The Crown and the The Cross

John 19

John wants us to see the cruelty of the crown and the cross, the innocence of Jesus, the guilt of Pilate, the reality of the crucifixion, and the necessity of it all.

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The Crown and The Cross

Thanksgiving becomes a federal holiday.

Thanksgiving has been a Federal Holiday since 1863 when Abraham Lincoln made it so in the wake of the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln felt it appropriate for the nation to take time to thank God for His goodness. That’s right, in the middle of the bloodiest conflict in the Nations History we decided to annually pause and give thanks. Thanksgiving had been celebrated before this time, in fact George Washington proclaimed a national day of thanks… However, the day was proclaimed each year and not made to be a standing federal holiday.

John 19 reminds me of this for 2 reasons…

Thanksgiving was established by the United States because it was blessed with great power, might, and bountiful blessings- however there was much sacrifice and a lot of blood spilt to establish this nation, even more was spilt to preserve it’s union.  In that context we were given a national day of giving thanks…

The Mighty & Bloddy Roman Empire

The Romans were the most powerful, mighty, and rich nation the world of Jesus day had known… But that power, might, and wealth had come at a great price. It came at the edge of a spear and on the shields of many roman soldiers. As the Romans made their way across the world conquering lands, they overpowered people group after people group. They would then establish governors and leaders to preserve the empire. To keep the people in submission, to pay taxes, and honor Caesar.

Throughout the gospel of John we’ve had very little interaction with the Romans, but they’ll be in the center of the action throughout the rest of the book. The priests bring Jesus to the Romans so that they can sentence Him to death. When we think of the Romans today, we have a romanticized perspective of them. We see them as a people who advanced culture and built incredible buildings like the coliseum.

Through years of war and keeping people in subjection, the Romans had developed a numbness to cruelty. The Romans became a blood thirsty people. Their love for the arena and gladiators that would fight to the death before thousands of screaming people, has been well documented.

They were gluttons for sport, for war, for anything that appeased their appetites. You’ve probably heard of their practice of eating until they were full and then inducing vomiting so as to be able to eat more. Their ability to crush their opponents and place them in subjection and their affair with the grotesque produced one of the most painful and effective instrument of execution the world has ever known.


The Cross: an instrument for scalable, public executions

The Cross, a simple construction of two wooden beams required very little equipment, it could be produced with ease in whatever country the Romans found themselves in. It was scalable, it was painful, and it put the execution on display for people to see. It had the stage production value of a hanging only it lasted for hours and the victim was able to cry out in horror and pain.

To put someone on a cross was to crucify them. This is what the priest cry out for in verse 6.

6 When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.

Last week we saw that Pilate was beginning to experience the power and reality of who Jesus is. He was trying to get out of this situation, but in effect he was trapped. If Pilate doesn’t send Jesus to His death, the people will revolt. Pilate has Jesus scourged in an attempt to appease the people. When the people respond to the sight of Jesus beaten and whipped, saying “Crucify Him!” Pilate responds that he finds no fault and they then tell Pilate Jesus has called Himself the Son of God.

7The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

8When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

“More Afraid.” Pilate was already afraid. Now he is even more afraid.  When Thomas Jefferson became President he chose not to observe Thanksgiving. Jefferson’s political opponents claimed this was because he was an atheist and that he was turning the nation away from God.

Thomas Jefferson and Thanksgiving

However, Jefferson said in an early letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut, Jefferson explained that the reason he didn’t proclaim thanksgiving a holiday was the same reason he didn’t proclaim national times of fasting and prayer- he saw it was state sponsored religion. Jefferson didn’t see how Thanksgiving could be a federal holiday without it being religious.

He couldn’t imagine the way we celebrate Thanksgiving today, where people gather to gorge on food and don’t even think about saying grace over their meal, or giving God thanks, or gathering with believers, family, and friends to give testimony to how good God has been. Jefferson’s letter was edited by his advisors and the final draft left out this line explaining his stance on Thanksgiving.

Conflicted Pilate

Pilate goes to Jesus and asks where He came from… Jesus doesn’t speak up. Pilate questions again and Jesus says that this is all only able to happen because greater authority has allowed it to be. Pilate tries one more thing, bringing Jesus to a place called the Pavement, hoping I suspect that more of the people would be there and they would speak up for Jesus.

However the priests once again call for Jesus’ death. Pilate responds do you want me to kill your king, and in verse 15 the priests respond in a shocking way-  “We have no king but Caesar”

Innocent Jesus, Guilty Pilate

Pilate is left with no option but to deliver Jesus over for Crucifixion… Pilate held out as long as he could because even this Roman governor felt the cross was too cruel and Jesus was too innocent. So what John captures here is the innocence of Jesus, the guilt of Pilate, and the cruelty of the cross. John also wants us to understand that the reality of the cross. Remember he’s written this so that we might believe. John doesn’t just want us to believe that Jesus died on the cross, He wants us to believe the Son of God died on the cross.

The Son of God, Crucified

The fact that Jesus was crucified is not challenged by anyone. It’s accepted as part of the record…What people need to believe though, was not just that a man was killed, but that the Son of God was sacrificed for us. For this reason, John gives us all the details and the prophecy.

The details point to the historical fact. The prophecies point to the foreordained divine work of God.

23Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

24They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.

This is a direct fulfillment of

Psalms 22:18
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

Then Jesus fulfills one final prophecy before He breaths His last.

28After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
29Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

This fulfills

Psalms 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

Psalms 69:21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

In Acts 13 we read of Paul and Barnabas preaching in a Synagogue in Psidia and Paul says:

27For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

28And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

29And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

Whenever Paul entered into a new city, he started at the Jewish synagogue and showed the people how Jesus was the fulfillment of the scripture they read every Sabbath. The people were convinced by the prophecy. They realized the reality that the Jesus who died was and is the Son of God, they came to see not only that Jesus died, but they saw who He is.

I hope you can see the cross was cruel and that Jesus is real… I want you to see why…

The Purpose of The Cross

30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

All of the people are watching Jesus die. They are thinking failure, rejection, betrayal, heartbreak, despair. Jesus says, success! It is Finished. It is done. The word finished can be used when you finish the last of the soda… but this isn’t what Jesus meant… You see you can use the word when you finish building something, when you finish writing a poem, when you finish painting a picture. That is what Jesus meant.

I studied this greek word – teleo… I am wondering how I can communicate the way that it is used and then I realized, it is in verse 28!

28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

When Jesus had offered himself for the payment of sin, He had accomplished what He came to do. He had answered the call.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness,”[1 Pet. 2:24] 

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”[1 Pet. 3:18]

John has been pointing toward this moment all along.

When Jesus has been talking with the Samaritan Woman and the disciples show up with food and Jesus says, I have food you know not of, they’re confused and Jesus says,

My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.- John 4:34

When Jesus speaks of being a shepherd he says

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

John 10:18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father

John 17:4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

John 18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

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