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October 23, 2022 Speaker: Pastor Bob Davis

Passage: John 19:16-42, Genesis 22:9-14

Link to full service:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pinAAEhiD4



John 19:16b-42

October 23, 2022

Read John 19:16-42

This is the Word of the LORD.

Today is another hard day of preaching.  It is a difficult day of preaching – both for me to speak and for you to hear.

A couple of weeks ago, we read about Judas leaving to betray Jesus.  We read about Jesus telling the disciples that they would desert him and leave him alone.

Last week, we read about Peter’s denial, completing the abandonment Jesus experienced from those who had been following him.  We read about the chief priests’ working the system to have Jesus executed; noting that this was the priestly class of God’s chosen people rejecting their God, rejecting their role as God’s priestly kingdom and holy nation.  We read about Pilate’s taunting of the Jews, his flogging Jesus even though he thought Jesus was innocent.  Eventually, Pilate sat on the judgment seat and handed Jesus over to be crucified.  Pilate represented the world’s condemnation of God.

In today’s verses, Jesus dies on the cross.

In that reading of the gospel, Jesus seemed like a victim; like a lamb being led to the slaughter.  As we read it, we lament that this good man, this good heart, this person who had not hurt anyone and yet was perceived to be a threat – we read how those with religious power abused their authority to have him silenced, to have him tortured, and – ultimately – to have him killed.  The bloodthirsty cries of “crucify him! Crucify him!” ring in our ears, even from this distance.

As we get here to the cross, we wonder, “Why?  Why did this have to happen?  Why did this have to happen this way?  Couldn’t Jesus have done something to get away?” Over and over again, there were off-ramps and opportunities to avoid this very outcome – and it never was.  At each step, we wonder, when will it end?

Today it ends.  Jesus dies on the cross.  He died.  He was dead.  He sure seemed like a victim.  But was he?


As we have heard each week, so we hear again.  Even though we are not going to cover everything there is to cover about these verses, what I want you to hear this: God had everything covered.  God knew exactly what was going to happen at each step of the way.  God was in control at every moment.  There was not one moment where God was not in control.  We are going to hear in each little episode how exactly Jesus was in control.

  1. King of the Jews

We begin with Pilate.  Pilate was the Roman Governor who sat on the judgment seat and finally handed Jesus over to be crucified.  As per Roman custom, he ordered that the charge against Jesus be nailed to a placard over Jesus’ head on the cross.  He had “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” written.  The chief priests objected and petitioned Pilate to modify the placard to read, “This man said he was king of the Jews.”  Pilate, fed up with the chief priests by now, simply responded, “What I have written I have written.”  Thus, the title remained.

Pilate ordered the placard to be inscribed in three languages so that all passing by could read: Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  Hebrew was the language of God’s chosen people.  Latin was the language of the Roman empire.  Greek was the language of the international community of the day . In short, Pilate was unintentionally declaring the truth known to the world, that Jesus was the King of the Jews – exactly as Jesus had declared.

“Therefore, God has given him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess…”

Jesus was not a victim.  God was in charge.

  1. Jesus’ tunic

The soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ tunic, fulfilling prophecies exactly as God had foretold centuries before.

Roman crosses during this period took two forms: an “X” and a “T.”  Because the placard was nailed above Jesus’ head, we know that his was in the form of a “T.”  He would have been laid on the ground, and the soldiers would have nailed him to the cross.  Then they would have hoisted him up to be viewed and ridiculed by all.

The soldiers divided his clothing but cast lots for his tunic.  It was not because the items were particularly valuable to the Romans.  The tunic was the only thing in one piece and gambling for it among the soldiers made this process a little more sporting.  This action would have been unremarkable by itself, but John remembered it for a specific reason.

Psalm 22 specifically talked about this: “They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”  Again, by itself, such a coincidence would not be particularly remarkable.  However, Psalm 22 is familiar to many of us because the other gospels record Jesus reciting this psalm from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  That is how it begins.  Remember, this Psalm was written a thousand years before Jesus was born.  But there, on the cross, there was Jesus crying out, “Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?”

There are 31 verses in Psalm 22.  It is a remarkable poetic description of exactly what Jesus endured.  There are three sections with three distinct types of material.

After the initial cry, verses 2-19, are a lament – a cry of the heart from the person praying.  The petitioner is surrounded by trouble – including the trouble described in the casting of lots for the person’s clothing (in verse 18).  It concludes with the cry, “But you, O LORD, do not be far away!”

The middle section (verses 20-22) includes a prayer for deliverance.  “Deliver me from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!  Save me from the mouth of the lion!  From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.  I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”  For those of you who remember the Hebrews study, you will recognize that language from Hebrews 2:

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.  For this reason, Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,

               “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,

                              in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

And again,

               “I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

               “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.  For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.  Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

The final section of Psalm 22 (verses 23-32) is a call for people to praise God, “You who fear the LORD, praise him!”  The first part of this section included praise and thanksgiving of the person praying, “All you offspring of Jacob glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!  For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me but heard when I cried to him.”  The second part called for the congregation to praise God.  “All the nations of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.”

Though it did not look like it while Jesus was on the cross, God would deliver Jesus’ life through death.  He would experience rescue through death.  He would (and did) proclaim the Father’s name to brothers and sisters in the sanctuary.

 Jesus was not a victim.  God was in charge.

  1. Mary and John

From the cross, Jesus directed the relationship between John, the beloved disciple, and Jesus’ mother, Mary.

John then turned his attention to those at the cross who loved Jesus.  He mentions several women – and using the best understanding of the punctuation, included: first, Jesus’ mother; second, his mother’s sister; third, Mary the wife of Clopas; and fourth, Mary Magdalene.  There were likely others, but these were the ones mentioned by John.  They were standing together because of their time together following Jesus.

John included himself as part of the crowd.  From the cross, Jesus issued commands about family structure.  Even as he was dying, he was showing tremendous love and care.  His direction was almost in the form of a betrothal.  To Mary, his mother, he said, “Woman, here is your son.”  To John, perhaps his cousin, “Here is your mother.”  Even from the cross Jesus was exercising authority consistent with how God intended humankind to be.

Exodus 20:7 commands (as part of the Ten Commandments), “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”  Jesus was ushering in the eternal kingdom of God; and in the midst of that big picture, he took time to take care of his mother in the here and now.

Jesus was not a victim.  Even from the cross, God was in charge.  Even as the world rejected and condemned him, Jesus exercised the authority that was his from eternity and to eternity to command things to be as they should be in the kingdom of God.

  1. “I am Thirsty”

From the cross, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”  Jesus fulfilled a Scripture prophesying about his service and his sacrifice.  Again, he was doing exactly as God had foretold centuries before.

“I am thirsty.”  Though it was a simple statement, John recognized how Jesus was embodying something that King David had described in a Psalm 69 centuries before. “I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.  I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched.  My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”  Later, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

Psalm 69 began with a cry, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”  It also described the scene Jesus must have been observing, “More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; many are those who would destroy me, my enemies who accuse me falsely.”  Then the Psalmist described what Jesus was doing, “It is for your sake that have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.  It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

Like Psalm 22, this psalm concludes with a praise for what God was doing, “Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.  For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; and his servants shall live there and possess it; the children of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall live in it.”

Jesus was experiencing these things in real time.  He was not fulfilling Scripture out of a checklist of things to be said; rather, Jesus was living it.  What John realized was that God had foreseen what would take place and revealed it long ahead.  Who was in charge?  God was.

  1. “It is finished,”

From the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished,” or, more accurately, “It is accomplished.” He declared that he had done what he set out to do.

John Calvin commented on this statement of Jesus,

“If we give our assent to this word which Christ pronounced, we ought to be satisfied with his death alone for salvation, and we are not at liberty to apply for assistance in any other quarter; for he who was sent by the Heavenly Father to obtain for us a full acquittal, and to accomplish our redemption, knew well what belonged to his office, and did not fail in what he knew to be demanded of him.  It was chiefly for the purpose of giving peace and tranquility to our consciences that he pronounced this word, It is finished.[1]

Jesus’ declaration was an exclamation that the mission and ministry had completed successfully; not a failure or defeat. He did what he meant to do.

He was both the high priest making a sin offering and the offering itself.  The writer of Hebrews has a long discourse about what Jesus accomplished, including:

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.

John wrote, “He bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Jesus died.  He did so intentionally, willingly, and at the time that God determined.  He bowed his head and gave up his spirit; in other words, he gave up his life.  It was not taken from him. 

“For this reason, the Father loves me,” Jesus said in John 10, “because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”

  1. His side was pierced.

After John witnessed Jesus’ death, he saw that God was still at work.  The religious leaders who refused to go in to see Pilate so that they could remain ritually pure to celebrate Passover, returned to ask Pilate to break the legs of those who had been crucified so that they would die faster.  Yes, they could cite Deuteronomy 22, “When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.  You must not defile the land that the LORD your God is giving you for possession.”  However, they were far more concerned about their own purity than defiling the land that the LORD their God had given them to possess.

Three things to note here.  First, as the great high priest, hung on the cross for us. Paul would later write, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  In other words, He was innocent and yet sentenced as one who had committed a crime punishable by death; and the truth is that we, by our sinfulness, are due the wages of sin which is death.

Second, the reason why it was important that no bones were broken was because Jesus was the perfect Passover lamb.  In establishing the Passover meal in Exodus 12, God had instructed Moses, “It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the animal outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.”  Later in Psalm 34, the writer declared that God’s care for the Righteous Sufferer included, “He guards every bone of his body, not one of them is broken.”

Third, since Irenaeus, an early church father, the mixture of water and blood with other features of the life of Jesus, such as his hunger and thirst and weariness were understood as evidence of Jesus’ full humanity.  “All these,” Irenaeus said, “are signs of the flesh that was taken from the earth and that he recapitulated in himself in order to save his creation.”

Jesus really lived.  Jesus really died.  He did both intentionally.

               What do we do with all this?

The notion of Jesus being in control does not diminish the scope of what he was accomplishing.  He was fully human and experienced the full range of experience we have.

As difficult as it is to face Jesus’ crucifixion – difficult because we know it was for me, for you, and for us – as difficult as it is, we also know that it is good news that God loves us so much.  The point is NOT that we should spend out lived walking around with the weight of guilt upon our shoulders.  No, it is just the opposite: the weight of guilt – the weight of our sin and unrighteousness – Is no longer on the shoulders of those who have received Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Jesus carried that weight – my weight, your weight, our weight – to the cross for us.  The gospel is good new because Jesus’ sacrifice means that we do not stand alone trying to justify ourselves before the righteous judge.

The upshot is that we have no reason to fear death.  Death does not have the last word; Jesus does.  As the writer of Hebrews declared, “he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.” We do not have to be afraid because death no longer has power over us, “O death, where is your victory; death where is your sting?”

Today, as we dwell on the meaning of Jesus’ death, let me remind you that we have hope that we will be carried through death.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”; why?  I will fear no evil because “You are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

The Good Shepherd, Jesus, faced death.  He endured death.  And, as we will talk about next week, he overcame death.  That victory he gives to those who call on his name.  We can know that now, before our own death, so that we can enjoy eternal life – even as in a mirror dimly – now.

Praise God.  Let our knees bow and our tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.



  1. Was Jesus a victim? Why is it important and how would you answer someone who asked?
  2. How do you perceive death? Are you “Held in slavery by the fear of death” or do you trust that nothing – not even death – can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord?
  3. How would you explain Jesus’ sentence, “It is finished (accomplished).” What was accomplished?

 [1] John Calvin, Commentary on John.