Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 19

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John 19

Supplemental Commentary:


2.  The Passion and Death of Jesus  18-19 (continued)

19, 1-16:  The Scourging and Crowning.  Cf. Matt. 27, 26-31; Mark 15, 15-20; Luke 23, 4 f.13-16.20-25.  Evidently supposing the Synoptic account, John is brief as usual, but displays more clearly Pilate's inclination to release our Lord.  1-3.  Scourging was a normal preliminary to crucifixion.  Matthew and Mark report the incident only in this character, and therefore after the death sentence; whereas Luke, like John, shows that Pilate hoped the scourging might suffice for Christ's discharge.  This extremely cruel practice was called "an intermediary death," and in fact, the victim often died under the lashes.  The crowning with thorns was a spontaneous jest of the soldiers.  The purple garment was probably a faded military cloak.  In all of this Pilate was quite arbitrary.  John tells of three admissions on his part that he found no guilt in Christ.

4 f.  Pilate makes two appeals for the prisoner's release.  First, I find no guilt in him, and yet, to satisfy you, I have scourged Him.  Again, the demonstration of our Lord's pitiable condition: Behold the man! as if such a man could be a king!    6.  These appeals are rejected.  The Synoptics suppose that the crowd joined in the cry, Crucify him! but John here reveals that the officials were behind it.  Take him yourselves, etc.: if you dare crucify an innocent man.    7.  The law referred to is Lev. 24, 16, against blasphemy.  Clearly they understood the title "Son of God" in its literal force; otherwise, it would not have been blasphemous: cf. 5, 18; 7, 20; 8, 58; 10, 33.  The political charges having failed, the Jews now admit their real accusation.

8.  This fear could have two causes, the rising fanaticism of the Jews, and the possibility of some divine power in our Lord.    9.  Christ's silence recalls Isa. 53, 7.    10 f.  Pilate's pride merited the rebuke that, without permission from God, he would be powerless.  Cf. 18, 6.  He who delivered me: i.e., Caiphas, as head of the Sanhedrin.  Has the greater sin: to both Pilate and the Jews God had made available this power of His Son, but both sinned in using it.  The sin of the Jews was the greater because they had initiated the process, they had evidence of His divinity, and yet their conduct was inspired by hatred.  Pilate's sin was the less because he was an instrument, was acting under the moral stress of fear, and had far less light.    12.  From then on, or as the Greek text can also be rendered, "on that account."  This gave Pilate a new incentive to dismiss the case.  It also led the Jews to a final and a winning argument.  To their charge of Christ's pretension to a throne Pilate could not be indifferent; to be so would endanger his title to be considered the friend of Caesar.

13.  The judgment seat was a rostrum or curule chair from which sentence was formally pronounced.  Lithostrotos: a Greek term meaning in general a stone pavement, here probably the court outside the praetorium.  Gabbatha: a cleared space or court.  Cf. Acts 12, 4; 16, 19; 18, 12.    14.  Preparation Day: originally meaning preparation for the paschal supper, the expression later denoted the preparation also for the Great Sabbath.  Cf. Mark 15, 42.  According to John's dating either sense might apply here.  The sixth hour: cf. Mark 15, 25, where from 9 to 12 may be meant, while John more precisely sets the scene nearer 12.  Neither aims to give the exact hour.  Behold your king is ironical.    15.  The retort of the chief priests is decisive.  We have no king but Caesar is their final repudiation of Jesus as the Messias.    16a.  Pilate acceded to their wish, though the execution of the sentence was in the hands of the Roman soldiers.  Cf. Luke 23, 25; Acts 2, 23; 3, 15.    16b.  In the Greek text this is read with 17, omitting the words and led him away.

19, 17-24:  The Crucifixion.  Cf. Matt. 27, 31-56; Mark 15, 20-41; Luke 23, 26-49.    17.  Bearing the cross: the victim usually carried his own cross, probably his arms tied to the cross-beam only.  The assistance of Simon, mentioned in the Synoptics, was found necessary after the procession left the praetorium.  The Skull: as the Aramaic Golgotha is explained in Matt. 27, 33; Mark 15, 22.    18.  Two others: the fulfillment of Isa. 53, 12, "He was reckoned among the wicked."  Cf. Mark 15, 28.    19 f.  John and Luke tell us that the inscription was written in three languages.  It was usual thus to publish the crime of the offender.  In this case Pilate was obviously deriding the Jews.  Each of the Evangelists gives only the sense of the inscription, and thus their words can differ.    21 f.  Pilate had no mind to change what he had written.    23 f.  The clothes of the condemned were the spoil of the soldiers who executed the sentence.  Here the garments included all the under clothing, while the tunic was the outer cloak.  A predication of this scene is found in Ps. 21, 19.  The first verse of this same Psalm is quoted by Christ in the words Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani (Mark 15, 34).

19, 25-30:  The Death of Jesus.    25.  John mentions those particulars in which he was involved.  The older and more general view is that there were three women in this group: Mary, wife or mother of Cleophas, who was his mother's sister, the Blessed Virgin, and Mary Magdalene.  This last is probably to be distinguished, by her title "the Magdalene," from Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus.    26 f.  The doctrine of Mary's maternity over all Christians does not rest on this text, although its words may be thus accommodated.    28.  Cf. Ps. 68, 22, but also Ps. 21, 16.    29.  Common wine: the common dry wine of the soldiers, often called "vinegar."  A stalk of hyssop: this stalk is frail and only about eighteen inches long.  Hence Lagrange explains: hyssop was wrapped around the end of a rod to serve as a sponge.    30.  It is consummated: Christ has accomplished His mission from the Father.  Cf. Heb. 10, 7.  This was the price paid for our salvation.  Cf. Rom. 3, 25 f; 1 Cor. 6, 20; 7, 23; 2 Cor. 5, 15; Gal. 3, 13; Eph. 2, 13; Heb. 10, 10-14; 1 Pet. 1, 18 f.

19, 31-42:  The Burial.    31-37:  The lance.  The incident is recorded only by John.    31.  Cf. Deut. 21, 23.  If this Sabbath was the 15th Nisan, we can understand its especial solemnity.  That their legs might be broken: the crurifragium was a means of hastening the death of one crucified.  The femur was fractured with a rod, the additional pain compensating for a shortening of the agony of the cross.    32 f.  The thieves, still alive, died under this treatment.  Jesus, however, was already dead.    34.  One of the soldiers: tradition, following the "Gospel of Nicodemus," names him Longinus, deriving the name from the Greek term for "lance."  Opened: the Greek means more exactly "pierced."  There came out blood and water: John seems to consider this a prodigy.  But if John intended thus to prove a real death of Christ as against the Docetists, the phenomenon can readily be understood as natural.  The commonest explanation is that the lance pierced the heart of Jesus, the water being the lymph escaping from the pericardial sac (cf. 1 John 5, 6).    35.  John declares himself an eyewitness of this event.  And his witness is true: note the force of this in 4, 23.37; 6, 32; 7, 28; 15, 1: it is a genuine testimony worthy of all credence.  And he knows: generally taken of John himself; but some would refer it to Christ.  Thus John would call upon Christ to witness the truth of his statement.  That you also may believe: that the reader may see in this, as John does, the fulfillment of Scripture.    36.  For connects this verse with the foregoing as its explanation; cf. Ex. 12, 46; Num. 9, 12; Ps. 33, 21.  Christ fulfills the type of the Paschal Lamb.  Cf. also 1, 29.36.    37.  Cf. Zach. 12, 10; Apoc. 1, 7.  The sense of the Hebrew texts is expressed.

38-42:  The burial.  Cf. Matt. 27, 57-61; Mark 15, 42-47; Luke 23, 50-56.    38.  Arimathea: probably Ramathaim, today er-Ram, to the north and west of Jerusalem, and the home of Samuel.  Joseph probably gathered courage from seeing this death of the Master.  Cf. Isa. 53, 9.    39.  For Nicodemus cf. 3, 1 ff; 7, 50 f.  Myrrh is an odorous resin; aloes, a scented wood.  Mixture: a variant reading has "roll."  Cf. Ps. 44, 9; Prov. 7, 17; Cant. 4, 14.  A hundred pounds: about 70 pounds avoirdupois.    40.  In linen cloths: possibly in the form of a shroud.  Cf. 11, 44.  Jewish manner of preparing for burial: this involved three operations: the washing of the body (not mentioned in the Gospels), the anointing (the concern of the women), and wrapping in cloths over which the preservatives had been spread.  The haste of this temporary internment admitted only of the shroud and the spices.    41.  Matthew tells us that the tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea.

Confraternity Bible:

The Scourging and Crowning  1 Pilate, then, took Jesus and had him scourged.  2 And the soldiers, plaiting a crown of thorns, put it upon his head, and arrayed him in a purple cloak.  3 And they kept coming to him and saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him.

4 Pilate therefore again went outside and said to them, "Behold, I bring him out to you, that you may know that I find no guilt in him."  5 Jesus therefore came forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.  And he said to them, "Behold, the man!"  6 When, therefore, the chief priests and the attendants saw him, they cried out, saying, "Crucify him!  Crucify him!"  Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him."  7 The Jews answered him, "We have a Law, and according to that Law he must die, because he has made himself Son of God."

8 Now when Pilate heard this statement, he feared the more.  9 And he again went back into the praetorium, and said to Jesus, "Where art thou from?"  But Jesus gave him no answer.  10 Pilate therefore said to him, "Dost thou not speak to me?  Dost thou not know that I have power to crucify thee, and that I have power to release thee?"  11* Jesus answered, "Thou wouldst have no power at all over me were it not given thee from above.  Therefore, he who betrayed me to thee has the greater sin."

12 And from then on Pilate was looking for a way to release him.  But the Jews cried out, saying, "If thou release this man, thou art no friend of Caesar; for everyone who makes himself king sets himself against Caesar."

13* Pilate therefore, when he heard these words, brought Jesus outside, and sat down on the judgment-seat, at a place called Lithostrotos, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.  14 Now it was the Preparation Day for the Passover, about the sixth hour.  And he said to the Jews, "Behold, your king!"  15 But they cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!"  Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?"  The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar."  16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.  And so they took Jesus and led him away.

The Crucifixion  17 And bearing the cross for himself, he went forth to the place called the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side and Jesus in the center.

19 And Pilate also wrote an inscription and had it put on the cross.  And there was written,
"Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." 
20 Many of the Jews therefore read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek and in Latin.  21 The chief priests of the Jews said therefore to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said, I am the King of the Jews.'"  22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

23 The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified him, took his garments and made of them four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic.  Now the tunic was without seam, woven in one piece from the top.  24* They therefore said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but let us cast lots for it, to see whose it shall be."  That the Scripture might be fulfilled which says,
"They divided my garments among them; and for my vesture they cast lots." 
These things therefore the soldiers did.

The Death of Jesus  25 Now there were standing by the cross of Jesus his mother and his mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.  26 When Jesus, therefore, saw his mother and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, thy son."  27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, thy mother."  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

28 After this Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst."  29 Now there was standing there a vessel full of common wine; and having put a sponge soaked with the wine on a stalk of hyssop, they put it to his mouth.  30 Therefore, when Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is consummated!"  And bowing his head, he gave up his spirit.

The Burial  31* The Jews therefore, since it was the Preparation Day, in order that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a solemn day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.  32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other, who had been crucified with him.  33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs: 34 but one of the soldiers opened his side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water.

35 And he who saw it has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he tells the truth, that you also may believe.  36 For these things came to pass that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
"Not a bone of him shall you break." 
37* And again another Scripture says,
"They shall look upon him whom they have pierced."
38 Now after these things Joseph of Arimathea, because he was a disciple of Jesus (although for fear of the Jews a secret one), besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus.  And Pilate gave permission.  He came, therefore, and took away the body of Jesus.  39 And there also came Nicodemus (who at first had come to Jesus by night), bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, in weight about a hundred pounds.  40 They therefore took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, after the Jewish manner of preparing for burial.  41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.  42 There, accordingly, because of the Preparation Day of the Jews, for the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus.


11: Has the greater sin: in condemning Christ, Pilate was guilty of a sin against justice.  Caiphas, however, sinned against both religion and justice.  Pilate's offense was modified by his great fear and weakness.

13: Judgment-seat: a rostrum or curule chair from which such sentences were officially pronounced.  Lithostrotos: a stone pavement which, from Gabbatha (an elevated or cleared space), we may judge was a courtyard outside the praetorium.

24: Ps. 21, 19.

31: That their legs might be broken: this practice was used when there was any reason for hastening the death of the crucified.

37: Zach. 12, 10.