John's Gospel-a new look Number 21:Chapter 19:17ff The Crucifiction of Jesus
John's Gospel. A New Look - Number 21: Chapter 19:17ff - The Crucifixion and Burial.
After the mockery of a trial Pilate hands Jesus over to the soldiers who "take charge of Jesus". The Jewish leaders have achieved their goal to have Jesus put to death and John briefly describes what happens. To get the whole picture one has to read the accounts of the three Synoptic Gospels who give more detail. For John those details are not that important as he moves towards achieving his goal as stated in 20:30,31("...these signs are written that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and believing you may have life in His name").In the record by Matthew, Luke and John more details are given that are not important to John's stated purpose.
It is interesting to consider the horror of crucifixion. This method of killing a person was copied by Rome from the Carthaginians, and was not allowed to be used for Roman Citizens. It was a slow painful death performed in a very public way. The person walked through the town carrying the cross as a warning to society of what happens to murderers and other serious criminals. His crime was posted on a sign that was attached to the cross. Pilate infuriates the Jewish leaders by posting on the cross Jesus was carrying; "The king of the Jews". They plead with Pilate to change it to, "he claimed to be King of the Jews", but Pilate refuses.
The Jewish law prescribed death by stoning but the Romans had taken that right away from the Jews who now had to follow their method, a cruel and horrific procedure that involved a slow and painful death.
Because executions were not allowed to be performed in the city, they took place on a hill named Golgotha, that was outside the city. Calvary, the name often used, comes from the Latin word also meaning "skull". The body of someone crucified was either left on the cross to be eaten by birds or thrown onto the rubbish area to be eaten by birds and animals. Because this was the day before the Sabbath it was important to the Jews that Jesus be removed from the cross and buried before sunset, when the Jewish Sabbath began.
Several Old Testament prophecies came true at this event. In Psalm 22 it was prophesied that the bones of the Messiah would not be broken and his garments would be shared by casting lots.
We also notice that the disciples present at the cross were mainly women and in a moving moment Jesus hands his mother over to John so that he can take care of her. Even at this terrible moment Jesus shows his love and concern and sees to his mothers welfare. The last time John mentioned Mary, the mother of Jesus, was at the wedding feast in John 4.
Two dramatic moments are recorded by John as Jesus says, "I am thirsty" and "It is finished". The use of a stalk of a hyssop plant to give Jesus the drink of wine vinegar is perhaps a reminder of the Israelites who used the same plant to place the blood on the doorpost of their houses when leaving Egypt. Vinegar wine was a cheap wine normally drunk by the soldiers.
It was the custom for the soldiers to use a mallet to break the leg bones of the person crucified to make certain they were dead, or even to speed up death. The soldiers could however see that Jesus was dead and so they did not break his bones. However just to make certain one of them pierce his side with a spear. Some see in the water and blood that came out of Jesus' side a symbol of the water of baptism and the blood/wine of the New Covenant.
John informs us that Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus, asks for permission to remove the body. Together with Nicodemus (we are introduced to him in John 3:1ff) they prepares the body for burial according to Jewish burial customs. Jesus is then placed in the cave/tomb in a nearby garden that was used as a burial place.
Here the tragic story should have ended, but in the next chapter the empty tomb is going to surprise everyone.