:30).
10. The pierced side (John 19:31-37).
11. The burial of the body of Jesus (John 19:38-42).
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 19:1. Therefore (see Luke 23:22-25).—He was under the erroneous impression that this treatment of Jesus might soften the enmity of the Jews toward the Prisoner. Scourged (ἐματίγωσεν).—There is no evidence that Jesus was twice scourged. Scourging was usually a preliminary of crucifixion among the Romans. St. Matthew and St. Mark use a different word (φργελλώσας).
John 19:4-5. Pilate therefore went forth (see John 19:1, above).—He imagined that the sight of the poor tortured form might move compassion. I find no crime, etc.—Had Pilate been able to find any crime in Jesus, he would not have hesitated to condemn Him.
John 19:6. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, etc.—There is a ring of angry sarcasm in the words which must have galled those proud Jews. Pilate means, “I shall have nothing to do with crucifying one who is innocent. Do it yourselves, if you dare.”
John 19:7. According to the law.—Our law, they say, must be respected, whatever you do about the political charge (Leviticus 24:16). We only can be judges in this matter, and according to our law He should die.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 19:1-7
John 19:1-2. The scourging of Jesus and the crown of thorns.—Pilate plunged ever deeper and deeper into the toils. Justice and injustice cannot be reconciled. It went sore against this proud Roman’s conscience to offend the majesty of Roman law, in the attempt to please the clamouring mob of Jewish priests, rulers, and populace. Had he made a firm stand the guilt would not have rested on him. It is not easy always to be popular as well as just. He tried various expedients to extricate himself from the difficult position in which he was placed. He thought that by releasing Barabbas, and holding up Jesus to contempt, the latter might be delivered and the Jews propitiated.
I. The scourging.—
1. Our Lord had already predicted this part of His sufferings (Matthew 20:19; Luke 18:33). It was the preliminary to crucifixion. Pilate in ordering the punishment secretly hoped that the accusers of Jesus would be satisfied with the infliction of this cruel punishment.
2. We follow the meek and lowly, the divine victim into the courtyard of Pilate’s palace. He was handed over to the cruel executioners and rough soldiers of the guard, bound to a pillar, so that the back was bent and the skin tense. The blows were inflicted with switches or thongs, at the extremity of which were pieces of bone or lead. These were wielded by callous men, usually slaves. Even at the first blow blood was drawn, and ere the ten or fifteen minutes of the punishment were ended streams of blood flowed from the lacerated and wounded frame.
3. But this, too, was part of the divine plan. And great as were the pangs of this terrible torture to the body, yet deeper was the agony of soul which He endured. How great, how incomparable, was His obedience! “They made long their furrows upon His back” (Psalms 129:3). But it was all done in order that with. His stripes we might be healed (Isaiah 53:5).
II. The crown of thorns.—
1. Herod had already sent Jesus to Pilate clothed with mock emblems of royalty. No doubt these had been removed; but the remembrance of them led the soldiers to imitate in cruel fashion this jest of Herod.
2. Jesus was evidently entirely given into their hands—a strange thing, Pilate, to do in the case of one pronounced by thyself innocent. Breaking off twigs from a thorny plant abundant about Jerusalem, they wove it with their mailed hands into a rude wreath or crown, and thrust it down over the Saviour’s brow, the sharp thorns lacerating the flesh and causing great pain. Over His lacerated frame they threw a cast-off soldier’s robe to represent a royal robe. They bowed in mockery before Him, crying, “Hail, King of the Jews,” thus mocking that clamouring mob of the people and their Messianic hopes. It was not Jesus so much that was mocked as the people He came to save, and who in rejecting Him were filling up the measure of their wrath.
3. And Jesus bore it all in patient, meek submission for our sakes. “He is led as a lamb to the slaughter,” etc. (Isaiah 53:7). Did none of those barbarous men ask, “What manner of man is this?” One perchance did so (Luke 23:47).
III. The crown and robe were symbolic of a real kingship.—
1. He who wore the thorny crown and mock royal mantle shall yet be hailed as King of kings, etc. (Revelation 17:14), as the apostle was privileged to see Him in vision in His heavenly glory.
2. But the way to this glory was through suffering. And here, as at His birth, Jew and Gentile unite to proclaim Him to be what the angels declared He was to the Jewish shepherds, and the star of prophecy to the Gentile magi. Christ is a king; but it was through humiliation that He rose to glory, for the sake of man.
3. Man was made for dominion (Psalms 8:4-6); but through sin his kingly rule has been in part destroyed—he has not even full dominion over himself. So we see not yet all things put under him (Hebrews 2:8). But Jesus identified Himself with men, offered for them that obedience which they had failed to give—offered it in the only form in which here and now it can be offered, through humiliation for sin, and free self-surrender in all things to the will of the Father. Thus He became the great High Priest and King for humanity; and all who are His, who believe in Him as the only way of escape from moral and spiritual slavery, He makes “kings and priests unto God” (Revelation 1:6), raising them to a more glorious throne than that from which humanity had fallen.
4. And the way to this dominion is the way of suffering—the scourgings of anguish because of sin, the thorny crown of repentance, the crucifixion of the old nature, etc.—all a painful and bitter cross. But to those who thus ever come and are faithful unto death shall be granted the crown of life in the reign of heavenly glory (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:21).
5. So, too, the Church has triumphed and will triumph through suffering for the truth. It is thus it is freed from the dross of earth and refined for glory. It is the glory of true members of the Church that they are able to “fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ.” As He the Captain of salvation was perfected through suffering (Hebrews 2:10), thus also is His body the Church.
John 19:1 “And scourged Him.” (Outline address for children.)
I. Why do we read this so unconcernedly?
1. It was nearly two thousand years ago. An old story. But if we are “Christians,” we know Jesus now. We speak to Him and hear Him; He is no stranger.
2. The awful crucifixion following makes it seem less noticeable. But this He bore for us; and we ought to think of it. The scourging added terribly to the agony of the cross.
II. Do we know what “scourging” means?
1. Have any among us ever seen a criminal sentenced and flogged? Have any among us ever seen a boy flogged? Most painful to witness.
2. Describe Roman “scourging.”
3. Had it been a cruel murderer of women and infants, a brutal criminal! But the kind, good, “Jesus” (describe His life).
4. Had He been tried and sentenced! But this was done by a weak-minded ruler, afraid of the priests and the mob. It could not take place under our good laws and strong government.
III. Jesus bore it all—no terror, no cry. How brave He was!
IV. It was part of what Jesus bore for you. It was your sins caused Him this humiliation.
V. Will you think of Him and love Him for it? And when you know that He is asking you, by the voice of His Spirit within you, to do something, or not to do something, for His love, for His sake, will you try? He will help you if you ask Him.
Lastly.—Take away with you this little text: “By His stripes [I am] healed” Isaiah 53:5).—Rev. T. Hardy.
John 19:3. “Behold the mam!”—
I. In these words Pilate unwittingly gave utterance to a great truth.—Christ Jesus was indeed the man, the great representative of all that is highest and grandest in humanity. What nobler or more beautiful life was ever lived on earth than the life of Jesus of Nazareth, through all its hours (on earth) from opening to close? As we view Him standing in silent dignity near the judgment seat of the vacillating Pilate, before the fiend-inspired mob calling out “Crucify Him!” we know that no other life has been lived, no other ever dreamed of or imagined, that can be compared even to His. From that hour of conscious awakening to the sense of His great mission in the temple, amidst the doctors and teachers, where He knew and felt that He was about His Father’s business, to this closing scene of His public ministry, He stands before us “the perfect man,” holy, harmless, undefiled; for His enemies could find no flaw in His character; and the Roman judge who reluctantly and in unmanly fashion gave Him over to a violent and shameful death declared again and again, “I find no fault in Him.” As we behold Him we must think of that heavenly teaching and doctrine that are the centre and crown of all that is noblest and best in the world to-day, of that tender humanity that showed itself in His continually doing good, of that meekness and lowliness combined with dignity and power that proclaimed Him the very King of men. Well may we, looking merely at His humanity, echo the words of a great modern writer on this aspect of His character. “He walked in Judæa eighteen hundred years ago; His sphere-melody … took captive the ravished souls of men, and, being of a truth sphere-melody, still flows and sounds, though now with thousandfold accompaniments and rich symphonies, through all our hearts, and modulates and divinely leads them” (Carlyle).
II. The man Christ Jesus is the holy, divine Son.—If we see this we must see something more. This perfect man, this flower of humanity, cannot be merely man. No such flower has bloomed, nor ever can bloom, on the field of human nature as it now is. There is something about this man that points us to another sphere. As one has well said: “I find the life of Christ made up of two parts, a part I can sympathise with as a man, and a part on which I am to gaze; a beam sent down from heaven which I can see and love, and another beam shot into the infinite that I cannot comprehend.” Not only is this suffering man the holiest and best that earth has seen, He is “Emmanuel, God with us.” Some glimmering of this truth seems to have visited Pilate, and made him dread yet more to deliver up Jesus to the impious multitude. But no doubt his scepticism and worldly unbelief tended to dismiss the thought. The priests, rulers, and scribes, as well as many in the vast crowd crying out “Crucify Him!” would have confessed this, had they not been blinded by hatred. Ah! He came to give light, but that was not what men wanted. They did not wish to see themselves in the penetrating light of His omniscient purity. The midnight burglar and transgressor flee the light, and will endeavour to overpower him who persists in letting in a clear ray upon their evil deeds; and the old philosopher said well that if truth appeared in the world in her unadorned loveliness men would persecute her. And thus it happened here. Truth did appear. The truth came to men with heavenly radiance to be the life and light of the race; but those to whom He came “hated the light because their deeds were evil.” “They denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto them” (Acts 3:14). But to all who look to Him, this crown of humanity, Emmanuel, becomes their high example, their guiding star, the strength of their life, the comfort of their death, their hope for eternity—“Behold the man!”
III. We behold here the awfulness of sin.—In beholding Christ at Pilate’s judgment seat a sense of the awfulness of sin in God’s sight is borne in upon us. For how does Jesus appear as Pilate points to Him? The awful Roman punishment of scourging was just ended. As Pilate was only a procurator he had no lictors in his train, so that the punishment was left to the rude and brutal soldiery. The arms of the victim were lashed down to a post near the ground, and on the bare shoulders, head, and face the lashes were inflicted with a whip of leather thongs loaded at the extremity with lead or bone. Thus the prophetic language of the prophet received a literal fulfilment, “They made long the furrows upon My back.” Over His bleeding form the rude soldiers threw in mockery a purple-dyed soldier’s cloak to represent a kingly robe, upon His bleeding head and bruised face they pressed a torturing crown of thorns, and into His hands, bound and helpless, they thrust a cane to represent a royal sceptre. Then they made a further mockery of His royal dignity, by each making pretended obeisance, as at a royal levee; and in place of salute each spit in the bruised face, and each with the mock sceptre smote the thorny crown more firmly on the bleeding, bruised head. What a scene! A carnival of fiends, one would feel almost inclined to say. And yet not an impossible scene by any means—only a result that may be expected when men give themselves over to the power of the spirit of evil. Such scenes were too common in those days; and in these times, when the Gospel is denied, as in the great French Revolution—or where it never had power, as in the scenes of torture among the North American Indians—the same diabolic spirit may be seen in its awful working. But amid it all Christ stood in silent dignity. “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth.” For He was a voluntary sufferer for the sins of men. “The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” Some would say, No! Not for this end did He suffer and die, but that He might overcome sin in the future by winning men from its love and power by His holy example. Therefore, as Christ sealed the truth of His mission by His sufferings and death, it might be said He died for sin, and to take away sin. Now, no doubt this is in part true, as Christ’s own words will show: “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.” But surely it is not all the truth. The death of the innocent Jesus would scarcely be called a proof of the divine origin of His mission, or a confirmation of the truth of the Gospel. Indeed, the very opposite was the effect. “The cross of Christ was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness.” And if it is further said that the resurrection was a confirmation of the truth of Christ’s teaching and must needs have been preceded by death, then we may ask, What need was there that the death should have been so shameful and the antecedent sufferings so cruel? No! None of those attempts to escape from acknowledging the sacrificial and atoning purpose of Christ’s death can stand examination. When will men learn that one aspect only of the Redeemer’s atoning work can never exhaust its meaning? And yet Christian men have striven, have excommunicated, and have been excommunicated because of their devotion to one view of the death of Christ, as if it included all the truth. We must learn that His redeeming work was many-sided, that we cannot thoroughly comprehend that infinite depth of divine wisdom displayed in it, which even the angels desire to look into. Certainly one of the most prominent views Scripture gives us of these sufferings of Jesus is that of their expiatory nature. “He appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” “He was delivered for our offences.” “This cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sin.” This truth is written prominently in the history of Calvary. And is it not this view of the Saviour’s sufferings that hath brought deepest peace and truest joy to His followers and to repentant sinners in all the Christian ages? “Behold the man!”—the spiritual Adam, representative of humanity; the God man who, in oneness with men, willingly submitted to endure their woes, and by His sacrifice of Himself brought in for them eternal salvation, having magnified the eternal law and borne for man the effects of sin, pain and sorrow, shame and agony, the hiding of the Father’s face, death and the grave that they might have life. “Behold,” therefore, in this suffering man “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.”
 To those without, i.e. to those to whom belief in it is of vital importance.
IV. We behold here the Judge of quick and dead.—Behold in this afflicted man the Judge of quick and dead. “Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him.” “And, behold, I am coming quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.” “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” Pilate on his judgment seat and the chief priests and rulers in the Sanhedrin imagined that they were the judges on that memorable occasion. But how blinded men are. In reality they were being judged, and their Judge stood before them in the form of that meek, afflicted man. Latter-day Pilates and rulers might well take this truth to heart! And what is our attitude in view of His promise, “I am coming quickly”? Would it be that of Wesley, who, when asked, “Suppose you were summoned to meet the eternal Judge at twelve o’clock to-day, what would you do?” replied, “I should do what I am doing now.”
Lessons.—“Behold the man,” and let the view of that unspeakable love of His move your hearts to lively gratitude and self-denying service. Has it not been well said, that often men show more gratitude toward the friend from whom they have received one benefit than to the God from whom they received all? “God spared not His own Son.” “Even Christ pleased not Himself.” And how do His professed followers often show their love and gratitude? By a languid attendance at divine ordinances, by the giving of a perhaps grudging dole for the Work of Christ’s kingdom; there, it may be, their tribute of gratitude begins and ends. Let our conscience speak to us as we view this scene on Gabbatha! Some of you may have read the story of the manner in which Count Zinzendorf was finally led to found the Moravian Church. He was one day walking through the picture gallery at Düsseldorf revolving various projects in his thought. He was a good man, a true disciple, but had not yet risen to the full consecration of his noble work. He was that day suddenly arrested before a notable Ecce Homo—a picture of the Redeemer with the crown of thorns on His bleeding head. The artist’s legend was, “All this have I done for thee: what hast thou done for Me?” The picture sermon went home. Zinzendorf there and then entreated the Lord to grant him “the fellowship of His sufferings,” and the result was the founding of Unitas Fratrum, the United Brethren, the most missionary Church in the world. It is the want of faith and love that keeps men from a full consecration. May we have faith to realise more fully the wonder of that love; and may that love constrain us to do our Father’s will and finish His work, following our Redeemer!
John 19:1. The punishment of scourging.—The fact that among the Romans there was a twofold scourging—the one which served for torture (quæstio per tormenta) or for punishment, the other as preparatory to execution (comp. Sepp, 509)—may enlighten us upon the difficulty which has arisen between the narratives of the first two Evangelists and that of St. John, in reference to the scourging of Jesus. We may beforehand, for instance, suppose without difficulty that Pilate allowed the same scourging which was at first intended as torture or as punishment, to satisfy the thirst for revenge of the Jews, to pass subsequently, when the execution was decided on, as its introduction. Thus the Evangelists might apprehend this scourging according to its different aspects. John regarded it according to the original motives under which Pilate had arranged it, and Luke also brings out this reference strongly (Luke 23:16). Matthew and Mark, on the other hand, represent the scourging, in its world-historical importance, as preparatory to, and the beginning of, the sufferings of the cross of Christ. Thence it is plain, moreover, that they take it away from its original connection, and place it at the close of the sufferings of Christ before Pilate’s tribunal. Nay, even the apparent differences between the specifications of time of John and of Mark respectively, become set aside by this observation. To suppose a twofold scourging, as Ebrard does (433), is not allowable, for this reason, that the act of scourging, of which the first Evangelist speaks, perfectly resembles that described by John, and referred to by Luke in its issue in the history of the crowning with thorns.—J. P. Lange.
John 19:7. The clearness of our Lord’s claim, to be the Son of God.—If indeed, in His dealings with the multitude, our Lord had been really misunderstood, He had a last opportunity of explaining Himself when He was arraigned before the Sanhedrin. Nothing is more certain than that, whatever was the dominant motive that prompted our Lord’s apprehension, the Sanhedrin condemned Him because He claimed divinity. The members of the court stated this before Pilate. “We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Their language would have been meaningless if they had understood by the “Son of God” nothing more than the ethical or theocratic sonship of their own ancient kings and saints. If the Jews held Christ to be a false Messiah, a false prophet, a blasphemer, it was because He claimed literal divinity. True, the Messiah was to have been divine. But the Jews had secularised the Messianic promises; and the Sanhedrin held Jesus Christ to be worthy of death under the terms of the Mosaic law, as expressed in Leviticus 24:16 and Deuteronomy 13:5. After the witnesses had delivered their various and inconsistent testimonies, the high priest arose and said, “I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus 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. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy” (Matthew 26:63-65). The blasphemy did not consist, either in the assumption of the title Son of man, or in the claim to be Messiah, or even, excepting indirectly, in that which, by the terms of Daniel’s prophecy, was involved in Messiahship, namely, the commission to judge the world. It was the further claim to be the Son of God, not in any moral or theocratic, but in the natural sense, at which the high priest and his coadjutors professed to be so deeply shocked. The Jews felt, as our Lord intended, that the Son of man in Daniel’s prophecy could not but be divine; they knew what He meant by appropriating such words as applicable to Himself. Just as one body of Jews had endeavoured to destroy Jesus when He called God His Father in such sense as to claim divinity (John 5:17-18); and another when He contrasted His eternal being with the fleeting life of Abraham in a distant past (John 8:58-59); and another when He termed Himself Son of God, and associated Himself with His Father as being dynamically and so substantially one (John 10:30-31; John 10:39); just as they murmured at His pretension to have “come down from heaven” (John 6:42), and detected blasphemy in His authoritative remission of sins (Matthew 9:3),—so when, before His judges, He admitted that He claimed to be the Son of God, all further discussion was at an end. The high priest exclaimed, “Ye have heard His blasphemy”; and they all condemned Him to be guilty of death. And a very accomplished Jew of our own day, M. Salvador, has shown that this question of our Lord’s divinity was the real point at issue at that momentous trial. He maintains that a Jew had no logical alternative to belief in the Godhead of Jesus Christ except the imperative duty of putting Him to death.—H. P. Liddon.
John 19:5. “Behold the man!”—From the brief and very pregnant form of the words, it might perhaps be concluded that a better feeling had overcome [Pilate’s] worldliness in this expression: the latter feeling would have probably been uttered in a more declamatory manner. The exclamation of the judge has been with reason regarded by the Church as an involuntary prophecy of this moment of suffering, extorted from his feeling by the power of Christ’s appearance. His first conscious feeling is connected with the most unconscious by a series of links. “Behold the man!” It is as if Pilate would exclaim, There He is—the poor man—a spectacle for compassion; as if in this deepest misery the Man first of all appeared to us again in His full human form, and awakened our entire human feeling. The Roman knew not in what measure he prophesied. According to his conscious purpose, however, he wished, doubtless, by his words to preach sympathy and compassion to the high priests and their attendants, by the sensible effects of Christ’s appearance. But the heathen man of the world preached humanity in vain to the Jewish hierarchs. As soon as they saw the man appear in the crown of thorns, they became deeply irritated, and cried, “Crucify, crucify Him!” The sorrowing Messiah is to the Greeks foolishness—to the Jews an offence: this moment proves this. The heathenish mind, in its disposition to worship fortune, and to count misfortune a sin, or even as a curse, cannot at all perceive the power in the idea of triumphant and redeeming sorrow: therefore it is laughable to it; and the representation of this idea seems to be involved in a foolish fanaticism, which deserves compassion. But the Jewish mind is able to perceive so much of the truth of that idea, and of its confirmation in Christ, that the momentary appearance of it results in offending and agitating it in the strongest manner in its ardent but darkened worldliness. Therefore Jesus, in the present pomp in which He appeared as the jest of the heathen world, and in Him the idea of the King of the Jews served for a mockery to the heathen world—became to them more odious than ever. It is extremely characteristic that immediately a frightful paroxysm of rage was developed in them at this view of Jesus—a hurricane which carried them altogether into the position of the heathens, without their being conscious of it, seeing that they now themselves dictated for the Lord the heathen punishment of the cross in the cry and roar, “Crucify, crucify Him!” This was the second degree of rejection wherewith the Jews delivered their Messiah to Pilate.… The Jewish hierarchy is the most deeply guilty; next to that, the people of the promise, which is here changed by its own agency into a people of the curse. It cannot, indeed, be asserted that here it was, in the main, the same voices which cried out the “Crucify Him! crucify Him!” against Jesus which a few days before hailed Him with the hosanna. There the best of the people appeared in the foreground, here the worst; and only a medley of slavish and wavering minds would find themselves here again among the rabble of the high council, who had then attached themselves to the royal priestly people of the Messiah. But where in this case were the better ones who had shouted hosanna? Thrice resounded the great liturgy of death spoken by the Jews on the temple-mountain against the Messiah, “Crucify, crucify Him!” There was heard no contradiction. Thus had the elected people fulfilled against itself the doom of self-rejection. Moreover, even the heathen world had doomed itself. Greek civilisation and Roman justice had become, in the person of Pilate, the servants of the Jewish fanaticism which was hostile to Christ. The mighty worldly pomp, the nursery of civic right, had become a slavish executioner of a degraded priestly caste, and of an inquisition hostile to humanity. The entire old world accomplished the judgment of self-rejection in sealing the doom of the Prince of the new world, the inheritor of its blessing. The rejection of Jesus was actually declared when Pilate released to the Jews their Barabbas. The spirit of Barabbas, the seditious man and the murderer, became thenceforth the gloomy genius of the political life of the people. This is proved by the history of the Jewish war. But whilst he was set free in triumph, Jesus was once more stripped of the soldier’s cloak and dressed in His own clothes, and was hurried away to the place of execution. Certainly this condemnation and leading to death of Jesus resulted, moreover, in the redemption and release of still another Barabbas, namely, of fallen man in general, as having committed sedition against God and murder against its brethren, and thereupon is fallen into the heavy bondage of sin. Christ goes away to release the prisoners who long for freedom.—J. P. Lange
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 19:9. Whence … Jesus gave no answer.—The answer had already been given (John 18:36-37 : see also John 8:25; John 10:24-25). Besides, what Pilate had to settle now was the justice of the charge for which Jesus was brought before him (Isaiah 53:7).
John 19:11. He that delivered He unto thee, etc.—The Jewish high priest claimed to represent a divinely ordered religion and system, and to be directed in his action by divine revelation and guidance. Therefore, as one who should have been in possession of clearer light, he was more guilty than a heathen judge, to whom the light and truth of God had not come.
John 19:12. Cæsar’s friend.—Amicus Cæsaris was a title of honour sometimes given to provincial governors. Those men well knew the jealous fears of Tiberius for his authority. The suspicion of treason brought almost inevitable ruin during his reign, and many were charged with that crime.
John 19:13. Therefore.—Pilate’s action is that of a man of the world, not of a just, impartial judge—of a man who puts self-interest before truth and righteousness.
John 19:14. The preparation (παρασκευή).—Of the passover, which was near at hand. Soon the passover lamb was to be slain, and even on that very day “Christ our passover was sacrificed for us.” The sixth hour.—See note, pp. 536, 537.
John 19:15. Shall I crucify your king?—Since those men would persist in the political charge against Christ, Pilate intends that the condemnation of the accused shall rest on that ground, as he clearly showed in the “title” written to be affixed on the cross (John 19:19). No king but Cæsar.—This cry, in which the leaders of the theocracy reject their rightful King, is sadly prophetic. They judged themselves “unworthy of everlasting life”; therefore the kingdom of God was taken from them (Acts 13:46; Matthew 21:43). And the world’s rule has been hard and bitter for them and their children.
John 19:16. Then delivered lie Him unto them, etc.—I.e. to the priests and rulers of the Jews. Not that Jesus was actually delivered into their hands, but He was delivered up, in order that their evil designs against Him might be carried out. The quaternion of Roman soldiers who carried out the actual crucifixion were only instruments of their wicked will (Acts 2:23; Acts 3:15).
John 19:17. Bearing His cross, etc.—He bore it until He appears to have sunk under it, and then Simon of Cyrene was compelled to help Jesus to bear it (Mark 15:21). Golgotha (from נָּלַלִ).—Probably so called from the rounded form of the mound, or hillock, on which crucifixion was usually carried out. The Vulgate translated the word Calvaria—a skull, or a place of burial. Hence our word Calvary. The question of the site of Calvary and the holy sepulchre need not be discussed here. It is a question that is not yet settled, if it ever can be. But no valid reason has yet been given to lead to a conclusive decision against the spot now covered by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
John 19:18. Two others.—The intention, no doubt, in crucifying these two malefactors, and Jesus in the midst as, on account of His alleged treason, more guilty than they, was to offer to the world an ostensible reason for His condemnation.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 19:7-18
John 19:7-16. Jesus innocent, yet condemned.—Pilate had done his utmost to deliver Jesus from those implacable foes, i.e. he had done his utmost to effect his purpose by policy. He hesitated to take a firm stand on the platform of even-handed justice. His unjust government of his province made him fear to do this. “Conscience makes cowards of us all”; and here it made Pilate weak and vacillating. The Jewish leaders were quick to see this, and pressed their advantage remorselessly until the divinely appointed end had been reached. Notice—
I. Pilate’s final examination of Jesus.—
1. The last word of Jewish malice made Pilate again hesitate and bethink himself before finally yielding (John 19:7).
2. The Son of God! This saying of the infuriated Jews, coupled with the remembrance of his wife’s message regarding her mysterious dream, made Pilate more than ever conscious that in Christ’s presence the eternal world was near. Little wonder that he feared, lest haply he might be found “fighting against God” (Acts 5:34-40). But he had neither the clear conscience nor the moral courage of a Gamaliel to make such a stand for truth and right as he should have made.
3. Perturbed in mind, this unbeliever (in whose mind the usual association of unbelief and superstition was found) returned to the judgment hall, and again stood before the silent, suffering Christ. Abruptly and with troubled countenance he asks the question, “Whence art Thou?” but he received no answer from our Lord.
4. It is plain why Jesus did not answer the Roman judge. All the materials for forming a judgment were before him, and on reviewing these Pilate had already pronounced Jesus innocent. Thus the Roman judge himself was indirectly condemned. But it was also in mercy for Pilate’s moral weakness which his heathen education could not change into strength. Therefore He spares him further sin.
5. But in answer to Pilate’s foolish boast about his power Jesus did reply in a fashion that made Pilate yet more uneasy (John 19:11). Jesus pointed out to him that his power and authority as judge and governor lay above and behind imperial Rome (Romans 13:1): that this power was given to be exercised justly, and that therefore he would be called to account for the use of it; but that those who knew better—the theocratic judge Caiaphas and the other Jewish leaders, who should have had more enlightenment, and who unjustly pressed Pilate to condemn Jesus—were the most guilty.
II. Pilate’s final declaration of the innocency of Jesus.—
1. This last conversation with the Saviour made Pilate more feverishly anxious than ever to release Jesus. The more he saw of the kingly Sufferer, the more unfathomable abysses of mystery and being seemed to open around Him.
2. In doing this he bore testimony again to his own word, “I find in Him no fault at all” (John 18:38). And well might Pilate do so; for Jesus here distinctly acknowledges Pilate’s right to judge derived from above, and thus proves that He is no stirrer-up of the people against properly constituted authority. He declares also the right of Heaven to order human affairs, and thus shows Himself to be no blasphemer.
3. Well then might Pilate seek to release Him. And we should rejoice to be able to accept this evidence of the blamelessness of our great High Priest. It was testimony dragged from an unwilling witness; and it shows us that Jesus in this was fitted for His great mediatorial work as the Redeemer of men.
III. Jesus, though innocent, is condemned.—
1. Pilate’s well-meant efforts to save Jesus from the uttermost penalty proved vain. A cry of wrath from the excited mob rent the air: “If thou let this man go,” etc. (John 19:12). The struggle between righteousness and apparent self-interest going on in Pilate’s breast, and which a moment ago seemed being decided on the side of righteousness, was suddenly ended in favour of self-interest.
2. If this accusation, however baseless, came to the ears of Tiberius, and it was proved that Christ had been released, then Pilate knew, or thought, there would be “short shrift” for him. “What was this Jew in comparison with his position and safety. Better the satisfaction of this unjust demand of the Jewish rulers than disgrace or worse at Rome.” Is it so certain, Pilate? and does a God of righteousness not reign? Had you remained firm that day your house might have been established in righteousness (Psalms 112:0). Unrighteousness will not serve you; the unrighteous shall perish.
3. Pilate therefore, with a heavy load upon his conscience, sat down in his judgment seat to stain his office by a crime. He was not a judge, but a slave in the high light of noon.
4. Strange were his words in pronouncing judgment: “Behold your King”; and as the people cried, “Away with Him, crucify Him,” again the scornful voice was heard: “Shall I crucify your King?” This was the plea on which they finally pressed Pilate to condemn Jesus, and they will not be spared the humiliation of the charge.
5. But if Pilate was a slave, what shall be said of those hypocritical men who boasted of their freedom as they cried out, “We have no king but Cæsar” (John 8:32-33)? Jesus is “delivered to be crucified,” and is led away to the cross. But as these men go we see gathering over them the storms of justice, summoned by their imprecation, “His blood be on us and on our children.” We see a subjugated people—a ruined city, the abode of hideous iniquity, round which the eagles gather for their prey—a blazing temple—“a people scattered and peeled”—until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24), and the descendants of those murderers shall say, “Blessed is He,” etc. (Matthew 23:39).
John 19:17-18. Golgotha.—A guard of Roman soldiers issue from one of the gates of Jerusalem escorting three prisoners, and accompanied by a varied crowd, many execrating or jeering, some, mostly of the gentler sex, weeping. The guard hold their way toward an open space near the highway, where, on a low mound, malefactors are wont to be executed. Two of the prisoners are known criminals; the third, who has aid in bearing the cross to which He is soon to be nailed, is Jesus, who was pronounced innocent by the Roman judge. As they come to the place of execution, the flower-scented airs of spring breathe around, and the bright spring sunshine, as yet undimmed, gleams down on this scene. The preliminaries of crucifixion are soon arranged. Jesus and the malefactors are nailed to the crosses they have been bearing, which are then set upright and fixed. Jesus occupies the central position; on either hand the malefactors are placed, and the weary hours begin to pass. We place ourselves in thought before the central cross on Golgotha, and ask the meaning of this scene.
I. The cross of Jesus is the symbol of the punishment of sin.—
1. Around it are marshalled the hosts of light and darkness. The crucial hour of conflict has come, when humanity shall be freed from the guilt of sin—when the darkness that covered the earth, and the gross darkness brooding over the peoples, shall begin to pass, and the true light to shine (1 John 2:8).
2. Jew and Gentile felt the burden of sin, and perceived that they were responsible for its committal and obnoxious to its punishment. The Hebrew with the divine revelation given to him apprehended this truth most deeply. He realised that sin springs “out of the depths of human personality in opposition to the divine,” that it is “in its nature destructive and leads to death,” and that by it misery comes upon men.
3. But the Gentile also had his idea of sin. It gave rise to the dualism of Persia, it meets us in the thought of the most cultured Gentile peoples; it is one of the foundations on which the loftiest heathen literature, Greek tragedy, has been built. “Behind all the activities of life, and all the play of dramatic passion, … there is a stern background of righteousness which will by no means clear the guilty. A shadowy terror overhangs all wrong-doing, and a curse which cannot be turned away pursues the offenders” (Dr. John Tulloch).
4. Sin and its punishment, then, were amongst the most engrossing thoughts of all men. How to escape its guilt and penalty—that was the cry of the ages.
5. And here on the cross of Jesus the prayers of the ages uttered, or unexpressed, have found an answer. “He was made sin for us who knew no sin.” On the cross He suffered the extreme penalty, even to the hiding for a moment of the Father’s face.
6. There, too, the dominion of evil is broken. The evil power in which sin inheres is vanquished. The head of Satan is bruised; and the kingdom of darkness begins to shrink as the kingdom of light expands.
II. The cross of Jesus is the symbol of divine love.—
1. When sinful men remember that they must stand before God they begin with fear to ask, “How shall I come before Him?” etc. And if they are honest their answer will be, “I cannot answer for one of a thousand transgressions.” I cannot pay the ten thousand talents which I owe. I have no way by which the debt might be cancelled. My own righteousness falls in ruins. The heaven that I would purchase with my good works becomes like an empty dream.
2. “What man could not do God did,” etc. (Romans 8:3). His love planned the way of escape for man. In the Son He lays a foundation on which men may build safely for eternity, “not having their own righteousness which is of the law,” etc. (Philippians 3:9).
3. And in the cross is seen the love of the Redeemer in His vicarious suffering and self-sacrifice for mankind, in obedience to the Father’s will, “who desires not the death of a sinner,” etc. (Ezekiel 18:32). The cross of shame thus becomes a visible manifestation and symbol of heavenly love toward fallen men.
III. The cross of Jesus on Golgotha is the meeting-point of the ages.—
1. (1) It was foreseen from eternity. Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
(2) It was concealed in the first promise of redemption after Eden’s fall.
(3) Abraham saw it afar off, “and was glad,” when Isaac was spared on Moriah (Genesis 22:12-14).
(4) Jacob waited for the salvation of God (Genesis 49:18).
(5) Isaiah and all the Old Testament saints and prophets sighed for and looked forward to that happy hour when Christ’s divine sorrow and suffering should bring joy to men. “Oh that Thou wouldst rend the heavens, and come down,” etc. (Isaiah 64:1). “Yea, many kings and prophets would fain have seen the things which Christ’s disciples saw,” etc. (Luke 10:24).
(6) The Gentile world also felt vague longings after peace and a higher life which no wisest philosophy, no effort, could help men to attain to,—when the love of God wrought redemption for humanity on the cross of shame.
2. (1) And toward this cross all succeeding ages have looked.
(2) Men still have tried in various ways to effect for themselves what the redeeming grace of our great High Priest alone can effect. They have sought through ritual, pilgrimages, etc., to escape the necessity of that full surrender to Christ which has made the cross of Christ “to the Jews a stumbling-block,” etc. (1 Corinthians 1:23). But however far men wander into the ways of unbelief or superstition, seeking thus to gain peace and promise of heaven, they have had to come back to the cross of Jesus.
(3) And now in ever-widening circles its influence is spreading. Men of all races, as the years pass on, are turning toward it, as the true centre of life—the true blessedness for time, the only hope for eternity.
Application.—Do we see in this scene on Golgotha divine love exhibited toward us? Do we see in it the wisdom and mercy of God working out through Christ our redemption? Then what joy and comfort should the view bring to our souls! On that cross the dominion of evil is broken, the guilt of sin removed, the sting of death taken away. Do our sins appal us with the thought of judgment? “Christ was delivered for our offences,” etc. (Romans 4:25; Colossians 1:14). Does death affright? The power has been taken from him (Romans 14:8). Does the law thunder condemnation?
“Free from the law, O happy condition,
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission.
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us, ‘once for all.’ ”
What reason, then, to rejoice in the cross of Jesus! Thence flow eternal peace, heavenly joy, divine sonship and citizenship; there the darkness passes from our souls for time and eternity, and through the mists of sorrow and pain the morning of joy dawns, and the Sun of righteousness arises, bringing an endless day of truth and grace.
John 19:17-18. The cross of Christ.—It is in the mystery of the cross that God has made the glory of His wisdom most evident. The thoughts of men and those of God have been in opposition since men sinned. It is therefore no cause of astonishment that men should have dared sometimes to find fault with the works of God. That which should surprise us most is that men have been offended even at the grace of God. The mystery of a crucified God is foolishness to the worldling. Yet with the apostle we maintain that it is in a special degree the manifestation of divine wisdom. Two things were essential:
1. To satisfy an offended God; and
2. To elevate men, who had become perverted and corrupted. But these ends could not be attained to in any way more effectually than by the cross of the Saviour.
I. There is no other means by which an offended God can be satisfied than the cross of Jesus Christ.—
1. God could be satisfied only by the God-man. And what has this God-man done, or rather what was there that He did not do? Why was God alienated from man? Because man had sought to be as God. “Ye shall be as gods,” etc. (Genesis 3:1-5). And I, said the God-man, in order to satisfy My Father, I shall humiliate Myself more than any man: “I am a worm and no man,” etc. (Psalms 22:6). Men had rebelled against God. Therefore, said the God-man, shall I become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Man in sinful concupiscence eats of the forbidden fruit; therefore I (said the God-man) will become a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). Can we conceive a more complete reparation?
2. But this is not all. The Saviour has revealed three great truths with which men should be chiefly concerned:
(1) What God is;
(2) what sin is; and
(3) what salvation is. The knowledge of these truths is essentially connected with the mystery of the cross. What is God? An exalted Being, for whose glory Emmanuel had to be humiliated, even to the death of the cross. The idea of the greatness of God which this gives surpasses all that can otherwise be conceived. And what is sin? An evil, for the expiation of which it was necessary that the God-man should become “a curse” (Galatians 3:13) and full of reproach. This is the mystery of the cross which we preach. And what is the salvation of man? It is a blessing to secure which for man the Son of God laid down His life. These are the great truths which this divine Master, dying on the cross, teaches us. Now, a truth which gives us such lofty ideas of God, which inspires us with a perfect horror and hatred of sin, which leads us to prize salvation above everything else, must be a mystery of divine wisdom.
II. There is no means more effectual than the cross of Christ for converting men perverted and corrupted by sin.—
1. There are three sources of sin according to St. John: “The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). The remedy for these our Lord brought when He came from heaven, and He shows us in His passion what they are. The despoilment of His garments teaches us not to love riches, the lust of the eye. The humiliations He underwent testify against ambition, the pride of life. His sufferings witness against sensuality, which is the lust of the flesh. “What would be the result,” said the learned Pic de la Mirande, “if men should agree universally to live according to the example of Jesus Christ, so that this crucified God should become practically the law according to which the world would be governed? To what a degree of perfection would the world speedily be raised which to-day is so corrupt!”
2. In the divine plan how beautifully is the excess of malice corrected by the excess of perfection in Christ, the excess of sinfulness by His superabounding holiness, the excess of base ingratitude by the abounding of His unspeakable love!
3. Behold, here is surely what is sufficient to confound our reason in view of the judgment of God; and may it please Him that this judgment, at which our reason must be convinced of its errors and put to confusion, may not already be begun for us. For from this time forth the dying Saviour has committed to Him the judgment of the world. “Now is the judgment of this world” (John 12:31). His cross will rise against us. It is the cross of Christ by which we shall be judged—this cross (so inimical to our passions), which we have honoured in our speculations, and which we have shrunk from in our practice, with it we shall be confronted. All that is not found to be conformable to it shall then bear the character and seal of reprobation. What resemblance is there between it and our fleshly lives? Let not that which should reconcile us to God only make us more worthy of condemnation; but let it be that in which we place all our confidence.—Abridged from Bourdaloue.
John 19:14. The time of the crucifixion.—Does John here use the Jewish mode of reckoning time? and if so, how is this statement to be reconciled with Mark 15:25, “And it was the third hour,” etc., and with the assertion of all the Synoptists that the darkness—not mentioned by St. John—lasted from the sixth to the ninth hour, i.e. twelve to three o’clock?
1. It must be remembered that the ancients had not the convenient means we have of determining the exact time. They had to go a good deal by guess-work, by noticing the position of the sun, etc. We are not therefore to think that the hour as given either by the Synoptists or by St. John was what we might call the exact moment in astronomical time. Then St. John expressly uses the word about. It is just as if he had said toward noon.
2. All the Synoptists give the hours when darkness fell on the scene of the crucifixion as the sixth to the ninth. This probably denoted the actual time of our Lord’s crucifixion; and in this way St. John’s general reference would not be at variance with St. Mark’s statement as above.
3. Probably the scourging was regarded by St. Mark as the beginning of the crucifixion. It was preliminary to it. Then would come the march to Golgotha, and the preparation for the crucifixion itself. Both would take time. And as Jesus would almost appear to have been the last of the three to be nailed on the cross, it might be well on toward noon when His cross was finally lifted up.
4. There are strong arguments, however, in favour of the idea that John used the Western mode of reckoning time (a day of twelve hours from midnight to noon and from noon to midnight) as best known in Roman Asia where he laboured. But this surely would only shift the difficulty, and not solve it; for 6 a.m. is not 9 a.m. The likelihood is that amid the events of that day, so awful to the disciples, neither St. John nor St. Peter (if he it was who dictated St. Mark’s Gospel) would have time or thought to inquire what the exact hour by sun-dial or clepsydra was, whilst both might think of somewhat different stages of the proceedings when they made their notes of time.
John 19:16-18. The presence of evil in human life.—When we turn to the highest form of life in man himself, the presence of evil haunts it everywhere in endless forms of general and individual experience in all relations of human society, all functions of human industry, and in the noblest energies of human progress. We cannot conceal its working when we look within our own hearts. Nay; here more than anywhere it shows its deepest power, and touches human experience with acutest misery. Different natures will apprehend differently the depth and power of evil in human life; but there are none, not even the more sentimental enthusiasts, can dispute its existence; and it requires only a slight degree of moral earnestness to be solemnly arrested by it. The highest natures have been most moved by its mystery; and those who have most realised the greatness of man, and done most for his good, have at the same time felt most pathetically the shadows of evil that rest upon his lot. So far there can hardly be any difference of opinion as to the fact which we call evil. Whatever men may make of the fact, its presence around them and in their own life admits of no denial. A fact so universal and so painful, touching human life at all points with such a sore pressure, has been necessarily a subject of much inquiry and reflection. Men have never ceased interrogating the mystery which lies around them and within them. The history of religion is in great part a history of the explanations which men have tried to give of it.—Dr. John Tulloch.
John 19:17-18. The law is no remedy for sin.—The moral law powerfully contributed to awaken the innersense of the Hebrew people and deepen their consciousness of sin. The divine is presented in it not merely as Sovereign and Lord—although this is the opening keynote (Exodus 20:2-3)—but as identified with every aspect of order, truth, righteousness, and purity in human life. A moral idea not only invests all life, but is carried up to Jahveh-Elohim, as the Source of this life and its highest Exemplar. It was impossible to dwell in the light of such an ideal and not to have had the spiritual sense quickened and made sensitive and the feeling of offence toward the divine called forth in many ways hitherto little understood or owned. This is what St. Paul means when he says that “the law entered that the offence might abound” (Romans 5:20), and again, that “without the law sin was dead” (Romans 7:8). He is speaking of his own experience, or of the experience of a devout Jew in his own time; but the experience of the religious nature is always so far the same—nay, the experience of the individual is typical of the race. When the law entered into the consciousness of humanity, and was added to the progressive force of divine revelation, the sense of sin was deepened alongside of it. Conscience became alive in front of the divine commandment, and spiritual life was touched to its depths by that sad undertone of sin which has never died out of it. Through ages the moral law has been the most powerful moral factor of humanity, restraining its chaotic tendencies, and binding it into harmonies of domestic, social, and religious well-being. It has lain not merely upon the human conscience, but entered into the human heart as one of its most living inward springs—bracing its weakness, rebuking its laxity, holding before it an inflexible rule of moral good. Words cannot measure the strength which it has been to all the higher qualities of the race, and the widespread moral education which it has diffused, discriminating and purifying the ideas alike of good and evil wherever it has prevailed, and clothing life with a reality and depth of meaning which it would never otherwise have possessed.—Dr. John Tulloch.
John 19:17-18. The preaching of the cross the power of God unto salvation.—Let me try then to point out to you what some of the effects will be in a man’s preaching from a true sense of the value of the human soul, by which I mean a high estimate of the capacity of the spiritual nature, a keen and constant appreciation of the attainments to which it may be brought. And first of all it helps to rescue the gospel which we preach from a sort of unnaturalness and incongruity which is very apt to cling to it; this is, I think, very important. Consider what it is that you are to declare week after week to the men and women who come to hear you. The mighty truths of Incarnation and Atonement are your themes. You tell them of the birth and life and death of Jesus Christ. You picture the adorable love and the mysterious sacrifice of the Saviour, and you bind all this to their lives. You tell them that in a true sense all this was certainly for them. I do not know what you are made of, if sometimes, as you preach, there does not come into your mind a thought of incongruity. What are you, you and these people to whom you preach, that for you the central affection of the universe should have been stirred? You know your own life. You know something of the lives they live. You look into their faces as you preach to them. Where is the end worthy of all this ministry of almighty grace which you have been describing? Is it possible that all this once took place, and by the operation of the Holy Spirit is a perpetual power in the world, merely that these machine-lives might run a little truer, or that a series of rules might be established by which the current workings of society might move more smoothly? That, which men sometimes make the purpose of it all, is too unworthy. The engine is too coarse to have so fine a fire under it. You must see something deeper. You must discern in all these men and women some inherent preciousness, for which even the marvel of the Incarnation and the agony of Calvary were not too great, or it is impossible that yon should keep your faith in those stupendous truths which Bethlehem and Calvary offer to us. Some source of fire from which these dimmed sparks come, some possible renewal of the fire which is in them still, some sight of the education through which each soul is passing, and some suggestion of the special personal perfectness to which each may attain, all this must brighten before you, as you look at them; and then the truths of your theology shall not be thrown into confusion nor faded into unreality by your ministry to men.—Dr. Phillips Brooks.
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 19:19-20. This was also one reason for the title written (τίτλος, titulus, the technical name) by Pilate for the cross of Jesus. His alone would need it. For people might be inclined to ask (those who were not mere tools of the Jewish rulers), “Why was this man, who had been declared innocent, and who during His life among the people had gone about doing good, thus treated?” But the title was also indicative of Pilate’s scorn of those Jews, and part of his revenge for their having forced him against his better judgment, his will, and his conscience to condemn Christ. The reason why the title was written in the three languages chiefly in use in Palestine at that period is evident; but it seems also to give an indication of Pilate’s eagerness to let the accusation be widely known. Hebrew.—No doubt the current Aramaic (Semitic) dialect. Greek.—The language of culture. Latin.—The language of imperial Rome.
John 19:23-24. Took His garments, etc.—St. John’s is the more full account of this incident. John 19:23-24, explain why the soldiers cast lots. This is merely mentioned generally by the Synoptists, as if it applied to the garments as a whole.
John 19:25-27. Now there stood by the cross, etc.—Are three or four women mentioned here? The evidence on the whole seems to show that there were four—that the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not “Mary of Clopas” (Alphæus,Matthew 27:56; Matthew 27:56; Matthew 10:3), but Salome (Mark 15:40), “the mother of Zebedee’s children.” The reason why her name is not mentioned is that John in his Gospel does not mention his own name, or the names of his kindred, except by circumlocution. If this explanation be correct it throws a clear light on the incident of John 19:26-27. It would also explain in a measure why the mother of Zebedee’s children ventured to make so bold a request for her two sons on one occasion (Matthew 20:21).
John 19:28-30. Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished (for accomplished read finished, τετέλεσται), that the Scripture might be (accomplished) τελειωθῇ.—These words are from the same root. By His life and death He had fulfilled the purpose for which divine revelation was given, the purpose to which it all pointed, i.e. the redemption of men. Therefore, knowing this, He called out, “I thirst” (thus fulfilling the prophetic words regarding the suffering Servant of Jehovah, Psalms 69:21); and when His parched lips and tongue were moistened by the drops of sour wine, He was able to lift the cry of victory, It is finished (again τετέλεσται). Bowed His head.—All the narratives show clearly that our Lord’s death was a voluntary death.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 19:19-30
John 19:19. The “title on the cross.”—
I. We should have an interest in the details of the crucifixion.—
1. If we believe that the death on this cross was borne for our sakes, we cannot but take an interest in every detail connected with it.
2. A wonderful and well-known picture, at which many have loved to look, presents to us the mother of the Crucified being gently led away from the awesome scene by him who was now her “son,” broken-hearted, crushed by what she had gone through. The face is something to look at—so grief-stricken, so heart-pierced and yet with some strange, quaint ray of faith lighting it up! And the painter has given this “touch.” In the poor, feeble, quivering fingers is clasped—what? The “crown of thorns.” Unconsciously, instinctively, Mary had unfastened the cruel thorns from her holy child’s head. They were no more hurting then; but it was nature in a mother’s hand to tear it off. And now she clasps it, keeps it, dear, precious. It was with Him, part of Him, and it is sacred, not to be parted with now! But it will be said—and truly in a measure—that is merely natural sentiment.
3. Well, again there are those who think that could they but hold in their hand, while kneeling in prayer, or engaged in holy, devotional thought, a piece of the real, true wooden cross of Golgotha, how good, how happy that would make them. And now it will be said—in a measure truly—this is superstition.
4. But is there not solid ground on which Christians who are given neither to sentiment nor superstition may stand? We love Him who died for us (would we loved Him better!). We love to think of the death He endured. All our blessings, all our hopes, spring from it. The Bible has given the story of the cross in full detail. We wish to look at, think about, and understand everything, even the incidental details and circumstances, connected with the cross of Calvary.
II. Here, then, is what is called the title on the cross.—
1. We should neither in mere sentiment nor in superstition, but as common-sense and honest readers of the Bible, look at and think of this incident in the story of the cross.
2. There it hangs (nailed no doubt to the cross) in large, legible, official characters, telling in the three languages there in common use the name of Him who was put to death, where He came from, and His crime.
3. We know the name—a name dear to many a heart—to many who love it better still to-day beyond. And “Nazareth.” Ay! bless God, He lived, for our sakes, the common village life of poor Nazareth! And what about His crime? “King of the Jews.” A bitter taunt which the Roman governor, in writing it, flung at the priests and rulers and the Jewish mob they led. We know how this came about. They forged a story which Pilate no more believed than they—that this man had harboured claims of kingly dignity, dangerous to the Roman rule. So in one of the feeble efforts Pilate made to save the life of Jesus, he said, “This is your king: shall I crucify your king?” So anxious were priests and mob to have this man crucified that they were willing to renounce their very national history, as it were, and lay their necks under the foot of Rome: “We have no king but Cæsar.” And when Pilate still hesitated, the last touch that spurred him to the leap was the threat, “Let this man off, and it will be told at Rome, ‘thou art no true friend to Cæsar.’ ” And so, later in the day, Pilate sat down to write the official “title”; and one can fancy the bitter smile that crossed the Roman’s face as he said, “They shall have no king but Cæsar! And it shall be told at Rome that Pilate was so true to Cæsar and ruled the Jewish people with so stern a hand that he crucified before their very faces the man whom they dared to call their king.” The title was nailed up, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, that all men of all nations might read: “The King of the Jews.”
4. The priests and rulers read it, and gnashed their teeth when they saw themselves entrapped by the wily Roman. They would have him to soften or explain his phrase. But the haughty ruler said, “What I have written,” etc. Thus this title was just one more of the many words and tones of bitterness and hate and mockery with which men surrounded that day the cross of the Saviour.
5. They were all of a piece, these surroundings of His cross! The mocking of Herod’s men, Pilate’s soldiers, the robe and crown and sceptre, all in ribald scorn; the brutal scourging, and hellish hate of priests and Pharisees, and the yells of the fiendish mob! The mocking title with its bitter gibe between Rome and the Jews was quite in tone with all the rest.
6. Only from Him (the central figure of the throng) throughout the fearful scene came that day what was calm and true in tone, and tender. From Him comes the gentle prayer, “Father, forgive them,” etc., and the brief message, and the last look—the one word to His dearest earthly friend, and the one word to her and the last look to her! Even the weary sigh, as all was over, was of heaven and peace! All around was hate and mockery and hell.
7. It mattered little what they wrote above the drooping head, or what bitter scorn might pass between the Jews and Rome, or that it baffled them to say why He was put to death. Why He died was known in heaven, amidst the angels’ joy and wonder.
1. We can take the Roman’s words of mockery and read them calmly, truly for ourselves. Little did Pilate dream how true were those words of his! He is King, Sovereign, Ruler in a higher, wider, greater realm than ever Rome or Israel dreamed of!
2. Let it be our prayer that He would make us true and loving subjects in His realm, to be owned in the new heavens and the new earth, as having followed His banner and upheld His kingdom.
2. And scattered Israel shall yet be gathered, and the land of His birth and lineage, whose tongue He spoke, whose homes He blessed, whose prophecies He fulfilled, will yet know Him as its “King.”
3. The mocking title may well remind us of many things concerning Him—the love He bears us still, His kingdom here, His kingdom coming.
4. To think of it may also help us, when we have to bear from others things hard to be borne, to remember the patient, silent Sufferer amidst all the insults that were around His cross, to breathe of His spirit and to be His followers.—Rev. Thomas Hardy.
John 19:23-24. The soldiers divide the garments of Jesus.—It was the custom among the Romans that the executioners at a crucifixion should divide among themselves the raiment of the criminals. The raiment was taken off before the sufferer was nailed to the cross. Jesus endured even this humiliation. There was not one drop of the bitter cup He did not drain. But this indignity too was foreseen. The action was retrospectively a fulfilment of the prophetic word: it told of the Saviour’s present condition; it pointed symbolically forward to one chief end of His redemptive work.
I. It fulfilled prophecy.—
1. It was done that an ancient scripture might be fulfilled (Psalms 22:18). How wonderfully was this ancient psalm fulfilled on Calvary! The very words, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” etc., are those recorded. How graphically do such verses as 6 and 17 of the psalm describe the utter humiliation of the sufferings of the Saviour!
2. And in this incident the rude Romans were God’s agents in fulfilling His prophetic word. They knew nothing of it; the Jews would not urge them to do anything to connect Jesus with prophetic Scripture; and therefore all were used as unconscious instruments in carrying out the divine purpose.
3. As the whole of prophetic Scripture points to the Messiah and in Him finds its fulfilment, we should be careful of wresting its meaning lest we lose the divine instruction it is intended to convey.
II. It testified to the poverty of Jesus and His utter humiliation.—
1. “Though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor,” etc. We read of no money. (Judas kept the “bag.” He had made sure of securing it; and what was it to him now?) No gems or jewels bedecked His person. His garments were of a simple fashion. The headdress, sandals, outer robe, and sash were all probably of the simplest, and the large outer robe could readily be divided. But the tunic, fitting closely to the body, and probably finer than the rest, as it was seamless, etc. (John 19:23), the soldiers (there was a “quaternion” engaged at the actual crucifixion) did not divide.
2. All this shows how poor He was in earth’s possessions, and how great was His humiliation. The rude soldiers were unmoved by the silent majesty with which He suffered. They thought only of the spoils, and left Him naked and exposed to the burning sunshine of the late Syrian spring. He drank the cup of sorrow and shame to the bitter dregs.
III. It may be viewed symbolically.—
1. “For our sakes He became poor.” He was made naked that we might be clothed (Revelation 3:18). The seamless garment—like the high-priestly robe (Revelation 1:13)—He allowed to be taken off, that we might be clothed in garments made white in His precious blood (Revelation 7:14). It was symbolical of His perfect obedience (Romans 5:18, etc.).
2. And on His cross, through His sufferings and death, another garment has been woven for His believing people. His suffering unto death satisfied and vindicated the broken law. Hence—
“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress” (Isaiah 61:10).
3. The simple garments which He wore on earth the callous Roman legionaries divided and cast lots for. But the heavenly dress, glorious in everlasting beauty, which Jesus provides, is given to all who, feeling their nakedness, the insufficiency of their own poor moral rags to clothe the soul, come in faith to Him. Then He endues them with that which will protect them from the fiery heat of divine wrath against sin, and insure them a welcome entrance to the heavenly feast (Matthew 22:12).
John 19:26-27. Mary at the cross.—It was eternal Love incarnate that hung on the cross on Calvary. And it is in accordance with the nature of that love unspeakable, which embraced all ages and races, that it should care especially for those most moulded to its likeness. And as at the death-bed of those dearest we treasure up the words spoken, so the loving friends of Jesus would treasure up the words they heard fall from His lips during those hours of suffering on the cross. To the writer of this Gospel especially none of those words would appeal more than those in which Jesus honoured him with the care of Mary. Notice:—
I. The bitter grief of Mary.—
1. Simeon’s words in the temple to Mary now received their utmost fulfilment. A sword truly pierced through her soul that day. Was this to be the end of all those hopes which she had treasured up in regard to her wonderful Son? Did the strange events which accompanied His birth, and which she kept, and pondered in her heart, lead to this and nothing more?
2. None can estimate the suffering of Mary as she stood with her weeping friends and John at the foot of the cross. She and they bad been prepared for struggle, for conflict, in His progress toward His Messianic throne. But what a throne was this blood-stained cross, what a crown was that which lacerated His brow!
3. Not only would the bitter grief of shattered hopes fill her breast; the pangs of maternal love would be more bitter still. What true mother could stand unmoved whilst seeing her son suffer untold agonies? And the maternal affection of the heart of her who was called “blessed among women” would not be less but more keen. How then must that heart have been rent during those awful hours!
II. The loving sympathy of Jesus.—
1. Even in that hour of unutterable agony, when dread portents were showing nature’s sympathy in the sufferings of the Son of God, Jesus showed that He was truly human—Emmanuel, God with us. In the midst of His terrible sufferings, in the conflict He was waging to bring redemption to our race, we could not have wondered if Jesus for the time had forgot all of earth.
2. Yet even in that awful hour He did not forget those nearest to Him as the Son of man. He saw the group of weeping followers, but His glance rested especially on two—on His mother and the beloved disciple. He remembered her widowed condition. He saw the traces of her bitter grief. He knew the desolation caused in her heart through the fading of hope in consequence of imperfect faith. And even in that hour when the awful sense of desolation was stealing in upon His own soul, which issued in the mysterious cry, “Eli, Eli,” etc., His filial heart flowed forth in sympathising love to her who bore Him.
3. Even in that hour of suffering He remembered her deep affection, her tender care and solicitude, the strong yet gentle bonds of a mother’s love. This we may believe was dear to the human heart of Jesus; and as He gazed on Mary, now standing with tear-bedewed countenance near the cross, waiting heart-broken for the inevitable end, His filial sympathy and love welled up and overflowed in thoughts and words of tenderness.
III. The filial care of Jesus for Mary.—
1. Whilst Mary and her friends stood weeping, wondering, the Saviour spoke to His mother, commending her to the care of the disciple whom He loved.
2. Why was this? Had faith in Jesus brought with it the inevitable division even into His mother’s home, so that harmony between her and His unbelieving brethren no longer existed, though it was afterward no doubt restored (Matthew 10:36; Acts 1:14)? But in any case nothing could be more appropriate than that those two, who loved the Saviour with the deepest, purest affection, should thenceforward occupy one home.
3. We are not to think that the term Jesus used in addressing Mary—“Woman,” i.e. “Lady”—implied any diminution of His filial affection. But it certainly does imply (as it did to a less extent in John 2:4) that the relationship cannot thenceforward rest on the same basis. Mary, too, must look to her Son as the Redeemer. And as the Saviour must now depart, His filial duty, so far as earth is concerned, must devolve on another; although we must believe that He had still a special interest in and care for her whom He called mother on earth.
4. The disciple to whose care Mary was confided proved himself worthy of so honourable a trust. “From that hour” Mary was tended with filial care and reverence, until she was called to see in His glory Him beside whose cross she had wept in the hour of His deepest humiliation.
1. Our Redeemer is our example in the doing of relative duty. This is one of the laws of the Christian life (1 Timothy 5:8). Even the awful position in which He was placed did not make Jesus as the perfect man forget the duty of care and consolation toward His mother, even though that relationship was now to be merged in a higher.
2. The honour and dignity of being trusted by the Saviour with the care of His loved ones—His disciples (Matthew 12:49). John entered most deeply into the Saviour’s thoughts, etc., and was rewarded with a special love, showing itself in this special trust committed to him. It is an honour to be thus trusted by kings and potentates; how infinitely greater is the honour when we are thus trusted by the King of kings, and His “needy brethren” committed for temporal or spiritual things to our care!
John 19:28-30. “I thirst.”—The hot Syrian spring day was waning toward afternoon. True, from the sixth to the ninth hour darkness had fallen over the face of nature. The sun had been eclipsed; but as an earthquake was near most likely the air would be still and heavy, oppressive and hot like the sirocco’s breath, as it frequently is before an earthquake. Jesus had stood on Calvary weak and faint, and hung on the cross through the hot morning hours from between the third and sixth. No refreshing draught had passed His lips since the last cup in the upper chamber. And now His exhausted physical frame, though of most perfect mould, craved for refreshment, and He cried out, “I thirst.”
I. In this word from the cross we have an expression of the true humanity of Jesus.—
1. It was a word uttered in order to gain an assuagement of the awful suffering of thirst. Dwellers in the East know well, either from personal experience, or the experience of those who have felt it, how awful it is under the burning sun to endure the agony of thirst, when there is no water near to slake it, whilst the mocking mirage, with vision of lakes and streams, maddens the tortured traveller.
2. And was it to be wondered at that He, who was “treading the wine-press alone,” etc., “travailing in the greatness of His strength” for humanity, should, in that hour of awful suffering, feel the pangs of thirst? How terrible were those sufferings on the cross, to which heart and soul anguish were added in incalculable degree! How racked with fever was that sacred body, whilst His tongue clave to the roof of His mouth, and all the dreadful pain of thirst added to the strain and torture!
3. Who will relieve Him? Not the Jew. He is ready with his taunts to the end. But now even the rude soldiers are being touched with the patient yet majestic bearing of the kingly Sufferer; for it was evidently from the supply of sour wine provided for them (Luke 23:36) that a sponge was filled and held to Jesus’ lips on the end of a stem of “hyssop”—it may be at the instigation of the centurion in command, on whom the whole scene had made a deep impression (Luke 23:47).
4. It was the last service rendered to Jesus in the period of His humiliation. It strengthened and revived Him for the final declaration, “It is finished,” which is the charter of our redemption. May not the hope be permitted that this last kindly act—if it were kindly meant, as it seems to have been—did not go without its reward?
II. This utterance of Jesus proclaims Him as the divinely predicted Messiah, to whom all prophecy bears witness.—
1. Though this word was the expression of a natural desire, yet in its utterance, and in the answer accorded, prophetic Scripture was fulfilled. This was foretold as part of the suffering of the Messiah (Psalms 69:21).
2. The darkness and trouble that had encompassed His soul, resulting in the cry “Eli, Eli,” etc., had now passed away, as the shadow of eclipse from the face of nature, and Jesus knew that He had now endured to the uttermost all that had to be endured for humanity—even to this mysterious hiding of the Father’s face. But now when that face was again seen by Him radiant with love, He knew that His great work was ended, that He had done for men what men could not have done for themselves, and that the Father was well pleased (Romans 8:3). Then physical nature, which had been forgotten during the dreadful conflict—as men forget their wounds in the press of battle—reasserted itself, and the cry arose, “I thirst.” But in this very cry the last unfulfilled word of prophecy regarding the Saviour in His humiliation received its fulfilment. It had been predicted of the suffering Servant of Jehovah that in His thirst they should “give Him vinegar to drink.” Thus the whole prophetic picture of Messiah in His sufferings—through which He was made perfect (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:7)—was filled in; and all men might see that He was the fulfilment of law and prophecy—the divinely given, God-appointed Messiah.
III. This thirst of the Redeemer was endured for us.—
1. What He endured might be held to be symbolical of that despairing search after God and peace of humanity, that, longing and thirst after God, which was now to be satisfied. To the Redeemer the travail of His soul was now finished, and He desired to see the end of it and its blessed fruits. And as the wine-filled sponge was held to His lips He was physically refreshed and strengthened to proclaim that His soul-travail was past, His soul satisfied (John 17:4-5).
2. Now, too, that the work was accomplished that had been given Him to do, He longed for the presence of the Father, and for that blessed home where the sin and evil of earth could no more pain and torture His pure spirit (John 11:33; John 12:27).
3. He thirsted, He endured, that an ever-flowing fountain of the water of life might be opened for all who desire to have their soul-thirst quenched (Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17). And He shall be most satisfied, and the courts of heaven shall ring (Luke 15:10) with songs of joy, when men and women who have themselves drunk and been satisfied from those rivers of Life which He thirsted and died to send forth, shall lead others who are thirsting for the higher life—the life of Christ’s redeemed ones—to drink and thirst no more.
John 19:30. “It is finished.”—The life heralded by promises of peace is slowly ebbing in pain. He who was announced as king dies as a malefactor. His kingly crown is one of thorns, His high-priestly altar a cross, His sacrifice Himself. The world looked on coldly or mockingly. If His entrance into life was humble, what of His exit? Yet at His birth angels rejoiced, at His death nature trembled. What a life of holiness and heavenly beneficence was it which was thus closing! But this death was the most momentous event in the world’s history. The completion of a great work is matter of rejoicing. Yet never was a great undertaking ended in apparently less auspicious circumstances. These, however, were the concomitants of His victory. What is the meaning of this word?
I. In this word Jesus proclaimed the close of His state of humiliation.—
1. His earthly life, begun in lowliness, etc., misunderstood, etc., was ended. The suffering His soul endured in contact with sin, unbelief, etc.; His rejection by the Jews, the weakness of the disciples’ faith, the dark deed of Judas, Gethsemane and the cross, were now past.
2. His body for a time must lie in the grave, but it will see no corruption. His humiliation was past, and what we should remember is that it was endured for us.
II. This word shows that God’s preparatory discipline of the race had ended.—
1. Moses and the prophets take the position of witnesses to Christ. The educational régime of the law was no longer necessary; it had served its purpose of bringing home to men’s hearts the consciousness of sin, etc. Sacrifice was shown to be typical of this supreme sacrifice, and prophetic utterances ceased which pointed to a coming deliverance by a heaven-sent Redeemer.
2. The heathen world’s dreaming of a coming age fairer than the golden age of fable here became a reality; and even their false religions served an educational purpose, emphasising ever the need of cleansing. And what a training had theirs been—a wandering ever further from the true source of light! To what depths of iniquity had they sunk—all going in the same dreary track, with no true light to cheer them on the way!
3. But this voice from the cross proclaimed the end of this preparatory training. Every type and symbol of redemption must give place, for the antitype had come. Jew and Gentile were under tutelage till they had learned that no rites or ceremonies could bring reconciliation. “The times of this ignorance God winked at,” etc., but is now calling men to be saved without the deeds of the law, etc.
III. This utterance implies the final triumph of the people of God through Christ’s finished work.—
1. By His will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus, etc. (Romans 8:30); and when thus sanctified believers shall also be glorified (1 Corinthians 1:30). But notice: If we are His we must be justified and sanctified. There should be no mistake here.
2. The final triumph of the kingdom of God is here proclaimed. Christ died, but in this very fact is the potentiality of the world’s redemption. Even at that very moment Christ began to see the travail of His soul, the discomfiture of the enemies of His kingdom, and its final triumph. This cry is one of victory. It was the signal of the triumphant conclusion of His enduring for men.
3. “It is finished.” It is the voice of Emmanuel, the Captain of our salvation, who on the red battle-field lays aside the weapons of His warfare, and raises the shout of victory—a conqueror over sin and death and Satan, though seeming to be vanquished by His foes.
John 19:23-30. Christ’s battle and victory on the cross.—“Let us also go, that we may die with Him,” Thomas had said to his fellow-disciples (John 11:16), when Jesus prepared to go the grave of Lazarus to awake him from the dead. In the case of Thomas this was more a kind of resignation which despaired of escape than faith which follows Jesus to death and yet fills the heart with hope of victory. On Good Friday it is well for us to accompany Jesus on the way of His sufferings and death, to pass through it all with Him in faith, so that going with Him we may be led to the cross, but also from the cross to the throne. It is well also to comprehend how the sufferings and death of Jesus effect our reconciliation with the Father, and how thereby are given to us comfort in life and in death. We consider the theme—
How Christ suffered and died on the cross.—We picture to ourselves in connection with His four last words:
1. His anguish of soul;
2. His physical anguish;
3. His cry of victory;
4. His closing prayer.
John 19:23-30. Christ’s conflict and victory on the cross.—We represent to ourselves:—
I. Christ’s bitter conflict.—
1. The earth was darkened, for even nature suffers through the sinfulness of men.
2. The cup of divine wrath was emptied out on the Son of man, so that He felt as if God had forsaken Him, and burning thirst increased the torture of His physical frame.
3. The unbelieving world requited the unspeakable love of the Crucified to humanity with mockery.
II. Christ’s glorious victory.—l. The crucified One remained in communion with His Father; He committed His spirit into the hands of the Father; consciously and freely He yielded up His life.
2. The ransom for man’s debt of guilt was paid; the Father who was angry with men’s sins is reconciled; God’s righteousness and God’s love are firmly established. The work of redemption is completed!—Translated from J. L. Sommer.
John 19:23-30. The death of Jesus.—It is no ordinary death which we are called to witness. The sun’s light is veiled, the earth quakes, and the veil of the temple is rent. Adam was pointed to Him who dies upon the cross, in that it was said to him that the woman’s seed should bruise the serpent’s head. Noah was occupied with Him when he recognised that the life was in the blood. Abraham saw Him in Isaac bound on the altar, and in the bleeding ram. Moses preached Him when he raised up the brazen serpent. Isaiah pointed Him out as He who was “wounded for our transgressions,” etc. And as men from afar had looked forward to the cross, so we look back from afar to the cross. They are eternal obsequies which are celebrated for Him who dies on Golgotha. It is with us as if to-day we stood beneath His cross, heard His latest voice, saw His blood-besprinkled face. Then we say, “O sorrow and mourning!” Yet also, “In Him we have redemption through His blood,” etc. No ordinary death is this which we are called to behold. We seek to find expression for:—
I. The astonishment which fills us.—The true God, the Creator, the King, the Life, eternal Love, the holy God, the Judge of the world, in deepest suffering and misery.
II. The grief to which this moves us.—
1. Over the unbelieving world, which mocks Him.
2. Over our own hearts, which so often forget Him.
III. The penitence which it preaches to us.—
1. We should remember God’s wrath against our sins.
2. Take care that we dishonour God no more by sinfulness.
IV. The comfort which it confirms to us.—
1. In the struggle with sin.
2. In the pains of death.—Appuhn, idem.
John 19:30. The sixth word of Jesus from the cross.—
I. Its meaning.—
1. The Messianic prophecies and types are fulfilled.
2. The Lord’s sufferings had come to an end.
3. Reconciliation between God and man is established, and peace reinstated.
II. The blessings for which we have to thank it.—
1. It calls us to repentance.
2. It assures us of salvation.
3. It serves to strengthen our faith.
4. It enlivens our hope in relation to enduring unto the end.—Dr. von Biarowsky.
John 19:30. The dominion of sin and death ended on the cross (Romans 5:12-14; Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 15:22).—The thought of the apostle in these and other passages circulates around Adam on the one hand and Christ on the other, as centres of spiritual influence. The state of man before Christ, and the state of man after—or of all who belong to Christ and share in His redeeming work—is strongly contrasted. Adam, as sinner, gives its character to the one; Christ, as Saviour and the righteous One, gives its character to the other. In the passage from the Epistle to the Romans sin and death are represented as the ruling powers in the world. Adam is the source through which they have entered into the world. Through his one act of sin Adam not only fell himself, but the line of spiritual integrity was broken in him. The flaw extended to the race. “Sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all, for that all have sinned.” In other words, sin passed to us from Adam, and death from sin. This is the simple meaning of the words as they stand in our version. They might seem at first to add little to the doctrine of hereditary corruption as generalised from the facts of experience. But on a closer view they will be found to add various features to this doctrine. They emphasise the position of Adam as not merely the first in a line of sinners, but as the type or representative of the whole line—one whose act was fatal not only for himself, but for all who followed him. All mankind fell with him into the death which he had incurred.
1. This typical character of Adam;
2. The descent of spiritual depravity from him; and
3. The fatal character of the results which followed, not only for himself, but for his posterity—in other words, the judicial character of these results in their downward passage—are all ideas more or less involved in the passage.—Dr. John Tulloch.
John 19:26. “Woman, behold thy son.”—It has been considered strange that the Saviour, in speaking to Mary, should have made use of the distant word “Woman,” instead of the tender name of “Mother.” In reply to this, it is certainly true that He did so, partly because He would not still more deeply wound her bleeding heart by the sweet title of mother, as well as that He might not excite within Himself a storm of human emotions; and likewise lest He should expose His mother to the rudeness of the surrounding crowd. But the chief reason why, instead of the maternal title, He used the more general term “Woman,” or lady, lies much deeper, both in this and the well-known scene at the marriage in Cana. He certainly meant His mother to understand that henceforward His earthly connection with her must give way to a superior one. As though He had said, “Thou, my mother, wilt from this time be as one of my daughters, and I thy Lord. Thou believest in Me, and shalt be blessed. Thou layest hold of the hem of My garment, and I appear in thy stead. Thou adorest Me, and I am thy High Priest and King. Mother, brother, and sister, henceforward are all who swear allegiance to My banner. The relationships according to the flesh and the manner of the world have an end; other and more spiritual and heavenly take their place.” It was this that the Lord intended to suggest to Mary’s mind; and hence the word “Woman,” which at first sounds strange, instead of the more tender and affectionate term “Mother.” Nay, it the less became Him to call her mother now, since this term in the Hebrew includes in it the idea of “Mistress,” whilst He was just preparing, as the Lord of lords, to ascend the throne of eternal Majesty. But whilst endeavouring to elevate Mary’s mind above the sphere of merely human conceptions, He does not forget either that He is her son, or that she is His dear and sorely-tried mother; and reflects at the same time that man in his weakness has need of man, and must, besides the heart of God, possess at least one heart upon earth into which he can confidingly pour out his own, and upon whose love and faithfulness he may firmly reckon under all circumstances. For these reasons, the Lord is desirous in His filial forethought, and as far as is practicable, to fill up for Mary, even in a human respect, the void which His decease would leave in her life, and give her, instead of Himself, a son to assist her, even in an earthly manner, in whom she might place entire confidence, and on whose shoulder she could lean in all her distresses, cares, and sorrows, and this new son He bequeaths to her is His favourite disciple, the faithful and feeling John. Is it not as if He intended to say?—“I well know, My mother, how solitary and dreary must be a widow’s path upon earth when the crown is removed from her head. But lo I here is the disciple that lay in My bosom, and is thus peculiarly prepared to become thy support and stay. He is ready to do all I desire of him; and since I have neither silver nor gold, I bequeath thee all My claim on this disciple’s love, gratitude, and faithfulness. Let him be thy son!” It was thus He loved to the end; thus delicately does He provide for all the necessities of those He loves. And as He formerly did, so He does still. He is to this hour the compassionate High Priest. He enters most feelingly into the wants of those who confide in Him, so that every one in his station, whether they be widows, orphans, poor and infirm, or to whatever class of the weary and heavy-laden they belong, may rely most peculiarly on His providential care. After saying to Mary, “Woman, behold,” etc., He says to John, “Behold thy mother.” Oh, what a proof does the Saviour here give His disciple of the affection and confidence which He reposes in him! He imposes a burden upon him, but He knows that John will regard it as the highest honour and felicity which could be bestowed upon him on earth. Nor is the Saviour mistaken in His disciple. John understands His Master’s wish, looks at Mary, and his whole soul says to her, “My mother!”—F. W. Krummacher, “Suffering Saviour.”
John 19:26-27. Self-renunciation at the Cross.—Thus the Redeemer endured. Although terror seized hold of His disciple’s heart and a sword went through His mother’s soul as He bled on the cross, yet no bands of blood, nor human friendship, could turn Him aside from His high emprise. And thus, too, His disciples endured. No Peter would have left all, no Paul would have borne the reproach of Christ, no missionary would have gone among the heathen, no Luther would have journeyed to Worms, had they conferred with flesh and blood merely—if women’s tears and friends’ entreaties had availed more than the call of the Lord. No, where the Lord’s work is in question the most beloved on earth must stand aside; when God commands, then we must be prepared to leave and part with what is dearest. Especially at critical moments it is needful to be armed with this spirit of self-denial. Then no sweetest heart-ties, no soft feeling, should hinder us from setting our face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. Men must renounce many a peaceful hour, many a lawful joy, many a pleasant custom, in the service of the Lord. Sometimes the husband must drag himself away from wife and child when duty calls him; and then the wife must become a heroine, and able to give up husband and child to the divine service, like that heroic mother of the times of the Maccabees who saw her seven sons die before her eyes, whilst she herself had exhorted them to die the martyr’s death.—Translated from Karl Gerok.
John 19:27. “Behold thy mother.”—He who was dying on the cross, whose name was Love, was the great philanthropist, whose charity embraced the whole human race. His last dying act was an act of individual attachment, tenderness toward a mother, fidelity toward a friend. Now, some well-meaning persons seem to think that the larger charities are incompatible with the indulgence of particular affections; and therefore, all that they do and aim at is on a large scale; they occupy themselves with the desire to emancipate the whole mass of mankind. But it not unfrequently happens that those who act in this manner are but selfish after all, and are quite inattentive to all the fidelities of friendship and the amenities of social life. It was not so, if we may venture to say it, that the spirit of the Redeemer grew, for as He progressed in wisdom and knowledge, He progressed also in love. First, we read of His tenderness and obedience to His parents, then the selection of twelve to be near Him from the rest of His disciples, and then the selection of one more especially as a friend. It was through this that, apparently, His human soul grew in grace and in love. And if it were not so with Him, at all events it must not be so with us. It is in vain for a man in his dying hour, who has loved no man individually, to attempt to love the human race; everything here must be done by degrees. Love is a habit. God has given to us the love of relations and friends, the love of father and mother, brother, sister, friend, to prepare us gradually for the love of God; if there be one stone of the foundation not securely laid, the superstructure will be Imperfect. The domestic affections are the alphabet of love.—F. W. Krummacher, “Suffering Saviour.”
John 19:28. The Redeemer drank the full cup of agony on the cross.—“I thirst”; in answer to this they gave Jesus vinegar to drink. Now upon first reading this we are often tempted to suppose, from the unnatural character of the draught, that an insult was intended, and therefore we rank this among the taunts and fearful sufferings which He endured at His crucifixion. But as we become acquainted with Oriental history, we discover that this vinegar was the common drink of the Roman army, their wine, and therefore was the most likely to be at hand when in the company of soldiers, as He then was. Let it be borne in mind that a draught was twice offered to Him; once it was accepted, once it was refused. That which was refused was the medicated potion, wine mingled with myrrh, the intention of which was to deaden pain, and therefore when it was presented to the Saviour it was rejected. And the reason commonly assigned for that seems to be the true one: the Son of man would not meet death in a state of stupefaction; He chose to meet His God awake. There are two modes in which pain may be struggled with—through the flesh, and through the spirit; the one is the office of the physician, the other that of the Christian. The physician’s care is at once to deaden pain, either by insensibility or specifics; the Christian’s object is to deaden pain by patience. We dispute not the value of the physician’s remedies—in their way they are permissible and valuable; but yet let it be observed that in these there is nothing moral; they may take away the venom of the serpent’s sting, but they do not give the courage to plant the foot upon the serpent’s head, and to bear the pain without flinching. Therefore the Redeemer refused, because it was not through the flesh, but through the Spirit, that He would conquer. To have accepted the anodyne would have been to escape from suffering, but not to conquer it. But the vinegar or sour wine was accepted as a refreshing draught, for it would seem that He did not look upon the value of the suffering as consisting in this, that He should make it as exquisite as possible, but rather that He should not suffer one drop of the cup of agony which His Father had put into His hand to trickle down the side untasted. Neither would He make to Himself one drop more of suffering than His Father had given.—F. W. Robertson.
John 19:28. Christ’s thirst on Calvary.—Indeed He did thirst: “The zeal of Thine house hath consumed Me.” He was parched with longing for the glory of God and the safety of man. “I thirst”: I thirst to see of the travail of My soul; I thirst for the effects of My anguish, the discomfiture of Satan, the vindication of My Father, the opening of the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Shall our last end be, in any measure, like this? Would that it might! Would that, when we come to die, we may thirst with the thirst of the Redeemer’s soul! “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” “My soul thirsteth for Thee,” is an exclamation of the psalmist, when declaring the ardency of his longings after God. And our Saviour endured thirst that our thirst might be quenched. His tongue clave to the roof of His mouth—“My heart,” saith He, in the midst of My body, is even like melting wax”—that we, inhabitants naturally of “a dry and barren land,” might have access to the river of life, which, clear as crystal, pours itself through the paradise of God. Who does not thirst for these waters? Ah! there is nothing required but that every one of us should be able, with perfect truth, to declare “I thirst,” and the Scripture shall be fulfilled in that man’s drawing water out of the wells of salvation. For the invitations of the Bible presuppose nothing but a sense of want and a wish for relief. “Ho! every one that thirsteth”—there is the summons, there the description. Oh that we may now thirst with a thirst for pardon, a thirst for reconciliation, a thirst for holiness! Then, when we come to die, we shall thirst for the joys of immortality, for the pleasures which are at God’s right hand; we shall thirst, even as Christ did, that the Scripture may be fulfilled. And the Scripture shall be fulfilled; for, bowing the head and giving up the ghost, we shall be in His presence with whom is “the fountain of life,” and every promise that has cheered us here shall be turned into performance to delight us for ever.—Henry Melvill.
John 19:30. Christ’s dying love embraces the race.—That satisfaction was not the mere payment of an obligation which man had incurred; it was not the rendering of a bare equivalent for human sin to the outraged justice of God. It was more than plenary; it was superabundant, since it was offered in a finite nature, but by an infinite Being. We may shrink, indeed, from saying that such a satisfaction must have exerted a peremptory claim on the justice of God. Needed it not, after all, to be accepted by infinite Mercy? Might it not have been dispensed with? Might not the almighty Father, infinite in His resources, have saved the world without exacting the death of His Son as the price of its salvation? Here revelation does not encourage conjecture. Enough that the satisfaction actually offered has been as really accepted. We may presume, without hardihood, that, if God might have saved us in other ways, He has chosen the way which was in itself the best. And the freedom of the Father’s gift of His blessed Son, the freedom of the Son’s self-oblation, are insisted on in Scripture, as if with the object of condemning by anticipation any mercantile estimate of infinite Love. There is a profusion of self-sacrifice which meets us everywhere in the history of the Passion. Throughout it is the history of a “plenteous redemption.” The bearing of the divine Victim is not that of one who is tendering an equivalent for a debt which had been incurred. He does not seek to undergo only the precise amount of ignominy and pain which was needed for the redemption. He has offered His human will without reserve; and His offering has been accepted. True, one blow from the soldier’s sword or hand, one lash from the scourge, one pang of Christ’s sacred soul, one drop of His precious blood, might have redeemed our world, or a thousand such worlds as ours. For each act of submission, each throb of pain, had infinite value in thesight of Heaven—not only as representing the perfect offering of our Lord’s will, but as being penetrated by the informing presence and boundless merits of His divinity. Yet Jesus, who might have saved us thus, was in truth enamoured of profuse self-sacrifice. “In His love and in His pity He redeemed us” (Isaiah 63:9), and His pity and His love knew no bounds. He had surrendered His throne on high, His angel-ministers, His earthly home; He had left His mother and His friends; and when His doctrine and His miracles had brought Him fair fame and popular ascendency, He chose to become “a worm, and no man; the very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people” (Psalms 22:6). And so He gave His face to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that pulled off the hair. He gave His body to physical torture; He gave His soul to an unspeakable spiritual agony. He offered the long history of His suffering life, and of His death of shame and pain, to atone for the sins of us guilty men. He gave all to that will, in which we are sanctified, by the offering of His body (Hebrews 10:10). Less might have merited the Father’s grace; less might have satisfied His justice. But Jesus would display the range, the power, the prodigal generosity, of divine charity. The cross was to be not merely the instrument of His punishment, but the symbol of the throne of His conquering love. “I, when I am lifted up,” etc. (John 12:32). “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Each sinner, each saint, around His cross might have used the words of the apostle. For His blessed mother and St. John, for the Roman judge and for the Roman soldiers, for the chief priest and for the Pharisee, for the vilest and hardest of His executioners, and for the thieves who hung dying beside Him, our Lord gave Himself to death. For all who have been first and greatest, for all who have been least and last in human history, for all whom we have loved or seen, for our separate souls, He gave Himself. True, His creatures indeed are still free to accept and appropriate or to refuse His gift. But no lost soul shall murmur hereafter that the tender lovingkindness of God has not willed to save it. No saint in glory shall pretend that aught in him has been accepted and crowned, save the infinite merit, the priceless gifts, of his Redeemer. The dying love of Jesus embraces the race; and yet it concentrates itself with direct, as it seems to us, with exclusive intensity, upon each separate soul. He dies for all, and yet He dies for each, as if each soul were the solitary object of His incarnation and of His death.—H. P. Liddon.
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 19:31. The Jews therefore, etc.… for great was that Sabbath day.—There was a twofold sanctity about the coming day, for it was not only the day at the beginning of which in the evening the passover lamb was eaten—it was at the same time the weekly Sabbath, and therefore a day of peculiar sanctity, a high day. Hence the anxiety of the Jews to hasten the death of the crucified, and have the bodies removed before the first star appeared announcing the beginning of the evening of a new (Jewish) day.
John 19:31-37. The Jews … that their legs might be broken (crurifragium).—Probably this was done to hasten death, as John 19:33 seems to indicate here. Pierced.—To satisfy themselves that He was really dead. Blood and water.—There have been various explanations of this fact, physiological and other. None of them, however, are entirely satisfactory. The chief physiological explanation is that given by Dr. Stroud (Physical Cause of the Death of Christ), who argues with much learning that our Lord’s death was caused by rupture of the heart following on the intense agony He suffered, physical and spiritual. The result of this would be (he continues) to fill the surrounding tissues with blood, which would rapidly separate into its constituent parts, solid and fluid, which flowed out when the body was pierced by the soldier’s lance. Such explanations may be taken for what they are worth. Dr. Reynolds well says of this incident that we see in it “a token of the twofold power of Christ’s redemptive life and work:
(1) renovation, refreshment, rivers of living water issuing from the κοιλία of Christ, the first great rush of spiritual power which was to regenerate humanity; and
(2) the expression of that redemptive process which was effected in the positive shedding of His precious blood.” In all these events divinely ordered facts corresponded with divinely inspired type and prophecy (Exodus 12:46; Zechariah 12:10). As the promised Messiah He fulfilled law and prophecy (Revelation 1:7).
John 19:38. Secretly.—This is a fact given only by St. John.
John 19:39. Myrrh.—A fragrant gum. Aloes.—A scented wood which was much esteemed for embalming purposes. A mixture.—Some MSS. read a roll, but the authority is of no great weight. An hundred pound.—I.e. Roman pounds of about twelve ounces each (see Psalms 45:0; Matthew 2:11).
John 19:40. In linen clothes (ὀθονίοις).—Probably long strips used for enswathing the body. There seems also to have been a larger cloth for covering the body, or wrapping it round. It is this that is mentioned by St. Matthew (Matthew 27:59 : it was called σινδών), etc. As the manner … to bury.—They did not remove the viscera, as in the Egyptian custom of embalming. Cremation was the rule among the Romans.
John 19:41. A garden (see John 18:1).—As in a garden it was said to man, “In the day that thou eatest,” etc. (Genesis 2:17), so in a garden Christ was, by His rising from the dead, to say to men, “In Me ye have eternal life.” A new sepulcher.—Jesus was in no way to come in contact with corruption (Psalms 16:10). The sepulchre belonged to Joseph.
John 19:42. They laid.—But it was virtually the Jews delivering Him to death that made it necessary that He should also be laid in the grave. Consequently St. Paul was justified in saying (Acts 13:29), “They (the Jews) that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers … laid Him in a sepulchre.” The Jews’ preparation.—I.e. the preparation for the great feast of the Jews (John 11:55). This incidentally confirms the idea that the day about to commence was that on which the passover was eaten.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 19:31-42
The rest of the Redeemer in the grave.—After the storm comes the calm; after sore labour, rest. And as at the beginning of material things the divine activity was followed by a period of rest, so the travail of the Saviour in working out man’s redemption was followed by the rest in Joseph’s tomb. When Jesus uttered the cry “It is finished,” His pain and travail ceased. And although His descent into the state of the dead may be regarded as the deepest depth of His humiliation, yet it may be also regarded as the beginning of His glory. It is not mentioned by the apostle as a part of that obedience for which Christ was highly exalted. For in that period when His physical frame was at rest it was in the Father’s care, who would not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. It was therefore for the Son of man’s material frame a calm repose, with the certainty of a glorious reawakening. Nature is practically inactive in the winter season, when the icing winds blow, when bitter sleet falls and feathery snow enwraps the landscape; but in all this there is the hope and even the promise of spring with its glad new life and opening verdure. So in Christ’s rest in the tomb there was the promise of a new glad season of hope for humanity. Just as spring breaks the bonds of winter, so Christ broke asunder the icy fetters of death’s prison-house, and brings to those who are spiritually crucified with Him the hope and promise of heaven’s eternal spring.
I. The preparation for the interment of the body of Jesus.—
1. The afternoon of the crucifixion began to wane toward evening, the lengthening shadows told that the Sabbath would soon begin. The executioners prepared to take the body of Jesus from the cross, to bury it most likely in a common grave with the two malefactors.
2. But that sacred body, which was not to see corruption, was to be otherwise cared for. The disciples had fled; not even John seems to have thought of the next step. But God had His instruments for this holy duty. Two secret disciples of the Saviour now step forth, men whom we should not have expected to do so, for they were members of the Sanhedrin.
3. The one was Joseph, who had come originally from Arimathæa in the mountains of Ephraim, and had risen to honour and consideration in Jerusalem. Like Simeon, he “waited for the kingdom of God,” and had thought that Jesus was its king. He had not consented to the counsel and deed of the hypocritical leaders of his people. And now, when the great crime was past, he came to pay that homage which he had denied to Jesus whilst He was alive. Proceeding to the governor’s palace, he demanded the body of Jesus. From the Synoptic narrative we learn that Pilate was apparently still exercised in mind regarding the innocent One, whom he had so unjustly permitted to be led to death (Mark 15:44-45). Evidently Joseph’s request accorded with Pilate’s own feelings, and the wish that He who had been so unjustly condemned should be honoured in His death.
4. As Joseph drew near the garden he was aware of the presence of another Jewish ruler—his friend and fellow-counsellor, Nicodemus. He too had cast aside all servile fear, and had come laden with spices for embalming the sacred body of Him from whom he had learned so much of the deeper truth concerning the kingdom of God.
II. The place of interment and the manner of the burial.—
1. Near the place where the Lord was crucified was a garden enclosure belonging to Joseph, in which, in accordance with a prevalent custom of those times, he had prepared a sepulchre. In it no man had yet been laid. Toward this garden, after they had taken down Christ’s body from the cross, and wound it reverently in linen cloths with the aromatic spices, they conveyed it.
2. It was then borne reverently to the empty tomb, and laid there in the stillness of the gathering evening shadows. No execrating shouts now rend the air; no body of weeping disciples follow the Saviour’s body to the grave. Only those two honourable men perform their sacred duty in reverent silence, not unmoved, it may be, by hope in mysterious words of promise spoken by their now silent Master; whilst afar off a little knot of women beheld where the body was laid.
3. And now, as the first star on the brow of night announced that the Sabbath had come, the two friends departed from the tomb; whilst the women had already gone to prepare spices for embalming and to wait till the Sabbath was past ere they visited the grave.
4. How calm and peaceful and majestic it all is! No mournful dirges sound, no funeral torches flare. Yet it was a glorious burial. The tender love and sympathy of succeeding ages are represented in those disciples, till now not openly and constantly attached to Jesus. How far otherwise was all this from what those who hated Him anticipated. They imagined perhaps that even now His body had been flung into a common grave with the bodies of the two malefactors; whilst what occurred was really the prelude of His glory.
III. The resting of Jesus in Joseph’s tomb was a sweet repose.—
1. It was rest after conflict; and what a conflict in both body and soul! David the shepherdking once in his shepherd days had vanquished the savage beasts that threatened his flock. But this King of David’s line had vanquished a more cruel foe, though in the conflict His sweat had been like great drops of blood, and on the cross nameless fears had tortured His soul—His body was rent, His heart broken.
2. But now the agony and conflict were all past. The revenge of His foes and the blood-thirstiness of the unbelieving throng were stilled. The waves of the storm-tossed sea of human passion had ceased to rage. It is as when the last storms of winter begin to die away, and earth and air are filled with undefined yet real promises of the coming spring.
3. It is he who has laboured most faithfully and diligently during the day whose sleep at eventide is soundest, sweetest, and most refreshing. And it is he who has done his duty most unselfishly and in conformity with the divine will, during life’s working day, who sees with no dread the day of labour ending and the time of rest approaching.
4. And as our Redeemer was truly human as well as divine, we may think a somewhat analogous feeling occupied His breast. He had laboured. He had toiled in the midst of unbelief and contumely, and at last active and deadly opposition from those He had come to save. But now He had finished the work given Him to do on earth (John 17:4), and there was a pause of rest between the close of His work in His state of humiliation and the beginning of His work and reign in glory.
John 19:34. The pierced side.—It has been supposed that John laid so much stress upon this circumstance because he believed it might serve to refute certain erroneous spirits of his day who assigned to Christ an imaginary and not a real body. It is certainly possible that, in giving his account of the matter, he was partly induced by such a motive. But it is the miraculous nature of the event that chiefly excited his interest in it. In dead bodies the blood always coagulates, whilst from the wound above mentioned, on the contrary, it flowed clearly and abundantly, unmixed with the water which burst forth from the pierced pericardium of His heart, and ran down from the cross. It was as if the great High Priest intended to say, even in His death, “Behold, I shed My blood voluntarily, and offer it up in entire fulness for your sins.” But that which most deeply affected the soul of the beloved disciple was the divine symbol he perceived beneath the wondrous event. In the water and the blood he sees represented the most essential blessings of salvation for which the world is indebted to Christ. We know that in his first Epistle he points out the fact of His coming with water and blood, as well as with the Holy Spirit, as the most peculiar characteristic of the Redeemer of the world; and who does not perceive in these words that the wondrous event on Calvary must have been present to his mind?—F. W. Krummacher, “Suffering Saviour.”
John 19:39. Nicodemus at the cross and tomb of Jesus.—We come to a still later time. The fatal hour is passed; Jesus Christ has been crucified. The sorrowing disciples are scattered and discomfited. The women and the few faithful ones come with their last offering of love to the tomb; and among the faithful comes Nicodemus, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes a hundred pounds weight. It is an act of homage and devotion. It is the time when the ear has sprung up. We can easily believe that the full corn came up at the last; and we can accept the tradition that afterwards he avowed himself as a believer in Christ, and received baptism from Peter and John. The further tradition that his acknowledgment of our Lord led to his persecution and exile from office and reputation would almost naturally follow the former. But it is enough that we have seen again Christ’s power and influence over men. We have seen Him in patient converse with Nicodemus; and we have seen also that slowly the spirit of devotion grew, prompting Nicodemus to courageous remonstrance, and at last to an act of devotion at the tomb of the crucified Christ. It cost Nicodemus much to do those things. With his temperament, timid and cultivated, the effort to stand alone needed no small resolution, and evinced a courageous victory over self. To this the influence of Christ nerved him. Christ gave manhood to the courage of a nervous and timid man. Under His influence he is able to take his place with growing force and dignity. The man who sought Him by night is at last enabled to rebuke unrighteousness, and to join himself with the despised and lonely followers of Christ. Christ can give courage to the weak and fearful. This may seem a small thing; but nothing is small which enables a man to enter into the full possession of his manhood. In one way or another this defect of life clings to us—we do not possess our own lives. Passion, greed, ambition, may rob us of this heritage; but we are none the less deprived of it when we are the slaves of weakness and fear. To tame passion and to curb desire is a victory; but that also is a victorious power which can banish fear, and transform weakness into resolution and timidity into courage. For the fears which haunt timid souls are real and mighty powers. In their way they are not less powerful than covetousness and lust. They touch and wither up the lives of a vast number of men. Christ, if He is to be the Saviour of all men, must have a message of hope and redemption for the fearful. The story of Nicodemus assures us that He is the Saviour of the doubtful. To those that have no might He increaseth strength. His hand, His pierced hand, can grasp ours and encourage us against our weakness. Over natural timidity and social fears we can be made more than conquerors through Him who loved us.—Dr. W. Boyd Carpenter, in “Good Words,” December 1893.
John 19:42. The quiet sepulchre the abode of hope.—We leave them (Joseph and Nicodemus), and linger a few moments longer at the sepulchre, from whence a vital atmosphere proceeds, and the peace of God is breathed upon us. There He rests, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. How grateful is the feeling to us, after all the ignominy and suffering He has endured, to see Him at least once again honourably reposing, and that too upon a couch which love, fidelity, and tenderness have prepared for Him! Who does not perceive that, even in the circumstances of His interment, the overruling hand of God has interwoven for our consolation a gentle testimony that His only-begotten Son had well accomplished the great task which He was commissioned to perform? How clearly the taking down from the cross and the interment of the Redeemer before the setting in of night and the Sabbath shows the fulfilment of the ancient ordinance of Israel respecting those who were hanged on a tree! and how distinctly are we convinced to a demonstration that the curse is now removed from a sinful world, and that the eye of God again looks graciously and well-pleased down upon the earth! There He slumbers. Well for us that He was willing to pass through even this dark passage on our behalf! Nothing hindered Him from taking up His life again on the cross, and returning from thence immediately to His Father. But had He done so our bodies would have been left in the grave; and you know how much more we are wont to fear the grave than even death itself. There, where corruption reigns, it seems as if the curse of sin still hung over us, and as if no redemption had been accomplished. In order to dispel this terror, and to convince us, by means of His own precedent, that even with the interment of our bodies in the gloomy cell there is no longer anything to fear, but that a passage into life is opened for us out of this dark dungeon, He paternally took into consideration all our necessities, and suffered Himself to be laid in the grave before our eyes. He did not, indeed, see corruption, because He was only imputatively and not substantially a sinner. “Thou wilt not suffer Thine holy One to see corruption,” said David in Psalms 16:10, impelled by the spirit of prophecy. Our flesh, on the contrary, which is poisoned by sin, must necessarily pass through the process of the germinating seed-corn, and be dissolved into its original element before its glorification. But the difference between our lot and that of our divine Head is not an essential one. The chief thing continues to be this, that we know that even our bodies are not lost in the grave, but that they rest in hope. This is confirmed and guaranteed to us by Christ. The way we have seen Him go we shall also take. That which His obedience merited for Him as the Son of man it merited and acquired for us because Christ yielded it in our stead.—F. W. Krummacher, “Suffering Saviour.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on John 19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany