Chapter 5 The Crucifixion

John 19:17-30

Trek to Golgotha

The heartbeat of the Gospel is at Calvary. With bowed hearts we now behold our Lord there. “And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a Skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha” {v. 17). The Latin name for the worst of criminals was “cross bearer.” No Roman citizen could be crucified for any crime, no matter how heinous. It was such an ignominous way to die!

“He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).
“Cursed
is every one who hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
“bearing His cross” He is Abraham’s Greater Seed, the antitype of Isaac.

“Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it upon Isaac, his son” (Genesis 22:16). Weighed down by the cross, our Lord went forth to the Place of the Skull, the place of death. In Him is life (John 1:4) but He will die for us.

“Where they crucified Him” (v. 18).

There is just the simple statement. We must leave it to descriptions in Bible commentaries to portray His physical agonies. The Bible does not reveal these, except perhaps in the cry, “I thirst.” In harmony with this subdued tone of Scripture, I would merely state that death by crucifixion is agonizing, slow and extremely painful. There was no merciful blow to a vital organ as the sufferer hung there.

“and two others with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (v. 18).

Again, the Scripture was fulfilled: “He was numbered with transgressors” Isaiah 53:12. This gave our Lord the opportunity to save the penitent thief who went from prison to Paradise the same day by the grace of the Savior. He represents the truth that the only way anyone can enter heaven is by grace through faith, and not by good works. He admitted that he was a sinner: “We receive the due reward of our deeds “(Luke 23:41). He called upon the Savior: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). This is because, “whoever will call upon the name of the Lord, will be saved”(Rom. 10:13).

The harmony between faith and works is expressed in the following verse:

“I could not work my soul to save;
This labor Christ has done.
But, I will work like any slave
For love of God’s dear Son.”

We do not work to get saved, but because we are saved.

The Central Cross

The three crosses on Golgotha herald their message through the ages. Over the one cross we could write the word, “reception;” and over the other, “rejection.” Everyone in all of human history is represented by either the one or the other of these two crosses. There is only one central cross. Over this cross we write the word, “redemption.”

“and Jesus in the midst.” As in a great masterpiece where every detail makes prominent the central feature, so to onlookers at Golgotha, our Lord is the greatest criminal of the three. And in a sense this is true, for all sin was laid on Him. In the midst, He took the place of pre-eminent guilt. But, in the midst, He is central in all of God’s dealings with mankind. God does not come to man, nor can man come to God, except through the One in the midst. He is the “one God, and one mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5). He said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). He did not say that He was a way among many, but that He is the only way. There are many religions in the world, but there is only one way to God.

He is in the midst of the golden lampstands, the local churches (Rev. 1:13). He must be central in everything in the local congregation. Every doctrine that we hold and which holds us, must be rooted in Him like spokes into the hub of a wheel. Our faith should be completely Christocentric. If this is not so, we become eccentric (off-centered) Christians. “In the midst” when even two or three believers gather together in His name, He is in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20).

King of the Jews

“And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (v. 19).

Unknowingly, Pilate wrote words of evangelism. The repentant thief believed that He was a King, and that He was founding His kingdom while hanging on the cross. His kingdom was born from the blood of His cross. His bride (the church) was taken from His side, as Eve was taken from the side of Adam. Pilate wrote the truth, but he did not write enough. He is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14).

“This title then read many of the Jews, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city” (v. 20).

Jerusalem was more crowded at the Passover than at any other time of the year. The Jews came from all over the Roman Empire to worship at the Feast. Christ did not die in a corner. His crucifixion was public at a time when multitudes thronged the city. We know more facts about the Lord Jesus Christ than we do about any other person in ancient history. Christianity is not the result of someone meditating somewhere and producing a book of a new religion. The Gospel is not man plastering his God on the sky. It is God coming down to earth in human history. The facts of our faith are historical; the interpretation of the facts is theological (God-logical).

“It was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin” (v. 20).

Hebrew (Aramaic) was the language of the Jews. Greek was the Gentile language, spoken throughout the entire Roman Empire. Jewish and Gentile tongues together accuse Him in His death. All the world crucified Him. But, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever (Jew or Gentile) believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Christ tasted death for every man(Heb.2:9).

Latin was the language of jurisprudence, the legal language. Golgotha was not primarily emotional, but judicial. It is true that our Lord’s saving love melts our hearts. But, Golgotha was where the Lord Jesus bore the righteous judgment of God against sin. God now can justly declare the believing sinner forgiven. He does more than that. He declares him righteous. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).

The Jews asked Pilate to change the writing on the cross (v. 21). He answered them: “What I have written I have written” (v. 22). Pilate became strong-willed, but it was too late.

The Robe

“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments” (v. 23).

He probably was unclothed first and then His hands and feet were nailed to the cross. Adam was clothed by God (Genesis 3:21). The last Adam was unclothed by wicked men. He was unclothed that we might be clothed with the garments of salvation, and covered with the robe of His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Now, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14).

The clothing of the one who was crucified became the property of those who did the crucifying. A little pile of clothing at the foot of His cross is the material legacy of our Lord. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). He is the Merchantman seeking goodly pearls, who when He had found one pearl (the church, His bride) of great price, “sold all that He had and bought it” (Matt: 13:46).

“that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says, They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots” (v. 24).

The seemingly contradictory prophecies of Psalm 22:18 were precisely fulfilled. One prophetic statement was that they would divide His clothing among themselves. On the other hand, it was written that they would gamble for His robe. “These things the soldiers did” (v. 24). Prophecy is history written beforehand in minute detail.

The Mournful Few

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene” (v. 23).

The word “now’’ would be better translated as “but” to emphasize the contrast between the two groups standing at the foot of the cross: the soldiers, and the women and John. Of the second group, F.W. Krummacher writes so beautifully:

“In the midst of the rage and fury, love stands near Him in His dying moments and lifts up to Him its tearful and affectionate eye. Look at the little mournful group there, and behold a lovely little company in the midst of the bands of belial — a hidden rosebud under wild and tangled bramble bushes; a splendid wreath of lilies around the death bed of the redeemer.” (The Suffering Saviour, Moody Press, page 369).

“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” (Song of Solomon 8:7).

His Compasson for Mary

“When Jesus therefore saw His Mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He said to His mother, Woman, behold your son!” (v. 26)

From the pulpit of His cross, in the agony of His suffering, our Lord preaches to all ages a sermon on the fifth commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12). Who can fathom the depths of His compassionate concern for His mother in that dark hour? It is interesting, though, that never in the Bible record did the Lord Jesus address Mary as His mother. We must honor Mary as the mother of His humanity, but not as the mother of God. How could she be? Through all the timeless past, He had existed in the Trinity, in His uncreated, eternal being. Mary’s Son is also Mary’s Lord. There are two erroneous attitudes that may be taken toward Mary: to place her upon an unscriptural pedestal, or to be ungrateful for her. Let us not be guilty of either. I am eager to meet Mary in heaven to thank her for willingly becoming the handmaid of the Lord, and for enduring the painful suspicion and misunderstanding from even her beloved Joseph who wanted to put her away. The stigma may have lasted throughout her lifetime from those who did not know the truth. One day they said to her Son: “We were not born of fornication’’ (John 8:41). I want to thank Mary also for her superlative testimony of submission: “Be it unto me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38). I want to thank her for standing by the cross of our Lord, when neither the hatred of the crowd nor the agony of the scene could drive her away. She stood there as the sword pierced through her own soul also (Luke 2:35).

“Then He said to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home” (v. 27).

In speaking thus is He telling Mary that her special relationship to Him is now over? Even before this, when someone said to Him: “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You” (Matt. 12:47). He “stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My brothers” (Matt. 12:49). Jesus belongs to all who do the will of God (Matt. 12:50) as much as He belongs to Mary. I would like to quote the pertinent words of Bishop Ryle:

“We surely need no stronger proof than we have here, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was never meant to be honored as divine, or to be prayed to, worshipped and trusted in, as a friend and patroness of sinners. Common sense points out that she who needed the care and protection of another, was never likely to help men and women to heaven, or to be in any sense a mediator between God and man.” {Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, John 10:10 to End, Zondervan Publishing House, page 552).

Our Lord committed Mary to John’s care, not John to Mary’s.

“I Thirst!”

“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled said, I thirst” (v. 28).

It was the fulfillment of Psalm 22:15, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue cleaves to My jaws.” like one coming from a burning building, with tongue swollen and lips parched, He cried: “I thirst.” In His infiniteness He had endured an eternity in hell during those three hours of darkness at Golgotha. He cried, “I thirst,” that we never need to cry out in hell for water to cool our tongue, being tormented in the flame (Luke 16:24). Who could think of saving himself? The Lord Jesus must partake of the sufferings of the damned for us. There could be no other way.

In response to His cry, “they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth” (v. 29). This was in fulfillment of Psalm 69:21, “In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.”

Done!

“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished” (v. 30).

It was one word that He spoke: “Finished!” (“Done!” — “Completed!”). Anyone who wishes to work for his salvation is almost two thousand years too late. Like an added stroke on a perfect Rembrandt masterpiece, your touch would ruin it. All that you can do is to receive it. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:33). If you feel that you could do one little thing to earn your salvation, you do not realize what a great salvation it is (Heb. 2:3).

“Finished” — the greatest word ever spoken in all of human history:

    Suffering is ended. No enemy hand can touch him now.
    Satan is vanquished,
    “that He might destroy the works of the devil” (John 3:8).
    Sin is put away.
    “He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Heb. 9:26).
    The law is fulfilled.
    . “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes”(Rom. 10:4).
    Sacrifices are culminated.
    “Every priest stands daily ministering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He Had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:11, 12).
    Salvation is completed.
    “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes” (Rom. 1:16).
    Death is conquered.
    “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).
    Eternal life is assured.
    “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:28).

“and He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit” (v. 30).

He did that which no one else ever did, nor will ever do. He gave up His spirit. For all others, one day our souls will be required of us.

Three Crosses of Every Believer

This is the Savior’s Golgotha. On the believers’s Golgotha (Calvary) there are also three crosses:

1) Crucified World. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). Two dead things have no attraction for each other. This is the believer’s Gabbatha. The night before He died the Lord Jesus spoke to His men, in John chapter fifteen, concerning the believer’s relationship to the world:

    Hated by the world (v. 18).
    Because they are not of the world (v. 19).
    They have been chosen out of the world (v. 19).
    Therefore, they are persecuted by the world (v. 20).
    But, they are to witness to the world (v. 27).

What is this worldliness that we are exhorted not to love (1 John 2:15)? Is it the beauties of nature? No. Is it people? No. God so loved the whole world of people that He gave His Son, and Jesus Christ makes you love everybody. What then, is the world? In 1 John 2:16 tells us all that is in the world is:

    “The lust of the flesh.” — to live for the physical; a hedonistic philosophy of life.
    “The lust of the eyes.” — to live for things; a materialistic philosophy of life.
    “The pride of life.” — to live for self; an egotistical philosophy of life.

The body is very important and must be kept healthy and pure because it is God’s masterpiece of creation, the home of the soul, and the temple of the Holy Spirit for the believer. Possessions are necessary for us to function for God, for others, and for ourselves. Ambition is essential because our influence counts for God. But, God was so good to warn us not to make these things our life, because “the world passes away and the lust thereof (1 John 2:17). I would not like to give my life for that which will not last, would you? One day, our Lord cried out: “Labor not for the meat which perishes” (John 6:27).

The lust of the flesh. The body will decay in the grave.
The lust of the eyes. Things will rust and rot.
The pride of life. We write our names upon the sand and the receding waves of time wash them away.

What I want to know is, what really matters when my heart throbs its last beat? What lasts then?

“Now abides faith, hope, and love” (1 Cor. 13:13). All that we do by faith, with hope toward Christ, and in love, will last.

“The Word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23). Every minute you spend reading the Bible, memorizing the Bible, living the Bible, and witnessing the Bible, will last.

“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). All the time you give to praying for the unsaved, giving out tracts, witnessing to souls, loving lost souls, inviting the unsaved to Gospel meetings, will last.

“To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven” (Heb. 12:23). The born-again Church of our Lord lasts forever. This eternal church is best portrayed on earth by the Bible-believing local church. All of your time spent in attending, assisting and advancing the local church, will last.

“If any man’s work abide which he has built thereon, he shall receive a reward” (1 Cor. 3:14). All of our works, built upon the foundation, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:12), will last.

“He who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). All that you do in the will of God, lasts forever. This means not only a saved soul, but also a saved life!

2) Crucified Sin. “Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). The life principle of sin was broken at Calvary for the believer. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him” (1 John 3:9). That is the reason why we have victory over sinning: Christ, God’s Seed, is in us. We overcome, because greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). The One who is in you is greater than anyone or anything in the world that can tempt you. If you really want the Lord to do it, and if you will let Him, He will give you victory over temptation and sinning. There is no sinless perfection until we get to heaven, because the closer we get to the Light of the world the more imperfec- tions we will see, but God expects us, and will enable us, to live without wilfully sinning against Him. We must not say that we are not able to sin, but that we are enabled not to sin. “Now unto Him Who is able to keep you from falling!” (Jude 24).

3) Crucified Self. “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2 20). The cross is not an object of worship; it is an instrument of death. It is empty, not a crucifix, that we may place ourselves upon it to be crucified with Christ. Sinners come to the cross to live, believers go to the cross to die. In fact, we have died, for “our old self was crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6). There are two sides to Calvary: Christ died, and I died. There are two sides to sanctification: I died, and I live. In our spiritual experience, we must progress from Calvary to the Empty Tomb, to be risen with Christ. We were not only born crucified, we were also born resurrected. But, again, there can be no resurrection without death. Calvary comes before the Garden Tomb which is empty.