Jesus' Crucifixion & Vindication for World-Wide Worship
Topic: Resurrection Passage: John 19:16–19:24, Psalm 22:1–22:31
Sermon from John 19:16-24 and Psalm 22 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on April 5, 2015
What great truth we’ve just heard and sung and then affirmed together: “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ is coming again!” That affirmation is right at the heart of what Paul calls “the gospel,” the good news for all who believe (1 Cor 15:1-4); it’s the foundation of our church and who we are as Christians; and it provides a perfect doorway into the passages we’ll be looking at this morning from God’s word—first from John 19 and then later from Psalm 22.
So, if you have a Bible, grab it and open to John 19:16. If you didn’t bring a Bible, no worries; grab one of those provided in the pew and turn to page 905. John 19:16. If you’re a guest, we’re glad you’re here. Let me bring you up to speed. We’ve been walking through John’s Gospel about two-and-a-half years; but more recently we’ve been looking at the final scenes leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. And the way John tells the story is that Jesus’ crucifixion is full of saving significance for your life and mine.
In fact, the way he presents it is that Jesus’ death is truly the death of all deaths, because it is only his death that can satisfy the wrath of God. Only Jesus is all-powerful, and he uses his power to bear the full weight of God’s wrath against our sin. We’ve also learned that when Jesus dies, he dies as our substitute. Like Peter, we are faithless and deserve condemnation. But Jesus faithfully fulfills his Father’s will to stand in our place as an innocent and unblemished sacrifice. The penalty we deserved for our faithlessness—Jesus chose to pay it all, even when it meant the utter humiliation of a Roman cross and ultimately death on that cross.
You see, Jesus isn’t a revolutionary suffering political consequences for his actions; we’ve actually been watching God give up his own divine Son for the sake of the world’s sins. Today, those same themes continue as we look at the crucifixion itself. And you’re already going, “Wait, wait, wait. Doesn’t he know it’s Easter—Resurrection Sunday? Why we camping out on Good Friday again with the crucifixion?”
And all I’m going to say at this point is, “You’ll see.” There are huge things going on in this passage regarding Jesus’ kingship. It’s all part of God’s plan to redeem and gather worshipers under Jesus’ present reign world-wide. And that’s why I want us to eventually land in Psalm 22, which is where John himself eventually takes us in verse 24. But we’re not going there just yet. Let’s look at the crucifixion beginning in verse 16. I’ll read through to verse 24.
16So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” Therefore, the soldiers did these things.
Jesus, True King of Israel
A lot of people, and a lot of religions, walk about Jesus in a number of ways. You know, he’s a good moral example; he died for what he believed in; he’s a good teacher, a prophet. He’s even a fairly popular guy in Hollywood, as marked by the gold chains around people’s necks, regardless of whether the true meaning of that cross is understood and embraced. But the majority of these people haven’t truly beheld Jesus’ glory as he really is, because they still refuse to bow their knee to God’s true King. The apostle John see dangerous consequences ahead for those who don’t (John 3:36; 5:27-29). So John tells us exactly who Jesus is. Or better, God tells us who Jesus is through the words of the apostle John.
Jesus is the true King of Israel. The Apostle John isn’t shy about pointing this out as he tells the gospel story. I mean the whole point of his Gospel is that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing have life in his name (20:30-31). “The Christ” means God’s anointed one, God’s anointed King (1:41; 4:25; cf. Ps 2). And so right from the very beginning God anoints Jesus as King, when the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus at his baptism (1:31-34). Nathaniel then identifies Jesus as the Son of God and King of Israel, and Jesus commends him for his faith (1:49-51).
Then later we see Jesus proving his kingship by doing things like cleansing the temple (2:13-17), and fulfilling God’s law (5:46), feeding the five thousand (6:1-15). Jesus even compares himself to the Shepherd-king expected by Ezekiel—he comes to gather the Lord’s flock and lead them into good pastures (10:11-18). And all this before riding into town on a donkey, which we’re told is a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt” (12:12-15). And then throughout Jesus’ trial, Pilate repeatedly calls Jesus a king.
He presents Jesus as King of the Jews. Now, Pilate doesn’t call Jesus Israel’s king, because he actually believes in his kingship for what it really is. But the irony is that Pilate speaks better than he knows. Jesus is Israel’s true King; and four more truths stand out about him here as he suffers on the cross.
1. The King Is Innocent but Dies as a Criminal
First of all, the King is innocent but dies as a criminal. Pilate has not only identified Jesus as King unwittingly, but three times over Pilate also declares Jesus to be innocent: 18:38, “I find no guilt in him;” 19:4, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him;” 19:6, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The point is clear: Jesus is an innocent King, a righteous King.
But what happens to him anyway? A terrible injustice. Verse 16 says that he’s delivered up to be crucified. Even worse, verse 18 describes him as one crucified “with two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” Luke’s Gospel calls these two men, “criminals” (Luke 23:33). Mark’s Gospel calls them “robbers” (Mark 15:27). So here is the innocent Jesus numbered with guilty lawbreakers. If he’s innocent, why’s he dying this way?
Now, we could chalk it up to a bunch of unjust hypocrites vying for power at the other’s expense. The Jews do their thing; Pilate does his; and Jesus is but a helpless victim they’d rather not deal with anymore. But verse 17 doesn’t allow us to go there. It says, “Jesus went out, bearing his own cross.” He’s still moving the events; he’s still submitting to his Father’s plan. The focus is on his will to bear this cross. It’s as Jesus says elsewhere, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). Why, then, does the innocent King choose death among criminals? He does it not for his own sins; he does it because he was carrying our sins. He does it not because he is guilty; he does it to stand in the place of the guilty.
As I was studying, I couldn’t help but think of the Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53:12 (cf. John 12:38 [Isa 53:1]). Isaiah promised that God would send an innocent Servant, one who had done no violence; there was no deceit in his mouth (Isa 53:9). And two things would be true of him: the Servant would be “lifted up” by God (Isa 52:13); and the Servant would become a substitute by being treated like a sinner in dying for sinners. God says in Isaiah 53:12, “I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong [i.e., God will honor him], because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors.”
He was numbered with the transgressors—meaning, he’s treated like one of them. He permits himself to be listed among the rebels and to die as a rebel deserved to die. But why? If he’s innocent, why? Hear now the rest of Isaiah 53:12: “yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
This is why the Servant is “lifted up” on the cross and numbered with the transgressors, the lawbreakers, the criminals (cf. John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32): he bore the sin of many. That is to say, the Servant takes away all our sins in his death (cf. John 1:29). If he wasn’t dying for any sin he committed, then he was dying for the sins of all those people he represented as their King, or even better, as their Servant-king.
That’s why he died like a criminal with criminals even though he was innocent. As the innocent King he was intervening for your criminal mind, for your treasonous acts, for your wayward heart. Everywhere we had rebelled against God, he was intervening and suffering the death we deserved for transgressing God’s law.
That’s the kind of King he is. He’s the innocent one; we’re a bunch of rebels to his kingdom; and he has every right to punish us in his wrath. But he becomes a Servant instead, bears his own cross, and then hangs as you should have hung till all God’s punishment for your sins was satisfied. The King is innocent but dies as a criminal in your place.
2. The King Is Indicted but Announces Salvation for All
Second truth: the king is indicted but announces salvation for all. In verse 19, Pilate writes this inscription and puts it on the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Historically speaking, it was common for the Romans to put signs above the criminals who were crucified. Many times a sign of some sort was even carried alongside the criminal on his way to crucifixion. And written on that sign would be the indictment for which that person was being crucified. It was a way of warning the public: “This is what happens when you mess with Rome.”
And just to ensure the message really got out, they’d write these inscriptions in the three most predominant languages of the day—Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Rome wanted every segment of the population to know why they crucify people. The same with Jesus. His inscription appears in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Pilate wants everybody to know Jesus’ indictment: King of the Jews.
Of course, the chief priests don’t like what Pilate has written. It leaves too much unstated for them. They want him to clarify it a bit further: “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” But Pilate has given them exactly what they wanted already—Jesus crucified—and he’s giving them no more. So he says, “What I have written I have written.” The indictment stands.
But it’s with this indictment that the real irony stands out. Unwittingly, Pilate’s indictment announces the very connection the world needs to hear, in order to be saved—King of the Jews, crucified. Jesus really is the King of the Jews, but he has chosen to reign first from the cross for my sake, for your sake. The whole world needs to make that connection—Aramaic speakers in Jerusalem, Latin-speaking soldiers, Greeks far and wide, from the rich to the poor, from great sinners to the worst of sinners, everybody needs to hear that Israel’s true King was crucified.
The true King saves the world not through pomp and pageantry and imperial force. The true King saves the world by laying down his life for the very rebels fighting against his own kingdom. He could have ordered all of heaven to destroy those like us, who live for the kingdom of self. But Jesus goes to the cross in the place of rebels like us to bring us into the kingdom of God. If we are to know Jesus rightly, then we must see him reigning from the cross on our behalf. The King is indicted but he announces salvation for all. All people without distinction must hear that God’s King was crucified. Hence what Jesus said back in 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
3. The King Is Humiliated but Fulfills Scripture
Truth number three: the King is humiliated but fulfills Scripture. Typical ancient crucifixions involved the removal of one’s clothing. Romans crucified people naked. It was a way to humiliate and degrade the person in public. So verse 23 says: “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” So even worse, they make sport of Jesus’ clothing while he hangs naked and bleeding. It’s terribly humiliating.
There are several points in John’s Gospel where you think evil is winning the day; the darkness is too much to conquer. That is certainly the case here, as Jesus hangs powerless from the cross while the dark minds of men scheme and place bets for clothing of all things. God in the flesh hangs before them, and they want his “polo.” And yet at each point of darkness, John is quick to remind us what’s really taking place: God is still controlling the story. John continues in verse 24, “This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ Therefore the soldiers did these things.” The Bible makes it very clear that regardless of how desperate and dark the cross gets; God’s plan to save us stands. It cannot be thwarted by evil.
In this case, John quotes from Psalm 22:18, which is a psalm of David. And, you may remember, David is God’s anointed King. And in his role as God’s anointed king over Israel, David eventually becomes a type, a picture, that looks forward to Christ (cf. Isa 9:6-11; Ezek 34:23-24). The way David represented the nation, the way David related to God as a father relates to a son, the way David prays and suffers and triumphs over his enemies—all these aspects of David’s life point to the way God would work through his much greater Davidic King, Jesus Christ. So the Psalms don’t become mere historical reflection on David’s sufferings; they actually serve a prophetic role.
What we see in Psalm 22 is that God ordained David’s sufferings and had David write about his sufferings in such a way that they anticipated the very sufferings of Jesus. David’s sufferings become a prophetic pointer to the sufferings of Jesus. And so if you’ll go with me to Psalm 22, let’s see how this plays out.
In the front half of this Psalm we find King David suffering under some pretty severe darkness. He’s surrounded by enemies, who mock him and terrify him. And there seems to be some real question as to why he’s suffering these things, especially if God is behind his kingship. The fact that he’s suffering seems as if God has removed his presence, as if God has left him for death. But it’s not that he’s lost all hope; it’s not that he’s lost confidence in God altogether. So we see the King moving back and forth between lament and hope in God’s deliverance, lament and hope in God’s deliverance, lament and hope in God’s deliverance. So verse 1, lament…
1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Now hope in God’s deliverance…
3Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8“He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
Now hope in God’s deliverance…
9Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11Be not far from me,
for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
12Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
14I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me; [and here it is]
18they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
Now, pause right there. When John quotes this verse, he’s saying that Jesus brings all the revelatory patterns of David’s life to their intended goal—and that includes his sufferings as Israel’s King. In other words, the evil we see at the foot of the cross isn’t winning. The darkness surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion will not prevail. Things are not spinning out of control for God’s King. God is fulfilling his plan in Scripture, and the cross is a picture of the King willingly submitting to that plan.
God mapped out the plan in Holy Scripture. It was a plan that included the sufferings of his own anointed Davidic King. And Jesus was now fulfilling the plan even by letting pagans gamble for his clothing. He is the King of the Jews—look at how he’s suffering, as David suffered. But what makes Jesus’ sufferings superior to David’s is that his sufferings actually carry the power to win universal worship for God among all peoples of the earth—and that was never realized under David’s reign.
It’s why David himself—along with Isaiah and Ezekiel and Zechariah—watched for the day when God would send another David, whose sufferings and kingship would actually put the world to rights.
4. The King Suffers but Is Vindicated for World-Wide Worship
And that brings us to the fourth truth: the king suffers but is vindicated for world-wide worship. You see, God eventually answers King David’s lament. David gives one more cry of hope in God’s deliverance in verse 19, and God answers him. He vindicates his king. Read it with me…
19But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
21Save me from the mouth of the lion! [and then answer]
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
God answers his cry! God hadn’t forsaken him altogether. He vindicates his anointed king over all his enemies. And what is the result? World-wide worship. The vindicated king enters God’s assembly and declares the Lord’s victory. And what we get is a circle of worshipers that begins with Israel and then grows to encompass all peoples, all families, all the nations of the earth. Verse 22…
22I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
25From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!
27All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
28For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
29All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.
Now, like I said, that sort of world-wide worship under the rule of God’s vindicated King never happened under David’s reign. Certainly, God had vindicated David numerous times over—he even vindicates him here. But never did his kingdom realize such universal worship. And besides that, David died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day, to use the words of Peter (cf. Acts 2:29). He couldn’t loose the pangs of death, because David was a sinner.
So, then what becomes of this Psalm? It’s written not only to teach Israel that God saves his people through his anointed King; it’s written as a pointer to another anointed King who would make this happen, who would finally break the power of sin leading people into false worship, who would break down the barriers between Israel and the nations, who would not just enter death, but come out the other side never to die again, and therefore establishing his reign forever.
And the writer of Hebrews tells us this reign started happening when God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead. When you think about Easter, vindication of God’s king should leap into your minds. Vindication of all Jesus did on the cross should race to the forefront. Vindication of all his righteousness should fill your minds. How do we know he’s the innocent substitution for our sins? He walked out of the tomb on the third day and appeared to many, when every king in history still lies dead.
Hebrews 2 says that we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor, because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (2:9). But the point is that he didn’t stay dead. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. More than that, he had to bring many sons and daughters to glory (2:10)! And so after he makes purification for their sins (1:3)—think of the King on the cross in John’s Gospel—he then sits down at the right hand of Majesty, and as a result Hebrews 2:12 says that Jesus is not ashamed to call you brothers. And then he quotes from Psalm 22:22, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And who are those brothers? What is that congregation? It’s the church, Jew and Gentile alike who put their faith in Jesus and live beneath his present reign in heaven.
In other words, Jesus’ sufferings on your behalf are so comprehensive that the King of kings is not ashamed—even in all his resurrection glory—to call you brother, to call you sister. And he gathers us under his reign as one people, one body, one church. The church is a picture of God’s vindicated King gathering all nations for worship. That should move us in several ways.
Repent & believe the gospel
It should move us to repent and believe the gospel. It should move us to repent from any clutch to the kingdom of self. If Jesus is truly risen from the dead and establishing God’s kingdom of true worship on earth, then we must repent—turn away from our sins—and walk in humility before him. If we don’t bend the knee, he will not rescue us. The promise of vindication and celebration in Psalm 22 won’t be ours. All our cries for God’s help will go up empty and only mount up further judgment on the Last Day. But if we repent and bow the knee to the true King, Jesus, then God will vindicate us just as he vindicated his King, Jesus, when God raised him from the dead.
Worship the true King, Jesus
And that should send our hearts into worship the true King, into celebration of God’s goodness and kindness toward us in Jesus. Because he died in your place, he’s not ashamed to call you brothers and sisters—not because of what you’ve done, but because of everything he’s done for you. He died in your place to take away your shame. He was stripped naked to clothe you with glory. And that ought to move your heart to love and sing to this King—and not just on Easter Sunday, but every day.
Jesus doesn’t reign only on Sundays; he reigns every day of your week, because he is risen from the grave never to die again. He reigns during business meetings; he reigns when sales are down; he reigns when trials hit our families; he reigns over everything, even the darkness; and one day “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before [him]. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.” Worship him now, because this is where he’s taking the world with unstoppable power.
Hope in Jesus’ resurrection life and victory
And that should also give us great hope…hope in Christ’s resurrection life and victory. I asked some of you this week, “How is your faith?” And you described it as anemic, others said struggling. You’re wondering where the fullness and vibrancy is if God is for you. Some of you learned just this week that you have diseases in your body you didn’t know existed there before, and it has you crying out to God, “Why? What’s this? Where are you?” Others of you have suffered great loss within the last few weeks, and the tears still wet your pillow at night as you pray, “God, are you there? Are you with me? Where is your victory in this?”
Brother and sister, the one who is united to Jesus by faith has great hope, because in the end our feeling of God’s absence will end when we see him face-to-face, our pain from suffering at the hands of enemies will fall before his mighty sword, the curtains darkening your soul will be thrown wide open to the Light of the world, your lingering doubts will eventually give way to solid ground, because God vindicated Jesus and Jesus reigns; he’s bringing his world-wide kingdom of worship. “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied,” Christ himself says through David. “Those who seek the Lord shall praise the Lord, and your hearts will live forever in his presence!” Stand fast! The dark night could not hold Jesus, and it cannot hold any of those united to him. Cry out to him with newness of mind and spirit to the giver of resurrection life. He will not fail you.
Declare Jesus’ victory to others
And so lastly, how could we not declare this good news to others? David Platt’s words still ring in my ears: “Privatized faith in a resurrected King is practically impossible.” There’s too much good news bound up with the crucified and risen King to be silent. And that’s why Christ commissioned his church to take his gospel to the world. He wants the afflicted to be raised up; he wants the prosperous to bow the knee. He wants all the families of the earth to hear of his victory over sin and death. And so he promises that “it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”
And church, that’s the mantle we wear. We proclaim God’s righteousness in Christ; we speak to all generations; we go to all peoples with this message: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ is coming again. He died for the guilty; he brings salvation for all; he fulfills God’s plan in Scripture; and he’s vindicated for world-wide worship.
More in The Gospel According to John
May 24, 2015Eyewitness Testimony to the Greatness of Jesus
May 17, 2015Loving Jesus & Feeding His People at All Costs
May 10, 2015Believing the Apostle's Testimony When Not Seeing Jesus