19:16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
19:17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.
19:18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
St John Chrysostom: “‘Successes’ have terrible power to cast down or draw aside those who take not heed. Thus the Jews, who at first enjoyed the influence of God, sought the law of royalty from the Gentiles, and in the wilderness after the manna remembered the onions. In the same way here, refusing the Kingdom of Christ, they invited to themselves that of Caesar. Wherefore God set a king over them, according to their own decision. When then Pilate heard these things, he delivered Him to be crucified. Utterly without reason. For when he ought to have enquired whether Christ had aimed at sovereign power, he pronounced the sentence through fear alone. Yet that this might not befall him, Christ said beforehand, “My kingdom is not of this world”; but he having given himself wholly up to present things, would practice no great amount of wisdom. And yet his wife’s dream should have been sufficient to terrify him; but by none of these things was he made better, nor did he look to heaven, but delivered Him up. And now they laid the cross upon Him as a malefactor. For even the wood they abominated, and endured not even to touch it. This was also the case in the type; for Isaac bare the wood. But then the matter stopped at the will of his father,4 for it was the type; while here it proceeded to action, for it was the reality.” For more on the Isaac typology see comments on vs 17.
16 Then he handed him over to be crucified.
St Augustine: “For “the chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified.” For he would have every appearance of acting against Caesar if, on their declaration that they had no king but Caesar, he were wishing to impose on them another king by releasing without punishment one whom for these very attempts they had delivered unto him to be put to death. “Therefore he delivered Him unto them to be crucified.” But was it, then, anything different that he had previously desired when he said, “Take ye him, and crucify him;” or even earlier still, “Take ye him, and judge him according to your law?” And why did they show so great reluctance, when they said, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,”11 and were in every way urgent to have Him slain not by themselves, but by the governor, and therefore refused to receive Him for the purpose of putting Him to death, if now for the same purpose they actually do receive Him? Or if such be not the case, why was it said, “Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified?” Or is it of any importance? Plainly it is. For it was not said, “Then delivered he Him therefore unto them” that they might crucify Him, but “that He might be crucified,” that is, that He might be crucified by the judicial sentence and power of the governor. But it is for this reason that the evangelist has said that He was delivered to them, that he might show that they were implicated in the crime from which they tried to hold themselves aloof; for Pilate would have done no such thing, save to implement what he perceived to be their fixed desire. The words, however, that follow, “And they took Jesus, and led Him away,” may now refer to the soldiers, the attendants of the governor. For it is more clearly stated afterwards, “When the soldiers therefore had crucified Him,”12 although the evangelist properly does so even when he attributes the whole to the Jews, for they it was that received what they had with the utmost greediness demanded, and they it was that did all that they compelled to be done. But the events that follow must be made the subject of consideration in another discourse).”
17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.
And he went out indicates, following as it does the words they took Jesus that It is ultimately our Lord who is in charge of his destiny.
Protestant Commentator Matthew Henry: “Now was the Son of man delivered into the hands of men, wicked and unreasonable men. By the law of Moses (and in appeals by our law) the prosecutors were to be the executioners, Deu_17:7. And the priests here were proud of the office. His being led away does not suppose him to have made any opposition, but the scripture must be fulfilled, he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, Act_8:32. We deserved to have been led forth with the workers of iniquity as criminals to execution, Psa_125:5. But he was led forth for us, that we might escape.”
Bearing his own cross.
Father Haydock’s Commentary: “St. John makes no mention of what took place on the way to Calvary, when Jesus, being worn out by fatigue, could not proceed any farther, and they were obliged to relieve him of his burden, and to give it to a man, named Simon, of Cyrene, to carry for him, as is related in St. Matthew xxvii. 32. and St. Mark xv. 21. (Calmet) — For the honour paid in the early ages to the holy cross see St. Cyril, lib. vi. cont. Julian.; St. Jerome, ep. xvii.; St. Paulin. ep. xi.”
The Protestant reference work Vine’s Word Study: “His cross (τὸν σταυρὸν αὑτοῦ). The best texts read αὑτῷ or ἑαυτῷ, “bearing the cross for Himself.” John does not mention the impressment of Simon of Cyrene for this service. Compare Mat_27:32; Mar_15:21; Luk_23:26.”
John’s emphasis on Jesus “bearing the cross for Himself” stands in contradiction to the synoptic accounts, which tell us that a certain Simon of Cyrene was forced to help Him carry the cross. Various proposals have been advanced to explain the differences.
Theophylactus: “But as there Isaac was let go, and a ram offered; so here too the Divine nature remains impassible, but the human, of which the ram was the type, the offspring of that straying ram, was slain. But why does another Evangelist say that they hired Simon to bear the cross?”
Protestant Matthew Henry: “Now Christ carrying his cross may be considered…As answering the type which went before him; Isaac, when he was to be offered, carried the wood on which he was to be bound and with which he was to be burned.”
St Augustine: “Great spectacle, to the profane a laughing-stock, to the pious a mystery. Profaneness sees a King bearing a cross instead of a scepter; piety sees a King bearing a cross, thereon to nail Himself, and afterwards to nail it on the foreheads of kings. That to profane eyes was contemptible, which the hearts of Saints would afterwards glory in; Christ displaying His own cross on His shoulders, and bearing that which was not to be put under a bushel, the candlestick of that candle which was now about to burn.”
St John Chrysostom: “He carried the badge of victory on His shoulders, was conquerors do.”
The place of a skull…Golgotha.
Explanations for the name are legion, but Scripture gives no reason as to why the place was so named.
The Protestant reference work The International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia: “Four reasons have been suggested for the name Golgotha or “skull”: (1) That it was a spot where skulls were to be found lying about and probably, therefore, a public place of execution. This tradition apparently originates with Jerome (346-420 ad), who refers to it in order to condemn it, and says that “outside the city and without the gate there are places wherein the heads of condemned criminals are cut off and which have obtained the name of Calvary – that is, of the beheaded.” This view has been adopted by several later writers. Against it may be urged that there is no shadow of evidence that there was any special place for Jewish executions in the 1st century, and that, if there were, the corpses could have been allowed burial (Mat_27:58; Joh_19:38), in conformity with Jewish law (Deu_21:23) and with normal custom (Josephus, BJ, IV, v, 2). (2) That the name was due to the skull-like shape of the hill – a modern popular view. No early or Greek writer suggests such an idea, and there is no evidence from the Gospels that the Crucifixion occurred on a raised place at all. Indeed Epiphanius (4th century) expressly says: “There is nothing to be seen on the place resembling this name; for it is not situated upon a height that it should be called (the place) of a skull, answering to the place of the head in the human body.” It is true that the tradition embodied in the name Mons Calvary appears as early as the 4th century, and is materialized in the traditional site of the Crucifixion in the church of the Holy Sepulcher, but that the hill was skull-like in form is quite a modern idea. Guthe combines (2) and (3) and considers that a natural skull-like elevation came to be considered, by some folklore ideas, to be the skull of the first man. One of the strangest ideas is that of the late General Gordon, who thought that the resemblance to a skull lay in the contours of the ground as laid down in the ordinance survey map of Jerusalem. (3) That the name is due to an ancient pre-Christian tradition that the skull of Adam was found there. The first mention of this is by Origen (185-253 ad), who himself lived in Jerusalem 20 years. He writes: “I have received a tradition to the effect that the body of Adam, the first man, was buried upon the spot where Christ was crucified,” etc. This tradition was afterward referred to by Athanasius, Epiphanius, Basil of Caesarea, Chrysostom and other later writers. The tomb and skull of Adam, still pointed out in an excavated chamber below the traditional Calvary, marks the survival of this tradition on the spot. This is by far the most ancient explanation of the name Golgotha and, in spite of the absurdity of the original tradition about Adam, is probably the true one.
18 there they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
Father McIntyre: “ The punishment was invented to make death as painful and as lingering as the power of human endurance. First, the upright wood was planted in the ground. It was not high, and probably the feet of the sufferer were not above one or two feet from the ground. Thus could the communications described in the Gospels take place between Him and others; thus also, Might His sacred lips be moistened with the sponge attached to a small stalk of hyssop. Next the transverse wood was placed on the ground, and the sufferer laid on it, when His arms were extended, drawn up, and bound to it. Then (this not in Eygypt, but in Carthage and in Rome) a strong sharp nail was driven, first, into the right, then into the left hand. Next, the sufferer was drawn up by means of ropes, perhaps ladders; the transverse either bound or nailed to the upright, and a rest or support for the body fastened onto it. Lastly, the feet were extended, and either one nail hammered into each, or a larger piece of iron through the two. And so might the crucified hang for hours, even days, till consciousness at last failed.”
Fathers Nolan and Brown: “Whether Jesus was nailed to the cross while it was lying upon the ground, or whether the cross was first erected and He then was raised up to it by ropes and ladders, is disputed.
“As to the shape of the cross, too, on which He was crucified, there is a slight difference of opinion. Setting aside the crux sumplex, which was merely an upright stake, the crux compacta, so called from the parts being joined together, was threefold: decussate (cut into two equal parts), like the letter X; commissa, like the letter T, and immissa, often called the Latin Cross which looks like our lower case letter t, which differs from the commissa, by having the long upright beam projecting over the transverse bar. The almost unanimous tradition of the fathers holds that Christ died upn the Latin cross, and there is no reason to doubt that this is correct.
Protestant Scholar Matthew Henry: “ There they crucified him, and the other malefactors with him (Joh_19:18): There they crucified him. Observe (1.) What death Christ died; the death of the cross, a bloody, painful, shameful death, a cursed death. He was nailed to the cross, as a sacrifice bound to the altar, as a Saviour fixed for his undertaking; his ear nailed to God’s door-post, to serve him for ever. He was lifted up as the brazen serpent, hung between heaven and earth because we were unworthy of either, and abandoned by both. His hands were stretched out to invite and embrace us; he hung upon the tree some hours, dying gradually in the full use of reason and speech, that he might actually resign himself a sacrifice.”
and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Vine’s Word Study (Protestant): “All the Synoptists describe the character of the two who were crucified with Jesus. Matthew and Mark, robbers; Luke, malefactors (κακούργους). All three use the phrase, one on the right, the other on the left, and so, substantially, John: on either side one. John says nothing about the character of these two, but simply describes them as two others.”
Fathers Nolan and Brown: “It may possibly have been to add to his disgrace and shame that these others were punished with Jesus. ‘And the Scripture was fullfilled which saith: And with the wicked he was reputed (Lk 22:37, see Isaiah 53:12).
St Cyril of Alexandria: “And we may take the condemned criminals, who hung by Christ’s side, as symbolical of the tow nations who were shortly about to be brought into close contact with Him, I mean the children of Israel and the Gentiles. Because the Jews were condemned by the Law, for they were guilty of transgressing it; and the Gentiles by their idolatry, for they worshiped the creature more than the Creator.
“And after another manner those who are united with Christ are also crucified with Him; for enduring, as it were, death to their old conversation in the flesh, they are reformed into a new life, according to the Gospel. Yea, Paul said: And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh, with the passions and the lusts thereof; and again, speaking of himself in words applicable to all men: For I, through the Law, died unto the Law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ: yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me. And he exhorts also the Colossians: Wherefore, if ye died from the world, why do ye behave yourselves as though living in the world? For, by becoming dead unto worldly conversation, we are brought to the rudiments of conduct and life in Christ. Therefore the crucifixion of the two robbers, side by side with Christ, signifies in a manner to us, through the medium of that event, the juxtaposition of the two nations, dying together, as it were, with the Savior Christ, by bidding farewell to worldly pleasures, and refusing any longer to live after the flesh, and preferring to live with the Lord, so far as may be, by fashioning their lives according to him, and consecrating them in His service. And the meaning of the figure is in no way affected by the fact, that the men who hung by His side were malefactors; for we were by nature children of wrath, before we believed in Christ, and were all doomed to death, as we said before.”
St Thomas Aquinas: “I answer that Christ was crucified between thieves from one intention on the part of the Jews, and from quite another on the part of God’s ordaining. As to the intention of the Jews, Chrysostom remarks (Hom. lxxxvii in Matthew) that they crucified the two thieves, one on either side, “that He might be made to share their guilt. But it did not happen so; because mention is never made of them; whereas His cross is honored everywhere. Kings lay aside their crowns to take up the cross: on their purple robes, on their diadems, on their weapons, on the consecrated table, everywhere the cross shines forth.”
As to God’s ordinance, Christ was crucified with thieves, because, as Jerome says on Matthew 27:33: “As Christ became accursed of the cross for us, so for our salvation He was crucified as a guilty one among the guilty.” Secondly, as Pope Leo observes (Serm. iv de Passione): “Two thieves were crucified, one on His right hand and one on His left, to set forth by the very appearance of the gibbet that separation of all men which shall be made in His hour of judgment.” And Augustine on John 7:36: “The very cross, if thou mark it well, was a judgment-seat: for the judge being set in the midst, the one who believed was delivered, the other who mocked Him was condemned. Already He has signified what He shall do to the quick and the dead; some He will set on His right, others on His left hand.” Thirdly, according to Hilary (Comm. xxxiii in Matthew): “Two thieves are set, one upon His right and one upon His left, to show that all mankind is called to the sacrament of His Passion. But because of the cleavage between believers and unbelievers, the multitude is divided into right and left, those on the right being saved by the justification of faith.” Fourthly, because, as Bede says on Mark 15:27: “The thieves crucified with our Lord denote those who, believing in and confessing Christ, either endure the conflict of martyrdom or keep the institutes of stricter observance. But those who do the like for the sake of everlasting glory are denoted by the faith of the thief on the right; while others who do so for the sake of human applause copy the mind and behavior of the one on the left.””
19:19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Fathers Nolan and Brown: It was usual to indicate in some such way the name and offense of those crucified, and so Pilate had an inscription placed over the head of Jesus, giving His name, and the reason why He suffered. We should have expected, however, that Pilate would have caused to be written: Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be king of the Jews. But no, either to annoy the Jews, or by an over-ruling Providence, Pilate wroted “King of the Jews,” thus proclaiming Christ’s royal dignity even while he crucified Him.”
Vine’s Word Study (Protestant): “Only here and Joh_19:20, in the New Testament. John uses the technical Roman term titulus, a placard or notice. Used for a bill or notice of sale affixed to a house. Thus Ovid, of a heartless creditor: “She sent our household goods under the placard (sub-titulum);” i.e., put the house and furniture up for sale (“Remedia Amoris,” 302). Meaning also the title of a book; an epitaph. Matthew has αἰτίαν, accusation; Mark, ἐπιγραφὴ τῆς αἰτίας superscription of the accusation; Luke, ἐπιγραφὴ superscription. John alone mentions the fact that Pilate wrote the inscription.
Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews
The wording of the title is differently given by each Evangelist.
Matthew: This is Jesus the King of the Jews.
Mark: The King of the Jews.
Luke: This is the King of the Jews.
John: Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.
The essential element of the superscription, King of the Jews, is common to all. It expressed, on its face, the main intent of Pilate, which was to cast contempt on the Jews. “In the sense of the man Pilate, it meant: Jesus, the King of the Jewish fanatics, crucified in the midst of Jews, who should all be thus executed. In the sense of the Jews: Jesus, the seditionary, the King of the rebels. In the sense of the political judge: Jesus, for whose accusation the Jews, with their ambiguous accusation, may answer. In the sense of the divine irony which ruled over the expression: Jesus, the Messiah, by the crucifixion become in very truth the King of the people of God” (Lange).”
Father Hyadock: “He is the king, not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. But it is not without reason, that he is called king of the Jews. For they were the true olive (Romans xi.); and we, the wild olive, have been ingrafted, and made partakers of the virtue of the true olive. Christ, therefore, is the king of the Jews, circumcised, not in the flesh, but in the heart, not according to the letter, but the spirit. (St. Augustine, tract. 118. in Joan.)”
19:20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.
Theophylactus: “The title written in three languages signifies that our Lord was King of the whole world; practical, natural, and spiritual. The Latin denotes the practical, because the Roman empire; was the most powerful, and best managed one; the Greek the physical, the Greeks being the best physical philosophers; and, lastly, the Hebrew the theological, because the Jews had been made the depositories of religious knowledge.”
19:21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, `The King of the Jews,’ but, `This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”
St Augustine: “O ineffable working of Divine power even in the hearts of ignorant men. Did not some hidden voice sound from within, and, if we may say so, with clamorous silence, saying to Pilate in the prophetic words of the Psalm, Alter not the inscription of the title? But what say you, you mad priests: will the title be the less true, because Jesus said I am the King of the Jews? If that which Pilate wrote cannot be altered, can that be altered which the Truth spoke? Pilate wrote what he wrote, because our Lord said what He said.”
19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
St Cyril of Alexandria: “We may remark that it was very providential, and the fruit of God’s inexpressible purpose, that the title that was written embraced three inscriptions-one in Hebrew, another in Latin, and another in Greek. For it lay open to the view, proclaiming the Kingdom of our Savior Christ in three languages, the most widely known of all, and bringing to the crucified One the first-fruits, as it were, of the prophecy that had been spoken concerning Him. For the wise Daniel said that there was given Him glory and a Kingdom, and all nations and languages shall serve Him; and, to like effect, the holy Paul teaches us, crying out that every knee shall bow; of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore the title proclaiming Jesus King was, as it were, the true firstfruits of the confession of tongues.”
Jamieson Fausset, and Brown (Protestant): “And thus, amidst the conflicting passions of men, was proclaimed, in the chief tongues of mankind, from the Cross itself and in circumstances which threw upon it a lurid yet grand light, the truth which drew the Magi to His manger, and will yet be owned by all the world!”