Reading for Thursday, Jan. 26: John 19
We’ve finally reached the time for Jesus’ death in John’s Gospel. The political movements in the first part of the chapter give us some insight into the climate of Jerusalem and first century Judaism: the crowd who so triumphantly hailed his entry to the city just days earlier now chants for his death and Barabbas’s release. Pilate hems and haws, unwilling to send an innocent man to his death. But he is a politician first and foremost and the crowd forces his hand.
Jesus again demonstrates God’s sovereignty throughout these circumstances. He says to Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” As I said yesterday, John helps us parse our language: Jesus wasn’t “killed”; He willingly gives up his own life as part of God’s redemptive purpose. All of this is happening in God’s timing. Jesus’ sensitivity to his “time” in John has all been building up to this. As John notes at the end of the chapter, what had been prophesied about long ago has finally been fulfilled.
V15 is a chilling microcosm of humanity. Pilate asks the crowd, “Shall I crucify your King?” And they reply, “We have no king but Caesar.” How often do we refuse the lordship of Jesus in favor of worldly rulers and ideals? Jesus says His kingdom is not of this world. And yet, we’re always looking for earthly “rulers” to bow down in front of. Whether it’s wealth, status, power, position, relationships, possessions, fame or something else, the struggle of our lives is a struggle of allegiance: to God or anything else. In their bloodlust, the crowd screams “We have no king but Caesar”, a blatant denial of the first and greatest command. And their cry serves as a reminder for us of how far we can drift, bowing down before the created rather than the Creator.
I love that Mary and some of the women are unafraid to be present at the crucifixion. We get the impression that most of the men (with the exception of John) are too scared to even show up. But these women boldly take their place at the foot of the cross. What an example of faithfulness for us! We also find a familiar face at the end of the chapter: Nicodemus, who joins Joseph of Arimathea (a covert disciple) in giving Jesus a proper burial.
What are your thoughts? I’m sure we could talk for a long time about the enormity of Christ’s death and what it means to us. I hope this is a story that never grows cold in our hearts. I pray that the full significance of Christ’s death on the cross could be the unending pursuit of our lives. May God bless your reading today.