PASTOR ALLWIN JOHNSON - THE KING GLORIFIED (JOHN 19:16b-42)
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THE KING GLORIFIED (JOHN 19:16b-42)

 

PASTOR ALLWIN JOHNSON

Introduction: Here, John has reached the climax of the Gospel of John. Jesus' glorification through his crucifixion, death and burial. The theme of kingship of Jesus, which is dominated all over the John's gospel has come to its culmination. The King, with all his consciousness, ascends to his throne, the cross and his Kingship was declared by a Roman king to all the world, in trilingual inscription. Finally, his kingship was proved again by his kingly burial. Let us see how he enthrones.

Crucifixion of Jesus (16b-27) : Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to be crucified and handed him over to the Jew's wish (16a) and the soldiers took him to be crucified (compare 16b; 23). In vs.17, Jesus carried his own cross to Golgotha. Carson says, the Greek phrase, (Bastazwn e[autw| ton stauron) literally means carrying the cross for himself.[1] But Brown refers to D. Tabachovitz, who argues that e[autw is an instrumental dative, equivalent to di. e[autou (by himself), which contradicts with Synoptics.[2] But Bruce says, John is not deliberately contradicting the synoptical account of Simon the Cyrene.[3] He emphasizes that Jesus is all-sufficient to carry the cross alone for our sins. But it could also be an apologetic towards the heresy, which says, Simon the Cyrene took Jesus' place and died on the cross in his stead.[4]

            In Roman practice, each criminal as a part of his punishment carries his cross (the horizontal bar) on his back.[5] Even Jesus carried his cross to the place of skull. As Brown observes, according to the Jewish custom, the only Jewish capital punishment called “stoning” took place outside the camp or city (Num 15:35; Acts 7:58).[6] Likewise, Jesus was taken out of the city to Golgotha. In Aramaic word Gulgolta and the Hebrew word Gulgōlet, mean “skull, cranium”and the Latin equivalent is calvaria.[7] Kanagaraj says, The place was not called because the skulls of those executed were there, but because it looked like a skull.[8]

            In vs.18, Jesus was crucified with two others.[9] Here, we see Jesus was crucified with two others on either side. Synoptics give a little detail about them, Mark and Matthew name them as bandits (lhstai) and Luke calls them as criminals (kakourgoi). Brown suggests that the prisoners are taken in the same insurrection in which Barabbas was arrested (Mark 15:7).[10] And the criminals on either side, reminds us of the fulfillment of Isaiah (53:12) and Psalms (22:17).

            In vss.19-22, there is a clash between Jewish leaders and the Governor Pilate about the titulus. Carson hints that it was a custom in which the crime of the sentenced person will be written on a tablet or placard and hung around his neck. Once the prisoner is crucified, the placard often fastened to the cross. The Latin word for this card is titulus. Pilate wrote “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in a titulus and fastened it on the cross. Since it was written in Aramaic, Greek and Latin, all people (including gentiles) around the city could read it. But the Chief Priests were irritated over the title given to Jesus and protested against Pilate to change the inscription. Barrett says, the Jew's objection to the titulus was natural. Because to suggest that a powerless, condemned, and dying outcast was the king of their nation was a studied insult.[11] But Pilate, who once yielded to the pressure of Jews, now refused them.

            As Brown says, in any case the John's primary motive in this episode is theological.[12] From the beginning, John is emphasizing the kingship of Jesus and now the culmination of those have taken place. Barrett says that this titulus suggests, on one hand the price paid by the Jews for the rejection of their king, namely the condemnation and destruction of Judaism and of its age long hopes.[13] On the other hand, as Brown interprets, the real enthronement happened on the cross when the kingship of Jesus is acknowledged by heraldic proclamation ordered by the representative of greatest political power of that time.[14] Even the trilingual proclamation of the title is the official announcement of Jesus' kingship to the world.[15] Kanagaraj gives it rightly, “the very claim for which Jesus was delivered to be crucified now becomes an established fact, and is indeed the final verdict of the Roman Governor.”[16] And Brown says, the Pilate insistence may be an ironic way of hinting that eventually the gentiles will acknowledge the kingship that the Jews deny.[17]

            In vss.23-24, the soldiers took the cloth of Jesus, divided it into four and shared among themselves. Barrett hints that in Roman practice the cloths of an executed criminal were a recognized perquisite of the executioners.[18] As Brown doubts, this stripping may have left Jesus naked, as it was normal in Roman treatment of the crucified. But Jews generally dislike the public nudity, so there is a possibility, that the soldiers remained a breechcloth on Jesus' body.[19] The four soldiers shared the outer garment (to I[mation) and casted lot for the inner tunic (kitwna). And this is mentioned as the fulfillment of Psalms (22:18). But most scholars find John's ignorance of Hebrew poetry and misapplication of Scripture. Because John distinguishes inner and outer garments, where in Psalms it is not distinguished.

            Brown suggests, that the seamless tunic woven in one piece is meant to remind the reader of the clothing of the high priest (Exo.28:4; Lev.16:4) and thus to proclaim that Jesus died not only as a king but also as a priest.[20] In support of this argument, he refers Josephus, who describes the ankle length tunic (kitwn) of the high priest as one long woven cloth, not composed of two pieces. But Kanagaraj denies this saying, the OT seamless cloth was the High Priest's outer garment but for Jesus it is his inner tunic.[21] So the seamless tunic does not symbolically show that Jesus is the High Priest. There are lots of other interpretations which compares Jesus' robe with the logos, the robe of Joseph and Moses. And we can interpret it in so many ways, because, as Brown says, it is very difficult to draw the line between exegesis and eisegesis.[22] For me, these all things happened so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.

            In vss.25-27, Jesus commits his mother into the care of his beloved disciple. There is an uncertainty over the number of women standing near the cross. Some say it is two, for others it is three and still for some others it is four.[23] But, I think, this is not so significant issue to be dealt with. As Jesus gives his mother into his disciple's care, Brown comments that it proves Mary's perceptual virginity. His argument is “if she had other sons, Jesus would not have entrusted her to his beloved disciple.”[24] But John mentions about Jesus' brother in 7:5. On the basis of this, Carson suggests that Jesus' brothers were quite unsympathetic towards Jesus, and at this point they may not even have been in Jerusalem, because their home was in Capernaum (cf 2:12).[25]

            The second argument is that Brown suggests, that as Ephraem the Syrian states “Just as Moses appointed Joshua in his stead to take care of the people, so Jesus appointed John in his stead to take care of Mary.”[26] To substantiate his argument, Brown indicates the similar use of words “Woman” and “Hour,” in Cana scene and the foot of cross scene. Mary was refused a role in Cana scene, where Jesus' ministry had started, but now it is given because the hour has come (v.27).[27] Although Browns interpretations are glamourous, Kanagaraj is fed up with these extra focus on Jesus' mother. He says that there is no evidence that Mary is serving here as a symbol of the Church or as a spiritual mother.[28] Even Carson agrees to this, saying, it is not the beloved disciple, who is coming under Mary's care but in reverse.[29] We are obliged to emphasize more on the disciple and his obedience rather than the passive role of Mary, the mother of Jesus. As conclusion, literally, as Lagrange hints, it is ordinary in antiquity a dying person commended his mother to another with a direct commission or charge: “I leave to you my mother to be taken care of.”[30] And theologically, we can interpret as Kanagaraj does, “What happened at the foot of cross is the creation of a new community in which people accept others with love and care.[31]

The Death of Jesus (Vss.28-37): In vss.28-29, Knowing that all was completed, Jesus says, “I am thirsty.” Although Jesus was scourged, bleeding and hanging on the cross under the sun, as Barrett comments on eivdws o[ I[hsouj, “from the first to last in this passion narrative, Jesus is in control of all that take place.”[32] Carson interprets it wisely, saying, “others may unconsciously play their part in the Divine plan of redemption (vss.23-24; cf. Acts 13:29), but not Jesus.”[33] The all, means all that the Father had given the Son to do (13:3; 3:35; 15:15). Here, John refers also to a fulfillment of Scripture. Although, in one way, the thirst element has fulfilled Psalms (69:21), it can also refer to the complete fulfillment of Scripture. In v.28, instead of plhroun (the usual usage for the fulfillment of Scripture), the Evangelist has used teleioun, which signifies the conclusive fulfillment of entire content of the Scripture (13:1; Luke 22:37; Acts 13:29).[34]

            Literally, Jesus' thirst is quite natural. In the sixth hour (12PM), loosing all his blood, Jesus is hanging on the cross. So, it is natural to be dehydrated and thirst. But, since it is mentioned as a fulfillment of the Scripture, it should have some theological meaning. Jesus made similar utterance in John (4:6,7), where he himself interprets as “it is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (4:34).[35] In another interpretation, Kanagaraj draws an understanding between Psalms (42:2; 63:1) and Jesus' thirst, saying, these may be used to figuratively express Jesus' longing to return to the Father and it is substantiated by John (4:34; 18:11).[36] So Jesus thirsts to accomplish the will of the Father in the world and to return to him. The soldiers gave him a sponge soaked in wine vinegar, put in a stalk of hyssop plant.[37] Kanagaraj describes the drinking of wine vinegar as the completion of the agony of death and that's why it is immediately followed by Jesus' last word on the cross “It is finished.

            The final word, Tetelestai has a deep theological meaning in John. John never hinted at Jesus becoming helpless. Even here, in the last word, John contrasts with the last words of Synoptics. Jesus with full consciousness, declares the completion of task, bows his head and gives up his spirit. Brown refers to Augustine, who comments that this is the action of a man who is going to sleep rather than that of a man who is in a death agony and the action symbolizes Jesus' mastery over his death.[38] To mention Jesus giving up his spirit, John uses the verb paredwken, which means delivered or entrusted (the same verb is used in 16a). As Jesus mentioned earlier that I lay down my life... no one takes it from me, but I lay down of my own accord.(10:17,18), Jesus entrusts or gives back his spirit to his Father. John doesn't mention any recipient, though Luke specifies it as the Father. Bennema and Brown interprets that the spirit mentioned in v.30b, is the Holy Spirit.[39] Bennema fells that Jesus gives the Holy Spirit back to the Father, but Kanagaraj denies it, saying that Jesus handed over only his human spirit (11:33; 13:21).[40] Where, Brown interprets it as a symbolism of Jesus giving the Holy Spirit to his mother and to the disciple.[41] For me, based on the meaning of the verb paradidwmi, it could either mean give out (lay down) or entrust (deliver). So, it could mean in both the ways that Jesus lays down his human spirit and handles over the Holy Spirit.[42]

            In vss.31-34, soldiers confirming the death of Jesus on the cross. The crucifixion day was a preparation day, a day before the Sabbath of the Passover.[43] The Jews wanted to bring down the Jesus' body, because of two reasons. First, the Mosaic law which insists that anyone hanged on a gibbet should not remain there overnight. Secondly, as Brown suggests, there is a danger of violating the sacrosanct Sabbath ordinance against work may also have been part of the concern.[44] In vss.32-33, soldiers broke the legs of the malefactors and left out Jesus. Bruce says that the breaking of legs (crurifragium) was an established custom when it was desired to hasten the death of a crucified person.[45] But as Carson hints, Jesus' unusually speedy death may have been hastened by double floggings (vss.1,16a).

            In vs.34, instead of breaking the legs, one solider pierced Jesus' side with a spear, that brought a flow of blood and water.[46] Brown prefers the Vulgate verb hvnoixen (opened), which, rather than the verb evkkentein (to pierce) in vs.37.[47] Because it facilitates the sacramental interpretation, as Augustine comments, he did not say pierced through but opened, in order that the gate of life may be stretched wide whence the sacraments of the Church flow.[48] But as Carson says, it is exceedingly difficult to make the analogous connection between “blood and water” from Jesus' side and sacraments.[49] Apart form this, some also symbolizes this to the salvation and others to the actual giving of the Spirit. But none of these qualifies the coherence of Johnannine thought. Considering this, Bennema comes to a conclusion that this flow signifies nothing but the confirmation of Jesus' death.[50] But, as we can see throughout the gospel, John uses words with a profound theological meaning. So, even here, he tries to convey some theological fact. Hence, here I see a symbolism of the beginning of the Spirit era (although the actual giving took place only at 20:22). Brown gives some hints to my argument, saying, Baptism by John did not give the Spirit, for he baptized only in water (1:31). The “being born of water and Spirit” (3:5) was something that would not come until Jesus had been glorified (7:39). Because the Spirit would not be able to come until Jesus had departed (16:7).[51] So, as the blood came out (as a symbol of Jesus' death), the water also came out (as a symbol of Spirit's arrival).

            In vs.35, the identity and reliability of the testimony of eye witness is discussed. This verse clearly shows that the Writer and the Witness are different. Brown observes that the writer could have had a little doubt over the witness of the beloved disciple (21:24).[52] But, he was the only male eyewitness of the Crucifixion scene. So, the writer assures himself that his testimony is really true. And he adds that the purpose of the witness is to make people believe, not only by the theological truth but also by historical facts.[53]

            In vss.36-37, the writer indicates the fulfillment of two Scriptural passages. The sparing of crurifragium, is related with two OT references. One is, as Carson suggests, Exodus (12:46) and Numbers (9:12), which specify that no bone of the Passover lamb may be broken. Even it is said that Jesus died at the time the Passover lambs are being killed in the temple complex. The second is Psalms (34:20), which says, God protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. But Barrett is hesitant towards this view, saying that it may be that John's source referred to the Psalm, but since Passover and hyssop are mentioned in this context, he preferred the Passover reference with his paschal interests.[54] In vs.37, the writer himself gives the quotation and its fulfillment. In Zachariah (12:10), God says in a lament on Jews, “they will look on me (YHWH), the one they have pierced...” But here John uses this to refer Jesus. So my conclusion would be, since Jesus has already referred himself to the (Exo.3:14) I AM and now Johannine refers Jesus to YHWH, Jesus could possibly be OT YHWH.

The Burial of Jesus (Vss.38-42): In vss. 38-42, Jesus was buried with spices by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Why God used these two Jews to do something which the so-called disciples failed to or couldn't do it? Brown suggests two miner symbolism in this burial passage, meant by the writer.[55] The first is a continuation of the theme of 12:32. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Joseph, a secret believer, who once feared to Jesus, comes forward with courage to ask for the Jesus' body from Pilate. Nicodemus, who once came to Jesus secretly at night, now brings plenty of spices to bury Jesus. Brown fells that under the cross, when Nicodemus saw the blood and water coming out from Jesus' body, he experienced the “being born of water and Spirit” phenomena.[56] The second symbolism is the theme of kingship of Jesus. If the disciples had buried Jesus, they would have buried him in a ordinary tomb as an ordinary person. But, these two rich Jews realized the kingship Jesus and buried him in a new tomb with plenty of spices. This shows the Kingly burial of Jesus. From the birth to the end, John doesn't give up the kingship of Jesus.

Conclusion: We have seen the whole narrative of Jesus' crucifixion, his death and burial. In all these events, the writer continues to hint at the one theme, that is the King Glorified.



[1]D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991), 608

[2]Raymond E. Brown, The Anchor Bible, The Gospel According to John, (New York: Doubleday, 1966), 898

[3]F.F.Bruce, The Gospel of John , (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1983), 366

[4]D.A. Carson, 609; Some interpret Jesus as a type of Issac, but there is an problem in it. In Issac's incident, Issac was not sacrificed but the lamb. Here, not a lamb but Jesus himself was sacrificed.

[5]D.A. Carson, 608

[6]Raymond E. Brown, 899

[7]Ibid., 899

[8]Jey J. Kanagaraj, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Secunderabad: OM Books, 2005), 612

[9]Brown gives the detail of crucifixion, “The condemned prisoner was nailed or tied to the cross bar with his arms spreadout; the bar was lifted into place on the vertical beam; the feet were fastened with nails or rope; the body rested on a peg that jutted out from the post. Raymond E. Brown, 900

[10]Raymond E. Brown, 900

[11]C.K. Barrett ,The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd ed (London:SPCK,1985), 549

[12]Raymond E. Brown, 919

[13]C.K. Barrett, 549

[14]Raymond E. Brown, 919

[15]Hebrew was the language of Jewish people, Greek was the international cultural language and Latin was the official administrative language of Romans.