- 19:1 Pilate ordered Jesus beaten.
- 19:2 Soldiers twisted some thorn branches into a mock crown and put it on his head. Then they draped him in a purple1 robe.
- 19:3 Soldiers2 started walking up to him and saying, “Hooah, king of the Jews!” and slapping him in the face.
- 19:4 Pilate went outside again. He told the Jewish leaders, “Listen to me. I’m going to bring this man back out here and I want you to know that I find no basis for your accusation against him.”
- 19:5 So Jesus walked outside, still wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said, “Look at the man.”
- 19:6 When the top priests and Temple police saw Jesus, they started screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate told them, “Do it yourself. I haven’t heard any evidence to back up your accusation against this man.”
- 19:7 The Jews answered Pilate, “We have our own laws. And according to our law, this man deserves to die because he said he is the Son of God.”
- 19:8 Pilate had already found this case unnerving, but when he heard this, he got more anxious than ever.3
Jesus stops defending himself
- 19:9 Pilate went back inside to his military headquarters, the Praetorium.4 He asked Jesus, “Where did you come from?” Jesus didn’t answer.
- 19:10 Pilate said, “Really? You’re not going to talk to me now? You do know, don’t you, that I have the power to free you or crucify you?”
- 19:11 Jesus said, “You don’t have any authority over me except the authority that’s given to you from a power above you.5 The guiltiest person in all of this is the one who handed me over to you.”6
- 19:12 That made Pilate want to release Jesus more than ever. But the Jews wouldn’t have it. They kept yelling, “If you let him go, you’re no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king is a traitor to Caesar.”7
- 19:13 When Pilate heard that, he brought Jesus outside. Pilate sat in the judge’s seat at a place everyone called the Stone Pavement. Jewish people called it by its Hebrew name, Gabbatha.
- 19:14 All of this took place on the day Jews were getting ready to celebrate Passover,8 which would start at sundown. At about noon time, Pilate said to the Jews, “Here’s your king!”
- 19:15 The Jews quickly yelled back, “Get him out here! Get him out of here! Crucify him!” Pilate said, “Do you really want me to crucify your king?” The top priests answered, “Caesar is our king!”
- 19:16 Pilate released Jesus into the custody of the soldiers, ordering them to crucify him. So the soldiers took him away.
- 19:17 Jesus, carrying the cross9 by himself,10 went to the execution site known as Skull Place.11 In the Hebrew language of the Jews, it’s called Golgotha.
- 19:18 They crucified him there with two other men, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle.
- 19:19 Pilate posted a sign on the cross. It read, “Jesus from Nazareth, king of the Jews.”
- 19:20 A lot of Jews read that sign because Romans executed Jesus close to the city. And the sign was written in three languages: Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.12
- 19:21 Top Jewish priests went back to Pilate and said, “Change that sign. Don’t call him king of the Jews. Instead, say this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
- 19:22 Pilate said, “What’s done is done.”
Soldiers take the clothes of Jesus
- 19:23 Four soldiers crucified Jesus. They stripped him of his clothes and divided the clothes among themselves equally. But there was no way to divide the tunic,13 since someone had woven it together, top to bottom, without making a seam.
- 19:24 So a soldier said, “Let’s not tear this thing apart. Let’s roll dice to see who gets all of it.” This happened to fulfill the prophecy in the Bible: “They throw dice to see who gets my clothes.”14
- 19:25 The mother of Jesus stood at the foot of his cross. So did his aunt, his mother’s sister. Mary the wife of Clopas stood with them. Mary Magdalene did, too.
- 19:26 Jesus saw his mother standing beside the disciple he loved dearly.15 Jesus told his mother to look at the disciple. “Dear woman, look and see your son.”16
- 19:27 Jesus told his disciple, “Look at her. She is your mother now.” From that minute on, the disciple welcomed her into his family and his home.
- 19:28 At this point, Jesus knew he had done everything he was sent to do. To fulfill one more piece of prophecy in the Bible, he said, “I’m thirsty.”17
- 19:29 There was a jar of cheap, sour wine sitting nearby. Someone grabbed a long stem from a hyssop plant, attached a sponge to it, dipped part of it into the wine, and then held it up to the mouth of Jesus.
- 19:30 Jesus tasted the wine and then said “It’s done.” Jesus bowed his head and released his spirit.
A soldier spears Jesus
- 19:31 Sabbath would start at sundown. So would Passover, one of the most sacred Jewish observances of the year. Jews were spending this day getting ready. They didn’t want crucified men hanging up outside the city during these holy days. So, they asked Pilate to order his soldiers to break the legs of the crucified men. That way, they would die quickly and people could take their bodies off the crosses.18
- 19:32 Soldiers broke the legs of one man. Then they broke the legs of the other.
- 19:33 When they reached Jesus, they saw he was already dead. They didn’t break his legs.
- 19:34 Instead, one soldier speared him in the side. Blood and water poured out.
- 19:35 This is coming from an eyewitness, so you can believe it. He’s telling the truth and he’s certain it’s the truth.
- 19:36 What happened here fulfilled the prediction in the Bible. “Not one bone in his body will be broken.”19
- 19:37 Another Bible passage says, “They’ll look on the body of the one they pierced.”20
- 19:38 A man named Joseph of Arimathea21 had become a secret follower of Jesus. He kept it secret because he was afraid of what the Jewish leaders would do to him if they found out about it. Yet he asked Pilate for permission to claim the body of Jesus and take it off the cross. Pilate granted the request.
- 19:39 Nicodemus helped. He’s the man who, earlier, had come to Jesus secretly at night.22 Nicodemus brought burial spices: about 75 pounds23 of myrrh and aloes.24
- 19:40 They followed the Jewish burial custom. They wrapped the body in strips of linen cloth laced in the fragrant spices.
- 19:41 They crucified Jesus in an area with a garden. Nearby, in the garden, there was a new and unused tomb.
- 19:42 They put the body of Jesus in this tomb because it was close to the execution site and it was time for the Jews to get ready for Sabbath and the Passover.
Purple was an expensive color because purple dye came from the murex snail in the Mediterranean Sea. It was also the preferred color for kings and emperors.
Matthew 27:27 says a “cohort” gathered to make fun of Jesus. That’s usually about 600 soldiers. Romans brought extra soldiers to Jerusalem during Passover, to help discourage the crowds of pilgrims from starting a riot and launching a war of independence against Rome. Some Bible experts, however, say Matthew may have been using some exaggeration.
One possible reason for his fear: “Pilate’s wife sent him a message while he was still presiding over the case. She told him, ‘Don’t do anything to this good man. I had a nightmare about him today’” (Matthew 27:19).
Praetorium. This may have been at the former palace of Herod the Great, on Jerusalem’s west side. But it could also have been the Fortress Antonia, overlooking the northwest corner of the Temple courtyard.
It’s unclear if Jesus was talking about the Roman emperor, who approved Pilate’s appointment, or about God.
It’s possible Jesus was talking about Judas, who has committed suicide by this time. But some scholars say it’s more likely Jesus was talking about Caiaphas, the top spiritual leader among the Jewish people.
History scholars say Pilate may have been on shaky ground with Caesar already, especially if Jesus died in about AD 33. Emperor Tiberius had appointed Pilate governor of Judea on the recommendation of an official named Sejanus. But Tiberius executed Sejanus for his involvement in a failed coup in AD 31. Tiberius also executed many of Sejanus’s associates. Pilate had nothing to do with that coup, as far as historians can tell. The irony here is that Pilate was apparently innocent of the charge that the Jews were implying. And Jesus was innocent of the charge of insurrection. One innocent man executed another innocent man while the guilty Jewish leaders watched.
See note for 11:55.
The Greek word describing the cross is stauros. It originally meant a stake or a pole, but later came to include various objects used in crucifixion including a cross, the crossbeam of the cross, or anything else used to hang up people so they would die slowly, nailed or tied or both. Some victims were impaled on stakes, a technique especially common among Assyrians several centuries earlier, in what is now northern Iraq.
Other accounts of the crucifixion say that at some point along the way to the execution site Romans recruited a man called Simon from Cyrene to carry the cross or the crossbeam for Jesus (Matthew 27:32) The presumption is that Jesus fell while carrying the cross, but the Bible writers don’t report that detail.
Bible experts resort to guessing about why the location was called Skull Place. Among the guesses: something about the area resembled a skull; as the place of crucifixion, there were some skulls in the area; the name came from a legend that the skull of Adam was buried there; there was a cemetery nearby, which is where the body of Jesus was placed.
Hebrew was the language of the Jewish people. Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. Greek was the international language of the day.
The tunic was worn next to the skin and looked a bit like a shirt without sleeves.
Some Bible scholars refer to this man as the Beloved Disciple, whom early church writers said was John, one of Jesus’ three best friends. Peter and John’s brother James were the other two. Since the AD 100s, there has been a tradition that John was the author of this Gospel. But many scholars push back on both of those theories: that John wrote the Gospel, and that he was the Beloved Disciple. Many scholars make a case that the Beloved Disciple was not even one of the 12 original disciples, but that he was an unidentified follower of Jesus who was an eyewitness to the Crucifixion.
Jesus phrases himself in a way that sounds like a last will and testament, putting his mother in the care of this dearly loved follower. The phrasing shows up in the Hebrew book of Tobit 7:12, “From now on you are her brother, look she is your sister.”
The Gospel writer may have been thinking of Psalm 22:15 or 69:21.
Apparently in some positions in which people hung on the cross, they needed to push up to catch a breath or to exhale.
The writer may have been thinking of several Bible passages. Two refer to the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, whose bones weren’t to be broken (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12). Another refers to God protecting the bones of a good person from being broken: Psalm 34:20.
Possibly a reference to Zechariah 12:10, which talks about someone who was “pierced” in some way, possibly not literally, but hurt somehow. The prophet may have been talking about himself or someone else in the community. But the writer of the Gospel of John also links the passage to Jesus.
Joseph was “a respected member of the Jewish Council” (Mark 15:43) known as the Sanhedrin. See note for John 11:47. It’s uncertain where the city of Arimathea was. Some of the guesses include cities a few miles from Jerusalem.
About 33 kilograms.
Fragrant spices helped mask odor of decomposition while people gathered around the body to mourn.
Pilate did not want to execute Jesus. He “found this case unnerving” (19:8). Pilate had offered to free him, since Romans had a custom of releasing a Jewish prisoner at Passover (18:39). The crowd instead chose Barabbas, a thief. Pilate ordered Jesus beaten. That didn’t satisfy the crowd. If Romans were in charge and Pilate felt Jesus was innocent, as the Gospels report (19:4), why do you think he ordered Jesus crucified?
Imagine Jesus during the taunting and beating that he got from the Roman soldiers (19:1-3; Matthew 27:20-31). He gets dressed up like a king. He gets a crown of thorns jammed onto his head. Soldiers mock-cheer him for the fake king they seem to believe he is. They hit him on the head with a stick. They spit on him. What would you guess was going on inside the head of Jesus at the time? Was he numb? Was he terrified? Was he wanting to get it over with?
Why do you think Jesus gave such strange answers to Pilate? When Pilate asked where Jesus came from, Jesus didn’t say anything. Then when Pilate said he had the power to crucify him, Jesus answered, “You don’t have any authority over me except the authority that’s given to you from a power above you” (19:11).
Jesus said “The guiltiest person in all of this is the one who handed me over to you” (19:11). Do you think he was talking about Judas or about the high priest, Caiaphas?
John reports “Jesus carried the cross by himself” (19:17). Scholars ask two questions. What did he carry—one piece of wood or a cross? Why do the other Gospels say Romans drafted Simon from Cyrene in Africa to carry the cross (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26)? Any suggestions?
It’s anyone’s guess why people in Jerusalem called the execution site “Skull Place” (19:17; Matthew 23:33). If you have heard any of the theories, what are they?
Mark said Roman soldiers crucified Jesus at “9 o’clock in the morning” (15:25). John says they crucified Jesus “about noon” (19:14). Matthew seems to agree, since that’s when “the sky went dark” (27:45). Scholars tackle this apparent discrepancy in a variety of ways. Which of the following approaches sounds most reasonable to you?
- Time rounded to nearest changing of the guard. Romans marked time by four change-of-the guard events every 12 hours: noon/midnight, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock. If Jesus was crucified sometime between 9 o’clock in the morning and noon, some witnesses may have said it was closer to the 9 o’clock event, while other witnesses may have said it was closer to noon.
- Typo. As explained in the footnote associated with Matthew 27:45, someone recopying worn out early manuscripts confused the Greek letter representing third hour of the day (9 AM) gamma (Γ), with the Greek letter representing the number six, for the sixth hour of the day (noon) digamma (Ϝ).
- Poetic license for symbolism sake. John and Matthew wanted to help Jewish readers see the symbolism behind the death of Jesus. Noon is when Jews sacrificed the Passover lamb. Jesus was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices (Hebrews 10:10).
Jesus had four brothers (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55; John 7:3). So, as he hung on the cross, why would he entrust his mother to the care of “the disciple he loved dearly” (19:26)?
John reports that the last thing Jesus did was to refuse some “sour wine” (19:29), fulfilling a prophecy. Twice in Matthew’s version of the story, Jesus was offered some kind of drink (Matthew 27:34, 48). As you read the story in both versions, John and Matthew, do you think those drinks were offered as acts of compassion or as taunting?
After John reports the death of Jesus, he says: “This is coming from an eyewitness, so you can believe it. He’s telling the truth and he’s certain it’s the truth” (19:35). How should we weigh the evidence of this Gospel against Luke, for example, who said he gathered his information from other sources (Luke 1:3)?
When Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (19:38-39) publicly asked for the body of Jesus so they could bury it, what do you think his buddies on the top Jewish Council would have done to him when they found out?