John 19:17-27. Crucifixion details

John 19:17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: “Jesus of Nazareth. King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.  21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 

24   “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
       “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
So this is what the soldiers did. 

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 

John’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion is economically told. Several apparently small details are recorded, telling the whole story by the parts.

Jesus is crucified as a King: that is John’s main message. Pilate has him there expediently as a ‘king’ from elsewhere— perhaps from among the gods— fearing what might happen if he does and if he does not crucify him. The charge against him is framed as an insult to the Jews. Here is your king; humiliated, tortured and executed. He is no threat to Caesar.

As ‘King of the Jews,’ the Jews have him there on the cross as a blasphemer: he claimed to be the king of Jews. Here is what happens to anyone who blasphemes God. They die under a curse. 

As ‘King of the Jews,’ God has him there on the cross as the Representative Head of all Israel. As king, Jesus embodies and sums up his people. He stands before God in their place. He is responsible for them and their sin. [Note: his resurrection triumph will also be shared with the people he represents]

So Jesus is ‘king’ in each setting: to Pilate and the Romans, to the Jews, and before God. Jesus is crucified as ‘the King of the Jews.’

And so God’s anointed is abandoned to the cross. He is covered with shame as those who look on gloat over his demise. They mock him in his vulnerability and take advantage of his weakness by making a sport of stealing his clothes. It is not merely that the event happened just as foretold by the prophets and psalmists, but that Jesus’ humiliation was complete. The king is shamed.

The garments of the condemned men usually belonged to the soldiers on duty; a small bonus for their grizzly work. They do not want to divide Jesus’ inner garment likely because it will reduce its resale value. In the casting of lots— surely a sign of distain for the executed— John sees a fulfilment of Ps 22:18. In this way, the part tells the whole. What is going on for Jesus at the very moment of his crucifixion? Psalm 22 tells the whole of it. Gambling for Jesus’ garments serves as the reference point.

Lord Jesus Christ, you experienced abandonment from your Father in a way that I could never know. You experienced the shame of my sin before the Father in a way that (thankfully) I will never fully understand. Because you are my King, my Representative Head, you have endured the justice my sin deserves. Thank you that your abandonment and shame have purchased my restoration and honour. Amen.