Jesus Died for Us

Biblical Truth: Jesus, the Messiah-King, died on the cross for our sins.

A Triumphant Entry: John 12:12-15.

[12]  On the next day the great multitude who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, [13]  took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet Him, and began to cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” [14]  And Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, [15]  “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”    [NASU]

[12-13]  The large crowd refers to the country people who were coming up to Jerusalem for the feast, probably most of them from Galilee. These would accordingly be the men among whom the greater part of Jesus’ ministry had been exercised, a fact which perhaps explains their enthusiasm. They took palm branches and cried out. Both the actions and the words expressed their praise. The Law provided that palms should be used at the Feast of Tabernacles [Lev. 23:40]. Later they were used on other festal occasions also. We read in Revelation of a multitude before the throne with palms in their hands [Rev. 7:9]. Palms were an emblem of victory, and in John’s mention of them here we must detect a reference to the triumph of Christ. The word Hosanna is the transliteration of an Aramaic or Hebrew expression with the meaning, “Save, I pray”. The multitude are proclaiming the blessedness of Jesus rather than praying that He might be blessed. When this enthusiasm began to be manifested Jesus chose to accept it. But He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to symbolize a conception of messiahship very different from that of the crowds. They hailed Him as the messianic King. He came as the Prince of peace.

[14-15]  John draws attention to the fulfillment of Scripture. For him it is important that the will of God was done. The citation is from Zechariah 9:9. The quotation bears closer inspection. The opening words, Fear not, are not found in Zechariah 9:9 and replace Rejoice greatly. Quite likely they are drawn from Isaiah 40:9, where they are addressed to the one who brings good tidings to Zion. It is not uncommon for New Testament quotations from the Old Testament to derive from two or more passages. Daughter of Zion is a common way of referring to the people of Jerusalem, especially in their guise as the oppressed or fallen people of God. The rest of the quotation is an abridgment of Zechariah 9:9. Like many New Testament quotations from the Old, however, the entire Old Testament context must be borne in mind if the full force of the words is to be recognized. After the promise of the coming of the gentle king, God further promises, I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit [Zech. 9:10-11]. Three points stand out: (1) The coming of the gentle king is associated with the cessation of war: this, too, was understood by John as defining the work of Jesus in such a way that He could never be reduced to an enthusiastic Zealot. (2) The coming of the gentle king is associated with the proclamation of peace to the nations, extending His reign to the ends of the earth. (3) The coming of the gentle king is associated with the blood of God’s covenant that spells release for prisoners and is associated with Passover and with the death of the servant-king that lies immediately ahead.

A Shocking Betrayal: John 13:21,26-27.

[21]  When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” [26]  Jesus therefore answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. [27]  And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”    [NASU]

Immediately after the explanation of the footwashing there comes a prophecy that one of those present will betray Jesus. Jesus has already intimated twice that something was amiss in the apostolic band [13:10,18], and John has explained that the first of these refers to the betrayal. But nothing has been said which makes clear to the disciples what is about to take place. Even now nobody, except Judas, really knows what Jesus is speaking about. The apostles know only that one of them is false in some undefined way.

[21]  A very human Jesus is described as troubled in spirit. Though John pictures Jesus as in control of the situation he does not want us to think of Him as unmoved by the events through which He is passing. The words of Jesus are invested with a special solemnity as we see from the introduction testified and said and from the introductory Truly, truly. This is the third time that Jesus has referred to the traitor [13:10,18]. Previously however the reference has been very general. Now Jesus specifically assures the apostolic band that from among them will come a betrayer.

[26]  Jesus answers that He will point the traitor out by an action. It is implied, though not actually stated, that the words could be heard only by him to whom they were spoken. It is clear that Jesus did not want the group as a whole to know the identity of the traitor. The giving of the dipped morsel would probably be interpreted as a mark of honor by the other disciples. Thus this act by Jesus would help to keep the identity of the traitor secret.

[27]  Satan (mentioned by name only here in this Gospel) now entered Judas. John is under no delusion as to the magnitude of the issues involved or the real source of Judas’s inspiration. It was Satan who entered him and inspired his actions. John sees this as the critical moment. If the giving of the morsel was indeed a mark of favor it would be in the nature of a final appeal to Judas from Jesus. But Judas did not respond. He gave himself the more fully to Satan’s leading. Therefore indicates that Jesus realized how it was. He accordingly urged Judas to do what he has to do quickly. But His words are general and the real import of them remains hidden from the eleven.

An Unmistakable Death: John 19:16-19,31-37.

[16]  So he then delivered Him to them to be crucified. [17]  They took Jesus therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. [18]  There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. [19]  And Pilate wrote an inscription also, and put it on the cross. And it was written, “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.” [31]  Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), 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 man and of the other who was crucified with Him;   [33]  but coming to Jesus, when they 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 immediately there came out blood and water. [35]  And he who has seen has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. [36]  For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” [37]  And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”    [NASU]

[16]  There was nothing more Pilate could do. He recognized defeat and handed Jesus over to execution. He could now release Him only at the cost of facing an accusation of having failed in his duty to Caesar. He had troubles enough without inviting this for taking action in favor of, what appeared to be, a powerless Galilean peasant. Them should refer to the chief priests. But the execution was carried out by the Romans. It was not a Jewish form of death, and in any case the Jews would not have been permitted to carry it out. But John’s turn of phrase reveals that, whoever carried out the actual execution, Jesus was being delivered over to the will of those who sought His death [see Luke 23:25].

[17]  They is not defined, but we should probably understand it to refer to the soldiers. It was usual for a condemned prisoner to carry to the place of execution all or part of the cross to which he was to be fastened. The Synoptists tell us that on the way Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service to relieve Jesus of this burden. Jesus will thus have carried the cross at first, but along the way, probably because He was weak through the flogging He had endured, He was relieved of the burden. John tells us the name of the place where the crucifixion took place in both Greek and Aramaic. We are not told why this place was called “skull”. The usual explanation is that Jesus was crucified on a hill which was in the shape of a skull. Our word Calvary is from the Latin word which means “skull”.

[18]  John describes the horror that was crucifixion in a single word. As in the case of the scourging, he simply mentions the fact and passes on. Popular piety has often tended to make a great deal of the sufferings of Jesus, to reflect on what was done and to dwell on the anguish He suffered. None of the Gospels does this. The death of Jesus for mankind was the Gospel writers’ concern. The physical suffering of Jesus was nothing compared to His bearing on the Cross the wrath of God poured out upon the sin of the world. John, like the other Gospel writers, tells us that there were two others crucified with Jesus, and that Jesus was in the middle. From the point of view of the enemies of Jesus this may have been meant as a final indignity. He was among criminals in His death. But John probably records the fact in order to bring out the truth that Jesus was one with sinners in His death.

[19]  Pilate wrote out an inscription or title on a board commonly used for public notices. This placard listed the crimes of the condemned and was attached to the cross. Over Jesus Pilate wrote, Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews. It is worth noticing that John stresses the kingship motif right to the end. For him the royalty of Jesus is the significant thing.

[31]  The day of preparation had become a technical term for Friday the day before the Sabbath. According to Jewish Law the dead body of an executed criminal was not to remain all night on the cross, but was to be buried before evening. Especially was this the case when a Sabbath was approaching and even more so when the Sabbath was one of the important feasts. The Jews were thus insistent that in this case the bodies should be removed before the feast began. Therefore they asked Pilate that the legs of the crucified be broken. The Roman custom was to leave the bodies of crucified criminals on their crosses as a warning to others. It was therefore necessary to obtain permission before removing a body. The victims of this cruel form of execution could ease slightly the strain on their arms and chests by taking some of their weight on the feet. This helped to prolong their lives somewhat. When the legs were broken this was no longer possible. There was then a greater constriction of the chest, and death came on more quickly. This was aided also, of course, by the shock attendant on the brutal blows as the legs were broken with a heavy mallet. So the Jews wanted the process of death speeded up and the bodies removed. It is perhaps significant that this is the last actions of “the Jews” recorded in this Gospel. The Jews did not want their land defiled by their dead, but they were not concerned that they were themselves defiled by their deed.

[32-33]  The soldiers did break the legs of both the men who were crucified with Jesus. This indicates that they were at this time still alive. But when they came to Jesus they saw that He was already dead. Therefore they did not break His legs.

[34]  But one of the soldiers was not content simply to pass by. Either out of brutality or to make sure that Jesus was really dead he thrust his spear into His side. Immediately blood and water came out. The significance of this is not clear. In view of the following verse it is plain that John wants us to take this as a record of what actually happened. He is not manufacturing an edifying piece of symbolism, but describing an event. The author was struck by it, so included it in his Gospel.

[35]  This piercing of Jesus’ side evidently made a profound impression on the mind of John. He is the only Gospel writer to include this incident in his Gospel account. He brings out emphatically the point that he was an eye witness of what he is saying. John also maintains that this is recorded so that you also may believe. The production of faith in the readers is the main purpose of the writing of this Gospel [20:31]. John does not explain how faith will result from the narration of the issuing of water and blood from the side of the crucified Savior, but clearly he expected it to do so.

[36]  Characteristically John sees a fulfillment of Scripture in these happenings. The purpose of God had to be fulfilled. He refers to two separate things, the fact that Jesus’ bones were not broken, and the fact that His side was pierced. It is really extraordinary that this should be the case. Jesus escaped the breaking of the legs though this happened to those crucified with Him, and He experienced a hard spear thrust, which appears to have been unusual, but which yet did no bone damage. Most think that the particular passage John has in mind for the first is Exodus 12:46 or Numbers 9:12, both referring to the Passover. When that sacrifice was instituted the command was given that not one bone was to be broken. If this is the allusion then John is viewing Jesus as the perfect Passover offering.

[37]  The other Scripture in mind is Zechariah 12:10. This passage from the prophet certainly strengthens John is his conviction that in the events associated with the crucifixion the will of God was done. John was evidently impressed with the fact that, though Jesus’ body was pierced not one bone was broken, and that this corresponded exactly with Scripture.

Questions for Discussion:

1.      Study Zechariah 9:9-13 to see the context of the kind of king Jesus was claiming to be. Notice the references to just, gentle, peace to the nations, the blood of my covenant, and free your prisoners. Why are the people to rejoice greatly? What are the characteristics of this king? What does this tell you about his reign and kingdom? Why is this king riding a donkey instead of a war horse?

2.      The giving of a piece of bread dipped in wine was a mark of honor and friendship. Why did Jesus do this for Judas? Why would Judas respond to Jesus’ love and kindness in the way that he did? Evidently the disciples did not know who would betray Jesus. What does this tell you about how Jesus treated Judas?

3.      All of the gospel writers say nothing about how horrible scourging and crucifixion were. See Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; John 19:18. Why do you think they so understated Jesus’ physical sufferings? What do they emphasize instead of the physical agony?

4.      How would you explain the need for the Cross to someone else? Why is the cross necessary? Why do people not feel the need for an atonement? How do your non-Christian friends define sin? How do you think they would respond to the Bible’s use of words such as alienation, enmity, debt, crime and hostility? What do you say to a non-Christian to deepen his awareness of sin?


The Gospel According to John, D. A. Carson, Eerdmans.

The Gospel According to John, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.

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