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



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

·         Jesus crucified (19:16b-22)
·         The division of Jesus’ clothing (19:23-24)
·         Jesus provides for Mary (19:25-27)
·         Jesus dies (19:28-30)
·         The piercing of Jesus’ side (19:31-37)
·         The burial (19:38-42)


19:17   Jesus carried His own cross at the beginning but was later relieved by Simon of Cyrene because He was unable to carry it (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 (which does not appear in the Chinese Bible nor in NIV, and only in Luke in KJV). The usual 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 they could not sustain the weight of the body. The cross represented miserable humanity reduced to the last degree of suffering and degradation.

Jesus was crucified with two criminals. This might have been meant as a 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 language of the country, 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.


19:23   It was customary for the soldiers who performed a crucifixion to take the clothing of the executed man.

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: Jesus’ mother Mary, 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), Mary the wife of Clopas, and 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, especially as the eldest son. His words “Dear woman, here is your son” clearly meant that the beloved disciple would take His place in being her protector and provider.

19:27   The disciple, most likely John, understood Jesus. From that “hour”, he took responsibility for Mary (not only providing a roof but complete responsibility).

19:28   The fulfilment of Ps 69:21.

19:30   Jesus cried 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.

John uses the words “gave up the spirit” to describe Jesus’ death. This is not the usual way of referring to death but it carries the sense of voluntariness. (The words “to God” in the Chinese Bible are not in the original and are not needed.)

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, even more so 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 this cruel form of execution would slightly ease the strain on their arms and chests by taking some of their weight on their feet. This helped them to breathe and thus to prolong their lives a little, but when the legs were broken, this was no longer possible. There was then a greater constriction of the chest, and death came on more 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 (cf. 1Jn 5:6). The significance of this is not clear. As can seen from the next verse, John wants us to take this as a record of what actually happened. Some scholars hold that it points to the manner of Jesus’ death, namely by a ruptured heart. However, some others reject this view. 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.

19:35   The writer refers to himself as a witness. Another translation: “This statement is the testimony of an eye-witness, and it is true. He knows that he is telling the truth -- in order that you may believe.”

19:36   John finds a fulfilment of Scipture about the fact that Jesus’ bones were not broken (Ex 12:46 or Nu 9:12). When the sacrifice at the Passover was instituted, the command was given that not one bone of the victim 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). Some others prefer the fulfilment of Ps 34:20, referring to 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 sedition. 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 there is evidence that large quantities were used in royal burials (2Ch 16:14). Nicodemus, like Joseph, was trying in the hour of Jesus’ death to make some reparation for his failure to do more in Jesus’ life.

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 there would be a tendency to use them 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, for clearly it would be getting near to sundown when the Sabbath would start. It was necessary to get the burial completed before sundown.