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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

John 19

Verse 1

1 Pilate failed in his effort to get Jesus released under the custom of the times in connection with the passover. He then tried to hope that he could work on the sympathy of the Jews, after they saw the appearance of Jesus as the regular procedure was followed. That began by scourging him, which was usually done to victims about to be executed. It was a cruel ordeal which is described by Smith's Bible Dictionary as follows: "Under the Roman method the culprit was stripped, stretched with cords or thongs on a frame and beaten with rods. (Another form of scourge consisted of a handle with three lashes or thongs of leather or cord, sometimes with pieces of metal fastened to them. Romans citizens were exempt by their law from scourging.)"

Verse 2

2 Mat 27:27 should be read in connection with this verse. The scourging had been done in the court, then Jesus was led into the common hall, where the whole band of soldiers was gathered to see the indignities to be imposed on him. He had said he was a king, and in mockery they put a crown of thorns upon his head. The thorns were those of a brier or bramble bush. Purple was one of the royal colors, so they put such a robe on Jesus which was also in mockery of his claim to being a king.

Verse 3

3 These derisive words were said in mockery with the same motive that prompted their actions in the preceding verse. Smote him. See the comments on Joh 18:22 for the description and significance of this shameful act.

Verse 4

4 Having put Jesus through these cruel indignities, Pilate announced to the Jews in waiting that he was bringing their prisoner out to them. That ye may know was said with the meaning, "Although your prisoner has been treated with such indignities as you can see, yet no final sentence has been pronounced upon him. I am therefore offering him to you because I still find no fault in him."

Verse 5

5 With this "introduction," Jesus appeared on the scene, wearing the crown of thorns with its thousands of prickles having been pressed down pon his head, and robed in the colors that only belonged to Roman kings. His appearance was plainly visible to all the mob, yet Pilate thought to arouse their pity by a pointed phrase, behold the man. The first word is from IDE, and Thayer defines it, "see! behold! lo!" He then explains it, "as the utterance of one who wishes that something should not be negelected by another." Robinson gives the same definition as Thayer, then follows with the comment, "As calling attention to something present."

Verse 6

6 When the chief priests had their attention especially directed to Jesus, it had the opposite effect upon them to what Pilate expected. They were enraged and caused to repeat their demand that Jesus be crucified. Take ye him and crucify him. This was not a judicial sentence; that came later. But it was another effort of Pilate to evade responsibility for punishing a man in whom he still found no fault.

Verse 7

7 Made himself the Son of God. This was a new charge as far as Pilate had heard. Up to the present he could get only the idea of a rival against the government, but which was not in any of the evidence so far produced. Pilate was a heathen in religion, and could not realize fully what it would mean to be called by such a title as the Jews named. Yet he was not entirely unacquainted with Jewish history as was indicated by washing his hands (Mat 27:24), an act based on Deu 21:1-6.

Verse 8

8 From his knowledge of Jewish history, referred to in the preceding verse, Pilate had some idea of the importance attached to their God. Now here was a man in his court who claimed to be the Son of that God. If such claim was true, then it might be dangerous to mistreat him. All of this in connection with his wife's dream (Mat 27:19), filled him with uneasiness so that the record says he was the more afraid.

Verse 9

9 Pilate was still unwilling to let the matter drop, but made another effort to get Jesus to commit himself. The question whence art thou was related to the claim just made that he was the Son of God. Jesus made no answer to the question, but that was not because he could not do so, neither was it from pure contempt of the court, for he did speak presently. In the appearances of Jesus be fore the rulers, he was silent when his personal comfort or safety was all that was involved, and that fulfilled the predictions in Isa 53:7. But when an important issue was called up, he would speak out and give the teaching upon it, as we shall see very soon.

Verse 10

0 Pilate thought Jesus was maintaining silence in contempt. He thought he would goad him into speaking by a sort of "threat of the law." The self-importance which he felt he possessed was expressed in the words, I have power.

Verse 11

1 Jesus considered it was the proper time for him to speak. He did not deny the power (or authority) that Pilate claimed to have, but informed him that this power was not his directly, but that it had been given him from above. It meant that Pilate was acting as the instrument of a Higher Power, and hence that his part in the solemn drama was not purely upon his own motive; he personally did not wish it to be so. But the Jewish leaders, though also acting in fulfillment of the prophecies, were yet carrying out their personal desires. That is why Jesus told Pilate that he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

Verse 12

2 It seems that every turn of the conversation and events only confirmed Pilate in his belief that Jesus was an innocent man. But his political interests outweighed his conscience, so that he made only such attempts at releasing the prisoner as would not endanger his standing with the government of Caesar. The Jews realized this situation, and used it with telling effect in this verse.

Verse 13

3 Pilate yielded to the political pressure which the Jews brought to bear upon him in the preceding verse, and concluded he would pass the sentence of death against Jesus. Judgment seat is from BEMA, which Thayer defines, "A raised place mounted by steps; a platform, tribune." He further says it was used as the official seat of a judge. This was the spot where Pilate brought Jesus for the final act in the tragedy.

Verse 14

4 The meaning of preparation will be fully explained at verse 31. The present verse puts the time of the crucifixion about the sixth hour, which seems to disagree with the account in Mar 15:25 which puts it at the third hour. There is no contradiction in thought when the various kinds of calendars that were used are considered. One method of dividing the day was by the single hours, starting in the morning at what corresponds with our six o'clock, which was the first hour in New Testament times. The hours were then numbered from one to twelve, and a reference to any certain hour (such as 3rd or 6th) meant a period of one hour only. Another form of calendar divided the twelve hours into four periods of three hours each and each period was named by the last hour of that period. By that method, the sixth hour would mean the period that really began with the hour that was called the third in the single hour method. John's statement is based on this calendar. As the source of my information, I will quote from Owen C. Whitehouse, Professor of Hebrew, Chesnut College, near London, on the Hebrew Calendar: "The later division of the day was: Third hour, 6 to 9 A. M.; Sixth 'hour, 9 to 12 A. M.; Ninth hour, 12 to 3 P. M.; Twelfth hour, 3 to 6 P. M." This same information is given by The Oxford Cyclopedic Concordance, under article "Day."

Verse 15

5 When Pilate asked the Jews to behold their king (in preceding verse), it enraged them still more and made them want the execution performed at once. Pilate gave them one last chance just before giving Jesus over to the executioners, to change their minds and snatch him as it were from the cross. He made the appeal as pointed as possible by asking, "Shall I crucify your King?" This desperate move of his reminds us of the language of Peter in Act 3:13, where he says of Pilate's attitude toward Jesus, "he was determined to let him go." The chief priests rejected all of Pilate's suggestions. Their statement, We have no king but Caesar, was not made except as a retort to Pilate's question, and not in the spirit of patriotic loyalty.

Verse 16

6 Pilate regarded the remark in the close of the preceding verse as final, and at once delivered Jesus unto the soldiers, who led him away to be crucified.

Verse 17

7 Bearing his cross. According to Luk 23:26, Simon was compelled to help Jesus bear the cross. There was a rule that if a victim condemned to the cross was unable physically to carry it alone, someone would be made to take up the rear part and help carry it, walking after the other to the place of execution. Place of a skull. There is a long note on this phrase at Mat 27:33, containing information gleaned from the lexicons and other authentic works of reference.

Verse 18

8 The two other were thieves according to Mat 27:38.

Verse 19

9 The title also means an inscription, in the form of a placard or poster, placed on the cross in full view of the passers-by. The wording on this poster was, Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews. The inscription was to inform the public of the charge on which the victim had been crucified. This one showed that Jesus was nailed to the cross for the "crime" of being king of the Jews.

Verse 20

0 The inscription was written in the three languages named, because people of those tongues were present at Jerusalem at that time and thus they could read it.

Verse 21

1 The title on the cross was such a flimsy reason for having Jesus slain, that the chief priests were ashamed as they saw the crowds reading it. They thought it could be made to seem more fitting if the charge would read so as to represent Jesus as an arch impostor; they requested Pilate to change the wording to that effect.

Verse 22

2 What I have written I have written, was a brief way of saying, "I have written the inscription as I wanted it, and I will not let it be changed."

Verse 23

3 We may learn from Smith's Bible Dictionary (article--"crucifixion"), that the victim to be crucified was stripped of his clothing before crucifixion. It was a custom that the soldiers performing the execution should have the victim's raiment as an extra pay in addition to their wages as soldiers. According to the present verse there were four of the soldiers, corresponding to the four parts of the body to be nailed; the two hands and two feet. This would call for four divisions to be made of the garments so each soldier could have a share But the coat was woven in one piece in such a way that it could not be divided without ruining it.

Verse 24

4 In the case of the one-piece garment, the soldiers agreed to decide the question by casting lots for it. That the scripture might be fulfilled means, "and in so doing the scripture was fulfilled," etc.; the prediction is in Psa 22:18.

Verse 25

5 This verse corresponds with Mat 27:56, with some variation in the names of some of the women. Mary the mother of Jesus was the same as the mother of James and Joses (Mar 6:3).

Verse 26

6 The disciple whom he loved was John, the writer of this book (chapter 21:20, 24). Behold thy son. The term son comes from HUIOS, which has a great many shades of meaning besides the one commonly used. Thayer says it is sometimes used "of one who depends on another." Jesus used it in that sense as may be seen in the following verse. When he told his mother to behold John as her son, he meant for her to depend on him for support.

Verse 27

7 By the same token as set forth in the preceding verse, when Jesus told John to behold his mother, he meant for him to let Mary depend on him for support. John also understood it that way, for he began at once to take her as a member of his own household. And the arrangement was exactly on the same principle that was taught by Paul in 1Ti 5:4; 1Ti 5:16. In that place the apostle was writing about dependent widows, and the obligation of nephews to care for them. The same idea would hold good in the case of others who are able to care for worthy disciples who are dependent.

Verse 28

8 Not until after all things were accomplished did Jesus give expression to his dying desires. In the throes of his feverish last hours, he complained of being thirsty. That the scripture might be fulfilled denotes that in his thirst and its quenching he would fulfill the scripture.

Verse 29

9 The scripture prediction that was fulfilled by this is in Psa 69:21. When Jesus expressed his wants by stating the condition of thirst, someone dipped a sponge in vinegar (sour wine) and placed it upon hyssop so as to reach it up to the parched lips of the dying Saviour. This was the most convenient way either of serving or receiving it under the circumstances. It was done merely to quench his thirst and not as an opiate, since it did not have the gall mixed with it which he had refused (Mat 27:34). Some confusion might occur over this word hyssop, since both Matthew and Mark say it was put on a reed. I shall quote from Smith's Bible Dictionary on the article in question. "Besides being thus lit for sprinkling, having cleansing properties, and growing on walls, the true hyssop should be a plant common to Egypt, Sinai and Palestine, and capable of producing a stick three or four feet long."

Verse 30

0 It is finished. In Joh 17:4 as Jesus was praying he said, "I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do." That was said prospectively, because his work on earth was virtually completed then. In the present instance it was said literally, because it was among the last words Jesus uttered before death. Gave up the ghost (spirit), indicates that when a man dies, something in his body leaves it, which proves that the human being is not wholly material.

Verse 31

1 Preparation. Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Bible Dictionary says of this day, "This term signifies in general any day which preceded a great feast. The usage is somewhat analogous [similar] to that of the English 'eve' (Christmas eve, New-year's eve, etc.)." The call for such a day lay in the restrictions of the law of Moses regarding holy days. On them it was unlawful to perform any manual labor, even to the gathering of sticks for fuel (Num 15:32-36). It was therefore directed that all their baking and boiling be done the day before by way of preparation for the sabbath or holy day to come (Exo 16:23). The law of Moses forbade letting a body on a tree (or cross) over night (Deu 21:22-23). The Jews were attentive to such items as this, and especially as it would have caused a dead body to be thus exposed on a sabbath day. What was still more important in this case was that it would have been on a high day. The word is from MEGAS, which Thayer defines at this place, "Of great moment, of great weight, important; solemn, sacred." Even without the definition from the lexicon, the way it is used indicates that the sabbath day referred to was not the ordinary or weekly one. The explanation is in the fact that the day following the crucifixion was the Jewish Passover. Lev 23:1-7 clearly shows that day was a holy one which made it a sabbath day. The regular sabbath came each week, while this other came only once a year, and was commemorative of the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. No wonder, then, that John called it a 'high day. Crucifixion caused a slow death as a rule, so that the victims might linger on into the night and even up till the following day before dying. It was not lawful to permit them thus to remain there, neither could they take them down from the cross while alive. Hence it was a rule to hasten death before night by breaking the legs with clubs, the shock on top of what they had already endured being the final cause of death. That is why the Jews requested Pilate to have the legs of the three broken.

Verse 32

2 We are not told why the soldiers came to the thieves before Jesus. It was not because of their order on the crosses, for verse 18 says they were on the sides of Jesus. We might speculate and suggest that a humane feeling prompted them to put off the brutal performance as long as possible, but that would be a guess only, and I merely offer it for what it is worth. But the custom of the occasion was carried out under the authority of Pilate.

Verse 33

3 Jesus had suffered so much physical shock in addition to his intense nervous strain (Luk 22:44), that he anticipated the soldiers and died before they arrived at the cross. The fact was unusual, and hence Pilate was surprised when he heard that Jesus was dead (Mar 15:44). The only reason the soldiers had for not breaking the legs of Jesus was that the purpose for the act (to hasten death) was not present. But their refraining from doing it fulfilled another prediction, that his bones were not to be broken (Psa 34:20). The same fact was also typified by the restrictions on observing the first pass-over in Egypt, "neither shall ye break a bone thereof" (Exo 12:46).

Verse 34

4 The scripture does not tell us the motive of the soldier in piercing the body of Jesus with his spear. Doubtless the hand of God was in the act, using the heathen servant as the instrument in producing the greatest event in all history. Blood and water. In the very nature of the cue, the source of the water had to be the circulatory system. The word is from HUDOR, and Robinson defines it, "A watery fluid, serum," and explains it at this place, "which flowed from the wound in Jesus' side." This critical authority will justify another note, in the form of a medical comment, by Henry H. Halley, as follows: '. 'Some medical authorities have said that in the case of heart rupture, and in that case only, the blood collects in the pericardium (the lining around the wall of the heart), and divides into a sort of bloody clot and a watery serum. If this is a fact, then the actual physical cause of Jesus' death was heart rupture. Under intense pain, and the pressure of his wildly raging blood, his heart burst open." Thus the spear of the Roman soldier started the flowing of the most precious stream that ever existed in the universe. In it was fulfilled the prophetic words, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened in the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" (Zec 13:1). And with that amazing circumstance in our minds, we sing these beautifully solemn words: "There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Emman-uel's veins; And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains."

Verse 35

5 This verse is virtually the same as Joh 21:24, which lets us know that it means John. He knew that his record was true, not only because he was an eye witness (Joh 19:26), but was one of the inspired apostles and wrote by the Holy Spirit.

Verse 36

6 This is commented upon at verse 33.

Verse 37

7 This prediction is in Zec 12:10. The mere act of looking on Jesus might seem as an unimportant item. But Mat 27:36 says, "And sitting down they watched him there." This was not from mere morbid curiosity, but it was a part of their duty. Smith's Bible Dictionary says, "The crucified was watched, according to custom, by a party of four soldiers, Joh 19:23, with their centurion, Mat 27:66, whose express office was to prevent the stealing of the body. This was necessary from the lingering character of the death, which sometimes did not supervene even for three days, and was at last the result of gradual benumbing and starvation. But for this guard, the persons might have been taken down and recovered as was actually done in the case of a friend of Josephus."

Verse 38

8 secretly for fear of the Jews means that his being a disciple had been kept secret up to this time. But he maintained that secrecy no longer, which he could not do if he performed the act he planned on doing in taking charge of the body of Jesus. The soldiers would not have permitted him to take the body, had he not been authorized to do so by Pilate, hence the record says that he "commanded the body to be delivered" (Mat 27:58)." And the open manner of Joseph's actions is expressed in Mar 15:43, that he "went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus."

Verse 39

9 The visit of Nicodemus with Jesus is recorded in chapter 3 of this book. Nothing is said at that place as to the impression made on the ruler, nor of what his attitude was afterward; but the present verse indicates that it left him with a favorable feeling. Also the protest he made against the unfair treatment accorded to Jesus by the Jews (chapter 7:50, 51) agrees with that attitude. Hence he joined with Joseph in giving the body of Jesus this honorable burial. Thayer says that myrrh is, "a bitter gum and costly perfume which exudes from a certain tree or shrub in Arabia and Ethiopia, or is obtained by incisions made in the bark; as an antiseptic it was used in embalming." Of aloes he says it is "the name of an aromatic tree which grows in eastern India and Cochin China, and whose soft bitter wood the Orientals used in fumigation and in embalming the dead." The immense weight of these materials that Nicodemus brought would indicate his respect for Jesus.

Verse 40

0 The products mentioned in the preceding verse were bound to the body of Jesus with the linen cloth, after which it was prepared for burial according to the Jewish custom in, practice at that time and in that coun-try.

Verse 41

1 A new sepulchre. This place had become the property of Joseph according to Mat 27:60. We are not informed when nor why Joseph had acquired this tomb, but having done so evidently for his own use whenever the occasion came that it would be needed, it was at this time unoccupied. That gave the occasion for the body of Jesus to be placed "wherein was never man yet laid" (stated here and in Luk 23:53).

Verse 42

2 Because of the Jews' preparation day. Luk 23:54 says it was the day of the preparation, "and the sabbath drew on." The preparation day was a busy time for the Jews (see notes at verse 31), hence it was convenient from that standpoint to bury Jesus at this place, for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on John 19". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.