John 19 – The King is dead


We are in the sentencing, death and burial chapter of Jesus’ earthly ministry from John’s account. Jesus has prepared his disciples for this hour and has gone ever so willingly to be put on trial. In 18:28-40, Pilate had interviewed Jesus and tried to release him to the crowd only to hear the crowd replay, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas the rebel!” Peter had shown bravery in the face of persecution to begin with but then succumbed to temptation and denied being one of Jesus’ followers. Jesus has willingly given himself over to people who hate him.


Verses 1-16 – Jesus is the King

The theme of Jesus being a king is carried throughout this section. He is mocked as a ‘so-called’ king in verses 1-5 while being jeered and flogged. The reason for his condemnation is on the basis of blaspheme – claiming to he the Son of God – in verses 6-7. Jesus belittles the power that Pilate has in verses 8-11. The crowd corner Pilate into sentencing Jesus on the basis that he claims to be a king in verses 12-16.

Notice how powerless the rulers of this world are over sin.

Firstly, the Jewish leaders have decided that Jesus needs to die on the basis that he is blaspheming. They cannot accept that he is actually the Son of God. The Word of God who has come into this world is being rejected by people. They have not believed Jesus, but have hate for him.

Secondly, the character in the story who thinks he’s in charge has very little control over what happens next. Verse 10, “Pilate said, ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’” Jesus’ reply is effectively: it is by God’s design that you are here sentencing me…the people have put me here before you…you are not in as much control as you think you are!

Thirdly, the crowd used a political angle against Pilate to force him to sentence Jesus to death. Verse 16 reads like Pilate surrendering to the only outcome that could happen. Of course, Pilate could have set Jesus free, but that would have been a miracle from God, and God has already decided that the cross will happen.

v1 “crown of thorns.” It’s interesting that the crown placed on Jesus’ head to mock him is made out of thorns. Not only is it a painful crown to wear but it is also one of the markers of the curse in Genesis 3 – that the ground will produce thorns and thistles. Now Jesus literally wears part of the curse on his head as he goes to the cross to pay for the sins of the world.

v7 “according to that law he must die.” See Leviticus 24:16. Remember that the Jews wanted Pilate to kill Jesus because it was the eve of the Passover and they didn’t want blood on their hands. So ridiculous. See also John 5:18 and 10:33 where they had previously tried to kill Jesus themselves for the same reason.

V13 Gabbatha – clearly this is Aramaic for Stone Pavement, or the name of the same judge’s seat. While the NT is written in Greek, the common language and often the first language for the Jews was Aramaic. The difference between Hebrew and Aramaic is, put simply, Hebrew was the ancient Jewish language which the bulk of the OT was written in while Aramaic overtook this as the common language by the time Jesus was on earth. John referred to Aramaic words in 5:2 and 19:17.

Verses 16-24 – What the soldiers did

This section begins and ends with the soldier’s actions. There appears to have been four of them (v23) escorting three prisoners (v18). Although we are told that the soldiers ‘take charge’, John describes it in a very different way!

Notice how well this event has been orchestrated by God.

Firstly, Jesus is being told where to go, what to carry and then pinned to the cross. His involvement is passive.

Secondly, Pilate makes one more statement about this situation as if to rub it in the Jew’s face. By organising a sign which is clearly aimed at biting back at the Jews for their sinister strategy, Pilate creates an image that has gone down in history – a man stripped naked and put to death on the most cruel and shameful method of the time is labelled “King of the Jews”. It’s like a modern day meme! This is how our world treats the King of Kings! The disciples didn’t put this sign there. Jesus didn’t either. But a malicious sneer from Pilate back at the Jews has told the world in three different languages, that they are crucifying their king.

Thirdly, and most profoundly, one aspect of Psalm 22 (a psalm that seems written entirely for the episode of Jesus on the cross) is played out and clearly understood. How can clothes be divided AND gambled for simultaneously? Well, John describes it perfectly.

Verses 25-37 It is finished

In these verses, Jesus speaks from the cross. Firstly, he talks to his mother and John and directs them to become family now. The mother who raised Jesus and the disciple whom Jesus loved are to comfort and support one another for the remainder of their lives. What love Jesus shows to others even when he is suffering. Secondly, Jesus says that he is thirsty and after he receives some wine vinegar, he declares that “it is finished.” Only then does he give up his spirit.

Notice how prepared Jesus was for this event.

Firstly, Jesus describes his death on the cross as a “finished” task. Something is finished, says Jesus, as he hangs there. Clearly, Jesus doesn’t feel like he’s in the wrong place or that his mission has failed. Anybody reading John’s gospel with their eyes and ears open would not conclude that Jesus didn’t mean to end this way. Lookup John 4:34; 5:36; and 17:4 to see that Jesus was concerned with finishing all of the work that his Father had sent him to do. This included his death on the cross.

Secondly, this was a work that the rest of the scriptures had been forecasting, see verses 24. 29, 36 and 37 in fulfilment of Ps 22:18 ; 69:21; 34:20 and Zech 12:10. God has had this moment planned for a very long time. The words of Jesus in John 16:2 become quite ironic as the people are killing him and thinking that they are offering a service to God. In killing him, they are doing exactly as God had predicted. Note, that this does not make them innocent of his blood since it is there own free will that has nailed Jesus to the cross. How interesting too that Zechariah 12:10 can be a prediction of a death on the cross!

About the water and the blood. Although John also uses this phrase in 1 John 5:6-8, the two phrases are better understood as unrelated. In John’s gospel, the author is giving eye-witness evidence that Jesus’ body was dead. If there are any medical students or practitioners in your group, you might allow them a moment to say something. The point, however, is to say that Jesus was dead. The words surrounding this make it clear that there was a witness to this and his words are true. Whether there is a scientific explanation to this, I don’t know. Is there a spiritual or fulfilment element to this, I am also unsure. It has been linked to Moses striking the rock in Exodus and to the water flowing out of the temple in Ezekiel. Personally, I am satisfied that the account makes it clear that Jesus didn’t die from the spear nor from crucifixion (in the normal sense). He gave up his spirit and was dead on the cross within only hours. Note John 10:18 “No one takes it fro me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Verses 38-42 Jesus is dead.

It seems that the large crowd crying for Jesus’ death have no concern for him once he’s dead. Only two men with the will and ability to take care of Jesus’ body are at hand to provide Jesus’ body with a burial place.

Notice how neatly the body of Jesus is given a tomb.

Firstly, there doesn’t appear to be a fight for the right of Jesus’ body. Since it is the eve of the Passover and the special Sabbath day, almost all of the Jews are concerned to keep clear of any dead bodies or else they will be unclean (John 18:28).

Secondly, two Jews who are followers of Jesus have the means and ability to deal with Jesus’ body. We know Nicodemus from chapter 3 and since he and Joseph of Arimathea are working together now, it is possible that they had talked much about Jesus and his claims prior to this.

Thirdly, the tomb appears perfect for Jesus. It is close to the site of the crucifixion. It is a brand new tomb. It is not being used by anybody else.

The arrangements for Jesus body seem too perfect to be an accident.

Notice too, I know it sounds obvious, but that Jesus is dead.

He had given up his spirit (v30), confirmed dead (v34) and then laid in a tomb by two intelligent men. Pilate was aware that Jesus was dead. Jesus…was…dead. This is the eternal Word (John 1). The one who came from the Father’s side (John 16:28) and who prayed that God would bring him glory like he had from the beginning (John 17:1-5). He died. Human beings killed him.

At this point, I imagine a movie of Joseph and Nicodemus taking, preparing and laying Jesus’ body in the tomb and the tomb closing. The whole sequence is shot in slow motion. And over the top of some celtic choir comes the very words of Jesus himself as he spoke about death in John. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (5:24) “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (8:51) “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (11:4) “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (11:11) “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (12:32-33) The tomb closes. the camera stays there a little longer as if to expect Jesus to burst out. But then the camera fades to black. We have to wait.


The true King of the world has fulfilled the mission that he came to earth to do while the fake rulers of this world shout and scream as if they are getting worthwhile things done too. The wisdom and strength of the world is foolishness and weakness to God. The strength and might and power of this world is nothing compared to the mighty work completed by God. Who would have known, looking on that scene at the cross, that Jesus was carefully completing his mission on earth.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.


  1. Walk by faith and not by sight. God’s plans are long and he is patient but sure. Man’s plans are shallow, short-term, impatient and fickle. Stand firm on the rock and not upon the sand. Like Jesus said: this is eternal life (this is what’s foundational and fundamentally important for you): that we know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent. Giving our attention, effort, time and commitment to things of this world is to deny the eternal plans and steadfastness of God. So, keep close to God. Allow God to shape your thinking. Put to death the things of this world. Embrace the new creation that God is working in you and put to death the old self.
  2. Jesus is the absolute King. The theme of kingship is strong in John 19 and while Jesus is mocked as being the king, all other characters in the passage are working to his plans rather than their own. Don’t worry if Jesus appears to be weak in this world. Don’t be discouraged if the words and plans of people put Jesus down. Be sure that you stand up for Jesus. You create in your heart a throne for Jesus. In all of your thoughts and plans, acknowledge Jesus as King. What do you think King Jesus would say to you at the moment?
  3. All of God’s promises are YES in Christ (2 Cor 1:20). The passage was full of fulfilment type moments as Jesus died on the cross. All of the OT points to Jesus and his ministry of salvation. That is, the work of Christ is not a small thing for God. It is not a last minute plan. It is not a plan B. And neither are the future plans of God. Jesus said that all who believe and put their trust in him will not die but will live. Jesus calls us to follow him and live. So let’s take up our cross and follow him.


Father God, thank you for keeping to your plan of salvation which is found in Jesus death resurrection. As we linger between the moment of Jesus’ death and his victorious resurrection, we give humble and hearty thanks for his sacrifice for us. Please help us to bring glory to you with the joy that comes from knowing you through your beloved Son. Please forgive us for our betrayal of you. Thank you for your love which seeks us before we seek you. As we wait for our own death and resurrection, please help us to be bold followers of Jesus. Amen.

John 18 – Who’s the boss?

Opening question

Share a story of a person, fictional or not, who looked average or weak but actually was someone important. Aragorn from Lord of the Rings is one example.


Chapter 19 begins with the words: “When he had finished praying…” Jesus has finished a chapter-long prayer about the future of his disciples and the disciples that follow after them. Looking at the ESV, we see that it’s not just Jesus’ prayer but everything that Jesus has said in chapters 13-17. He has finished addressing and preparing his disciples for the pain that they are about to go through. Now the time as come – the hour is here – Jesus and the disciples are on the move.


The NIV headings seem quite appropriate for the structure and purpose of each section. We are in narrative mode again now, so the story really speeds up. After five chapters of monologue – lots of theology but not much action – we now get into the action.

Reading this chapter is not difficult and you may wonder what there is to discuss. Jesus is arrested, Peter denies Jesus and the high priest(s) get it way wrong. But the juice is in the great contrast between Jesus and each of the other named characters in the story. Let’s get started.

Verses 1-14 – Jesus Arrested

The Kidron Valley. Here’s a little easter egg for us. It’s good to notice names and places and see if they take us anywhere. The Kidron Valley is mentioned a couple of times in the bible. Looking each of these references up is interesting but the one reference that stands out is from 2 Samuel 15:23. King David was the rightful king of Israel, but his own kin wanted him dead. He made the decision to leave the city with all of his faithful followers and head across the Kidron Valley. Jesus, like David before him, accepted the hate of his enemies and hoped that his God would protect him. He was accompanied by those who wished to stand alongside their Lord.

On the other side there was a garden. This is most likely the garden of Gethsemane which was toward the north, easily accessed via the Kidron Valley. What’s interesting here is that John doesn’t focus on Jesus’ prayer in the garden like other gospels do. We want to stick to the narrative that John is focusing on. Let’s keep to his account which doesn’t contradict, but focuses our attention elsewhere.

Verse 3 – Judas came with soldiers carrying weapons. Verse 3 and verse 10 show how forceful the people coming to Jesus looked. Jesus, who is likely to have never carried a weapon, is confronted with a small army to arrest him. It’s hard to imagine why this is so. The chief priests and Pharisess clearly anticipated a strong resistance from Jesus and his followers. The way that Jesus interacts with the crowd and with Peter highlight his anti-violence approach to this situation – but more than this – it demonstrates how convicted Jesus is about who he is and what he is doing in contrast to everyone else in the scene who is “overdressed” and clearly not in control.

Notice how possible it is for a so-called disciple to betray Jesus in such an extreme way. Earlier that night, Judas had been with the eleven in Jesus’ company. He leads the way to reject Jesus as king. We only avoid falling away when we take our eyes off the things of this world and fix them on Jesus. This was a major theme in the passages where Judas was absent.

Verse 5 – “I am he” and they fell to the ground. The “I AM” statements of Jesus are famous in the book of John. The phrase appears 24 times in John

  • (eight of these occurrences are Jesus repeating himself or incidental).
  • Seven of these are Jesus defining himself in metaphor: 6:35 (bread of life), 8:12 (light of the world), 10:7 (the gate), 10:11 (good shepherd), 11:25 (the resurrection and the life), 14:6 (the way, truth and life), 15:1 (the true vine).
  • Nine times, they are Jesus declaring bluntly that he is the one that people are looking for: John 4:26, 6:20, 8:24, 8:58 (I AM), 9:9, 13:19, 18:5,6,8 (I AM).

In 18:5-8, Jesus is presenting himself clearly, unashamed and yet powerfully before his enemies. Like 8:58, Jesus uses the I AM statement similar to the way God presented himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14. This may explain why the people fell backward when Jesus spoke to them. There is a strange power present with Jesus here where his simple words knock down an army. A subtle power has been with Jesus in all his miracles. Remember how he was able to single-handedly drive marketers out of the Temple area?

Verse 11 – “Shall I not drink my Father’s cup?” It is clear in these first 11 verses how willing Jesus was to be arrested. He could have controlled the army himself. He could have allowed Peter to try and stop the enemy by force. He even knew that this event was about to happen and so could have remained hidden to the public. But he is willing to receive from his Father what has already been planned (Isaiah 51:17; Matt 26:39).

Verse 12-14 – Caiaphas the High Priest. They brought Jesus to Annas before taking Jesus to Caiaphas (v24). John 18 is a bit confusing as to who is the high priest but it seems to suggest that there were more than one. If this sounds odd, it should. There was only to be one high priest. A good explanation is that Caiaphas was the current high priest and that Annas had previously been a high priest (a bit like a previous president) and that Annas still holds sway and influence. I think the greatest take-away from this confusion is that the Jewish religion at the time of Jesus was corrupt and screwed up. The high priest role was meant to be held for years before being handed on to the next candidate. But records have shown that there was almost a new high priest for every year (a bit like the Australian PM). Annas is possibly the one who had done the deal with Judas and that’s why Jesus went to Annas first. Caiaphas is highlighted as the one who spoke about the benefit of one dying for the good of the many – ironic that he would be the one responsible for the execution.

Bringing verses 1-14 to a close: Jesus knows exactly who he is and where he is going: the True King of Israel, the I AM, who is going to drink the cup that the Father has planned for him. In great contrast: the mob don’t know what they are doing, (too many people, carrying weapons, unable to stand up to one single unarmed man and being led by a traitor). AND the whole thing being orchestrated by the high priest(s) who don’t really know who is in charge (at least I don’t).

Verses 15-18 Peter’s first denial

The “other” disciple is likely to be John, the writer. By not naming this disciple, it places John in the perfect position to narrate. He is in the story but only as an observer. John was a disciple of Jesus who had previously been a disciple of John the baptist. Is it possible that he had once been in contact with the now high priest? This is one commentator’s suggestion. Perhaps John was always keen to seek the truth and the truth lead him to Jesus.

Peter had shown his zeal in the garden but now he begins to show his weakness. Perhaps a lesson for us here is that we should never think of ourselves as too strong to resist temptation. Peter feared fleeing but he also feared being drawn into Jesus’ arrest. Perhaps it would have been wiser for Peter to keep away that night. Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or STAND in the way that sinners take or SIT in the company of mockers.”

Verses 19-23 Before the High Priest

Verse 22– “Is this the way you answer the high priest?!” It’s so twisted! The book of Hebrews (eg, 4:14-15) convinces us that there is no longer any priest or high priest but Jesus – our great high priest! Israel has just struck him across the face and asked, “is this the way you [treat] the high priest!!!!?” Crazy. But God’s love is that he will go to the cross even being treated this way.

Notice again the violence toward Jesus who only seeks to speak the truth and asks his accusers to seek it too (verses 20-21). Again, Jesus knows who he is and that he stands for truth because he is the truth. Those around him are not interested in the truth and are not even aware of the irony of their situation.

Verses 25-27 – Peter’s second and third denial

John 13:38 was when Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Jesus. Again, the lesson from Peter is to be aware of our weakness and ability to fail. But recall the full knowledge that Jesus had of Peter’s denial and yet still called him his true disciple in chapter 17.

Peter’s part in this story highlights again how in control Jesus is over his situation and how out of control those around him are. Jesus knew Peter would behave this way. Peter didn’t know he would, even though he had been warned! Even Jesus’ disciples are uncertain of who they are and what they are meant to be doing.

Verses 28-40 Before Pilate

Verse 28 – In order to remain clean and pure for the Passover, they handed an innocent man over to an unclean Gentile to do their dirty work. It’s so ironic and hypocritical. With one hand they offer service to God and with the other, they deny God’s servant. With their bodies, they pursue righteousness but in their hearts they put righteousness to death. The greatest irony is that both their love of religion and their hate of God are in pursuit of a good Passover – one that is meaningless and the other which is glorious. But they don’t understand which is which.

Verse 32 – the kind of death Jesus had predicted – see Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-33

Verse 37 – “You are a king then!” says Pilate. Jesus’ reply is in effect: “not A king but THE king!” His very purpose of being born was to present the truth and everyone who cares for truth is for me. He isn’t exactly claiming royalty but isn’t he declaring himself to be in very nature God? He is the very representation of truth and that has been me since birth! Pilate, of course, throws up his hands and declares “what is truth?” – the perfect answer from someone who dosn’t want to take sides and actually listen to the truth. He apparently cares little for truth.

Verse 40 – The perfect conclusion to the arrest and conviction of Jesus. Arrest him by night and by exaggerated force. Deny any fare trial from the Jews who would not listen to reason and hand him over to the Gentiles who couldn’t care less. Then accept the gift of a freed rebel while pretending that an innocent man is worthy of death. No not the king of the Jews but the rebel, Barabbas!


What a remarkable contrast between the King of Kings and the people who think they rule the world!

Jesus is the light of the world and the word of God. He has been hated by the world which prefers the darkness (coming to him at night) and has no interest for the truth. The True King of Israel has departed and crossed the Kidron Valley, the valley of death, accompanied by his faithful but weak disciples. He is willing to accept the cup that God above has prepared for him and he will submit to the hypocrisy, irony and foolishness of the world that is rejecting him. Religion is not about truth. The world is lost when it fails to recognise its king. The world would remain lost if the King didn’t pursue his mission.


  1. How double minded, weak, close-minded, selfish and hypocritical people are. How single minded, strong, truth-loving, selfless and steadfast is our King. Who will we get behind, people or Jesus? He knows who he is, what the truth is, and what it will cost to stay true to himself and the Father. We will do well to remember to fix our eyes on him.
  2. Religion is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. When the works of men are put before truth, there is a problem. When days, ceremonies or practices are put before true love and worship, the Spirit of God is not in that (John 4 speaks into this application too.) The Jews placed the remembrance of the Passover before the True Passover. There are many applications here but the clearest would be a love for the Lord’s Supper more than love for the Lord. Jesus said, if you love me, love one another! There is way more effort needed to love one another than there is to eat and drink ceremonially.
  3. Praise God for his love and patience with this world. The high priest and his servants, the Roman Governor, Simon Peter and even Judas were all against him. Yet he is willing to drink the Father’s cup for us. The wrath that we deserve is given to him. The wrath earned by rejecting the truth and denying the Word of God, so clearly shown in this chapter, is being willingly accepted by the Great I AM himself. What a great God we have.


LORD of all creation, please accept our praise and worship as we consider the way you loved this world. Please help us to follow Jesus confidently, bravely, truly and always. Thank you for your love and grace even when we fail. May we always look to Jesus as our great Passover lamb and worship you in Spirit and in Truth. Amen.