Jesus In Our Place

John 19:16-37

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
May 2021

Last time, we looked at the trial of Jesus.  Today, we will look at Jesus’ death.  It is the most famous death in history.  What is the setting of this event?  The date was April 3, 33 A.D.  The day was a Friday.  The location was Jerusalem.  The time was nine in the morning. The place was a small hill outside the city of Jerusalem called Skull Hill.  All four gospels say that was the place of execution (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33; John 19:17).

Five Miraculous Events

This was no ordinary death.  Supernatural events accompanied this event.  Five miraculous events accompanied the death of Jesus.  Do you know what they were?

First, the Land was Dark.  There was supernatural darkness. Three of the four gospels mention this darkness (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45). It was dark during the brightest time of the day and it stayed dark for three hours (12 PM to 3 PM).

If that really happened, you would expect some evidence.  It turns out, we have evidence that this really took place (Thallus, Phlegon, and Africanus).  In the second century, Tertullian says that evidence for this event was still available in the archives of Rome.[1]

Second, the Veil was Torn.  The veil of the Temple was torn.  The veil was several inches thick and it was torn from top to bottom. This is mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45).

Third, the Earth was Shaken.  There was a huge earthquake that took place.  The earth shook.  This is only mentioned in Matthew (Matthew 27:51).

Fourth, Bodies were Resurrected.  People were resurrected from the dead.  This is also only mentioned in Matthew (Matthew 27:52-53).

Fifth, Lives were Changed.  We see this in Matthew, Mark and Luke (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47).  Do you ever wonder what happened to the soldiers who crucified Jesus?

We know what happened to one of them.  One of them might have come to faith that day.  The one who was in charge of the crucifixion said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” The one who said this was not a Jew.  He was not a Christian.  He was a pagan.

He was a rough hardened military man.  He had supervised a lot of crucifixions.  He was not just a soldier.  He was a high-ranking soldier.  He was a centurion.  He could tell there was something different about Jesus.  He could tell this by the way He died.  Most men in Jesus’ position would be curing, angry and begging for mercy.  Jesus prayed for His enemies.  He asked forgiveness for His executioners.

We have four accounts of the crucifixion.  All of them were based on some eye-witness testimony but only one of the four gospel writers was actually there.  John is the only one of the four who was an actual eyewitness to these events.  John says that he was there that Friday.  Jesus asked him to take care of His mother.  He saw what happened.  He wrote it down and what he writes down is true.

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 19:35 NIV)

We are going to take things from all of the gospels but John records one of the most important things Jesus said on the cross. It was the last thing He said on the cross – τετέλεσται.

Apparently, Jesus did not like to start a job and not finish it.  He created the world in six days, finished it and rested on the seventh day.  He finished everything the Father wanted Him to do.   He finished His earthly ministry.  He finished the work of creation and He finished the work of redemption.  He did not leave one sin unpaid for.

Today, we want to look at the two sides of the crucifixion.  We want to look at two different perspectives on the crucifixion.  Both of them are true.

Perspective One – Black Friday

The crucifixion was the worst event in human history.  The murder of Jesus was the worst crime in human history.  It was the greatest crime ever committed on planet earth.

It took place on a Friday. We call it Good Friday.  It should be called Black Friday.   It is one of the darkest days in history. It was so dark that it became physically dark outside.  As the Light of the world was dying.  It became pitch black outside.

This was not just the execution of an innocent man.  This was not the killing of a good man or a great man.  It was not just the killing of a king, as bad as that would be. It was the execution of the Son of God.  It was the murder of the God Man.

Jesus is the incarnate Word.  He is the One who created all things (John 1:3).  Humanity was trying to destroy its Creator. Mankind wants to be autonomous.  We want to be our own god and make our own rules.  We want to put God on a cross.  That is what they did to Jesus.

A Miscarriage of Justice

Jesus’ death was a miscarriage of justice. It was a travesty of justice.  Here, you have the spotless Lamb of God who never did anything wrong and only did good accused of a capital crime and tortured to death, while the guilty Barabbas is completely set free.

Jesus went about doing good, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons.  He spoke like no one else spoke.  He taught like no one else taught.  He taught people to love their neighbor, to love their enemies and to forgive people who wronged them and for that He was rewarded with death.

1) Jesus was falsely accused.

He was accused of a political crime.  It was a capital crime.  It was the crime of treason.  He was accused of being an enemy of the state.  The punishment for this crime was death.  It was a crime He had never committed?  Have you ever been falsely accused of something you did not do?  Have you ever been accused of a crime?  Jesus was.

Jesus was not given a fair trial.  If we are falsely accused of a crime, we just call up a lawyer to defend us.  Jesus was not given a lawyer.  He had no one to defend Him.  In fact, He had no legal rights.  He was not given any prison rights.  He was not given any human rights.  He was not given due process.

2) Jesus was wrongfully convicted.

He was not only wrongfully accused; He was wrongfully convicted.  False evidence was used in his trial (lying witnesses) and his judge was corrupt.

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”  (Luke 23:13-16 NIV)

Pilate was corrupt.  He knew Jesus was innocent.  He said he was innocent.  He said it publicly.  He said it three times (John 18:39; 19:4, 6). Pilate says, “He has done nothing worthy of death, THEREFORE I will punish him.”  He should have said, “therefore, I will release him.  Therefore, I will let Him go”

The judge’s verdict was innocent.  The sentence was death.  A completely innocent man was sentenced to death on purpose.  Today, the innocent are put on death row by mistake sometimes, but this was no mistake.  Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent.

Why did he do it?  He was a politician, a corrupt politician, like many are today.  He gave into political pressure.  He gave into social pressure.  Matthew says that he did this to avoid a riot.

Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” 24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” (Matthew 27:22-24 NIV)

People do the same thing today.  Some who sit on juries make decisions, not just based on the facts (guilt or innocence), but to appease a mob and prevent riot and looting on the street.

3) Jesus was tortured, as well as killed.

Most of us have no idea that it is like to be tortured.  We have not escaped from POW camps.  Many of us have lived lives of comfort.   Jesus was tortured by expert executioners.   He was tortured a number of different ways.

Abuse comes in many different forms (physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse). Many people have suffered abuse and have scars from it.  Jesus knew what it was like to be abused.  He can relate to abuse.  He was tortured before He died and while He was dying in a number of different ways.

Jesus was tortured physically. He was physically abused.  He was scourged.  He was chained to a pillar, stripped of his clothes and beaten with a whip. He was spit on (Matthew 27:30; Mark 15:19).

He was blindfolded (Luke 22:64).  That is only mentioned in Luke.  He slapped in the face.  He was slapped in the face twice (John 18:22; 19:3).  That is only mentioned in John.  He was struck on the head with a staff (Mark 15:19).

He was tortured by the way He died.  Jesus was not killed by lethal injection.  He was killed by crucifixion.  Roman crucifixion was dehumanizing.  It was inhumane.  It was barbaric.  It involved torture, nails driven in your hands and feet.  It was reserved for the worst of criminals.   It was so terrible and so horrific that no Roman citizen could ever be crucified.

It was a slow death.  It was a painful death by asphyxiation.  It has to be the worst way to die.  People on the cross did not bleed to death.  They died from lack of oxygen.  They died gasping for breath.  It was a public death.  We have not had a public execution in about a hundred years (1936).

Jesus was forced to carry his own cross.  John is the only one to mention this (John 19:17).  He was like Isaac carrying the wood he would be sacrificed on.  He did not carry the entire cross, just the horizontal crossbeam or crossbar.  This was about seventy-five to a hundred pounds.  He carried it from the Judgment Hall to the place of execution.

The path that He walked is called the Via Dolorosa.  It is about a third of a mile long.  There is an African connection to the cross.  On the way to the cross, a man from Cyrene helps him carry it (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26).  Cyrene is in Africa.  It is in modern Libya today.

What do we know about him?  He must have been a STRONG man.  They would have not asked a weakling to help carry a hundred-pound cross.  He was a FOREIGN man.  He was from another country in town for the Passover.  He was a BLACK man.  He was from Africa.  He was a JEWISH man.  He had a Jewish name (Simon).

He did not volunteer to help Jesus.  The text says that he was forced to do this (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21).  He was going the opposite direction.  on his way into the city while Jesus was on his way out of the city.  Luke says that Simon follow behind Jesus (Luke 23:26).

Bearing a cross is essential today. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NIV) but He does NOT force people to carry one like the Romans did.  He gives people a choice.

Jesus was not just tortured physically.  He was verbally abused.  He was mocked BEFORE He was crucified.  He was mocked by Herod’s soldiers (Luke 23:11).  He was mocked by Pilate’s soldiers (Luke 23:36).  They put a crown of thorns on his head and a purple robe on Him.  They fell down on their knees pretending to pay homemade to Him (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:19).

He was mocked WHILE He was crucified.   The soldiers gambled for His clothes as he lay dying, right in front of His mother.  He was mocked by people at the very moment that He was in excruciating pain.  Some people passing by insulted Him.

29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!”  (Mark 15:31 NIV; cf. Matthew 27:39).  He was mocked by many of the esteemed religious leaders of the day.

31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  (Mark 15:31-32 NIV; cf. Luke 23:35ff.)

He was also mocked by one of the thieves who was dying right next to Him.  That is mentioned in three of the Gospels (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32; Luke 23:39).  Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him (Mark 15:29-32 NIV)

Jesus was mocked by Herod’s soldiers.  He was mocked by Pilate’s soldiers.  He was mocked by people in the street.  He was mocked by the religious leaders and Bible scholars of the day.  They mocked a dying man.  He was mocked by other people being executed with Him.  People in the world still mock Jesus today.

Perspective Two – Good Friday

The crucifixion was the WORST event in history, but it was also the GREATEST event in human history. That is why we call it Good Friday.  God brought the greatest good out of the greatest evil.  He brought incredible good out of the worst crime ever committed on planet earth.

What would have happened if Jesus never went to the cross? In him we have redemption THROUGH HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7 NIV).  If Jesus never went to the cross, there would be no forgiveness. There would be no redemption.  There would be no salvation.

The crucifixion was an act of great INJUSTICE.  It was also an act of great LOVE.  

But God shows his LOVE for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who LOVED me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

And walk in love, as Christ LOVED us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2 ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ LOVED the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25 ESV)

Jesus was not forced to go to the cross.  He chose to go to the cross. John 19:16 says that Pilate delivered Jesus over to be crucified but John 10:17-18 says that delivered himself.  He said that no one takes his life from Him.

Jesus said, For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18 ESV)

When Jesus was being beaten, He did not resist.  He did not fight back.  He went as a lamb to the slaughter.  He did not threaten people.  Those who judged Jesus will one day be judged by Jesus, but Jesus did not threaten them.  He did not say, “One day the tables will be turned, and I will be the Judge and will determine your fate and where you spend eternity.”

While He was being crucified, He could have come down from the cross.  People were mocking Him and daring him to do it, but He didn’t.  He accepted it as part the God’s eternal plan.  It was planned from the foundation of the world.  This is one of the things that is clear from John’s account of the crucifixion.

“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.” (John 19:24 NIV)

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be FULFILLED, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28 NIV)

These things happened so that the scripture would be FULFILLED: “Not one of his bones will be broken” (John 19:36 NIV)

Jesus actually fulfilled twenty-eight prophecies in one day when He died. [2]

[1] “And yet, nailed upon the cross, He exhibited many notable signs, by which His death was distinguished from all others. At His own free-will, He with a word dismissed from Him His spirit, anticipating the executioner’s work. In the same hour, too, the light of day was withdrawn, when the sun at the very time was in his meridian blaze. Those who were not aware that this had been predicted about Christ, no doubt thought it an eclipse. You yourselves have the account of the world-portent still in your archives” (Tertullian, The Apology, 21:19) accessed at https://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf03/anf03-05.htm#P253_53158

[2] https://www.cbcg.org/franklin/SA/SA_28prophecies.pdf

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