TODAY’S READING: JOHN 15-19
OVERVIEW: Jesus teaches about abiding in Him (15:1-11); Jesus teaches about loving one another (15:12-17); Jesus warns about persecution (15:18-16:7); Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit (16:8-33); Jesus’ prayer of intercession (17:1-26); Jesus’ betrayal and arrest (18:1-14); Peter’s denial (18:15-18); Jesus before the high priest (18:19-24); Peter’s second and third denial (18:25-27); Jesus before Pilate (18:28-38); Barabbas is released (18:39-40); Christ’s crucifixion (19:1-37); Christ’s burial (19:38-42).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
We enter into the whole arena of our Lord’s betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion today for the fourth time in almost as many weeks. One of the most important things to keep in your mind as you read about His incredible sacrifice is something Jesus said back in chapter 10, verses 17 and 18. Jesus said, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I LAY DOWN MY LIFE, that I might take it again. NO MAN TAKETH IT FROM ME, but I LAY IT DOWN OF MYSELF. I have power to LAY IT DOWN, and I have power to take it again.” The reason these two verses are so significant, is that they help us to interpret what is really taking place as Jesus is being crucified. Though it appears that He is the victim, nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus was never a victim to anybody! The fact is, Jesus died, not because men killed Him, because they couldn’t! There was no way that Jesus could have died had He not willed to die.
For centuries people have been arguing about who killed Jesus. The Jewish leaders, of course, are the primary targets of the blame, and rightly so, because it was their plot, and their false charges that actually forced the issue.
Others choose to blame the Romans, and they, too, deserve a portion of the blame, because they were the ones who set aside what was normal justice to appease an angry mob, and they knowingly went ahead and executed an innocent man.
But if you really want to get to the bottom line on who bears the responsibility for Christ’s death, all you have to do is listen to Peter in Acts 2:23: “Him, (that is, Christ) being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken (the Jews), and by wicked hands (the Romans) have crucified and slain.” Who was it that was responsible for the death of Christ? It was neither the Jews nor the Romans, though they certainly bear the guilt for the actual execution and sin that was involved. The ultimate responsibility lies with God! It was God who destined it. It was God that planned it. And Jesus, in an act of submissive obedience, simply carried out the eternal plan (Rev. 13:8). But don’t ever lose sight of the fact that HE LAID DOWN HIS LIFE! John 19:30 says, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and HE BOWED HIS HEAD, AND GAVE(!!!) UP THE GHOST.” Nobody TOOK it. He GAVE it! He yielded His life. And just !
as surely as He laid down His life, He TOOK IT AGAIN!
Allow me to call to your attention to a few places in today’s reading where Jesus is demonstrating the fact that HE is in control:
19:16 – “Then delivered he (Pilate) him (Christ) therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and LED him away.”
It seems a minor thing to say “they led him away,” but it isn’t minor. Jesus didn’t have to be driven, He went willingly. He followed them to the cross. And, of course, that’s just how the prophet Isaiah said it would happen. Isaiah 53:7 says, “He is BROUGHT AS A LAMB to the slaughter.” Unlike cattle which are DRIVEN, sheep are LED.
19:17a – “And he BEARING HIS CROSS”
Notice, Jesus carried His own cross. Why is this happening? Because it, too, is exactly how God prophesied that it would unfold in a prophetic type in the Old Testament. Genesis 22:6 is a prophetic type rather than a prophetic statement as in Isaiah 53:7 above. In Genesis 22:6, Isaac is a picture of Christ, and the verse says, “And Abraham took the WOOD of the burnt OFFERING, and LAID IT UPON ISAAC HIS SON.” So, Isaac went up to Mt. Moriah (same mountain as Jesus, by the way) carrying the wood that was to be used for his own execution. And so Jesus, controlling every detail of what is taking place in John 19, carries His own “wood,” in a perfect fulfillment of what Isaac pictured prophetically.
19:17b – “And he bearing his cross WENT FORTH”
“Went forth” means that He was LED outside the city walls. Why did that happen? Because that was Roman law. Roman law said that no one could be crucified inside the city. And so they had a place outside the city “called the place of a skull” (19:17c), and it was called that because from a distance the mountainside resembled a skull. Jesus was taken there because it was the normal place for crucifixions. But once again, long before Rome built that law into its books, way back in the Book of Exodus when God instituted the offering for sin He said, “But the flesh of the bullock and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without (i.e. outside) the camp: it is a sin offering” (Ex. 29:14). And Jesus, in perfect fulfillment of the picture of the sin offering in the Old Testament, was sacrificed outside the city. The Romans had no idea about that when they made their laws, but they made that law because God knew that one day His Son was coming to fulfill the pictur!
e of Ex. 22:6.
19:18a – “they CRUCIFIED Him.”
This is another exact fulfillment. And one that could not have been anticipated! The Jews didn’t crucify people. They stoned people. But Christ was to be crucified. That was a Roman way to die. And once again, it fulfills Numbers 21:6-9, which says that when Israel was bitten by snakes, they were to make a serpent and lift it up on a rod, and anybody who looked upon it would be healed. Jesus said in John 3:14 – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” And that’s exactly how it happened. Jesus was lifted up on a cross. That kind of death was unheard of to the Jews in the Old Testament, but that’s how prophecy said it would happen, so it did.
19:18b – “they crucified him, and TWO OTHER WITH HIM, ON EITHER SIDE ONE, AND JESUS IN THE MIDST (i.e. middle).” Is it significant that He died with criminals? Absolutely. Isaiah 53:12 says, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”
We could continue like this through this entire passage. It is one fulfilled prophecy after another. Jesus is ordering every detail of His own execution to fulfill the plan that He laid down in eternity. He was in control of every single aspect.
Finally, John 19:28 says, “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst.” Why did He say, “I thirst” ? Because He was thirsty? I’m sure He was! But He said it, because He knew that every single other Old Testament prophecy concerning His death had been fulfilled except that one. Only one prophecy remained unfilled. Psalm 69:21 says about Him in His death, “In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” So, in John 19:28, Jesus says, “I thirst.” He reaches back and grabs that one unfulfilled prophecy so that His death could be “according to the Scriptures” (See I Cor. 15:3 – for the gospel to be the gospel, it required that every detail of how the Scripture said He would die be fulfilled.) John 19:30 says, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished.” In other words, “Every prophecy has now been fulfilled. I can go ahead and die now.” And verse 30 goes on, “And he bowe!
d his head (no slump to the side, He bowed it!) and gave up the ghost.” How did He die? Did he bleed to death? Did He die of exposure? Did He have a heart attack? Did He suffocate? No. He died because He willed Himself to die.