Gospel of John 19: The Crucifixion

John 19:  The Crucifixion

The crucifixion is described in all four of the Gospels. By combining these versions we get a complete picture of what happened and how it happened.  As Christians we must understand why it happened and what it means to us. 

The oldest creed in the Christian Church is the Apostle’s Creed. It was not written by the original Apostles, but by the early church at around 140AD.  It reads as follows:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. Suffered under Pontius Pilate. Was crucified, dead, and buried.  He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of the Saints, and the forgiveness of sins, the Resurrection of the body and the Life everlasting. Amen.

·       Two words:  hell- comes from Sheol, or Hades, place of the dead. Also this sentence did not appear in the original Apostle’s Creed.

·       Catholic is with small c- and simply means the universal church, the Body of Christ.


Crucified:  The crucifixion was both a cruel and tortuous death which sometimes took days for the victim to die. No Roman citizen was ever crucified. The criminal carried his own crossbeam. He also had a placard on which was written his crime.  Jesus’ placard read:  King of the Jews. The chief priests and others wanted this changed to read: He Said He was King of the Jews, but Pilate refused to change it. This was written in the three major languages:  Hebrew, Greek, & Latin.  Hebrew is the language of religion. Greek is the language of philosophy. Latin is the language of law.

The prisoner was marched carrying his cross from the Praetorium to the crucifixion site. We know Jesus because of the previous scourging, was unable to carry his cross and Simon of Cyrene was drafted to carry it for Him.  At the site, a Centurion would be in charge of a four- man crucifixion team. These men were trained in this duty and probably had carried out hundreds of crucifixions.  The cross beam was laid flat on the ground. The Lord Jesus was then thrown on his back with his shoulders on the cross beam. The soldier would stretch his arm out, leaving it with some flexibility and feel for the depressed area in the wrist at the base of the wrist. This is an area which is surrounded by bone which enables the solider to nail the 5-7 inch wrought-iron square nail and thus pin the victim’s arm to the cross. He then did the same with his other arm.   He was then lifted up and the cross beam placed atop the pole. (Remember what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:  He said as the serpent was lifted up by Moses, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.) The right foot was extended, toes down over the top of the left foot. A spike was driven in the top of the right foot, about where we would tie our shoes, and driven through the arch of both feet and pin the legs to the pole.  The pain was unbelievably horrendous.

The first immediate instinct at this time was to lift one’s self up by the strength of their arms and shoulders using their pectoral muscles to relieve the pain of all the weight upon their feet. As their arms fatigue and cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in painful cramps, the prisoner is unable to lift and hold his weight off his feet. He then finds due to his paralyzed muscles he is unable exhale the air in his lungs. It is like they are suffocating, unable to breath in air.  The victim pushes up with their leg muscles to enable them to exhale and then inhale oxygen. This was a very painful process.  Often the legs were broken to hasten the death of the prisoner. Jesus would speak 7 times from the cross. Now you understand speaking these words came at the expense of great pain. 

Jesus would speak to others, to His Father, and to His Body or self.

1.     “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” ( Luke 23: 34)  Jesus said this as the soldiers in the crucifixion team gambled for his inner robe. I believe you and I are as responsible for His death as these soldiers. It was our sins which nailed Jesus to the cross and yet He asked His Father to forgive me and you of all our sins and not only our sins, but the sins of the world. What Good News! By His stripes from that horrendous scourging are we healed. He is speaking to His Father on our behalf. The inner robe, the Lord’s undergarment was of one seamless piece. This is why the soldiers gambled for it rather than tear it into four pieces.  The High Priest wore a special robe which was of one piece. Caiaphas tore his robe at Jesus’ trial.  And this very day, the Temple veil which separated the Holy of Holies was rent from top to bottom. This seamless inner garment Our Lord wore represented His inner life- flawless, without sin, perfect.

2.     Never a wasted moment or opportunity as the Lord’s next words are to the believing thief who asks King Jesus to remember him. Jesus replied: “Verily, I say unto you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” ( Luke 23: 43)  Paradise was a compartment of Sheol, the place of the dead. It is also known as Abraham’s bosom. It was separated by a fixed gulf from the Place of Torment. ( Luke 16)  We will discuss this in more detail when we study the Resurrection.

3.     Then Jesus speaks to His mother and John: “ Woman, behold thy son. And to His disciple, “Behold thy mother.”  And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”  ( John 19: 26, 27)  Jesus is making sure His earthly mother is cared for after His death and subsequent resurrection and ascension into heaven.

4.     Then Jesus speaks to His Father, calling out to Him:  “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me. “ ( Matthew 27) It was at this time, the sixth hour that darkness fell over all the land until the ninth hour. This would be from noon to three in the afternoon by our time. It is at this time; Jesus would experience the wrath of God for the sins of the world, including all of mine. I am forgiven because He was forsaken.

5.     Jesus then speaks to the needs of His body:  “I thirst.”  In John 19: 28, John tells us: “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished that Scripture might fulfilled saith, “I thirst.”  Remember Jesus told us He came not to do away with the Word of God but fulfill it, every jot and tittle.

6.     “It is finished!”  Jesus cries out with a loud voice it is finished. Completed. All of the sins paid for- making God’s grace available to all who believe. God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.  He paid it all, all to Him I owe. Surely, He paid much too high a price for me!

7.     “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.”  Matthew 23.  Jesus gave up His life; it was not taken from Him. In John 10, Jesus said: I lay down my life, that I might take it up again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again.   It was 3 pm. The hour the High Priest would sacrifice the Passover Lamb.  A great earthquake shook and the temple veil was rent from top to bottom.


We know since it was a high holy day for the Jews, they had asked that bodies not remain on the cross on the Sabbath day. Thus they asked Pilate to break their legs so they could quicken their deaths.  When they came to Jesus they saw He was already dead, they did not break his legs.  The Passover Lamb was always to be prepared without breaking its bones.

Jesus’ death had been predicted and prophesied in many verses and in detail in the Old Testament. John the Baptist, who was the last Old Testament prophet who showed up in the New Testament told John and Andrew:  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The verse we just quoted above from John 10, Jesus told us He would lay down his life, voluntarily; no man could take it from Him. He said the good shepherd laid down his life for the sheep.  He said like the seed planted in the ground must die in order to bring life, so would he do also.

Was Jesus actually dead?  Absolutely. Those who verified the Lord’s death included his enemies and those who loved Him.  The soldier’s were given orders to break the legs of the victims, but when they came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead. (It was unusual for a crucified victim to die in only six hours.)  So they did not break his legs, which also fulfilled the prophecy none of his bones would be broken.  The soldier took his spear and pierced our Lord’s side and blood and water came forth. John writes: “And he that saw it bare record and his record is true, that you might believe.” (John 19: 35)  In addition another Gospel writer tells us, when Joseph of Arimathea requested the body for burial of Pilate, Pilate requested verification from the Centurion on duty, who confirmed Jesus was indeed dead.


Those loving hands which prepared the Lord for burial knew he was dead. They wrapped him in linen and Nicodemus, a wealthy man, brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, which weighed about a hundred pounds. He was then placed in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea and they would return on Sunday morning to complete the operation.  ‘Living He loved me, dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away, rising He justified freely forever, one day He’s coming- Oh Wonderful Day!


How does this apply to us?  After the fall in the Garden, God who foreknew this would happen, had already put in action a plan of salvation before creation. Of which it is said: “The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the earth.”  When the first Adam sinned, God made a covering for them which included the slaying of an innocent animal to make a covering for Adam and Eve. Thus the shedding of blood of an innocent creature was required to cover their sin. Life is in the blood. And we see God’s law of Sin and Death in action. Adam was forewarned and told in the day he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would die.

Blood and water came from the side of the Lord when the soldier pierced His side with the spear.  By His blood we are justified. Nothing can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus. The blood of sheep, and bulls could not wash away my sins, they only covered them. The sins were placed on an account which had to be settled.  If a person tries to pay for their sins, the wages of sin is death, eternal separation from God in a place of torment, pain, thirst, darkness and isolation. Which is what the Lord Jesus experienced in those three hours. If we accept what God has accepted for the forgiveness of our sins, God showed us in Exodus how the Angel of Death would pass over us as the angel did when God saw the blood of the lamb posted on the lintel and door post of the home.

John tells us of three witnesses in I John 5:  the Spirit, the blood and the water.  “This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ: not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit which bears witness, because the Spirit is Truth.” (I John 5:6)  The blood justified, the water cleanses in the process of sanctification, also water represents baptism when the Spirit came on Pentecost and baptized 3,000 souls into the Lord Jesus Christ. There are the three- the Spirit, the water and the blood.

“ I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2: 20)  A key verse.


Our dual problem called for a dual solution. This is why we speak of the crucifixion, death and burial. The dual solution is the: blood and the cross. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Notice: ALL- every one of us have sinned. Our sins keep us from having a personal relationship with God Almighty. I needed my sins forgiven. The blood of lambs and bulls could not take my sins away, they only covered them. This is why the most important day for the nation of Israel was the Day of Atonement. In Leviticus 16 we find that on the Day of Atonement the blood was taken from the sin offering and brought into the Most Holy Place and there sprinkled before the Lord seven times. It was the High Priest alone who took the blood behind the veil into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled it there to make atonement for the sins of the people. All of these were a type, a foreshadowing of the work the Lord Jesus would do in His redemptive work on the cross. This act done for centuries was a shadow of the good things to come. When Jesus. Our High Priest took His own blood, the blood of the Lamb of God into the perfect tabernacle in heaven and offered it as atonement for not only our sins, but the sins of the world once and for all and forever. 

Now our sins were forgiven. But what about our old nature?  This the second part of the dual remedy for our dual problem- our old nature was a sin nature.  This was the factory which produced the sins.  We sinned because we are sinners by birth.  A person born of Chinese parents is Chinese by nature. He can become a citizen of the USA through a legal process, but he is still a Chinese because he was born a Chinese.  It is the birth that counts. I am a sinner by birth, because by parents were sinners. I was born a sinner. My sins were dealt with by the blood.  But my old nature must be crucified with Jesus. I must reckon it dead and buried with Christ. What came by my first birth must die. Bondage to sin came at our birth. Deliverance from the old nature must come by death. Death is the secret of emancipation. “We died to sin.”(Romans 6:2) All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.


The Lord Jesus on the Cross became our substitute. Since sin and death entered by one man, by one man could it be atoned for, if the one man was without flaw, without sin. His blood would cover the sins of the all the people for all the time. His death secures my forgiveness when I place my faith in His shed blood.  This blood is for God. When God sees the blood sprinkled on the door post of my heart He passes over me.  

When we place our faith in Christ, our old nature is placed in Him at the Cross and we are crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. I was buried with Him, but raised with Him to walk in newness of life.

In Christ there is therefore now no condemnation. The God who created the Laws of Gravity, the atmosphere the very air we breathe, the mountains, the seas, the universe with its immense galaxies and stars so large we cannot imagine their size, created the Law of the Spirit of Life which overruled the Law of Sin and Death.  But notice it is only for those who are in Christ Jesus and Christ Jesus is in us.  The life we now live in the flesh we by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave His life for us.   I have His Life living in me. I can live victoriously because He has secured my victory. My sins are forgiven. His blood covered my sins. My old nature is crucified, dead and buried. I was not only buried with Him, I was raised with Him to walk in newness of life- to walk in the Spirit by faith.

Victory in Jesus, My Savior Forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming Blood!