Tag Archives: John 19

John 19:31-42 – What Happened to Jesus Body?

Last week we explored the theological and spiritual significance of the cross.

  • Specifically, we learned about the atonement.
  • What it was and why it was necessary.
  • And why Jesus had to die, and the perils of the human condition that required a divine remedy.


Today we will deal with the last two sections of John 19.

  • These sections answer the question “What happened to Jesus’ body?” – Kostenberger.
  • The first section, one that shows us a dead Jesus on a Roman cross, is rarely contested (Richard Carrier is an exception).
  • The second section, however, is seen by many Christian critics as fantasy.
    • The beginning of the resurrection fairy tale.
    • We will deal with each separately.





John 19:31–37 (ESV) — 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”


John begins our text by telling us that, “it was the day of Preparation” (vs. 31).

  • In other words, it was Friday, the day before the Sabbath.
  • It was called the “day of Preparation” because Friday, especially on feast weeks, was literally the “day everything had to be prepared for the Sabbath” – BDAG.
  • And given the fact that this was the Sabbath of Passover week, preparations would have been even more significant.


And because the Jews considered sundown on the day of Preparation to mark the beginning of the Sabbath, they were eager to remove the bodies.

  • Why?
  • It would defile the land to leave corpses up on the Sabbath.
  • Most believe this sentiment is related to Deut. 21:23 – “his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God…


John MacArthur notes the following about the Jews’ purity concerns:

“They were zealous to observe the minutiae of the law while at the same time killing the One who both authored and fulfilled it; they were scrupulously concerned that the land not be defiled, but were unconcerned about their own defilement from murdering the Son of God” – John MacArthur.


The Jews were eager to remove the bodies, but all three crucifixion victims would have to be dead to do so.

  • A potential problem, then, was that it usually could take days for a crucifixion victim to die.
  • And a further problem was that, even after death, the Romans liked to leave the corpses hanging in order to intimidate.
  • Remember, the bodies would be within range of dogs and would be picked over by vultures.
  • So between the visual gruesomeness and foul odor, the scene served as a powerful deterrent.


So the Jews “asked Pilate” to speed up the process by breaking the victims’ legs (vs. 31).

  • Fortunately, “Romans accommodated Jewish wishes particularly during the crowded festivals” – IVPBBCNT.
  • In fact, Josephus claims that Jews “always buried crucifixion victims before sunset” – IVPBBCNT.


The soldiers found that the two thieves were still alive (vs. 32).

  • So they broke their legs (vs. 32).
  • This practice of breaking the legs of a crucifixion victim is called crurifragium.
  • “The victims’ legs (and sometimes other bones) would be smashed with an iron mallet” – Kostenberger.
    • We can be fairly certain that the Jews wanted Jesus’ legs to be smashed as well.
    • No doubt, to further humiliate Him and diminish His claims.
  • This practice would often lead to death by suffocation.
  • And no doubt the pain and additional blood loss made it all even worse.


But in Jesus’ case, the soldiers found Him “already dead” (vs. 33).

  • This confirms much of what we said earlier:
    • He was nailed to the stake, not tied.
    • He was flogged twice.
    • He was severely tortured in the 2nd flogging.
    • It is for these reasons, and certainly the will of God, that Jesus’ death was so quick.


John tells us, however, that the soldiers did, “pierce his side with a spear” (vs. 34).

  • This was apparently done to confirm that Jesus was dead.

From medical tests on cadavers, it has indeed been shown that, “where a chest has been severely injured but without penetration, hemorrhagic fluid, up to two litres of it, gathers between the pleura lining the rib cage and the lining of the lung. This separates, the clearer serum at the top, the deep red layer at the bottom. If the chest cavity were then pierced at the bottom, both layers would flow out” – D.A. Carson.


The “beloved disciple”, the writer of the Gospel of John, then tells us that he was an eyewitness to these events.

  • He who saw it has borne witness” (vs. 35).
  • This statement is a “bioi” (ancient biography) claim.
  • The author witnessed the events.
  • His testimony is not second hand.
  • And this is significant because he is testifying (so that we might believe) not only to the fact that Jesus died on the cross,
  • But that the unfolding of events on the cross, “took place that Scripture might be fulfilled” (vs. 36).


The fulfillments, like the “Righteous Sufferer” from Psalm 69, are typology fulfillments.

  • A typology is, “Key patterns of activity ascribed to God [that] recur in striking, discernible patterns such that the believer can only affirm the same hand of God at work in both events” – Beale/Carson.
  • We will contend with typologies more when we get to the resurrection.


And the Scriptures that were fulfilled were:

(1) Psalm 34:20 (ESV) — 20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. – AND – Numbers 9:12 (ESV) — 12 They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break any of its bones; according to all the statute for the Passover they shall keep it.

  • The Psalmist is David and he is referring to how YHWH cares for the righteous.
  • Numbers is literally referring to the Passover lamb.


BTW – From John the Baptist (“Behold the lamb of God…”) to Paul, Jesus was seen as the Passover lamb.

  • 1 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV) — 7b For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.


(2) Zechariah 12:10 (ESV) — 10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

  • Referring, at the time, to the either a killing or a figurative “piercing” with sorrow of YHWH.



There can be no doubt that these professional executioners succeeded in killing Jesus.

  • The evidence is even clear that they confirmed Jesus’ death.
  • This was done to accommodate the request of the Jews.
  • Something, we know from Josephus, was done routinely.


In fact, Mark 15:44-45 tells us that Pilate would not let Joseph have Jesus’ body until His death was confirmed by the executioners.

  • Mark 15:44–45 (ESV) — 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph.


So Jesus was dead.

  • He was not passed out.
  • He was not in a coma.
  • It was not another who died in His place.
  • And Jesus submitted to all of this of His “own accord”.
  • John 10:18 (ESV) — 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”


Even the Jesus Seminar’s Crossan accepts this historic event as factual.

“Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be. For if no follower of Jesus had written anything for one hundred years after his crucifixion, we would still know about him from two authors not among his supporters. Their names are Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus” – John Dominic Crossan.


BTW – One side note on the crucifixions deeper meaning in John’s Gospel.

“It is the means by which he returns to the Father. That is, John overcomes the scandal of the cross by interpreting it in terms of Jesus’ exaltation. This reading is encouraged by the fact that in those places where the reference to the “lifting up” of Jesus is clearest—3:14; 8:28; 12:32–34—John has developed the larger theme of the Son’s journey from and return to God. In this way the cross is interpreted by the journey motif as the means by which the Son of man left the world below to return to the world above” – DJG.

  • John clearly saw the cross as the glorification of Christ, not His humiliation.





John 19:38–42 (ESV) — 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.


What happened to Jesus’ body?

  • We know from various historical sources that at least three things were done with the body of a crucifixion victim.


(1) “The body could be left on the cross to rot, and for the animals—especially vultures and ravens—to eat” – LBD.

“In a comedy of Plautus, one slave laments: “I know the cross will be my sepulcher: that is where my forbears are, my father, grandfathers, great grandfathers, and great, great grandfathers” (Miles Gloriosus, 372; text in Cook, “Burial,” 206). This indicates that the slave would not be buried” – LBD.

  • “An inscription from Caria details that, after a slave murdered his master, he was: “hung while yet living for the wild animals and birds” (text in Cook, “Crucifixion and Burial,” 206)” – LBD.
  • “Ancient writers often referred to crucifixion victims as food for ravens or vultures (Petronius, Satyricon 58.2; Juvenal, Sat. 14.77–78)” – LBD.


(2) “The corpse could be taken from the cross and abused—dragged through the streets—and then thrown into a mass grave for criminals (Cook, “Envisioning Crucifixion,” 280)” – LBD.

  • In fact, “had the Romans had their way, the corpses would not have been buried at all” – IVPBBCNT.
  • This is the fate ascribed to Jesus by most of Christianities skeptics and antagonists.
    • Including John Dominic Crossan.
  • And especially by those that reject any possibility of the resurrection.


(3) “Some condemned persons were handed over to family for burial” – LBD.

  • “The Ulpian Digest of Roman law states that corpses of condemned criminals are not to be withheld from family members (Cook, “Envisioning Crucifixion,” 279)” – LBD.
  • “Philo observed that in Alexandria, he had known of cases where the bodies of crucified persons were given to their relatives, especially on holiday evenings (Philo, Flacc. 83)” – LBD.
  • “Josephus (J.W. 4.317) writes: “Jews show concern for burials so that they even take down those crucified and bury them before sunset” (text in Cook, “Crucifixion and Burial,” 212)” – LBD.

“The discovery of the bones of a crucified man in a tomb near Jerusalem demonstrates that crucified victims were sometimes buried. The Romans may have allowed Jews to bury condemned criminals because of the Jewish sensitivity about burial” – LBD.


The third historically attested option is of course the claim of the Gospels.

  • Some of the more “covert” disciples of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, obtained Jesus’ body, prepared it for burial, and laid it in a rock-cut tomb.
  • Archaeology has verified that “ancient rock-cut tombs of the period surround the walls of Jerusalem on three sides” – NBD.
  • And throughout the OT, we have examples of bodies being buried in caves or rock-cut tombs.
    • “Ge 23:19-20; 25:9-10; 50:13; Jdg 8:32; 16:31; 1Sa 25:1 “at his home” probably refers to the family tomb, but could mean more literally under the floor of the house or yard; 2Sa 2:32; 17:23” – DBT.


Joseph’s involvement is also another typological fulfillment of Scripture.

  • Isaiah 53:9 (ESV) — 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.


John points out that this, like the earlier request of the Jews to speed up the deaths, was both known and approved by Pilate – Joseph “asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission” (vs. 38).

  • This importantly gives multiple attestations to the burial of Jesus’ body by both His disciples and His executioner.
  • The Romans knew what happened to the body of Jesus.


John tells us that Jesus’ dead body was prepared for burial in traditional Jewish fashion.

  • So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” (vs. 40).
  • According to Jesus, this preparation for burial started before Jesus was even crucified.
    • Mark 14:8 (ESV) — 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.


The burial of the dead for the Jew at this time was a two stage process.

  • The burial itself was stage 1.
  • Then, typically, they would have come back a year later and collected the bones and put them in an ossuary.
  • When Jesus was laid in the tomb, this second step surely crossed their minds.



It is interesting to note that this practice differs significantly from the way the Romans, Greeks or Egyptians treated their dead heroes.

  • The Greeks and Romans usually burned their dead heroes.
  • The Egyptians embalmed and mummified theirs.
  • In either case, the body was destroyed or its insides completely removed.


Jesus’ body, on the other hand, was buried:

  • Dead
  • Brutally tortured and traumatized
    • Punctured side, arms and feet, flogged, severely beaten chest, etc.
  • Wrapped in a burial shroud
  • And with full approval of Pilate


All hope is gone?


The scene is pregnant with possibilities.

  • But there is nothing unusual or non-historical about it at all.
  • Jesus, a man hated by many and revered by few, was executed.
  • He died for trumped up reasons.
  • The system was manipulated by a politically savvy Jewish leadership.
  • Pilate submitted to their conniving due to his politically tenuous circumstances.
    • Power, greed and political maneuverings – nothing new there.
  • Most of His followers had dispersed.
  • Only the women, a few fearful, little known disciples, and the “beloved disciple” hung around.
  • And the death they witnessed, one witnessed by thousands, was at best, the brutal murder of a great rabbi, prophet and martyr.


The most optimistic hope of Jesus’ followers’ was likely this:

  • In a year, His bones would be collected.
  • And He would be resurrected at the end times with the rest of the righteous and be vindicated.
  • Daniel 12:2 (ESV) — 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
  • The wicked Gentile rulers would be judged and things would be put right.
  • Jesus’ resurrection 3 days later was not, I repeat, not on the radar at all – N.T. Wright.
  • We will explore this more next week.


John 19:1-16 – The PreCrucifixion

Today, we begin to look at what Jesus had to endure so that His birth and incarnation could complete His stated purpose – to “bear witness to the truth”.

  • And to do this, it will be necessary to gain an understanding of the contextual background of the events described in our text.
  • In other words, there is going to be a lot of history.



John 19:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.


Pilate “took Jesus” back into the Antonia Fortress after the Jews made it clear they did not want Jesus released.

  • When back inside the Fortress, Pilate arranged for Jesus to be flogged.
  • And then the soldiers engaged in what D.A. Carson calls, “barracks vulgarity”.
    • The crown of thorns, purple robe and the hitting.
  • There is a great deal more to say on these verses, so we will return to them momentarily.
  • Suffice it to say, we will find that the “traditional” view of Jesus’ flogging may need reevaluating.


And BTW – Last week we noted that the Jews would not enter the Gentile fortress because they wanted to remain ceremonially pure for the upcoming feast.

  • They wanted to use Pilate the Gentile to kill Jesus, but didn’t want to go in his house.
  • And here again they remain outside while Jesus is taken inside to be flogged.
  • The irony here is that the “ceremonially pure” Jews in our text were bankrupt morally.
  • The Jews were conniving at every moment to have the perfectly, morally pure Jesus murdered.


In fact, this scene epitomizes the very thing over which Jesus clashed with them on numerous occasions.

  • Moral Purity vs. Ceremonial Law Purity.
  • Jesus addressed this throughout His ministry.
  • Matthew 23:23 (ESV) — 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
  • Matthew 21:32 (ESV) — 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you [chief priests and elders] did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
  • Mark 2:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”


Moving on…



John 19:4–7 (ESV) — 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”


After the flogging, Pilate brought Jesus back to the Jews for the second time.

  • His words are interesting, “that you many know that I find no guilt in him” (vs. 4).
  • Now, John tells us that Jesus came out with a crown of thorns and a purple robe.
  • And that Pilate sarcastically declared, “Behold the man!” (vs. 5).
    • As in, “Behold the innocent man that is certainly not the threat you say he is”.


How would these actions, given the flogging, convey that Pilate had found “no guilt in him” (vs. 4)?

  • For starters, Jesus looked or acted nothing at all like a king.
  • He was nothing more than a homeless, humiliated Nazarene.
  • And his loyal followers were nowhere to be seen.
    • But wait…there is more, and we will get to it when we return to verses 1-3.


So, unfazed by Pilate’s production, the Jews were relentless.

  • …they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’” (vs. 6)
  • Pilate mocked them a little, “Take him yourselves and crucify him” (vs. 6)
    • He knew this would be an impossibility.
  • And for the third time he declared Jesus’ innocence – “I find no guilt in him” (vs. 6).


They pretty much ignored Pilate and responded with a Levitical law to justify why Jesus must die.

  • Leviticus 24:16 (ESV) — 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.
  • Apparently, Jesus blasphemed God because He made himself the Son of God” (vs. 7).


John captures when this supposed crime took place.

  • John 10:30 & 34-38 (ESV) — 30 I and the Father are one [in action].”…34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
  • BTW – “…the claim of being God’s son need not be blasphemous and may refer to the anointed king of Israel (2 Sam. 7:14;   p 534  Ps. 2:7; 89:26–27) or to the Messiah…” – Kostenberger.


After the revelation that Jesus claimed to be the “Son of God”, Pilate begins to come across as rattled.

  • Let’s take a look.



John 19:8–11 (ESV) — 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”


There are two things going on here.

  • (1) Why was Pilate afraid?
  • (2) The Sovereignty of God.


(1) Why was Pilate afraid?

  • We know that up to this point Pilate seemed anything but afraid.
  • He was sarcastic, mocking and pragmatic (“What is truth?”), but not afraid.
    • Carson describes him as “cynical and blunt”.
  • It turns out that scholars (Kostenberger, Carson, Beasley-Murray) suggest that the Greek in vs. 8 doesn’t mean Pilate was previously afraid and then became more afraid.


But what it may mean, we are told is:

  • His superstitious worldview was set in motion with the association of Jesus with a “Son of God”.
  • The Greco-Roman worldview contained a belief in what are called “‘divine men’, gifted individuals who were believed to enjoy certain ‘divine’ powers” – D.A. Carson.
  • We see this in action in Acts 14:11.
    • Barnabas as Zeus/Paul as Hermes.


So Pilate’s fear may have been because he just flogged and mocked one of these “divine men” as he understood the term.

  • Not a good thing to do.
  • And we also can’t forget that in Matthew 27:19, Pilate’s wife told Pilate to have “nothing to do with that righteous man”.
  • The gravity of all this may have struck Pilate at once.


(2) The Sovereignty of God – “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…” (vs. 11).

  • The Sovereignty of God is something we have addressed throughout our time in John.
  • Whether it was with the “born again” in John 3, the “drawn” in John 6,  Jesus’ “hour” in John 7, or “the given” in John 17, we have continually encountered the Sovereignty of God at every level.
  • John 3:8 (ESV) — 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
  • John 3:27 (ESV) — 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.
  • John 6:44 (ESV) — 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
  • John 7:30 (ESV) — 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
  • John 17:6 (ESV) — 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.


And the following Scriptures also give us a small taste of this huge subject.

  • 1 Chronicles 29:11 (ESV) — 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
  • Daniel 2:21 (ESV) — 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;
  • Romans 13:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.


Moving on again…



John 19:12–16 (ESV) — 12 From then on [for this reason or temporally] Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.


So having been spooked and faced with what could be a “divine man”, we are told once more that Pilate wants to release Jesus.

  • This could certainly be taken as the fourth time in John that we are told Pilate believes Jesus to be innocent (John 18:38; 19:4; 19:6).
  • So why, then, did he hand Jesus over to be crucified?
  • Was the Jews’ claim, “you are not Caesar’s friend” really enough to sway Pilate?


The answer is yes…and a possible reason why has to do with the tentative nature of Pilate’s power.

  • We know that “‘Friend of Caesar’ was a title accorded to persons of honor among the leading men of Rome” – Beasely-Murray.
  • We know that Pilate’s mentor and political ally was a man named Aelius Sejanus.
  • And that the Roman historian Tacitus said, “Whoever was close to Sejanus had a claim on the friendship of Caesar” – Beasley-Murray.
  • Sejanus was the prefect of the Roman Praetorian Guard.


The problem is that Sejanus lost favor with Caesar Tiberius.

  • He was seen as a threat to Tiberius’ power and so was executed on October 18 in the year 31.
  • So given Pilate’s relationship to Sejanus, it may very well have been that his hold on power in Judea was tentative.
  • Therefore, any complaint from the Jewish leadership, or any sign of trouble from Judea could cost Pilate his power.
  • What is truth?” – the truth is that Jesus was to now die or Pilate may lose power.


So the Jews set a political trap for Pilate and he was “captured”.

  • And at about 6 a.m. he delivered Jesus over to be crucified.
  • And three hours later, we learn from Mark, Jesus would be crucified.
  • BTW – these times are estimates (they didn’t have watches).


Now back to verses 1-3.




We mentioned earlier the “traditional” view of Jesus’ flogging and how it may need reevaluating.

  • We also asked earlier how Pilate’s actions in verses 1-3 convey that he had found “no guilt in him” (vs. 4).
  • The two issues are related.
  • The answer to the question will provide us with a consideration that may require us to rethink our “traditional” view of Jesus’ flogging.


Here is the problem, in John we are presented with a Pilate who, as we have seen, clearly views Jesus as not guilty and not worthy of death.

  • In fact, his official finding on Jesus after his interview with him was, “I find no guilt in him” (vs. 18:38).
  • And Luke even tells us Pilate said, “I will therefore punish and release him” (Luke 23:16).
  • Moreover, in verses 8-11, we also have a scene in which Pilate has another conversation with Jesus.
    • This conversation took place with a Jesus who had just been flogged.


So we have from Pilate a not guilty verdict, intent to punish and release, and a short but deep conversation between Pilate and a flogged Jesus.

  • Beasley-Murray describes the above as follows:

“Pilate now seeks to satisfy the Jews’ desire that Jesus be punished…Such is the clear intimation of Luke 23:16: Pilate declares that after examination neither he nor Herod found any basis for the Jewish charges, nor ground for inflicting the death penalty. Accordingly he adds: “I will punish him and then release him” – Beasley-Murray.


So, the question arises, does the flogging traditionally associated with this part of Jesus’ precrucifixion fit with what John is telling us about Pilate and his judgment of and interaction with Jesus?

  • We have to contend with what we know about the practice of crucifixion by the Romans to find out.


“Roman sources attest to the general sequence of events involved in Roman crucifixion:

  1. The victim was tortured by various means.
  2. The victim carried his or her cross-bar (patibulum) to the place of crucifixion.
  3. The victim was fastened by ropes or nails to the crossbeam.
  4. The crossbeam and victim were then raised to the wooden post or tree and fastened to it. Occasionally, the post or tree may have had a wooden seat (sedile) for the victim” – LBD.


We also know that these four things happened in succession after the guilty verdict was rendered and death by crucifixion was ordained.

  • But, in Jesus’ case, Pilate had declared Jesus to be not guilty.
  • And crucifixion had not been ordered at the time of his flogging in John 19:1-3.


It will also help us to know that Rome had three official kinds of flogging.

  • And only one was associated with crucifixion.
  • (1) “the fustigatio, a beating given for smaller offenses such as hooliganism, often accompanied by a severe warning;
  • (2) the flagellatio, a more brutal flogging to which criminals were subjected whose offenses were more serious; and
  • (3) the verberatio, the most terrible form of this punishment, regularly associated with other reprisals such as crucifixion” – Kostenberger.


We know that it was the third form that was exacted upon the person who was sentenced to crucifixion.

  • But we just said the Jesus had not yet been sentenced to crucifixion yet.
  • And importantly, this brutal form of flogging wasn’t alone.
  • This flogging was also accompanied by brutal forms of torture.
  •  “Precrucifixion torture…could also include burning, racking, mutilation, and abuse of the victim’s family” – LBD.
  • In fact, the flogging and torture were so brutal that many times a dead body was crucified – DJG.


Plato and Josephus give us a brutal picture of the flogging and torture associated with crucifixion.

  • Josephus says of the Jews during the Roman siege of Jerusalem that they were, “‘scourged and subjected to torture of every description’” before they were crucified – DJG.
  • Plato gives us some details – “‘[A man] is racked, mutilated, has his eyes burned out, and after having had all sorts of great injuries inflicted on him, and having seen his wife and children suffer the like, is at last impaled (i.e., crucified) or tarred and burned alive’.
  • In another text, Plato writes: ‘The just man who is thought to be unjust will be scourged, racked, bound—will have his eyes burnt out; and, at last after suffering every kind of evil, he will be impaled (i.e., crucified)’” – LBD.
  • So the flogging that preceded crucifixion was accompanied with “torture of every description” and “suffering [of] every kind of evil”.


So the answer to our question about Jesus’ flogging in John, is that it does not appear to fit the flogging normally meted out to one sentenced to die by crucifixion.

  • In fact, Beasely-Murray says, the flogging Jesus received “…was proposed as an alternative to crucifixion, not, be it noted, as an accompaniment of it” – Beasley-Murray.
  • Therefore, “in the present instance, the flogging probably in view is the least severe form, the fustigatio, which was intended in part to appease the Jews and in part to teach Jesus a lesson” – Kostenberger.
  • “Because Pilate has not yet pronounced sentence, the beating Jesus receives is a lesser one. Pilate may hope that the blood it draws would satisfy Jesus’ accusers” – Craig Keener.
  • “…the flogging threatened in Luke and reported here in John is the fustigatio, the least severe form, and was intended partly to appease the Jews and partly to teach Jesus a lesson…” – D.A. Carson.


D.A. Carson goes on to say:

  • “…it is hard to imagine any Roman prefect administering the verberatio before sentencing” – D.A. Carson.
  • And he says, as we just concluded, that “…it is so brutal that it ill accords with the theme of Luke and of John, that Pilate at first found Jesus innocent and merely wanted to administer enough punishment to be able to appease Jewish officialdom and then let Jesus go” – D.A. Carson.


If this is so, this is why Pilate could flog Jesus, i.e. fustigatio, and declare him not guilty or worthy of death.

  • Remember John’s description in 19:4, “Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.
  • From Pilate’s point of view, Jesus got the punishment that fit the crime.
  • Jesus was not guilty of being a king or aspiring to be a king in any way that concerned Pilate. 
  • So, Jesus was mocked, beaten and fustigatio, but He was not verberatio and tortured – at least not yet.


This also explains how Pilate could continue to walk back and forth with Jesus in and out of the Fortress.

  • And it explains why Pilate could still have a conversation with Jesus.
  • Had Jesus been flogged and tortured in the verberatio style, none of this would have been possible.
  • And this is why we noted that Carson referred to the soldiers mocking of Jesus as “barracks vulgarity”.
  • Their treatment of Jesus was nothing like what one sentenced to crucifixion would receive.
    • Remember Josephus and Plato?


But what of Mark and Matthews account of Jesus flogging (Mark 15:15)?

  • What of the fact that Jesus couldn’t carry His crossbeam?
  • What of the fact that Jesus died so quickly?
  • So quickly, in fact, that his bones weren’t broken.


If all these guys are right about Jesus’ flogging in John, How do we explain all these facts?

  • The explanation is that Jesus was flogged twice!
  • “After the sentence of crucifixion, Jesus was scourged again, this time in the most severe form, the verberatio” – Kostenberger.
  • “…this means that Jesus received a second scourging, the wretched verberatio, after the sentence of crucifixion was passed” – D.A. Carson.


So it is here that the traditional view may need revising.

  • On His way to being “lifted up” and glorified on the cross of Calvary, Jesus was flogged, beaten and mocked two times.


And from what we know of Roman precrucifixion and crucifixion, what Jesus endured was far worse than we previously thought – if that was possible.

  • Due to “literary-aesthetic considerations” present at the time, the extent of, and the exact nature of an individual precrucifixion and crucifixion were not detailed – DJG.
  • We can hardly imagine the flogging and torture Jesus was subjected to when the sentence of crucifixion was pronounced.


“And unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Child is given.”

  • But all this was, as Jesus said, so that He might bear witness to the truth.


Bonus Material – Lexicon Info for John, Luke, and Mark’s “flogging”:

Mastigoo – Greek for flogging in John 19:1.

(a) of flogging as a punishment decreed by the synagogue (Dt 25:2f; s. the Mishna Tractate Sanhedrin-Makkoth, edited w. notes by SKrauss ’33) w. acc. of pers. Mt 10:17; 23:34. Of the beating administered to Jesus J 19:1. If John refers to the ‘verberatio’ given those condemned to death (TMommsen, Röm. Strafrecht 1899, 938f; Jos., Bell. 2, 308; 5, 449), it is odd that Pilate subsequently claims no cause for action (vs. 6); but if the latter statement refers only to the penalty of crucifixion, μ. vs. 1 may be equivalent to παιδεύω [the paideuo found in Luke] (q.v. 2bγ) in Lk 23:16, 22 (for μ.of a non-capital offense PFlor I, 61, 61 [85A.D.]=Mitt-Wilck. II/2, 80 II, 61).


Paideou – Greek for flogging in Luke 23:16.

(2) to assist in the development of a person’s ability to make appropriate choices, practice discipline.

γ. discipline by whipping or scourging (Vi. Aesopi G 61 P.; 3 Km 12:11, 14; 2 Ch 10:11, 14) Lk 23:16, 22.


Phragelloo – Greek for flogging in Mark 15:15.

in Christian usage [s. end of this entry]; but cp. TestBenj 2:3 and Aesop fr. the Cod. Paris. 1277: CRochefort, Notices et Extraits II [1789] 719 no. 19) 1 aor. ἐφραγέλλωσα (Lat. loanw.: flagello; s. φραγέλλιον) flog, scourge, a punishment inflicted on slaves and provincials after a sentence of death had been pronounced on them. So in the case of Jesus before the crucifixion (cp. Jos., Bell. 2, 306 οὓς μάστιξιν προαικισάμενος ἀνεσταύρωσεν [sc. Φλῶρος]; 5, 449; Lucian, Pisc. 2) Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15