John, the writer, is not Mel Gibson. He spares us all the gory details about beatings and the crucifixion. John is not out to win Jesus followers based on sympathy, emotion or horror. Throughout – or at least up to Chapter 19, John’s message has been what he perceived Jesus to have been saying – “I am God in the flesh, come to make the Father known to anyone who will believe and to welcome them into an eternal relationship with us.”
So, just the facts: So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Now I see the picture in my mind because we’ve all seen a movie or a drawing – a road, winding up to a hill, three crosses, the tallest center one holds Jesus and there is a sign nailed above His head.
It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. Now that’s what I’m talking about…a billboard arranged by Pilate. The other Gospels expand on the amount and kind of foot traffic that passed this location “near the city” and it was high and varied. Interesting Pilate had the inscription in three languages – no translation needed.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” What did Pilate know? I don’t think he was just saying, “Naw, just leave it. I don’t want to bother with a rewrite.” I don’t even think he was just trying to tick off the Jews. I think he was shaken by his encounter with Jesus and couldn’t get His claims out of his mind. I think he was too afraid not to acknowledge Jesus in some way. Of course this offends the message the Jews want publicized.
The soldiers take Jesus’ clothing and divide it up. Why tell? This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” John’s is the only Gospel that tells about this fulfillment of Scripture. And from where is this taken? Psalm 22:18. This is the Psalm, written by David about 1000 years BC that describes the suffering of death by crucifixion as well as this tidbit about the clothes. It seems perfectly in keeping with John’s testimony that Jesus is to be believed.
So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John is the only Gospel that tells this story. Maybe it’s because John is the disciple mentioned – “the disciple whom he [Jesus] loved”. You have to think – Jesus is hanging on the cross. He has been nailed alive to some wood and hoisted in the air – He has to be in pain. Still He looks down and sees His mother and asks His friend to take care of her. (Really, it’s a challenge not to focus on one’s own pain much less in the midst look out for someone else!)
In contrast to the soldiers’ gambling over a jacket there are these three Mary’s and at least one disciple standing with Jesus. I have all kinds of things to say about the staying power of women but does loyalty, devotion, fidelity, allegiance, even cover it here? Could they even process this event? The implications of this scene go in a million directions. Your son, your family, your friend, your teacher is being killed. The claims He offered to save the world – the ones you bought into – look like they are going up in smoke. When life falls apart and crashes in around your ears where do you end up….at the foot of the cross – that’s where.
In every way and in every circumstance God is always loving and caring for us.
When life falls apart and crashes in around my ears, where do I end up….at the foot of the cross – that’s where.
About the World?
Don’t be distracted by things. They don’t last. You for eternity – that’s another matter.