About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The Crucifixion (ch. 19:17-28)


Verse 17 tells us that Jesus was led away to His death by the Roman soldiers.  In those days when a person was executed they were led through city streets and went outside of town, normally to a busy intersection to be executed.  The idea was that many people could see the process and the execution. This was a very public event and was meant to be a deterrent to any would-be criminal. 


Criminals normally carried their own crosses as Jesus did here.  Jesus was killed the same day He was sentenced.


Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, which is Aramaic for the "Place of the Skull," a place where executions routinely took place.  Although tourists to Jerusalem are often showed where Jesus died on the cross, it is debatable.     


In verse 18 John tells us that Jesus was killed with two criminals, one on His right side, and the other on His left side.  This completes the humiliation of Jesus, the Son of God.  He came from heaven where He was completely one with God the Father.  He left that place of oneness and became a man, born in a cave, raised in a hick town, lived a poor and lowly life, and was killed as a criminal with the burden of sin on His shoulders. You can read Paul's thoughts on the descent in Philippians 2:6 to 11. 


Note that John does not say that the two men executed with Jesus were criminals.  We learn that from the other gospel accounts.


Crucifixion was the Roman way of execution.  They borrowed this form of execution from the Persians.  It was specifically used because it was a slow and very painful way to die.  It would often take several days before the person actually died.       


Verses 19 and 20 tell us that Pilate had a sign posted to the cross where Jesus died.  It read.  "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."  It was written in Latin, Greek and Aramaic.  This meant that most, if not all people would be able to read this sign and understand what it said.  Latin was the language of Rome, Greek the language of Greece, and Aramaic the language of the Jews. 


Verse 21 tells us that the Jews protested to Pilate about this sign.  They wanted him to reword the sign to say that Jesus "claimed" to be king of the Jews.  In verse 22 Pilate replied by saying, "What I have written, I have written."  Pilate wasn’t going to change his mind.  Did Pilate believe that Jesus was king of the Jews?  I don't think he thought Jesus was king of the Jews.  I think he put this sign on the cross partly to spite the Jews.  He succeeded at that, yet, deep in his heart I think he wondered about who Jesus really was.  We know from history that Pilate was removed from his position and recalled to Rome and was dismissed as a government official, most likely because of wrong doing.  Tradition has it that he eventually committed suicide.  This tradition comes from Eusebius (263 - 339 A D) and has been propagated ever since. 


There are some facts about Pilate that predate Eusebius that Christian tradition seems to ignore.  One is that Eusebius himself states that this is a tradition.  He doesn't say it is fact.  Another fact, although based somewhat on silence, is that both Josephus and Philo don't say anything about Pilate killing himself.  Both Josephus and Philo lived in the first century.  Philo actually was not a fan of Pilate.  In his writings he wrote extensively about people of his day, many of which did commit suicide.  The speculation is that if Pilate had committed suicide, Josephus, and especially Philo, would have documented this. 


Another thing to consider is that the Greek Orthodox Church believes Pilate's wife became a Christian.  They canonized her as a saint and set aside October 27th as a special day for her.  Also, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church believes that both Pilate and his wife became a Christian and has canonized both as saints, making June 25 their special day. This doesn't prove that Pilate or his wife actually became Christians.  This also doesn't prove that Pilate did or didn't kill himself. 


When it comes to the death of Pilate history is fairly silent, but knowing the times, and knowing that when a Roman leader fell out of good will, they often did commit suicide instead of being executed by Roman authorities.                        


From verse 23 onward we see that four soldiers divided Jesus’ clothes.  There is much speculation just how this happened, and how many pieces of clothes Jesus wore.  We know there were four soldiers, and we know that Jesus’ undergarment was special in the sense that it was seamless.  In verse 24 we learn that the soldiers decided not to rip this seamless garment, suggesting that they could have torn his outer garment into four sections.  Soldiers often took anything that had value from the person being executed.  They decided to draw lots to see who won this piece of clothing.


The dividing of Jesus’ clothes and the drawing of lots was in fulfillment of Psalm 22:18.  You can see how detailed prophecy can be at times.  This is also interesting in the sense of how the Psalms is seen from a prophetic nature.  If you read Psalm 22 you will understand that it first applied to the writer, but beyond that there is the prophetic nature to these words.  If you read Psalm 22, which I suggest you do, you will see a good description of Jesus' death on the cross, a description that you do not see in the gospel accounts.


In verse 25 we see the NIV mention the fact that 4 women stood near the cross, along with John.  Some suggest because of the Greek sentence structure that there were only 3 women, but I will not elaborate on this point. 


What is interesting is what Jesus said on the cross.  The other gospels say that these people stood afar off, not really by the cross.  John, who was there, said that they stood close to the cross.  Most likely these people were afar off at first but at some point in time when people began to disburse they would have the chance to get closer, which they did.  At that point Jesus speaks to them from the cross.


Here Jesus is in the moment of complete agony and torture and He is still thinking of others.  In verse 26 He says to Mary His mother: "Dear woman, here is your son."  You might wonder why Jesus called His mother "woman" and not "mother."  This was just one common way of addressing one's mother back then.       


Jesus then says to John; "Here is your mother."  From that point onward John looked after Mary as if she was his biological mother.  Jesus was looking out for His earthly mother while dying on the cross.  I would suggest that it is bad hermeneutics for Catholics to use this verse to suggest that Mary is the mother of all Christians.  All that Jesus was doing here was telling John to look after Mary.  We shouldn't read anything more into this than that.


You might want to note that Jesus calls Mary as He often did, (John 2 – at the wedding) "woman," not "mother."  This very fact should say something to Catholic theology that makes Mary the mother of God.  I believe Jesus understood Mary to be his earthly mother only, and nothing more.  Beyond this she was a woman, not unlike any other woman, except for her very special motherly bond she had with Jesus.  Jesus never made a big deal about Mary being His earthly mother, but He did provide for her in these last moments by asking John to take care of her.


We should note that the text does not use the name "John" here.  The text says "the disciple that Jesus loved," as it says in a few other places.  Most all Bible teachers understand that disciple to be John.  This is the way that John describes himself throughout his account.   


Why would Jesus ask John to take care of Mary?  We know a little about the personalities of some of the disciples.  We know that Peter was impulsive, maybe not very sensitive.  From what we know of John, he is very pastoral, very caring, probably a gentle man.  This might be why Jesus chose John to care for His mother.  I believe Jesus' and John's personalities were such that they had a very special relationship with each other, thus the reason for the term "the disciple that Jesus loved."


It seems apparent that Mary's husband Joseph was no longer alive at this time or else Jesus would not have asked John to care for Mary.  We know little about Joseph.  Just how long he lived after he and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem at the age of 12, the last time Joseph is mentioned in the Bible, is not known.    


We do know that Jesus had brothers as seen in Luke 8:19.  It is interesting to note that Jesus did not ask any of His brothers to look after their mother.  He asked John instead.  My thinking on this is that at this moment in time His brothers were not believers.  They did not become believers until after His resurrection.  For this reason, maybe, Jesus asked John to take care of Mary.  

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