Jesus crucified, the Just AND the Justifier
Pilate offered the Jews a choice. He would release Jesus to them if they wanted him to. They, however, rejected Pilate’s offer. They boldly announced that they had no king except Caesar and then cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion. John’s gospel account records what happened after this: “Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away. And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’ Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,’ that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’ Therefore the soldiers did these things. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19: 16-30)
Warren Wiersbe makes the following points about these verses in His Bible commentary: Most likely, the Persians and Phoenicians first began using crucifixion, however, the Romans became notorious for their use of it. They reserved it for the ‘lowest’ kind of criminals, especially those who were conspiring against the Roman government. Jesus’ treatment was brutal. Isaiah wrote these words as prophecy about what would happen to Jesus: “So His visage was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52: 14b) He also wrote: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgement, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked – but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.” (Isaiah 53: 6-9) (Wiersbe 305-306)
Although the chief priests of the Jews protested the title that Pilate wrote on the cross, Pilate would not change it. He understood that the Jewish leaders were envious of Jesus and wanted to kill Him. This title – King of the Jews – was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin because there were people from many places who passed by the cross. Many Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion. Isaiah wrote that He would be numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53: 12), and Jesus was crucified between two thieves. David wrote in Psalm 22 of Jesus that they would divide His garments among them and cast lots for His clothing (Psalm 22: 18). This is what took place. The soldiers each took a piece of His clothing and cast lots for His seamless robe. (Wiersbe 306)
Isaiah’s prophecies speak of the redemptive work that Jesus would do. He wrote of Jesus: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed…and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…When You make His soul an offering for sin…for He shall bear their iniquities…because He poured out His soul unto death…and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53)
Jesus’ death opened the way for all men to be brought into a relationship with God through the payment He made on the cross. We learn from Romans: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3: 23-26)
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2007.