1/2/13

John 19:17-27 – The Crucifixion


Last week learned about the precrucifixion of Jesus, the first of four steps of the crucifixion process.
·  We learned that Jesus was probably flogged at two different times and in two different ways.
·  We also learned that the flogging and torture associated with Jesus’ second flogging was probably far worse than realized.
·  Today, we deal with the crucifixion itself.


John 19:16–18 (ESV) — 16b So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

After Pilate capitulated to the threats of the Jews with respect to his tenuous hold on power, he officially had Jesus sentenced to die via crucifixion.
·  It would be at this point that Jesus would have received His second flogging from “they” – the Roman soldiers.
o   This flogging would have been the worst kind – the verberatio.

Jesus then “went out” to a place outside the city called “Golgotha” (vs. 17).
·  “The exact location is uncertain; the two most commonly suggested locations are the traditional site, west of Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Gordon’s Calvary, north of the city” – John MacArthur.
·  And more than likely, the “stakes” used in crucifixions would “presumably have been standing permanently” at Golgotha – Beasley-Murray.

And we can’t miss the profoundness of John’s words – Jesus “went out, bearing his own cross” (vs. 17).
·  These words of John are an allusion to an OT prophecy in Isaiah.
·  Isaiah 53:7 (ESV) — 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
·  Jesus willingly gave Himself over to die.

It is also interesting that “went out” (vs. 17) carries with it an allusion to another OT passage.
·  Exodus 29:14 (ESV) — 14 But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.
·  The book of Hebrews notes the significance of this.
·  Hebrews 13:11–12 (ESV) — 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.

And then in four simple words, John conveys the absolute horror of what happened next, “There they crucified him…” (vs. 18).
·  We will come back to crucifixion shortly.

John 19:19–22 (ESV) — 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Even in Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate continued to mock the Jews who had sought Jesus’ death.
·  Pilate ordered that the inscription on Jesus’ cross read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (vs. 19).
·  We know it had its desired effect because the chief priests pleaded with Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” (vs. 21).
·  The Jews’ so-called king, who posed such a huge threat, was now humiliated and nailed to a tree.
·  Pilate must have enjoyed offending the Jews who had just backed him into a political corner.
·  And in typical John irony, Pilate was actually correct.
·  It was the King of the Jews humiliated and nailed to a tree.

John tells us that Jesus’ placard was written in three languages, “in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek” (vs. 20).
·  During Passover, a huge, varied population was in the city from all over the Roman Empire.
·  And insuring that the primary language of Judea, the “official language of the army” and the common language of the Roman Empire were represented was necessary so that the placard, “might be read by all” – D.A. Carson/Beasley-Murray.
·  BTW – There are other historical records that testify to this practice.

In fact, John says “Many of the Jews read this inscription” (vs. 20).
·  This is a fairly straight forward statement.
·  But when we check out Paul’s words to the Galatians it comes to life.
·  Galatians 3:1 (ESV) — 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
·  "Publicly portrayed" here is the Greek "prographo".
·  The word means "to set forth for public notice, show forth/portray publicly, proclaim or placard in public" – BDAG.
·  We can take from this that some Galatia Jews were in Jerusalem for Passover and witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion.
·  When Paul is teaching them about being crucified with Christ, he is teaching them about something they (and maybe he) witnessed.

John 19:23–24 (ESV) — 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things,

Once Jesus was secured to the cross, the soldiers divvied up his clothes.
·  As His executioners, they were given ownership of them – “they were viewed as spoil” – Beasley-Murray.
·  They took His robe, sandals and belt – “they took his garments” (vs. 23).
·  They then took His undergarment – “his tunic” (vs. 23).
o   The tunic was Jesus’ seamless undergarment.
o   It would have been of little value torn in pieces so they cast lots for it.
o   Beasley-Murray suggests, given Jewish custom, Jesus’ mother could have made it.
·  And all this happened to fulfill Scripture.
·  This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (vs. 24)

John 19:25–27 (ESV) — 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus had earlier in His ministry made a deliberately provocative statement about family.
·  Luke 14:26 (ESV) — 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
·  Here, however, we see the boundaries to these words.
o   His words conveyed the priority of the Kingdom of God not a call to neglect family.
·  Why can we say this?
·  Because in our text, Jesus arranged that the beloved disciple John would care for His mother.
·  Presumably, Jesus had been doing so.
·  We have to remember that at this time, Jesus’ half-brothers had rejected Him.
·  And the fact that Joseph was not around to care for Mary indicates he had previously died.

Now let’s go back to the crucifixion which we skipped at the beginning.


1) THE CRUCIFIXION

Origins:
Crucifixion as a practice, the Greek “stauroo”, had its origins with the Persians.
·  And originally the “stauroo” referred to, “an upright ‘stake’ such as is used in fences or palisades” – TDNT.
·  We have accounts in ancient Greek literature of crucifixions referring to people being impaled on the “stakes” that were used to protect their villages or contain their livestock.
·  To be “staked” was to be crucified.
·  The word later assumed the meaning we speak of today.

In the OT, the execution of Saul in 1 Samuel 31:9-10 was an example of an earlier form of crucifixion.
·  His head was cut off and his body was “fastened” (“nailed up” - HALOT) to a wall.
·  This would be an example of the crucifixion of a corpse.
·  Something that, we learned last week, was not uncommon.

We need to now take a look at the remaining 3 steps of the crucifixion process.

Step 2 – “The victim carried his or her cross-bar (patibulum) to the place of crucifixion” – LBD.
·  After the precrucifixion flogging and torture, the second step of Roman crucifixion was to force the victim to carry the “patibulum” or crossbeam to the “stake”.
·  As we noted earlier, the “stake” would have been already erected at Golgotha.
·  Roman sources actually tell us the victim was “bound [to the patibulum] and led around” – LBD.
·  And they would have be bound so that their “hands spread out on the patibulum” – LBD.
·  This would have been further torture for Jesus to endure.

Jesus alludes to this practice when talking to Peter about how Peter will die.
·  John 21:18 (ESV) — 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”

We know from the other Gospels, however, that Jesus was tortured and flogged so severely that He was unable to carry His crossbeam all the way to the “stake” at Golgotha.
·  Simon of Cyrene was infamously made to carry Jesus’ crossbeam.

BTW – Luke tells us that Jesus was not alone.
·  Luke 23:32 (ESV) — 32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
·  The criminals would have probably been flogged and tortured when Jesus was.

And once Jesus arrived at the “stake”, His humiliation was not over.
·  Mark and Matthew tell us that the soldiers “put his own clothes on him” after they tortured him.
·  But we know from John that at the “stake” Jesus was “stripped naked” – NBD.
·  “Victims were almost always executed without clothing, probably to make them more susceptible to blows and to increase their shame” – LBD.
·  This is why the Roman soldiers had His clothes in the first place.
·  This means that Jesus was crucified and died naked – He had no clothes on.

Step 3 – “The victim was fastened by ropes or nails to the crossbeam” – LBD.
·  Jesus would have then been laid down on the ground with his crossbeam underneath him.
·  And then He would have been most likely nailed to the crossbeam.
·  The Pseudo Manetho from the 3rd century tells us, “In the bitterest of torment, they have been fastened with nails, [to become] evil banquets for birds and terrible scraps for dogs” – LBD.
·  It appears that the nails could have been through the hands, wrists or arms.

Step 4 – “The crossbeam and victim were then raised to the wooden post or tree and fastened to it” – LBD.
·  Then Jesus and the crossbeam would have been picked up and fastened to the “stake”.
·  The “stake” to which the crossbeam was attached was known as, the “‘infamous stake,’ the ‘criminal wood,’ and the ‘most evil cross’” – LBD.

Typically, there were three configurations of the “stake” and crossbeam used for crucifixion.
·  “The crux commissa (St Anthony’s cross) was shaped like a capital T, thought by some to be derived from the symbol of the god Tammuz, the letter tau; the crux decussata (St Andrew’s cross) was shaped like the letter X; the crux immissa was the familiar two beams, held by tradition to be the shape of the cross on which our Lord died (Irenaeus, Haer. 2. 24. 4)” – NBD.

We have from the between the first and third centuries an interesting graffito depicting Jesus’ crucifixion.
·  It was found in Rome.
·  It shows Jesus on a St. Anthony’s cross.
·  It reads something like, “Alexamenos worships his god”.

 


And unlike popular depictions, Jesus would have only been a few inches or so off of the ground.
·  The victim was just “clear of the ground, not high up as so often depicted” – NBD.
·  “The criminal was elevated just above his or her own height or, if he or she was to be displayed to persons from afar, a little higher. Several texts suggest that the victim was kept low enough to the ground that dogs and other wild beasts could gnaw on the legs of the corpse (Philo, Flacc. 2.84–85; Pseudo Manetho 4.198f; Horace, Ep. 1.16.46–48)” – LBD.
·  Psalm 22:16 (ESV) — 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—

And now the slow, torturous, cruel death of the crucifixion would have begun in earnest.
·  “Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain, dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all? Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly tumours on chest and shoulders, and draw the breath of life amid long—drawn-out agony?” – Seneca (1st century Roman philosopher).

And of all of this we can say:
·  Isaiah 53:10 (ESV) — 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Apologetic Angle to the Crucifixion:
Death on the cross had a horrible stigma associated with it by both the Jews and Gentiles – DJG.
·  We know that for the Jew, “crucifixion was understood in terms of Deuteronomy 21:22–23—specifically, “anyone who is hung on a tree is under the curse of God” – DJG.
·  And for Jews and Gentiles, “the cruelty of the cross seems to have forbidden any positive interpretation or metaphorical use of death by crucifixion” by any group – DJG.
·  The fact that Jesus died this way would have only hurt His legacy and the legitimacy of His ministry.
·  It could not have been spun in a positive light.
·  “Thus, the cross could not be interpreted positively as a symbol of the Jewish resistance” – DJG.

If this is so, and many try to argue that it isn’t, how do we realistically account for what happened in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death?
·  A new “sect” of Judaism arose rooted in the teachings and claims of Jesus.
·  The meek and mild disciples became bold proclaimers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
·  James, the half-brother of Jesus, became a follower of Christ and the head of the Jerusalem church.
·  Paul, a persecutor of this new sect, became its foremost promoter.
·  The list goes on and on…