Title: Gospel of John [19:16-25]. Christ's Crucifixion, part 2.
Jesus has not slept in over 24 hours. Since the Passover supper He has not had any food or drink. After the deep emotion of that feast, after the anticipated betrayal of Judas, after the hours in the Garden of Gethsemane were blood dried on His forehead from the pressure, after the scattering of His disciples, to Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and back to Pilate including all the mocking, blows, spitting, pulling of hair, after the scourging and mocking and beating on the head with a reed followed by a crown of thorns; from indignity to indignity, from torture to torture, He had been hurried from one to the other. All throughout He had borne Himself with a divine majesty.
If His divinity gave His humanity meaning and uniqueness, His humanity gave true meaning to voluntary sacrifice.
Yet those who mourned for Him on the street may not have understood their need for a Savior nor that He was the Savior of the world. Anyone with an ounce of compassion would have mourned for Him if they could even bear to look upon Him but when we who are believers consider our complete depravity, our helplessness, our hopelessness, and our need for Him, we mourn more for the darkness on Cavalry, when for three hours He died a spiritual death on our behalf, was separated from His Father while His Father forsook Him and He was judged for all our sins.
He was unable to bear the full weight of His cross.
Simon Peter stated that he would go to prison and death with Christ, but it is another Simon who will help Christ carry His cross.
LUK 23:26 And when they led Him away, they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.
In one of his folksy letters to his mother, Harry Truman wrote, "I went to the White House to see the President and discovered I was the President" Simon had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover (Acts 2:10; 6:9), and he ended up meeting the Passover Lamb!
Mark tells us that Simon is the father of two sons that were known to the Christian community when Mark wrote his gospel from Rome between 60-70 AD.
And they pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.
Cyrene was located just inland of the coast of Libya. Luke states that he was coming in from the country. We are not told why he was chosen or why he may have stood out against any others that might have been chosen, but we can rest assured that God chose him for this task.
We assume that Simon became a believer and went home and led his two sons to the Lord.
Interestingly, and this is all conjecture, there is a Simeon surnamed Niger (Latin for black) listed as a prominent prophet or teacher.
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
Simon is the Hellenized (Greekified) form of Simeon. Cyrene was a Greek city.
Paul stayed in Antioch where he taught and ministered in the church there. It was from Antioch that Paul was sent by the Lord along with Barnabas and his young cousin Mark on his first missionary journey.
Mark records Simon's son Rufus in his gospel.
Paul sends greeting to a Rufus in Rome.
Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.
The implication of greeting Rufus and his mother, and indicating that his mother was like a mother to him brings up some interesting possibilities. Of course this is entirely speculation but fun.
During his years in Antioch, Paul may have stayed in the home of Simon of Cyrene (Simeon named Niger) and was well taken care of by Simon's wife.
Mrs. Simon may have become like a mother to Paul in her great care of him. Simon may have become a believer after carrying Christ's cross, eventually moved to Antioch as he discovered his gift of either prophecy or teaching, and housed Paul as he also taught in the church and prepared himself for his first missionary journey. Paul may have gotten to know Rufus who relocated to Rome to minister to the church there. All are maybes but they are tantalizing.
And so the dreary procession moved on through the streets of Jerusalem and out the gate to the Place of a Skull. When Jesus no longer could carry His cross, Simon carried it behind him and behind Simon were the two murderers. Each cross bearer was surrounded by four Roman soldiers and a sign was carried for each indicating their crimes. The sign that Pilate had made with the inscription "Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews" in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew would have been carried along with Him.
When they reached Golgotha the melancholy preparations for the crucifixion commenced.
Of the different types of crosses used by the Romans early Christian writings as soon as 100 AD describe Jesus' cross as T shaped with the cross beam being attached just below the top of the vertical beam or on top of it. We have not found one cross in all our archeology but we have found one skeleton of a man that was crucified around 100 AD and preserved was a 5 inch nail going through the side of his heel. This would indicate that the feet were nailed to the sides of the vertical beam through the heels. It is likely that a small cross beam or seat was put below the feet so that the victim could bear his weight more easily. It is thought that another small cross beam was put just below the buttocks as a small means of weight bearing. Finally nails were driven through the wrists between the ulna and radius. The seat for the feet and the buttocks were given so that the victim would remain alive on the cross for as long as possible. In paintings the cross is depicted as being taller and taller with time. It is far more likely that the victims feet were no more than a few feet, two to three at most, off the ground. Thus could the communication described in the Gospels take place between Him and others;; thus, also, could He drink from a sponge attached to the short stalk of hyssop. This method of execution wasn't as much about death as it was about torture and humiliation as well as a scare tactic for anyone considering crimes against the state.
In an experiment done for the National Geographic Channel which was aired in a show entitled: Quest for Truth: the Crucifixion a man was placed on a cross in just the way described (without the nails of course) with his hands tied to the cross beam and his feet able to use the bottom seat and the middle seat for support and he could not last more than 20 minutes. The strain on his shoulders, back, and legs were unbearable and his exposure to the weather (he only wore a small loin cloth while Jesus would have been naked) began to make him shiver uncontrollably.
The nails through the wrists penetrated the median nerve which would send unbearable shooting pains down the arms. The nails through the feet would have sent a similar pain up the legs and thighs. In order to breath the victim would have to life himself up to inhale and then relax downward to exhale. To lift up was one agonizing pain and to relax was another. That is two agonizing shots of pain for every breath. Moving up and down on the cross to breath would make the lacerated back of the victim, which he received from his scourging, scrape against the wood of the cross. Added to this was the exposure to the elements which was designed both to embarrass and to cause pain. The wind and cool air would start to cause the victim to shiver, tightening his muscles, which would make it even harder to breathe. This form of execution was pure agony.
Christ turned an obscene instrument of torture into a throne of glory. He reigned from the cross.
MAT 27:33 And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull,
MAT 27:34 they gave Him wine to drink mingled with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.
It was a merciful Jewish practice to give to those led to the execution a draught of strong wine mixed with myrrh [Mark's account] so as to deaden pain and consciousness.
This concoction is not strong. The wine was usually watered down and so became bitter more quickly, to which the Romans would add various things for flavor and effect. When Jesus tasted it He refused it.
Christ would meet His cross fully aware and cognizant and would not give His enemies any small claim to His receiving any natural or earthly help.
He refused the cup of sympathy so that He might better drink the cup of iniquity.
He was nailed to the cross and the sign bearing "This is Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews" in three languages was affixed above Him.
JOH 19:17 They took Jesus therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.
The Latin equivalent of Golgotha, which means skull, is Calvary.
JOH 19:18 There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.
He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
JOH 19:19 And Pilate wrote an inscription also, and put it on the cross. And it was written, "JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS."
JOH 19:20 Therefore this inscription many of the Jews read, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek.
JOH 19:21 And so the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews'; but that He said, 'I am King of the Jews. '"
JOH 19:22 Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."
The titulus, the sign that recorded the crime committed was carried in front of the prisoner on the way to Golgotha. The Jews likely protested the sign before they reached Golgotha. They asked for Pilate to change it to read, "Jesus of Nazareth who claims to be King of the Jews."
It appears that the place of crucifixion was by a roadside so that the inscription could be read by all who passed by on their way into the city and out of it. These were made very public by the Romans as a warning to others.
Many Jews read an inscription ordered written by a Gentile that bore witness of their King. This was the first gospel tract.
As when Pilate announced Jesus as King of the Jews so now with the sign he is attempting to annoy the Jews as well as exempt himself from any guilt.
The soldiers divided up His garments equally and then cast lots for His seamless inner garment.
John, as an eye witness, gives us the most detailed account of this.
JOH 19:23 The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece.
JOH 19:24 They said therefore to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots."
They divide my garments among them,
And for my clothing they cast lots.
JOH 19:25 Therefore the soldiers did these things.
We noted some time ago the typology of the seamless inner garment.
The seamless inner garment represents the seamless word of God that is held within and that provides covering against nakedness, which is the life of the person without God.
The unbeliever is naked and the believer outside of fellowship with God reaps the effects of nakedness, even though he is not naked.
To the church at Laodicea:
'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
It was not torn just as the word of God cannot be torn. It was given to mankind just as the word of God is given freely. The book The Robe is a wonderful fictional story about the soldier who won this garment.
John is silent about the verbal abuse that was hurled at Him while He hung on the cross about to pay the ransom for all sin.
The accounts of Matthew and Mark are almost identical.
Jesus was crucified close to an intersection of two roads that led out of the north of Jerusalem. Many of the passersby are those traveling in and out of the city.
During the feast many are coming and going. There are many at Jerusalem for this feast, many camped outside the city. Travelers were arriving and leaving as well and those roads are no more than two hundred yards from the crucifixion cite which is on a hill. Jesus was crucified very publically and all could see the titulus or sign above His head reading "King of the Jews."
MAT 27:39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads,
MAT 27:40 and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."
What makes this hard to endure is that He can come down off that cross at any moment.
The Lord likely healed thousands of people from ailments and yet He would not heal Himself of even a scratch.
MAT 27:41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him, and saying,
MAT 27:42 "He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him.
To save Himself would mean that no one of the human race would be saved.