“Then delivered he him . . .” (v. 16). Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified after the chief priests had proclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar.” While all four gospels present an account of the crucifixion, only Luke and John were moved by the Holy Spirit to include the superscription, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews, which Pilate had affixed to the cross above Jesus’ head. Both Luke and John recorded that the superscription was written in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. John’s account, however, provides details which Luke omitted.
John reveals that the chief priests objected to the wording of the superscription. John’s gospel was written twenty or more years after the others. All that is recorded in John, but not in the others, is recorded such that believers might be given additional understanding — an understanding of why Pilate wrote that which he wrote.
In verse 20, John states that the title above Jesus was read by many of the Jews. The title would have been read by both Jews and Gentiles. The many who read it would have reported it to others. They would have told all that Pilate had written “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” in three languages. Hebrew is the language of the Jews, Latin is the language of Rome, and Greek was the international language, the language of commerce and the language of the learned. The message is loud and clear. The King of the Jews, the Messiah was crucified here! It is a message by which the uncertain is made certain. It is a message to believers that sixty-nine weeks of years have passed and the Messiah has been cut off as prophesied by Daniel (Dan. 9:26). It is a message that Jesus died, not for Himself, but for all who shall believe. It is a message that declares “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10). It is the message that declares God’s plan of salvation, the plan which God put in place before He laid the foundations of the earth (I Pet. 1:20).
Pilate proclaimed Christ, and Him crucified. That was not the purpose for which Pilate wrote that which he wrote. Pilate wrote “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” because he was afraid (see v. 8). Jesus had been delivered to him to be executed for blasphemy. Blasphemy against the God of the Jews was not an offense against Rome. Roman law did not allow the Jews to execute anyone for any reason. Pilate caved to the Jewish religious leaders because he needed their assistance in keeping the people in line. Pilate wrote “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” in three languages to provide notice that Jesus was executed for sedition, a capital offense. Pilate refused to change the wording of the superscription because the rewording would declare that Jesus was executed for blasphemy. Unknowingly, Pilate declared a truth which would be heard by all who believe or ever believe.
“Then the soldiers . . . took his garments” (v. 23). All four gospels state that the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments as prophesied in Psalm 22:18. John alone reports the reason. The soldiers did not cast lots for the Messiah’s clothing because they sought to fulfill prophecy. They cast lots for one particular item of clothing, the coat that was without seem. A coat without seem is not held together by stitching. A seem is no stronger than its stitches — more stitches yield greater strength. The strength of a garment without seam exceeds the strength that can be produced by close stitches.
Think about it! God, in His foreknowledge, knew the very clothing which “my righteous servant” (Isa. 53:11) would be wearing when his soul would be made an offering for sin. The Holy Spirit moved David (Ps. 22), Isaiah (Isa. 53), and John (Jn. 19) to write that which they wrote such that we might know God, God Omniscient. God declares Himself to us such that we might declare Him to all who have the ears to hear.
“Woman, behold thy son . . .” (v. 26). All four gospels report the presence of the women at the cross. Only John records the words which Jesus spoke to His mother and to John. We see the Father through the Son. The Son directed the disciple whom He loved to provide for the needs of His mother. The Father knows our needs. He provides our daily bread. He directs us to love one another as He loves us.
“It is finished . . .” (v. 30). God the Son took on a body of flesh such that men might be made free from sin. Jesus came into the world to fulfill the law (Matt. 5:17). His mission was completed when He gave up the ghost. His soul was made an offering for sin (Isa. 53:10). He was the Lamb without blemish whose blood has covered our iniquities. He fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law. He fulfilled the words of the prophets. He delivered the full measure of the Father’s love. He is our peace.