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John chapter 19

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What does John chapter 19 mean?

Despite Jesus' obvious innocence (John 18:36–38) and the personal vendetta of His enemies (Matthew 27:18), the Roman governor continues to try and appease the mob. What should have been an obvious prisoner exchange failed (John 18:39–40). Pilate tries to satisfy the crowd's blood lust by having Jesus viciously whipped and mocked, then presented to the crowd. The term translated "flogged" can also be rendered as "scourged." A Roman scourge, or flagrum, was a multiheaded, weighted whip capable of lethal injury. The man paraded to the public afterwards would have been a ragged, maimed figure (John 19:1–5).

The crowd's reaction is shocking: they respond not with sympathy for a mutilated man, but hatred for an enemy. Crucifixion was deliberately intended as dishonor and torture—so much so that Roman citizens were exempt from it. Not only is the mob demanding Jesus die, but they want Him to die in the most graphic, horrible way possible. This partly explains Pilate's rhetorical response—"do it yourself!"—despite knowing full well the Jews can do no such thing. Their reply, explaining that they are angry over Jesus' claims to be "Son of God," only makes Pilate more nervous. Roman myths included demigods who hid among mortals. Those who abused these half-deities often suffered as a result. Combined with his wife's ominous warning (Matthew 27:19), the governor has reason to be concerned (John 19:6–8).

Another private interview with Jesus gives no helpful answers. Jesus only responds to Pilate's frustrated demand for answers with a humbling reminder. Pilate's authority is not his own; it's merely borrowed from others. In a fundamental sense, Pilate has no control over this situation. He governs at the whims of the Empire, is being bullied by an unruly mob (Matthew 27:24), and is subject to the sovereign will of God. Pilate will then change tactics, apparently looking to avoid total humiliation. Despite the objections of Jesus' enemies, he will repeatedly refer to Jesus as "King of the Jews," and issue a death sentence accordingly (John 19:9–16).

We know little about Golgotha other than it was just outside the borders of old Jerusalem, near enough to be easily seen by many people. It was common for Romans to force condemned men to carry the horizontal beam of their cross to the execution site. Jesus has already been weakened by scourging, so impatient soldiers force a bystander to help (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). Crucifixion involved nailing a victim with cruel precision through the wrists and feet, arms apart and knees bent. A primary goal was to minimize blood loss and maximize pain. The result was an agonizing, horrific death that could last hours or even days (John 19:17–18).

Crucified victims were frequently labeled with their crimes, as a written warning to others. Pilate's chosen inscription is deliberately offensive. Jesus' enemies do not accept Him as their King, but the sign reflects Rome's dominance over Israel. This is written in multiple languages and seen by many people, making it the first time Jesus is proclaimed to the world as King. In Latin, the words recorded here would be Iēsus Nazarēnus Rēx Iūdaeōrum. Depictions of the cross in artwork frequently include the initials INRI (John 19:19–22).

John (John 13:23; 20:2) seems to be the only disciple willing to approach the cross as Jesus is dying, at least openly (Luke 23:49). Women associated with Jesus are braver, and several are present. They see Jesus' clothes being divided up among the soldiers in fulfillment of prophecy (Psalm 22:18). As this happens, Jesus puts His mother, Mary, into John's care. His other siblings might have rejected her for being loyal to someone they thought was insane (John 7:5; Mark 3:21). This places John right at the foot of the cross to witness Jesus' death and its gory confirmation (John 19:23–27).

Another Old Testament passage is echoed when Jesus is offered vile liquid in response to thirst (Psalm 69:21). John prominently notes that Jesus utters the Greek word tetelestai. This word implies something paid, completed, or fulfilled. Atonement for the sins of mankind is utterly and entirely completed in this sacrifice—without any room or need for further work (1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 10:12–14). It is also notable that Jesus' act of death is said to be deliberate: He "gave up" His life. Though His death was physically unavoidable by now, Jesus came to this moment by His own will and according to His own choice (John 10:17–18; Matthew 26:39; Philippians 2:8). In every sense, Christ's death was a voluntary act (John 19:28–30).

The nature of crucifixion meant victims could languish for hours or days before dying. Some died of blood loss, exposure, thirst, infection, or attacks by scavenging animals. Most suffocated as their failing strength made it impossible to lift up against the nails to properly breathe. To speed up the process, or as a perverse form of mercy, executioners would sometimes shatter the victim's shin bones. This would make lifting to breath impossible, bringing death in minutes. The governor allows this speedier process so the bodies can be cleared. This will avoid defiling the area on a religious holiday (Deuteronomy 21:23). Having been mutilated by scourging before being crucified, Jesus is already dead, completing more Old Testament predictions. To confirm death, a soldier punctures His side with a spear, resulting in a gory flood of body fluids. There is absolutely no question that Jesus is dead (John 19:31–37).

Not every single member of Jerusalem's religious council is hardened against Jesus. Two men, Joseph and Nicodemus, work together to give Jesus a hasty burial. Joseph's own personal tomb, a luxurious stone crypt, is close by. Jesus was penniless in life (Matthew 8:20) yet will be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9), further adding to fulfillment of prophecy (John 19:38–42).

This burial in a solid stone tomb, covered by a door, will factor into Jesus' miraculous resurrection. His enemies will petition to have the site guarded: they don't want anyone to steal the body and claim Jesus came back from the dead (Matthew 27:62–68). Ironically, those measures will only make it more obvious that the tomb's emptiness was the result of a true miracle (John 20:1–9).
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