[23]   Death 3: Crucifixion (19:17-42)


[E4]    19:17-42......... The death of Jesus

19:17   Jesus carried His own cross at the beginning but was later relieved by Simon of Cyrene because He was tried many times through the night and was unable to carry the cross (Mt 27:32; Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26).

The place of crucifixion was called Golgotha in Aramaic, meaning “a skull” (Gr. cranion) in Greek. In Latin, the skull is “calvaria” thus the name Calvary (it does not appear in the Bible, except only in Luke in KJV). The customary explanation is that Jesus was crucified on a hill that was in the shape of a skull. This may be right. But there is no ancient tradition to that effect. Also, nothing in the Gospel indicates that Jesus was crucified on a hill.

19:18   The nails in crucifixion was driven through the wrists or forearms but not the hands because the hands could not sustain the weight of the body. Jesus was crucified with two criminals. This might have been done deliberately to add to the final indignity.

19:19   The notice was a placard listing the crimes of the condemned and attached to the cross. John emphasized this notice to repeat the kingship motif and sovereignty of Jesus’ death.

19:20   Aramaic was the local language of the land, Latin the official language, and Greek the common language of communication throughout the Roman world. This information is to emphasize the universality of Jesus’ kingship. The presence of the inscription in three languages will sufficiently account for the fact of divergent accounts of the notice in different gospels.

19:22   Pilate’s insistence on his version of the notice was probably meant as a mockery of Jesus’ accusers out of his indignation because he was pressured into such action.

19:24   The drawing of lots to divide Jesus’ clothing was seen by John as a literal fulfilment of Ps 22:18. It was another emphasis that God was over all that was done.

19:25   There were four women near the cross: (a) Jesus’ mother Mary, (b) Mary’s sister (probably Salome as mentioned in Mk 15:40 and also mother of Zebedee’s sons, that is, the mother of James and John), (c) Mary the wife of Clopas, and (d) Mary of Magdala. Magdala was a town not far from Tiberias on the west side of the Sea of Galilee. She was mentioned again in 20:1,11 and also in Lk 8:2-3 and was described as the woman with seven demons going out from her. It is also likely that she was the same woman as Mary of Bethany.

19:26   Jesus, even in the agony of the cross, still thought of the loneliness of His earthly mother after He left the world. He never forgot His duties. His words “Dear woman, here is your son” meant that the beloved disciple would now take His place in being her protector and provider.

19:27   The disciple, likely John, understood and from that “hour”, he took responsibility for Mary.

19:28   The fulfilment of Ps 69:21.

19:30   Jesus cried out loudly before His death (Mt 27:50; Mk 15:37; Lk 23:46): “It is finished.” It can mean His life is finished but more likely it means His work is completed as the Greek word is the same as “completed” in v.28. Jesus died with the cry of the Victor on His lips.

The words “gave up the spirit” is not the usual way of referring to death but it carries the sense of voluntariness.

The death of Jesus happened fairly quickly, more quickly than the other two crucified beside Him.

19:31   “The day of Preparation for the Sabbath” means Friday. According to Jewish law, the dead body of an executed criminal was not to remain all night “on the tree” but was to be buried that same day, especially when the Sabbath was “a high day”, the Passover.

The Roman custom was to leave the bodies of the crucified on the cross as a warning to others. It was therefore necessary to obtain permission before removing a body.

The victims of crucifixion would need to straighten up occasionally in order to breathe. But when the legs were broken, this was no longer possible. There was then a greater constriction of the chest. Without sufficient air, death would come on very quickly.

19:34   Either out of brutality or to make sure Jesus was really dead, the soldier thrust his spear into Jesus’ side. Immediately blood and water came out. Some scholars hold that it indicates that Jesus died of a ruptured heart. However, some argued that the cause of death could be asphyxia, dilation of the stomach, or traumatic shock. All these theories were made on medical grounds. Another possibility was that all four gospels imply a deliberate act of will in dying, meaning that Jesus voluntarily surrendered His life before the usual physical causes of death could operate. Some Biblical scholars believe that John uses “blood and water” to remind believers that blood (6:53-56) and water (4:10-11) are both related to eternal life which comes through Christ’s death (1Jn 5:6).

19:36   John finds a fulfilment of Scipture about the fact that Jesus’ bones were not broken (Ex 12:46 or Nu 9:12). The command was that not one bone of the the sacrifice at the Passover was to be broken. John is thus referring to Jesus as the perfect Passover offering (cf. the death at the time of the killing of the Passover sacrifices, v.14, and the use of hyssop, v.29). However, some others prefer the fulfilment of Ps 34:20 about God’s care for His own.

19:37   Another fulfilment was the fact that His side was pierced (Zec 12:10).

19:38   Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple. The Romans did not normally give such permission in the case of people executed for planning a revolution. That Pilate gave it may be a further indication that he did not think that Jesus was guilty.

19:39   The weight of the spices (34 kilograms or 75 pounds) was unusually large. But large quantities were used in royal burials (2Ch 16:14). Nicodemus, like Joseph,.

19:40   These men gave Jesus a decent burial. They first prepared the body by wrapping it in linen clothes, likely long bandage-like strips. Then the spices were put between the folds.

19:41   Such tombs were expensive, and they would usually be used again and again. But here, John tells us that the tomb had never before (emphasized by double negative) been used (also Lk 23:53). It was meant to be Joseph’s own tomb (Mt 27:60).

19:42   There was need for haste because it was necessary to get the burial completed before sundown when the Sabbath would start.


§         Jesus’ greatest suffering was not the physical and mental sufferings (though they were great) but the burden of sin of the whole world. No human imagination can fathom how great it is.

§         Joseph and Nicodemus were trying to make some reparation for their failure to do more in Jesus’ life. We must learn by their lessons to serve God when we are able to (Ecc 12:1).


Hymns of Life no.296 “My faith looks up to Thee” (beautiful verse)

My faith looks up to Thee,

Thou Lamb of Calvary,

Saviour divine!

Now hear me while I pray;

Take all my guilt away;

Oh, let me from this day

Be wholly Thine.

While life’s dark maze I tread,

And griefs around me spread,

Be Thou my guide;

Bid darkness turn to day;

Wipe sorrow’s tears away;

Nor let me ever stray

From Thee aside.

When end life’s transient dream,

When death’s cold sullen stream

Shall o’er me roll,

Blest Saviour, then, in love,

Fear and distrust remove;

Oh, bear me safe above,

A ransomed soul.