“16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 Here they crucified him, and with him two others — one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did. 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Commentary on John 19:16-30
The Hour (19:16b–27) Every word of John’s Gospel leads to this moment, for the “hour” had finally come. As if one last effort to cleanse Himself from guilt, Pilate had the title “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” written in Latin, Aramaic, and Greek (19:19) and fastened onto the cross where Jesus was crucified. Every prophecy regarding the Messiah, even to the gambling for His clothing, was fulfilled (19:24; see Ps. 22:18). Crucifixion was the Roman means of execution for slaves and criminals. The victim was nailed to a cross shaped either in the traditional form, or in the shape of a T, X, Y, or I. The nails were driven through the wrists and heel bones. Present at the cross were Jesus’ mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (19:25). Also present was the author of this Gospel, the apostle John, whom Jesus instructed to care for His mother (19:27).
19–22 The placard on the cross was the conventional announcement of the offense the victim had committed. The languages were intended to make the inscription plain to all: Aramaic, for the local inhabitants; Latin, for the officials; Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean world. Its content was Pilate’s psychological revenge on the Jewish hierarchy for forcing his decision. It proclaimed loudly to all passers-by that Rome had crucified the king of the Jews as a common criminal. Stung by the insult, the priests remonstrated, asking that Pilate make clear that it was Jesus’ claim to be King of the Jews, not that it was in fact true. Having succeeded by his unjust compromise in removing any possible ground of accusation that he was derelict in his duty to the Roman state, Pilate resumed his haughty attitude and refused to change the wording. “What I have written, I have written” means essentially, “Take it and like it!”
23-24 John’s reason for mentioning this episode was its illustration or fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 22. Psalm 22 is a startling picture of the Crucifixion, which begins with Christ’s fourth word from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34). If Pilate’s inscription shows that he exploited Jesus’ crucifixion as a means of psychological vengeance, the gambling of the legionnaires shows their callous and mercenary attitude.
It Is Finished (19:28–30) The actual death of Jesus was preceded with words fitting the narrative John had written: “It is finished” (19:30). What was finished? The mission of Jesus, the Son of God, to die a substitutionary death for sinful persons. As a result of His death on our behalf, our sin was atoned for, and eternal life through Jesus became attainable through trusting faith. With these final words Jesus “bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (19:30). This rather unusual way of describing someone’s death intimates that Jesus died voluntarily as an act of the will. 
19:30 The sixth word or saying that Jesus spoke from the cross was the single Greek word tetelestai which means It is finished. Papyri receipts for taxes have been recovered with the word tetelestai written across them, meaning “paid in full.” This word on Jesus’ lips was significant. When He said, “It is finished” (not “I am finished”), He meant His redemptive work was completed. He had been made sin for people (2 Cor. 5:21) and had suffered the penalty of God’s justice which sin deserved. Even in the moment of His death, Jesus remained the One who gave up His life (cf. John 10:11, 14, 17–18). He bowed His head (giving His seventh saying, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” [Luke 23:46]) and then dismissed His spirit. This differs from the normal process in death by crucifixion in which the life-spirit would ebb away and then the head would slump forward.
Study Guide John 19:16-30
- As we think about the death of Christ, we can’t help but think about our own coming death, we all are dying.
- In what ways can thinking about your own death – in other words, not avoiding the reality of your death – help you to live well? Why is that so?
- Now consider the Gospel and think of death absent the hope of the Gospel. How does the absence of the Gospel make people fearful or foolish?
- Without the hope of the Gospel, death is believed to be the loss of everything. And so, those who do not know Christ will live in fear, desperately avoiding considering the reality of death. Living with their hearts and minds imprisoned in fear, how has death already won in their lives? How does it control how they live?
- The Gospel tells us that Jesus did not die for His own sins; He died for the sins of others. His resurrection confirmed the Gospel hope; therefore death and sin do not have the final word.
- How might you embrace this reality so that you think about your life and death in the context of the Gospel?
- Think deeply about the crucifixion. This was the historical account of how God became a man to die for men and women. It is a not a “religious” story. It is a real story. It is not just a man dying in the Middle East in the first century; it is God’s intersection with human history. It is not silly, nor unbelievable, nor disconnected from where you live now in your own space and time. What has happened there has real bearing on your life now. This is no two-story account of a religious fairy tale. This is an eyewitness account of the Messiah, God in human flesh, dying a real death for the real sins of the world.
- Do you believe it? How does it have impact in your daily life? Or does it seem like some far away, long removed story?
- What can you do today to refuse to turn the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection into “sort of real” things, while viewing the sights, sounds, feelings, and smells around you as “really real?”
- What will you have to do today to choose to live in line with the reality of the crucifixion, the Gospel?
- Why the Cross?
- Because Jesus loves you. Because you were part of the joy set before Him. In what ways does that truth move us from self-centered thinking about ourselves and into thinking about Him?
- Think about this: He did not wait until we were “better” before He loved us. He did not demand we change before He changed us. Jesus did not die for “good” people; He died for rebels, for sinners… He died for you!
- Take some time and talk about how this statement makes you feel. How does it fill you with hope and why does it do so?
- Jesus faithfully finished His work on the cross and accomplished our salvation. Will you finish well and accomplish a life of faithfulness for the good of others and the glory of God?
- What does that look like for you today?
- What small thing can you be found faithful in today?
- “It is finished” powerfully summarizes the gospel. Since it is finished…you cannot add to it.
- Do you believe this to be true? Are you trying to add to his finished work? are you trying earn his favor?
- Take some time and evaluate your life, are you operating in any of the following earning modes: Persistent Pride and Persistent Guilt; Discouragement and Disillusionment.
- What can you do today to move out of these modes of operation?
- How can you consistently stay out of the “earning” mode?