Chapter 28 No King But Caesar

We have no king but Caesar (John 19:15).

The cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His sufferings and death upon it, is the one event which secures our redemption. His final rejection by the nation of Israel is written in the words of the text—“We have no king but Caesar.” This was a strange admission from a people who were once God-chosen and God-governed. The whole and complete variety of unbelievers was represented at the cross. The two chief divisions of mankind—Jews and Gentiles—were represented by Caiaphas, the high priest of Jewry, and Pilate, the Gentile governor. The generations of such men—the one whose image reflected the unbelief of the whole nation and the other who washed his hands of Christ—still continue.

There was no more horrible death than the death of the cross. Cicero said it was “the most cruel and horrifying death possible.” Tacitus said it was “a most despicable death.” It was a Roman means of death but never imposed upon a Roman criminal but only employed for foreign captives whom the Romans regarded as slaves. It was as such our Lord died—nailed to a rough piece of wood and suspended naked and bruised after flogging before the gaze of multitudes, and looked upon as a spectacle of disgraced and degraded humanity. Such was “the shame of the cross.”

There is no better way of showing the Bible to be the Word of God than in the fulfillment of the minute detail of prophecy. Here in chapter 19 is the record of our Lord’s crucifixion—what men did to Him. But John writes only from God’s viewpoint and we see everything took place as God ordained it to be.

Look at verse 16. “Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified.” This means Pilate delivered Jesus to the Jews to be crucified. So in the background there is this weak, beaten, shadowy, panicky governor, afraid of offending his master, Caesar, or of losing his job. But in Romans 8:32 we read that “He [God] … delivered Him up for us all.” Who, then, delivered up Jesus? Not Pilate, but God! The Old Testament is replete with numerous types and figures which teach such truth. Pilate was but a pawn in the plan. The Governor of the universe was governing in this supreme event.

Look at verse 16 again. “They took Jesus, and led Him away.” Often after scourging, men were carried away, so brutal was the scourging. But our Lord was “led away.” Why does John mention that? Because it was the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.” Lambs are led: cattle are driven—and Jesus was the Lamb of God.

Look at verse 17. “And He bearing His cross.” Simon would bear it partway but in the beginning it was laid on the Lord’s own shoulders. Why this? Back in Genesis 22 God called Abraham into a fellowship which was to give him an understanding of God’s own commitment to offer up His own beloved Son. Thus Abraham was asked to offer in sacrifice his only son. Abraham’s response was immediate and as he prepared to go to the place of sacrifice “Abraham took the wood … and laid it upon Isaac” (Genesis 22:6). This was indeed a pointer to the cross of wood which was laid on the Lord Jesus.

Look at verse 17 again. “And He … went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.” This was outside the city. Why not within the city? Because in Exodus 29:14 the sin offering was to be burned “without the camp.” God’s beloved Son was that Sin-offering! “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12).

Look at verse 18. “Where they crucified Him.” To bring Jesus to the cross involved a tremendous change in the political life of Jewry. Crucifixion was a Roman Gentile death: stoning was Jewish. To make our Lord’s crucifixion possible then, the Jews had to lose their right of judiciary. No one could decree death but the Roman governor. But Moses spoke of our Lord’s crucifixion nearly two thousand years before there was a Roman empire. Paul quotes him in Galatians 3:13: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Paul says our Lord was made that curse! David also prophesied the Messiah as saying, “They pierced My hands and My feet” (Psalm 22:16). In Numbers 21 there is the record of Israel’s murmuring against God so that He “sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people.” The Lord in mercy then commanded Moses, saying, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” The Lord Jesus took this up when He said to Nicodemus: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). Crucifixion is the only form of death which lifts up a person, and thus was our blessed Saviour to be.

Look at verse 23. “Then the soldiers…took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.” The outer garment of our Lord had four parts and these four parts the soldiers divided among themselves. His inner garment, however, was of one piece and for this they gambled. This in order to fulfill Psalm 22:18: “They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture.”

It has been calculated that there are more than three hundred prophecies relating to our Lord’s sufferings and death. The chances of all these being fulfilled are one in eighteen followed by a hundred zeroes. All were fulfilled to the very last! Thus we see God governing, and in the face of such fulfillment how, pray tell, dare unbelief raise its head?

The Son of God is come to save:
From highest heaven the Light has shone:
O Life, that overcomes the grave!
O Love, that bids our fears begone.

The ransom of our souls is paid;
’Tis finished, conflict stern and sore!
The reign of sin and death is stayed,
And Christ is King forevermore.

None other hope or help have we,
Behold, we come with all our sin;
O Christ, from darkening skies we flee,
Thy wounded hand will take us in.

O Love, that bids our fears begone!
O Life, that overcomes the grave!
Within our hearts the Light has shone;
The Son of God is come to save.

—W. T. Govan