John 19:23-42: February 9—Victor rather than victim
Feb 2, 2014

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
Who killed Jesus? Jesus died because normally opposing forces united against Him. The Jewish leadership requested the Romans to kill Jesus because of jealously over Jesus’ popularity and His teachings. The Jewish leadership, concerned about religious purity, determined to put Jesus to death. The religious legal charge was blasphemy; Jesus equated Himself with God. He was guilty but not in the manner the leadership thought. The Romans were famed for justice, yet the local Roman authority executed a man he knew was innocent on trumped of charge of treason. On another level, you and I killed Jesus. He died as our sin-bearer. 

Ultimately, no one killed Jesus. He voluntarily laid down His life as a sacrifice. Even in physical death, Jesus triumphed as Victor rather than victim.

What does the Fourth Gospel set forth about the triumphant death of Jesus?

First, Jesus died as Victor because His death fulfilled Scripture. The apostle John stated four times that Jesus crucifixion fulfilled Scripture (19:24, 28, 36, 37). The apostle cites fulfillment in connection with Jesus’ garments (Psalm 22:18), thirst (Ps. 69:21), unbroken bones (Ex. 12:46; Ps. 34:20), and pierced body (Zech. 12:10). 

The fulfillment of Scripture prophecy, however, goes beyond the citations provided by John. By means of the prophetic texts, John sets forth Jesus as the Passover Lamb. First, Jesus died as one cursed outside the city (John 19:17; Lev. 24:17). Second, Jesus died in the company of transgressors (John 19:18; Isa. 53:12). Third, like the Passover lamb, none of the bones of Jesus was broken (John 19:33; Ex. 12:46). Fourth, the descendants of David are responsible for piercing a man (God) in connection with a pouring out of God’s grace and mercy resulting in forgiveness (John 19:37; Zech. 12:9-10; 13:1). Finally, a cursed one put to death by hanging must be buried the same day (Deut. 21:22-23).

Second, as Jesus died as Victor, He tenderly cared for His mother (John 19:25-27). Four women (Mary, His aunt, wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene) watched with worry and care as Jesus experienced crucifixion. Mary Magdalene was significant in that she alone witnessed the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. At the depth of the greatest suffering, Jesus tenderly and victoriously submitted the care of His mother to “the beloved disciple” John. Church tradition affirms that John took Mary with him to Ephesus, the likely location from which the apostle wrote the Fourth Gospel. 

Third, Jesus triumphantly surrendered His life in death (John 19:28-30). He partook of sour wine to ease His thirst in preparation for His final great word. “It is finished” is one word in Greek (tetelestai). The term has two connotations: accomplishment of a goal or “paid in full.” The death of Jesus accomplished Gods redemptive plan by paying our sin debt “in full.”

No one took Jesus life from Him. As one commentator noted, active verbs characterize Jesus’ actions: He received, He spoke, He bowed His head, and He gave up His spirit. Jesus was in charge of His moment of death. He died as Victor rather than victim.

Fourth, the Victorious Jesus deserves costly devotion (John 19:38-42). Often Christians view the burial of Jesus as a mere transition between His death and resurrection. The burial of Jesus, however, is central to the Gospel message (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The burial certified the death. In addition, the burial followed by resurrection emphasizes the nature of the resurrection as a bodily resurrection. 

Although Jesus died without any male disciples, two men, Joseph and Nicodemus, demonstrated costly devotion to Jesus in two ways. First, their public actions connected them to a condemned criminal, that is, guilt by association. Second, they buried Jesus in a costly manner. ­

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