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John 19:1-16, 16-37

Jesus before Pilate
The Crucifixion

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(Optional: Read Luke 23:7-11

7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.)

Read verses 1-16a

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

It is easy to simply skip this verse and read on. But we must remember that this was a dreadful punishment in itself and would often bring the prisoner close to death; occasionally they would actually die during it.

(I will not go into any details here but they are available on the internet. Try:

As far as Pilate was concerned that would be an entirely appropriate punishment for any crimes Jesus may have committed and he could then be released.

2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they slapped him in the face.

The Roman soldiers considered a condemned man fair sport, and it seems that they knew the legal charge against Jesus: that he claimed to be king.

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’ 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’

It might have been more logical for Pilate to simply decide to hold Jesus in the cells like Barabbas, and schedule a trial sometime after Passover. But he too was part of a bigger plan.

6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’

But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’

Pilate really wanted to release Jesus, but the crowd were getting angry and if he wasn’t careful he himself might be accused of starting a riot. He hoped he had got out of it by saying if they wanted him crucified they must do it themselves.

7 The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid,

This was totally unexpected, and very disturbing; his mind was in turmoil.

9 and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.

As far as Jesus was concerned, he knew his death was imminent and he had to go through with it. He also knew that Pilate would have to authorise his crucifixion but really wanted to release him. Therefore Jesus would not try to justify himself, he simply remained silent.

10 ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’

Pilate had been appointed to his position as Governor and in that position he had the responsibility to administer justice, and often that required authorising the crucifixion of criminals. His word was law and his decision was final. He expected Jesus to make some final attempt to ask for mercy, or at least to explain himself.

11 Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’

Jews would not use the name of God if they could avoid it – they would always use a euphemism such as here: ‘from above’. Two thoughts are contained in Jesus’ reply: God has put you in this position, and God has specifically ordained that you will condemn me to death.

But Jesus went on to explain that those who claimed to represent God but could not recognise the presence of the Son of God, those who opposed him and actually wanted him dead; they were the greater sinners.

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’

The charge of claiming to be king had not been raised when the Sanhedrin met, but it had soon become apparent that only something like that would get them the death sentence, so that is what they now kept shouting.

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.

This whole episode had taken long enough so Pilate took his position on the ‘Judges Seat’, but before pronouncing sentence he made one last attempt to release Jesus. He appealed to the people’s consciences. Surely he had suffered enough, and Pilate himself had no problem with Jesus’ kingship – his kingdom didn’t threaten Rome.

15 But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’

‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.

Pilate may well have been aware that all Jews looked forward to the coming of a king. Now they have one, it seemed that they wanted him dead. Was that really what they wanted?

‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.

16a Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Pilate gave up the struggle and ‘washed his hands’ of the whole affair (Matthew 27:24). For Jesus, the last obstacle had been cleared and the reason for his coming was about to be fulfilled.

Now read verses 16-37

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.

Again it seems that because of the crowds it was decided to crucify Jesus immediately, so when the squad of soldiers was formed to escort Jesus, they also took with them the other prisoners who were in the cells awaiting crucifixion.

17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).

It was normal procedure for the condemned men to carry their own crosses or possibly only the cross-pieces (the upright poles may have been a permanent fixture at the sight). There are conflicting suggestions as to where Golgotha actually was, but as the Roman Fortress was by the main road into Jerusalem, it may be that it was not far from there. If so it would have been visible to all those travelling on the road, perhaps to remind people entering Jerusalem to obey the law. (See v 20)

The other Gospels mention that as they were going to the place of crucifixion, they met a man called Simon coming in from the country who was forced to carry the cross for Jesus. Practically, following the scourging, they soon found that Jesus was simply too weak to carry the cross and the party was making no progress. Psychologically for the soldiers it was easier to stop a single person walking towards them than to choose someone from the crowd to carry the cross.

18 There they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Again, it is easy to read that quickly, and move on. Encourage the whole group to join in trying to describe the scene (using scripture as much as possible).

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews”, but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’

22 Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’

Pilate had been bullied into agreeing to the crucifixion, and rather than continuing to agree to the Jewish leader’s demands, he now demonstrated his own understanding of the truth. Jesus was no threat to the rule of Rome – rather the threat was to the rule of those who exercised a religious stranglehold on the Jewish nation.

Note also that the sign does not say ‘King of Israel’, but ‘King of the Jews’ – the term John has used throughout his Gospel to refer to the Jewish leaders. It also hinted that Jesus would not impose his rule on the nation; it was for individuals to recognise him as king of their lives.

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 ‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

‘They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.’

So this is what the soldiers did.

You could read Psalm 22:1-18 at this point.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ 27 and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

It is probably fair to say that these ladies all recognised their mutual love for Jesus and formed a natural group. What followed was very personal to John, none of the other Gospels record it, but Jesus was concerned for the welfare of his mother even as he suffered in agony and John was pleased to help.

Apart from this, John was not concerned with recording the other events at the crucifixion so he moved on to the final scene:

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.

Much of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus, and he obviously knew this, sometimes quoting passages that referred to him. These were all now reaching their fulfilment as Jesus reached the climax of his mission. Even Jesus’ thirst and the drink of wine vinegar had been foretold (Psalm 22:15, Psalm 69:21).

30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

What only Jesus could do had been done. At this point the Jewish leaders –and Satan Himself – believed they had triumphed. But their plans were puny and overshadowed by the purposes of Almighty God. They had not killed Jesus; the giver of life himself had chosen to receive the punishment for the sins of the world and had given up his own life for us.

Read verses 31-37

31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

We saw earlier (Study: John 13a - also see Easter study) that the first day of the ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread’, or ‘Passover’, was always to be treated as a Sabbath, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell. This would therefore be a Holy Day (Holiday) and as dead bodies were synonymous with ritual defilement, the religious leaders asked for them to be removed. Callously, they suggested that if the people on the crosses were not actually dead yet, their legs should be broken (hastening death by suffocation).

Pilate was probably glad to have this whole sorry business ended as quickly as possible.

32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

The experienced Roman soldiers knew that this was conclusive proof of death (again there are many web sites confirming this medically) but even so, there were some who claimed that Jesus didn’t die, and therefore the resurrection didn’t happen.

35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

John himself was an eye-witness to the fact that Jesus was definitely dead, and asserts this as fact.

36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken,’ (Psalm 34:20) (There are also references to the regulations regarding the Passover Lamb: Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12).

37 and, as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’ (Zechariah 12:10)

Just a few examples of scriptures that predicted the life of Jesus.

Now read verses 38-42

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.

Matthew (27:57) Mark (15:43) and Luke (23:50) tell us that Joseph was a rich man, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who had not agreed with the decision to crucify Jesus. He boldly went to Pilate and asked his permission to remove the body.

39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about thirty-five kilograms.

Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin. He bought spices, and Joseph bought linen (Mark 15:46).

40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was near by, they laid Jesus there.

The Tomb was one that Joseph had had cut from the rock for his own burial (Matthew 27:66). It had a sloping channel with a flat round stone, like a millstone, wedged at the upper end. After removing the wedge it would be easy to roll the stone down to its position across the entrance, but very difficult to roll it back uphill.

(There are some example photos at

John 18b John 20a NIV Copyright