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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary

John 19



Verses 16-37

The Calvary Chapter

John 19:16-37


We will suggest the steppingstone which immediately precedes the Calvary experiences of our Lord and then enlarge on the Calvary events. What we say will be found in John 19:1-15 . We take our stand at the hall of Pilate, as Christ appeared before him.

1. The scourging. John 19:1 reads, "Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him." We would ask what right did Pilate have to scourge Him, when he, himself, immediately after pronounced Him without fault, and thrice made that statement? Yet, so it was all the way through the trial and crucifixion of Christ. He could look His enemies square in the face and say, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?"

Do you remember a Scripture in Isaiah 53:1-12 which reads, "With His stripes we are healed"? The scourging He received was the scourging due unto us. He stood before Pilate to be condemned, because we are condemned. He went to the Cross, bearing our sins and our shame.

2. The crown of thorns. John 19:2 describes how the soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put it upon His head. Then they put upon Him a purple robe and cried, "Hail, King of the Jews!" What the soldiers did was in mockery and derision. Yet, both the crown of thorns and the purple robe carry a tremendous message. Away back in the Garden of Eden God had said to Adam, "Thorns * * and thistles shall it (the earth) bring forth to thee." Christ bore the crown of thorns. In other words, He died to lift the curse off of the earth, and when He comes again this lifting of the curse will be realized, as is seen in the Prophets. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree."

3. The presentation. Pilate went before the people and said, "Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!"

What a pitiable sight is Christ, as He stood there before the mocking crowd. The Blood from His thorn-pressed brow was matting His hair; His back, from the scourging, was covered with wounds and bruises. This scene, however, is only a prelude to that other scene as Christ hung upon the Cross; even as the Prophet wrote, "His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men."

4. The maddened cries. John 19:6 says, "When the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out, Crucify Him, Crucify Him!" It seems impossible that One so holy, so kind, and so true could have been so derided. However, even until this day, there are many who are "crucifying the Son of Man afresh and putting Him to an open shame." Some deny His Virgin Birth and by so doing villify Him as a bastard. Some deny His claims to Deity and make Him no more than a common liar. Some will not have Him to reign over them. They cast Him out as though He were nothing but the refuse of the earth.

5. The supreme charge against the Christ. The Jews said, "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God." This was the cry of the chief priests. The statement was true; Christ did make Himself the Son of God, and He was and is the Son of God, or else He is the greatest religious impostor that the world has ever produced. The Scribes of yesterday and the Modernists of today cast the same charge against Him. The only difference is that the Modernists with one breath deny Christ's Deity, and with the next breath acclaim Him the greatest human that ever lived. We aver that Christ was either what He claimed to be or else He was unworthy the plaudits of any man. We further aver that the time is coming when every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ.

6. The delivery. We must group the balance of the verses together; Pilate was afraid when he heard that Jesus had said He was the Son of God, therefore he questioned Christ. But the Lord gave him no answer. Pilate said, "Speakest Thou not unto me? Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above."

After this Pilate sought to release Him the more; the Jews tauntingly said, "If thou let this Man go, thou art not Caesar's friend." Poor, vacillating, weak-kneed, self-seeking Pilate! When he heard that taunt, he delivered Him unto the Jews, saying, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests, with doubtful loyalty cried, "We have no king but Caesar." Thus, have we prepared the way for the study which follows.

I. THE PLACE OF A SKULL (John 19:17 )

The text describes our Lord bearing His Cross and going forth unto the place of a skull, "which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha."

1. Bearing the Cross. One of the other Gospels tells us that they compelled one, named Simon of Cyrene, to bear it. Thus it was that as Christ marched on toward Golgotha, another followed behind Him, bearing the Cross.

Beyond doubt our Lord had this scene in mind when He said "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Are we willing to bear the Cross? Not the beautiful little gold cross that some wear, dangling to a chain, but the crude, rugged Cross that bears us in death to the world. This Cross stands to us for our separation. It signifies that we have gone outside the camp unto Him, sharing His reproach.

2. The place called "Golgotha." The word "Golgotha," commonly known to us as Calvary, was a place of dead men's bones. There, the bodies of those crucified were left to rot and to decay, while the bones were left to bleach on the hill. Calvary stood for everything that was loathsome and vile. It was a place to be dreaded. A place of shame. Jesus touched it and it became to all those who bear His Name a place of glory, radiating redemption. How we delight to sing;

"On Calvary's brow my Saviour died,

'Twas there my Lord was crucified,

'Twas there He bore the shame and loss,

And suffered there, upon the Cross.

Oh, Calvary, blest Calvary,

'Twas there my Saviour died for me."

II. JESUS IN THE MIDST (John 19:18 )

Where "they crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." The story of this verse was the fulfillment of the prophecy, "He was numbered with the transgressors."

1. Jesus in the midst of sinners, reckoned sin. There is a depth of meaning here that is unfathomable. He who knew no sin was made sin for us, "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." He was not only between two sinners, but He Himself by God and man, was reckoned sin. Yea, by God, He was even made sin. What inexplicable love what mercy what grace! God put all of our sins over on the Son of God, and then, in the exceeding riches of His mercy and of His grace, He put all of God's righteousness over upon us.

2. Jesus in the midst of saints. By virtue of that Calvary death, we who were once sinners, have been washed and made whiter than snow. We are now reckoned as sinless, and Jesus, who once hung between two thieves, hovers in the midst of His own people. Has He not said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst"? Hallowed is the fellowship, sacred is the union between Christ and His own.

3. Jesus in the midst in the Glory. We read in Revelation of the Father's throne, of the four living ones, the four and twenty elders, and the innumerable company of angelic hosts which surround it. Then we read that Jesus stood in the midst.

First, He was in the midst of sinners, making saints. Second, He was in the midst of saints, making them fit for Heavenly relationships. Finally, He is in the midst of the host of Heaven. As we behold that great company about the throne a company that numbered ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, we hear their glad acclaim, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain."

Thus it is that the ignominy of the first vision of Christ in the midst of sinners, dying for us, is the basis of Christ in the midst of the Father's throne, glorified as the Redeemer.


1. The title's reading. "And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the Cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS." The title expressed Pilate's vindication of himself in delivering Christ to be crucified. He did not deliver Him because Christ had said He was the Son of God. He delivered Him because he feared the fact that the Jewish priests would embarrass him with King Caesar, saying that Pilate had turned loose a usurper to the throne, who would seek to break the rule of Caesar over the Jews.

To us, however, the title which Pilate wrote bears a different significance. To us it means that the Jews had rejected their King. We remember when John the Baptist came preaching, he said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Shortly afterward, Christ also proclaimed, "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

The week of the crucifixion Jesus had been placed upon, a colt, the foal of an ass, and He had ridden toward the city of Jerusalem. The rejoicing multitude had shouted, saying, "Blessed be the King that cometh in the Name of the Lord: peace in Heaven, and glory in the highest." The Pharisees rebuked the disciples. Jesus, when He was come near, beheld the city and wept over it, saying, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes." Thus it was that Israel rejected their King.

How fitting, therefore, was the superscription, "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS."

2. The statement of Pilate. "What I have written I have written." The Jews requested Pilate to change the reading of the superscription that it might run. "He said, I am King of the Jews." Pilate spurned their suggestion, and said, "What I have written I have written." May we draw this simple lesson. Every life must sooner or later be a closed book. It will be a message, not only concluded, but a message that cannot be changed. We must stand before God upon the basis of what we have written, not on the basis of what we wished we had written.

IV. THE CASTING OF THE LOTS (John 19:23-24 )

When the soldiers "had crucified Jesus, [they] 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. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it."

1. Christ's disrobing suggests His humiliation. We seem to see Christ, not merely disrobed of His garments, but disrobed of the glory of His Person. His honor was thrown to the winds. The sacredness of His character was seemingly shattered.

Like a sheep before his shearers, He was sheared. Think of it. The One accustomed to the glory of the Father, The One who was not only with God from eternity, but who was God. The One who created the Heavens and the earth, and all things therein. The One whom angels adored, and whom the seraphim praised, saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy."

Think of such a One as He disrobed! Think of the spitting, and the shame heaped upon Him! Think of Him cast out as a common mongrel! Behold, the Lord of Glory, numbered with ruffians, highway robbers, malefactors! Behold Him surrounded by a raving populace, who wagged their heads against Him, like the bulls of Bashan!

All of this, and more we see in the disrobing of the Lord.

2. The fulfillment of Scripture. When they came to the coat, which was without seam, they said, among themselves, "Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be." Thus did they fulfill the Scripture, which said, "They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots."

We do not hesitate to state that every detail enacted at Calvary that day had been definitely and distinctly prophesied in Scripture. Neither do we hesitate in saying that the Lord Jesus knew that every detail was being fulfilled. He went to the Cross in the full knowledge of all that awaited Him.

Did not Christ say, "The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified," etc.? Yes, Christ knew it all.

Our Lord did not go to the Cross as a slave goes to the dungeon. He went led by the mob. He went as a lamb led to the slaughter, but He did not go against His will.

In His prayer in the garden He said, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." He was willing to drink it. And "having loved His own, * * He loved them unto the end."


"Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene."

1. The fidelity of womanhood is clearly seen. It has often been said that the women were last at the Cross and first at the tomb. Much more than that may be said. Christ was made of a woman, made under the Law. God made Him hope when He was on His mother's breast. The women, Martha and Mary, welcomed Him into their home at Bethany. The women heard Him gladly. The women bemoaned Him as He went through the streets at Jerusalem on His way to the Cross.

After His resurrection He appeared first to certain women. In the upper room the one hundred and twenty waited with the women, and with Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The women, following Christ's ascension, became of note among the disciples. They were found among the most faithful, the most zealous, the most ready to suffer reproach for Christ's Name.

2. The faithfulness of Christ to womanhood is clearly seen. To Mary, His mother Christ said, "Woman, behold thy son." And to John, He said, "Behold thy mother." That faithfulness the ages have not changed. The Lord still cares for womanhood. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has redeemed the woman from slavery, with its abuse and degradation. The woman, through the Gospel, becomes the beloved of her husband, even as the Church is beloved of Christ.


1. The omniscience of the Lord. In John 19:28 we read, "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished." We have here, first of all, a concession of Christ's knowledge of Scripture. Had He not known the Scriptures He would not have known when the Scriptures were fulfilled.

We have also the concession that Christ knew those particular Scriptures which had reference to His death upon the Cross. In other words, Christ knew beforehand every prophesied detail which lay before Him on that hour.

With what sense of satisfaction did the Lord see each foretold event accomplished, as He went round the cycle of His suffering. With what particular satisfaction did He realize that "all things were now accomplished." His agony was almost over; there remained but one thing yet to be fulfilled.

2. Christ's supplemental work. In order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled He said, "I thirst." Let us quote for you the very passage which Christ had in mind. It is found in Psalms 69:21 , "They gave Me also gall for My meat; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink."

We have already seen that the Scripture found in Psalms 22:18 had been fulfilled. That Scripture read, "They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture." This one Scripture in Psalms 69:21 , now awaited fulfillment before He gave up the ghost.

Having cried, "I thirst," they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth. "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost." We can almost catch the exultant spirit of our Lord in this cry, as He realized that He had accomplished the work that His Father had given Him to do.

VII. IT IS FINISHED (John 19:30 )

What was finished?

1. The fulfillment of prophecy is finished. This was previously discussed.

1. The Calvary work was finished. That is, the plan of God's redemptive work was completed and the Atonement was accomplished.

It is for this cause that the cry, "It is finished," carries with it such an illumination and glory. We can now pillow our heads sweetly on a finished work. If redemption was finished on the Cross, we have nothing left to do, save to receive the Atonement. We cannot atone for our own sins; we can believe that Christ paid it all. There is one little word that hovers over this cry that is the word GRACE. Salvation is all of God, and nothing of man. God began it; He planned it; He purposed it.

When Christ was born of the virgin, God was pressing His way toward Calvary's substitutionary work. As Christ approached the Cross more and more the plan of God was nearing completion. When Christ cried, "It is finished," redemption was accomplished. The Law which had been broken was satisfied. Every legal obstacle to man's redemption was removed. God had proved Himself to be just and yet, at the same time, the justifier of the ungodly.

The cry, "It is finished," was the Eureka to the sinner; it meant that the Door to Heaven had been thrown open wide. It meant that God had opened the way for salvation. Do we marvel, therefore, that the veil of the Temple was rent from top to bottom?

If any sinner goes to hell he goes over the Cross of Christ, he goes unnecessarily. He goes a rejecter of grace a despiser of mercy; he goes because he will not come unto Christ that he might have life.


"Recently a western iron manufacturing concern in experimenting with powerful magnetic cranes found that one of the magnets on being passed over the ground on their premises, recovered thousands of pounds of iron that had lain buried for years. Huge pieces of iron fairly leapt through their earthen mantle to meet the mighty magnetic force and not a few mysterious disappearances of parts reported "missing" were accounted for on this day of reckoning.

What a picture of the power of the Spirit of God when He moves over a community. Often the Spirit might pass over the earth today and attract with His irresistible power the "steeled hearts" of those sunken in the sins and cares of worldliness. "If I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on John 19:4". "Living Water".

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