JOHN 19:17-23 NOW PILATE WROTE A TITLE AND PUT IT ON THE CROSS. AND THE WRITING WAS: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS

1Mar

John 19:17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. 19 Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. 21 Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said, "I am the King of the Jews."'" 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written." 23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.

 In a 24‑hour period leading up to and including His death on the cross there were 28 specific Old Testament prophecies fulfilled to the letter, and in addition to that, there were many types fulfilled. When Jesus came to earth, He fulfilled over 300 prophecies and the probability that one Person could do this is impossible, unless you are God as Jesus is. Jesus is placed in the center as He is the focus of attention. It is amazing how many three’s there are in the Bible. There are three being crucified and three titles for Jesus over His head which are actually the crime He was being killed for. The three titles are written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to show that all of us are guilty of sin and thus all of us put Jesus on that cross, meaning we all need a Savior. The Jews get upset about the title 'The King of the Jews', but Pilate is really telling us who Jesus really is.  Have you trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?  If not, why not today?  Rom 10:9-13 - Ro 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

 

Romans 8:32 says this, "God who spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all." Who delivered Jesus up? Not only the governor of Judea, but the governor of the universe. You say, "Does that mean Pilate and God are working together?" That's exactly what it means. And in no way does the vileness, unbelief, cowardice or sin of Pilate alter the plan of God. God's plans are on schedule, be they operating through sinful men or holy men. God is the author of history.

it says they led Him away. That means He willingly without resistance followed. That's what it means. There was no panic, there was no struggle. They led, He followed. Our friends, that fulfills a very specific and very minute prophecy. In Isaiah chapter 53:7 the prophet said hundreds of years before Jesus was ever born, when he didn't even know in his brain what crucifixion was, or if it existed, the prophet said, "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter." You see, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah said when He goes to His death He will not be driven, He will not be dragged, He will be led. Jesus fulfilled that exactly. And like a sheep, you can't drive sheep, you can drive cattle, you cannot drive sheep, you lead sheep and thus was He led.

Isa 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. Do you see the order right there? It says that when He dies, He'll go from prison to judgment to death. That was not normal. Normally He went from prison to judgment to prison for two days, to death. Isaiah prophesied He would go directly from His judgment to His execution, something the Romans never did but they did it this time because God said that's how it is to be done. And so, Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.

John was also the only Gospel writer to record Jesus' care for His mother (vv. 25-27) and His sixth cry before His death (v. 30).

John omitted the detail that Simon carried Jesus' cross (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke

23:26),  which  might  have  detracted  from John's  presentation  of  Jesus  as  the  divine Savior. He also made no reference to Jesus' sufferings on the way to Calvary that Luke, who had a special interest in Jesus' humanity, stressed

17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,

Nu 15:36; Mt 23:31, 33; Mr. 15:21-22; Lu 23:26, 33; Heb 13:12

All the Gospel writers identified the place of Jesus' crucifixion as "the place of the skull." All but Luke gave its Aramaic title, namely, skull the transliteration of which is Golgotha. Why the place bore this name remains a mystery.

John’s statement that Jesus “went out, carrying His own cross” (verse 17) does not contradict the account of the Synoptics, which inform us that Simon of Cyrene carried our Lord’s cross to Calvary. Jesus must have taken up His cross in Jerusalem and carried it as far as outside the city. Then, at some stage of the journey to Golgotha, it must have become evident that Jesus could no longer bear the weight of His cross. He appears to have been beaten more than the two others who were crucified. It may also have been a matter of time. Time was now short, and there was pressure to get on quickly with the crucifixion. If someone were to carry our Lord’s cross for Him, they would get to Golgotha more quickly. Simon of Cyrene was on his way to Jerusalem from out in the country and was drafted to carry our Lord’s cross for Him.

In one verse (17), John takes us from the judgment seat of Pilate to the “Place of the Skull.” John does not belabor the process of crucifixion, though we know it was the most cruel form of execution devised by man.  The two robbers (whom Luke calls “criminals”) are crucified with our Lord, one on His left, and the other to His right. It seems significant that Jesus was placed in the center. Surely He was the focus of this event, as everyone seemed to know, and as those who passed by could figure out for themselves.

In Genesis chapter 22 there is a man who is a type of Christ, an Old testament type. His name was Isaac. Isaac was a type of Christ, he was a picture of Christ for Isaac was to be given as a sacrifice, just as Christ was. The beautiful thing in the story of Isaac is that you have two types of Christs, both Isaac and the ram are both types of Christ. Now notice this, Genesis 22:6, remember Isaac is a picture of Christ. "And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it upon Isaac his son." Did you know that Isaac bore his own wood to his own execution? And Jesus did too or the type would have been destroyed, Jesus fulfilled it to the very letter. This is divine inspiration, my friends. This is how verbal and typical prophecy predicted to the very tiniest point the death of Jesus Christ.

Exodus 29 verse 14, "But the flesh of the bullock and his skin and his dung shall thou burn with fire outside the camp, it is a sin offering." In other words, a sin offering had to be taken outside the camp of Israel.

In the very next book, the book of Leviticus in chapter 4 and verse 12, the same thing is indicated. "Even the whole bullock shall be carried forth outside the camp unto a clean place where the ashes are poured out and burned on the wood with fire, where the ashes are poured out shall it be burned, or he be burned." Then in chapter 16 of Leviticus verse 27, it says, "And the bullock for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place shall one carry forth outside of the camp and there be burned."

In other words, the sin offerings in the Old Testament were taken outside the camp. Who then was the ultimate sin offering? Jesus Christ. Where then in order to fulfill that typical prophecy did Jesus have to die? Outside the camp. There was no way that He could ever be stoned or executed within the city walls for God had designed Him to be the perfect fulfillment of every Old Testament sin offering and they were all taken outside the camp. And thus does the writer of the book of Hebrews say in chapter 13:11, "For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin are burned outside the camp," then he said this, "wherefore Jesus also that He might sanctify the people with His own blood suffered outside the gate."

Do you know why they executed Him outside the city? Jesus had to fulfill prophecy.

In John 3:14 Jesus said, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." You see? "That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Jesus said, "I have to be lifted up.

Crucifixion has even been predicted in an exacting sense for in Psalm chapter 22, the psalmist portraying the coming death of Messiah, describes what it is like to be crucified. And he didn't have any idea of crucifixion at this point. "I am poured out like water," verse 14, "My bones are out of joint." Certainly what happens in crucifixion. "My heart is like wax, it's melted within Me." He says, "My tongue cleaves to My jaws," He's dry." And then at the end of verse 16 it says this, direct prophecy, "They pierced My hands and My feet."

The horror of His visage in His face would be nothing to look at. And that also fulfills Scripture, for Isaiah said, "There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He has no form or comeliness." And Isaiah in 53:2 when he said that was talking about His death. Isaiah predicted that He would be in an ugly presentation in death and indeed He was. Again fulfilling Scripture.

18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. Isa 42:1; 49:3; 53:4-5; Joh 17:3; Ro 5:15-19; 2Pe 1:3; 1Jo 2:1

This mode of capital punishment was reserved for the lowest kind of criminals, particularly those who promoted revolution. Today, we think of the cross as a symbol of glory and victory; but in Pilate’s day, the cross stood for the basest kind of rejection, shame, and suffering.[i] It was Jesus who made the difference.

All the Gospel writers mentioned the men crucified with Jesus (Matt. 27:38, 44; Mark 15:27, 32; Luke 23:32-33, 39-43). They were evidently robbers (Gr. lestai) and terrorists, such as Barabbas (cf. 18:40). John may have mentioned them to remind his readers of the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12.

Is 53:12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

Their mention also prepares the reader to understand John's description of the breaking of their legs but not Jesus' legs (vv. 32-33).

Pilot had failed in releasing Jesus Christ and so he hands Christ over to be crucified. The phrase "hand over" continues John's play on the word "delivered, betrayed and hand over." We're continuing the same word he uses to show that it's a betrayal. If you know enough of the story, you know that Jesus carries His own cross. John underscores that with the word "His own" but the Gospel writers tell us also that Simon of Cyrene helps Him. So put together and harmonize it that Christ carries it for part of the time and Simon of Cyrene comes along and carries it another of the duration. Due to the scourging He's faced on His back, undoubtedly the wounds are gaping and it would be difficult for Him to manage that so Simon is enlisted to help

The word "Place of the Skull" is a word in Greek, cranion. It sounds like our English word cranium and that's exactly where it comes from. The Hebrew is Golgotha and ancient legend says that Adam was buried in that place. It preaches great, but it's just a legend. The Latin word for the Greek word is calvaria.  So when the Latin vulgate translated the Greek word cranion, they came up with calvaria and that's where we get the English word Calvary.

Crucifixions took different forms. We typically think of a lowercase "t" shaped cross, but a tree in a form of a "Y" or an "X" could also be used to crucify a victim. The horizontal bar that Christ carried, the Latins called it a patibullum and that would be the one beam He would carry. He probably did not carry the traditional cross like we even reenact here; the dragging of this whole apparatus. He just carried this horizontal beam. The beam then would be laid on the ground, the victim made to lay down on the ground and then either tied or secured with nails.

 There was also a block or a small saddle-like device on the vertical post that would already be in place at the Place of the Skull and so the victim was secured to this and then hoisted up on the vertical beam. The nails would not go through the Palm, but the wrist. Many of us would be familiar with carpal tunnel syndrome. Well that's about the area where you put the nail through. If you put in through the palm it would just tear through the hand and so this area would be far more substantial for the victim and it would hold him up there.

Archaeologists have also discovered what they call the crucified man from Giv'at ha-Mivtar, a twenty something-year-old male and they found pieces of a crucified individual. The notable thing is the heel, probably both heels put together and the nails driven through both heels. There's lots of ways you can crucify a victim but at least with this one there is archaeological evidence that proves that this is the way this particular person was crucified. Crucifixion was brutal. Cicero called it "the cruelest and foulest of punishments. We should perhaps notice also the words of the Jewish writer Josephus who spoke of it as ‘the most wretched of deaths." The victim is stripped naked, beaten, scourged and could hang suspended in agony between life and death for days.

 Going back to the garden, that the result of the curse was that thorns were going to be produced. Now we have the image of those thorns and Christ paying for that curse when they are jammed up on His head. We also have a naked issue here. Remember, when Adam sinned, he and the woman hid themselves. "Well why did you hide?" "Well we heard You coming. We were naked. We were ashamed so we hid." "Who told you you were naked?"

 So once they have the knowledge of good and evil from sin, they are ashamed of themselves so they hide. Well, Christ now in full shame will take that shame and die on the cross for your sin and for mine. So the crown part of the curse, the naked shame part of the curse and Christ is fulfilling those and taking them on Himself.

 The mechanism of the crucifixion, if you were tied or nailed, the problem of crucifixion was breathing; not just the torture of the way you're on the cross. The body would often be at an angle and hunched over and bent.  So to breathe, they would have to pull themselves up with either wrist and push with the feet to take a breath and then the weight of the body would of course exhale the air. This is how the person asphyxiated. If they were just tied, this could go on for days. They could die of the exposure, the dehydration, the exhaustion, and eventually would asphyxiate or would suffocate in a way, not being able to breathe.

If you are nailed, then you have the wound issue and the aggravation of pulling yourself up and down on those wounds would be unexplainable, apart from experiencing such a pain. You also had the added exposure that’s going to go along with that, so when Christ dies rather quickly that's sort of a surprise to the attending. The pain that He would endure would be excruciating and the most brutal of ways to kill a person.

In verse eighteen John mentions that two others are crucified with Him, one on either side. John does not record the dialogue that these men have with one another and with Christ, but the Synoptics do. And so we read it and we say "Why didn't John record it? That's such a great interchange."

 John has different purposes. He leaves out certain things and he includes things that the Synoptics don't. John's stress is so that you may believe. John's stress is so that the Scripture will be fulfilled. John is marshaling forth in his Gospel proof that Jesus Christ is who He says He is. John is using everything he can to prove his point that He really lived, He really died, He was really buried and He really came back from the grave so that people will believe. And when we look at verses thirty-two to thirty-six we’ll see how the criminals and the breaking of the legs play into that fulfillment of Scripture as well.

19 Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Mt 27:37; Mr. 15:26; Lu 23:38

20 Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

This sign would serve as a placard either mounted on the top of the cross or sometimes around the neck of the victim. This particular one is written in three languages. This crime identified to onlookers why He was being killed and it also would serve, would it not, as a warning. So it would serve as a warning and it would also serve to identify the crime of the individual.

Hebrew is the language of religion, Greek of philosophy, and Latin of law; and all three combined to crucify the Son of God. But what He did on the cross, He did for the whole world! In this Gospel, John emphasizes the worldwide dimensions of the work of Christ. Without realizing it, Pilate wrote a “Gospel tract” when he prepared this title; for one of the thieves discovered that Jesus was King, and he asked entrance into His kingdom.[ii]

Remember, it's Passover week. Thousands have converged upon Jerusalem. It would not be exaggerating to say that thousands of people walked by and saw the Christ and those two criminals. He was probably not, as artists often render Him, way up high in the sky. He was probably just a foot or two above ground because all you're trying to do is get the victim's feet elevated so he can't be on the ground on that vertical post and you want to show people the exasperation; the cruel treatment that a criminal gets. The most effective way to do that is up close and personal, not way high where people can't see it. That's how the Romans would have done it, it's a warning to each segment of the population.

21 Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said, "I am the King of the Jews."'"

This is a deliberate insult. Pilate has been humiliated by them now he is going to humiliate them. It's clearly abuse on Pilate's part. Remember, they brought the Christ for Pilate to rubberstamp and say "Sure, crucify Him."

 But Pilate was trying to follow the Roman process for civil government. They didn't like it so in that exchange they go back and forth and finally he says,  "Fine, it's your problem." Of course they can’t carry out the crucifixion so as a last insult he sticks them in the eye with his finger and says, "King of the Jews. I'm firm. I'm not going to change that. "

 Now in this warning it continues to serve a number of things. Think about it, Pilate has condemned Jesus Christ from the governmental aspect; Caiaphas has condemned Jesus Christ from the religious aspect.

Is it not interesting that both Caiaphas and Pilate find themselves unwittingly bearing witness to the fact that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the King of Israel?

Caiaphas gave the unconscious prophecy, remember? "It's expedient for one to die for the nation."

 Well now we have Pilate giving an unconscious prediction that He is the King of the Jews. So on the one hand while it serves as a warning to would-be criminals to the Roman empire, it also proclaims the truth. He is Jesus from Nazareth. He is the King of the Jews. And this Gentile, would-be king, Pilate, who has condemned this Jewish king Jesus, will have that role reversed one day in one of the five to seven judgments of our New Testament when the ungodly nations who do not follow Christ will be judged. I think Pilate will be among them, Pilate and Caiaphas both having their unintentional prophecies; unintentional declarations. The chief priests and the Jews are angered at what Pilate has written

22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

It is interesting to note the variety among the Gospels as to the exact wording of the charge placed over Jesus’ head on the cross.

  1. Matt. 27:37 - “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”
  2. Mark 15:26 - “The King of the Jews”
  3. Luke 23:38 - “This is the King of the Jews”
  4. John 19:19 - “Jesus, the Nazarene, the King of the Jews”

Each one is different, but basically the same. This is true of most of the variety of historical detail among the Gospels. Each writer recorded his memories in slightly different ways, but they are still the same eye witness account.

The Gospels all give a slightly different inscription. Perhaps what Pilate really wrote was the sum of all these variations, and the Gospel writers each just quoted a part of the whole. Another possibility is that the Gospel writers may not have been translating the same language since Pilate ordered the charge written in three different languages. However, his trilingual notice was God's sovereign way of declaring to the whole world who His Son really was, the Jewish king whose rule is universal.

By identifying Jesus as the Jews' king and then crucifying Him, Pilate was boasting Rome's superiority over the Jews and flaunting its authority.

23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. Mt 27:35; Mr. 15:24; Lu 23:34

It was customary, it was typical for the attending soldiers to divide the spoils of the victim and so we have a headpiece, we have a belt, we have an outer garment and we have sandals being the four pieces that would be easily be distributed. But then we have this one piece tunic and there's no modern equivalent to the underwear type apparatus.

In other countries the men will wear sort of a long shirt underneath their outer garments. It might have a button up nice collar, but that's really the undergarment; what they put over their more decorative clothing and their suits. So it's something like that.

At least the most valuable piece of Him is that it is one piece; it's seamless. It's a very nice fabric; it's a nice piece of cloth. You wouldn't want to ruin its value by cutting it into four pieces so they agreed, "Let's roll some die and get a lot here and figure out who gets it."

 There are lots of symbolic and religious metaphors of what the importance of this seamless garment might be. The one that I have a little reference to is in John thirteen. You remember Jesus Christ strips Himself to the waist to wash His disciples’ feet, remember? Now He's stripped completely beyond His undergarment, not just to wash their feet, but to die for their sins and if anything, I think John in his wonderful narrative shows in chapter thirteen He did a "small" thing and then He washed their feet. And He says, "You don't know what I do to you. Now I'm completely stripped to die for your sins.  The shame of humanity now seen on Me and My nakedness as I die in your place with this one-piece garment." He lays aside His glory to go through the suffering; to go to the cross.

"The cloak was without seam woven from the top throughout." What's the point of putting that in there? Who cares? What's the difference?" Do you realize that in the Old Testament the garment of the high priest made of linen had to be without seam? Did you know that? That was a symbol of his total purity, there could be no seam in the garment of the high priest. Guess who is the final and faithful high priest? Jesus Christ fulfills to the very letter the symbol of the high priest, even by the note of John that He wore the garments of His priesthood.

Re 7:9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

Hanging upon that cross naked as He bore our punishment for sin. After man first sinned, nakedness became shameful (see Genesis 9:20-27; 2 Samuel 10:1-5; Isaiah 20:4). Can you imagine the humiliation our Lord endured as He hung upon that cross, with hundreds of people looking on? It is no wonder that David wrote of our Lord: “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me” (Psalm 22:16-17, NKJV,). Our Lord bore the curse of nakedness for us, so that we might be clothed in His righteousness. Isa 61:10 ¶ I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

It is John’s Gospel which most emphatically underscores the fulfillment of prophecy in the events surrounding our Lord’s death. Three times in our text John specifically informs his readers that prophecy has been fulfilled (verses 24, 36 and 37).

 Mr. 8:36 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

 John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Have you trusted Him as your Savior? He can Save you if You ask Him based on His death, burial, and resurrection for your sins. Believe in Him for forgiveness of your sins today.

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“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  -John 8:32

The world is trying to solve earthly problems that can only be solved with heavenly solutions.

 

[i] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Jn 19:17). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[ii] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Jn 19:17). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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