Chapter 29 The Lord's Last Moments On The Cross

He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30).

The Gospel according to John is written for the Church—primarily so. John writes from a different viewpoint from other Gospel writers. He shows that everything to do with the Cross of our Lord was God-governed and according to foreordained determination. He presents the Lord Jesus as God. “The Word was God” (John 1:1). Everything is done for the glory of God and that transcends all local matters. That is the reason why John omits seven great events in the earthly life of our Lord: His birth, His baptism, His temptation, His transfiguration, His last Supper, His agony in the garden, and His ascension. There is a great cleavage between John and the other writers. For instance, in Matthew, Mark and Luke, our Lord is in an agony in Gethsemane: “He … fell on His face” (Matthew 26:39); He “fell on the ground” (Mark 14:35); “He kneeled down, and prayed” (Luke 22:41). In John, Jesus stands, and His enemies fall to the ground before the revelation of His Deity when He said, “I AM!” (18:6). Gethsemane is a place of agony with the three others but in John it is a “garden.” There are three matters mentioned in this chapter which manifest His Godhood.

The Superscription

“And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross … Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). At this point of time the Jews were putting tremendous pressure on Pilate—threatening to report him to Caesar. The words are Pilate’s retaliatory and bitter scorn of the Jews. The scorn was that Jesus was not only their king but “Jesus of Nazareth,” because the Jews had a proverb—“Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). In effect, Pilate was pointing to the One hanging on the Cross, bruised beyond recognition, a condemned criminal, and tauntingly saying, “This is your King, you Jews.”

“Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews.” They wanted to set Him forth as an imposter. But Pilate in his utter contempt for them answered, “What I have written, I have written.” It was devastating to Jewish pride but Pilate would not be moved. The superscription must stand for all to see and read. But why was Pilate so unmoved? Because God was governing. The Lord Jesus was God’s appointed King and they will yet see, in His return, that title written on His vesture, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16).

The Selfless Love

“Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!” (John 19:26, 27). The cross is not all bitterness. Here is a sweet and loving incident while our Saviour hung upon that cruel tree. His mother, with other women, was standing there and the sword was piercing her heart. In the midst of all His inconceivable sufferings in bearing and absorbing the punishment for all ours sins, the Lord could even think of others. Seeing John standing there with Mary and remembering her own sons by Joseph were not yet believers, (John 7:5), and that Mary could receive no spiritual comfort from such, He said to Mary, “Woman, behold thy son!” Then He gave John the responsibility of caring for Mary: “Behold thy mother!”

This is utterly incomprehensible. The Lord is here wrestling with the most extreme pangs of pain. His body weeps blood from the savagery of the scourging. His hair is plucked out of His cheeks. The crown of thorns pierces His brow. The wrath of God for our sins is being poured out on His holy head. Yet at such a time He can think of others. Had He been only a man He could never have done so. In any extremity of pain, man can only think of himself. But here is Deity. In the midst of overwhelming sorrows He could think of others and make provision for true comfort and care.

The Supernatural Control

“Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished” —but how did He know? Because He was the omniscient God! Everything was running to a divine schedule. Every detail of pre-determination was being fulfilled. There remained now but one prophetic utterance to complete all. So now this last is fulfilled as the Lord cried, “I thirst.” It was written in Psalm 69:21: “They gave Me also gall for My meat; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” The Lord refused the gall—a drug to mitigate pain, but received the vinegar and drank it for His thirst.

With all prophecies fulfilled the Lord Jesus now cried: “It is finished.” All typical institutions and all verbal predictions were complete. All penalties of the law had been endured. All the work of redemption was finished. All the ground was cleared to give God the right to pardon penitent sinners.

“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost”—that is, He pillowed His head in perfect rest upon His breast, and dismissed His own spirit. O wondrous Cross!—great interpreter of God’s heart to man—scene of God’s supreme revelation to man—wondrous Cross! Let it pour light into your soul. Let it break all your bands. Let it heal all your wounds. Let it dry all your tears.

Oh, holy Jesu, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

So the good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.
For me, kind Jesu, was Thine incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy Life’s oblation;
Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion,
For my salvation. Therefore, kind Jesu, since I cannot pay Thee,
I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,
Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving
Not my deserving.

—Johann Hermann
Tr. By R. S. Bridges