John 19:17 Carrying his own cross, [Jesus] went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).
We do not know the exact location of the crucifixion, or why it was called the place of the Skull. Perhaps it was an expression for the place of death, where many others were crucified. What is most important is that Jesus suffered outside the city gate (Hebrews 13:12), says Hebrews.
Under the Law of Moses, a young man who was guilty of blasphemy was taken outside the camp and put to death (Leviticus 24:14). A man who broke the Sabbath was also taken outside the camp and put to death (Numbers 15:35). As the one who would bear the sins of the world, Jesus was taken outside the city gate (Hebrews 13:12) and put to death.
Jesus is the ultimate outsider, and everyone who follows Jesus will be an outsider too. But it’s better to be outside the camp with Jesus, than to be inside the camp without him. It is better to be rejected by the world and received by Christ, than to be received by the world and rejected by Christ. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore (Hebrews 13:13), says Hebrews.
John 19:18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
Luke records a conversation that took place between the three of them. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us! But the other criminal rebuked him. Don’t you fear God, he said, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:39-43).
Both criminals were getting what they deserved, but they had the good fortune of being crucified next to the only one who could save them. The damned fool mocked Christ, died in his sin, and went to hell. The other man turned to Christ and was saved. He was not saved by being a good person, but by believing in the only good person who ever lived.
Salvation is easy for us, but it was not easy for Christ. We have laws against cruel and unusual punishment, but crucifixion was designed to be cruel and unusual punishment. It was a method of slow and painful execution in which the victim was nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead.
The horizontal beam was placed on the ground and the victim was attached to it by nails through his hands. It was then attached to the vertical beam and the victim was attached to it by nails through his feet. Pain in the feet intensified as the victim lifted himself to breathe, and strain on the arms could cause dislocation of elbow and shoulder joints.
The agony of tearing nerves, flesh and muscle, along with difficulty breathing, is captured by the English word “excruciating” which literally means, “out of the cross.” The cause of death was often suffocation, but could also come from heart failure, brain damage or shock (gathered from multiple sources.)
You who think of sin but lightly, Nor suppose the evil great, Here may view its nature rightly, Here its guilt may estimate (Thomas Kelly).
John 19:24 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.
After Jesus was crucified, the soldiers divided his clothing, thereby fulfilling an ancient prophecy. The prophecy is so remarkable that we ought to ask, What are the odds of this happening? How often do people divide another person’s clothing and gamble for it? They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment (Psalm 22:18), wrote David. We can imagine dividing another person’s clothing or gambling for it. But it must be extremely rare to divide another person’s clothing and gamble for it.
The traditional clothing for an adult male Jew in Jesus’ day consisted of five pieces: headdress, robe, sash, sandals and undergarment. Since there were four soldiers (John 19:23), and five pieces of clothing, they each took one piece and gambled for the fifth. They divided [his] clothes among them and cast lots for [his] garment—just as the Bible foretold.
Even more amazing are the many other prophecies fulfilled at Jesus’ death. Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered (Zechariah 13:7). I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting (Isaiah 50:6). He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death (Isaiah 53:9). They will look on me, the one they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10). [N]ot one of [his bones] will be broken (Psalm 34:20). I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. . . . they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me (Psalm 22:14-17).
Some of these sound like eye-witness accounts, but they were written hundreds of years before the event. It is hard to believe in Jesus Christ, but it’s even harder not to, when all the evidence is weighed.
John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, It is finished. With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus took the drink just before dying, in order to shout the words, It is finished. As Mark wrote, With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last (Mark 15:37). This was not a cry of defeat, but a shout of victory. Through his death, Jesus won salvation for all who would believe. The world was defeated by Satan and sin, but God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57), wrote Paul.
Reflection and Review
Why are Christians outsiders?
What can we learn about salvation from the criminal who believed?
Why is biblical prophecy important?