Focal Passage: John 19:17-42
Capital punishment is a controversial subject in our society. Not so long ago our own nation often looked the other way from hangings in the South. Even today we discuss the most effective way for a murderer to be punished. Death by electric chair or by lethal injection are both quite humane compared to the gory carnage of a Roman crucifixion. Our minds are numbed to the violence in places like Iraq and Syria and mindless acts of terrorism. Beyond our finite comprehension is the fact of the death of Christ on the Cross. We used to sing about “The Old Rugged Cross” as a symbol of suffering and shame. We do not sing that much anymore. That a God of love would allow His only Son to suffer that humiliating death is sometimes more than we can stomach!
The scourging, the crown of thorns and the abuse from the soldiers so weakened Jesus that He could not complete the journey to the place of crucifixion. Calvary, from the Latin word for “skull” is sung about as a “Hill Called Mount Calvary” when in reality it was a place of execution for the most vile of criminals. He died between two common thieves with an audience of religious bigots, curious soldiers, just a few of his followers, and Mary, His mother. She had been warned that a sword would pierce her soul; how painful the hours must have been for her. Painful also for God, His Father, but there was no other way. “Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
Christ’s death by crucifixion fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament books of Psalms, Isaiah, Zechariah, and many others. Psalm 22:1 was quoted by Jesus from the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There was never a more lonely moment for a human being when Jesus suffered the isolation and abandonment on the cross. Physical pain was magnified by the emotional trauma He experienced. Yet, in this most awful moment Jesus thought about His mother. He had time for the repentant thief beside Him. He even prayed for those who were killing Him. He admitted His thirst and thereby demonstrated His humanity. He committed His Spirit to the Father after stating “It is finished!”
He had accomplished the task He came to do.
John’s gospel gives more detail about the crucifixion than the others. Remember, His intent is to declare to us the extent of the Father’s love. The Father turned His back on Jesus because He could not in His righteousness look at the sin of an evil world heaped upon Him. Yet, Christ died for our sins! Jesus paid it all. “Christ’s blood is heaven’s key” (Brooks). “The doctrine of the death of Christ is the substance of the gospel” (Charnock). “One drop of Christ’s blood is worth more than heaven and earth” (Luther). “If we would live right it must be by the contemplation of Christ’s death” (Spurgeon). “If I would appreciate the blood of Christ I must accept God’s valuation of it, for the blood is not primarily for me but for God” (Nee). Paul said, “God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
I believe John was an eyewitness to the crucifixion. He was addressed by Christ from the cross. He, as the beloved disciple, felt it his duty to not only care for Jesus’ mother, but to record for you and me the triumph and the tragedy of the Cross. He records the compassion of our Lord, His humanity, and His completion of His task,
The end of the chapter tells us of Christ’s burial in a borrowed tomb. Joseph and Nicodemus joined together and became outspoken followers of Jesus. The lavish provision of spices, myrrh, and aloes reminds us of the gifts brought by the wise men. They wanted Him to have a decent burial and made every effort not realizing that His tomb was borrowed just for three days. Yes, Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
God made Him to be sin who knew no sin. Good Friday was a dark day when evil did its best to overcome good, but thanks be to God, though it was a terrible Friday, Sunday was coming when He who died would be victorious over the grave.
— Dean lives in Orlinda. He is the retired executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.