Evil is overcome in Christ
Text: John 19: 17-27
Text verse: John 19:24
Man’s misery is made clear here by three aspects in particular: The cruelty of the Jews, Pilate’s cunning and the soldiers’ insensitivity.
The Jews insisted that Jesus be crucified. Crucifixion was a terribly cruel and painful way to die. The person being crucified would lie on the ground with his hands being nailed into the horizontal beam. Thereafter, the beam was attached to a vertical beam and the person’s feet were then nailed to that beam.
The reason for this was to prolong the person’s suffering. To be able to breathe, the person would have to push up with his legs and with his arms, he would have to try and pull himself up. This, by its very nature, caused severe muscle spasms and unbearable pain.
That is also why we read later (John 19:31) that the legs of the crucified were broken. The result was that they could no longer lift their legs to breathe. So, they suffocated and quickly came to their end.
Pilate makes a notice that reads, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. Pilate was well aware that this accusation was false (also see 19: 4, 6, 12). Yet it suits him, because now he can pretend to have been faithful to the emperor by executing someone who claimed kingship. Therefore, he also had it written in all three languages that were used at that time. In this way he tries to advance his own cause.
This passage also reveals the soldiers’ insensitivity. The fact that they divided His clothes into four shows that four Roman soldiers were involved in the crucifixion. Despite the terrible suffering inflicted, they also humiliate Him by stripping all garments from His body and divide them among themselves.
However, when they got His underwear, they were not willing to tear it. For the neatly woven underwear, they drew lots to determine who gets it.
In each of these situations, man’s selfishness is overriding. Sin makes us look only at our own interests and it makes us cruel, cunning and insensitive. This is why we degrade others and do bad things to our own benefit.
We need to see what our selfishness does. It breaks down and destroys. We hurt to prove a point or not to violate our pride. We would rather risk thousands of lives than admit that we made a mistake. We pretend to be helping someone, but we’re actually doing it for our own benefit.
The wonderful thing about this passage is to see how God is at work.
God is at work
Unlike Jesus, we deserve nothing less than a cursed death on the cross. We deserve the pain and suffering and humiliation.
Yet Jesus was willing to submit Himself to this awful death so that we might be saved. As the sinner is naked before God, so Jesus had to die naked in our place. God uses this cruelty of man to save us from the death we deserve.
He is in charge
Pilate selfishly acknowledges that Jesus is the King of the Jews. Moreover, he does so in all three languages used at that time. So, it becomes the beginning of the message of Jesus’ crucifixion preached by the world.
The soldiers again, without knowing it, did exactly what Psalm 22:19 foretold.
As believers, we draw comfort from these events. We are reminded here that we are dealing with a God who is in control of all circumstances. On top of that He loves us very much. The world may be characterised by selfishness, but we serve a God who cares in a special way for the needs of everyone who believes in Him.
His love is not selfish, it comes first
Jesus’ love is revealed here in a special way. At Jesus’ birth it was foretold that a time would come when a sword would pass through Mary’s soul (Luke 2:35). When this happens here at the cross, Jesus reaches out to her. Jesus points out to Mary that she must see in Him more than just that He is her son. In particular, He is also her way to eternal glory. And in that she must find comfort.
The same goes for us. We must not be consumed by all the bad things that happen around us, we must see how God’s plan is coming to fruition. It should encourage us to live with more devotion to Him.