John 19:1
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Then Pilate therefore took Jesus.—For the connection and the force of “therefore” comp. Luke 23:21-23.

(1) That the earlier Gospels all make the darkness last from twelve until three (the sixth hour until the ninth hour). This is apparently intended to indicate the time of the Crucifixion, and they thus agree generally with St. John’s account.

John

JESUS SENTENCED

John 19:1 - John 19:16
.

The struggle between the vacillation of Pilate and the fixed malignity of the rulers is the principal theme of this fragment of Christ’s judicial trial. He Himself is passive and all but silent, speaking only one sentence of calm rebuke. The frequent changes of scene from within to without the praetorium indicate the steps in the struggle, and vividly reflect the irresolution of Pilate. These changes may help to mark the stages in the narrative.

I. The cruelties and indignities in John 19:1 - John 19:3 were inflicted within the ‘palace,’ to which Pilate, with his prisoner, had returned after the popular vote for Barabbas.

John makes that choice of the robber the reason for the scourging of Jesus. His thought seems to be that Pilate, having failed in his attempt to get rid of the whole difficulty by releasing Jesus, according to the ‘custom,’ ordered the scourging, in hope that the lighter punishment might satisfy the turbulent crowd, whom he wished to humour, while, if possible, saving their victim. It was the expedient of a weak and cynical nature, and, like all weak attempts at compromise between right and wrong, only emboldened the hatred which it was meant to appease. If by clamour the rulers had succeeded in getting Pilate to scourge a man whom he thought innocent, they might well hope to get him to crucify, if they clamoured loudly and long enough.

One attitude only befitted Pilate, since he did not in the least believe that Jesus threatened the Roman supremacy; namely, to set Him at liberty, and let the disappointed rulers growl like wild beasts robbed of their prey. But he did not care enough about a single half-crazy Jewish peasant to imperil his standing well with his awkward subjects, for the sake of righteousness. The one good which Rome could give to its vassal nations was inflexible justice and a sovereign law; but in Pilate’s action there was not even the pretence of legality. Tricks and expedients run through it all, and never once does he say, This is the law, this is justice, and by it I stand or fall.

The cruel scourging, which, in Roman hands, was a much more severe punishment than the Jewish ‘beating with rods’ and often ended in death, was inflicted on the silent, unresisting Christ, not because His judge thought that it was deserved, but to please accusers whose charge he knew to be absurd. The underlings naturally followed their betters’ example, and after they had executed Pilate’s orders to scourge, covered the bleeding wounds with some robe, perhaps ragged, but of the royal colour, and crushed the twisted wreath of thorn-branch down on the brows, to make fresh wounds there. The jest of crowning such a poor, helpless creature as Jesus seemed to them, was exactly on the level of such rude natures, and would be the more exquisite to them because it was double-barrelled, and insulted the nation as well as the ‘King.’ They came in a string, as the tense of the original word suggests, and offered their mock reverence. But that sport became tame after a little, and mockery passed into violence, as it always does in such natures. These rough legionaries were cruel and brutal, and they were unconscious witnesses to His Kingship as founded on suffering; but they were innocent as compared with the polished gentleman on the judgment-seat who prostituted justice, and the learned Pharisees outside who were howling for blood.

II. In John 19:4 - John 19:8 the scene changes again to without the palace, and shows us Pilate trying another expedient, equally in vain.

The hesitating governor has no chance with the resolute, rooted hate of the rulers. Jesus silently and unresistingly follows Pilate from the hall, still wearing the mockery of royal pomp. Pilate had calculated that the sight of Him in such guise, and bleeding from the lash, might turn hate into contempt, and perhaps give a touch of pity. ‘Behold the man!’ as he meant it, was as if he had said, ‘Is this poor, bruised, spiritless sufferer worth hate or fear? Does He look like a King or a dangerous enemy?’ Pilate for once drops the scoff of calling Him their King, and seeks to conciliate and move to pity. The profound meanings which later ages have delighted to find in his words, however warrantable, are no part of their design as spoken, and we gain a better lesson from the scene by keeping close to the thoughts of the actors. What a contrast between the vacillation of the governor, on the one hand, afraid to do right and reluctant to do wrong, and the dogged malignity of the rulers and their tools on the other, and the calm, meek endurance of the silent Christ, knowing all their thoughts, pitying all, and fixed in loving resolve, even firmer than the rulers’ hate, to bear the utmost, that He might save a world!

Some pity may have stirred in the crowd, but the priests and their immediate dependants silenced it by their yell of fresh hate at the sight of the prisoner. Note how John gives the very impression of the fierce, brief roar, like that of wild beasts for their prey, by his ‘Crucify, crucify!’ without addition of the person. Pilate lost patience at last, and angrily and half seriously gives permission to them to take the law into their own hands. He really means, ‘I will not be your tool, and if my conviction of “the Man’s” innocence is to be of no account, you must punish Him; for I will not.’ How far he meant to abdicate authority, and how far he was launching sarcasms, it is difficult to say. Throughout he is sarcastic, and thereby indicates his weakness, indemnifying himself for being thwarted by sneers which sit so ill on authority.

But the offer, or sarcasm, whichever it was, missed fire, as the appeal to pity had done, and only led to the production of a new weapon. In their frantic determination to compass Jesus’ death, the rulers hesitate at no degradation; and now they adduced the charge of blasphemy, and were ready to make a heathen the judge. To ask a Roman governor to execute their law on a religious offender, was to drag their national prerogative in the mud. But formal religionists, inflamed by religious animosity, are often the degraders of religion for the gratification of their hatred. They are poor preservers of the Church who call on the secular arm to execute their ‘laws.’ Rome went a long way in letting subject peoples keep their institutions; but it was too much to expect Pilate to be the hangman for these furious priests, on a charge scarcely intelligible to him.

What was Jesus doing while all this hell of wickedness and fury boiled round Him? Standing there, passive and dumb, ‘as a sheep before her shearers,’ Himself is the least conspicuous figure in the history of His own trial. In silent communion with the Father, in silent submission to His murderers, in silent pity for us, in silent contemplation of ‘the joy that was set before Him,’ He waits on their will.

III. Once more the scene changes to the interior of the praetorium {John 19:9 - John 19:11}.

The rulers’ words stirred a deepened awe in Pilate. He ‘was the more afraid’; then he had been already afraid. His wife’s dream, the impression already produced by the person of Jesus, had touched him more deeply than probably he himself was aware of; and now this charge that Jesus had ‘made Himself the Son of God’ shook him. What if this strange man were in some sense a messenger of the gods? Had he been scourging one sent from them? Sceptical he probably was, and therefore superstitious; and half-forgotten and disbelieved stories of gods who had ‘come down in the likeness of men’ would swim up in his memory. If this Man were such, His strange demeanour would be explained. Therefore he carried Jesus in again, and, not now as judge, sought to hear from His own lips His version of the alleged claim.

Why did not Jesus answer such a question? His silence was answer; but, besides that, Pilate had not received as he ought what Jesus had already declared to him as to His kingdom and His relation to ‘the truth,’ and careless turning away from Christ’s earlier words is righteously and necessarily punished by subsequent silence, if the same disposition remains. That it did remain, Christ’s silence is proof. Had there been any use in answering, Pilate would not have asked in vain. If Jesus was silent, we may be sure that He who sees all hearts and responds to all true desires was so, because He knew that it was best to say nothing. The question of His origin had nothing to do with Pilate’s duty then, which turned, not on whence Jesus had come, but on what Pilate believed Him to have done, or not to have done. He who will not do the plain duty of the moment has little chance of an answer to his questions about such high matters.

The shallow character of the governor’s awe and interest is clearly seen from the immediate change of tone to arrogant reminder of his absolute authority. ‘To me dost Thou not speak?’ The pride of offended dignity peeps out there. He has forgotten that a moment since he half suspected that the prisoner, whom he now seeks to terrify with the cross, and to allure with deliverance, was perhaps come from some misty heaven. Was that a temper which would have received Christ’s answer to his question?

But one thing he might be made to perceive, and therefore Jesus broke silence for the only time in this section, and almost the only time before Pilate. He reads the arrogant Roman the lesson which he and all his tribe in all lands and ages need-that their power is derived from God, therefore in its foundation legitimate, and in its exercise to be guided by His will and used for His purposes. It was God who had brought the Roman eagles, with their ravening beaks and strong claws, to the Holy City. Pilate was right in exercising jurisdiction over Jesus. Let him see that he exercised justice, and let him remember that the power which he boasted that he ‘had’ was ‘given.’ The truth as to the source of power made the guilt of Caiaphas or of the rulers the greater, inasmuch as they had neglected the duties to which they had been appointed, and by handing over Jesus on a charge which they themselves should have searched out, had been guilty of ‘theocratic felony.’ This sudden flash of bold rebuke, reminding Pilate of his dependence, and charging him with the lesser but yet real ‘sin,’ went deeper than any answer to his question would have done, and spurred him to more earnest effort, as John points out. He ‘sought to release Him,’ as if formerly he had been rather simply unwilling to condemn than anxious to deliver.

IV. So the scene changes again to outside.

Pilate went out alone, leaving Jesus within, and was met before he had time, as would appear, to speak, by the final irresistible weapon which the rulers had kept in reserve. An accusation of treason was only too certain to be listened to by the suspicious tyrant who was then Emperor, especially if brought by the authorities of a subject nation. Many a provincial governor had had but a short shrift in such a case, and Pilate knew that he was a ruined man if these implacable zealots howling before him went to Tiberius with such a charge. So the die was cast. With rage in his heart, no doubt, and knowing that he was sacrificing ‘innocent blood’ to save himself, he turned away from the victorious mob, apparently in silence, and brought Jesus out once more. He had no more words to say to his prisoner. Nothing remained but the formal act of sentence, for which he seated himself, with a poor assumption of dignity, yet feeling all the while, no doubt, what a contemptible surrender he was making.

Judgment-seats and mosaic pavements do not go far to secure reverence for a judge who is no better than an assassin, killing an innocent man to secure his own ends. Pilate’s sentence fell most heavily on himself. If ‘the judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted,’ he is tenfold condemned when the innocent is sentenced.

Pilate returned to his sarcastic mood when he returned to his injustice, and found some satisfaction in his old jeer, ‘your King.’ But the passion of hatred was too much in earnest to be turned or even affected by such poor scoffs, and the only answer was the renewed roar of the mob, which had murder in its tone. The repetition of the governor’s taunt, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ brought out the answer in which the rulers of the nation in their fury blindly flung away their prerogative. It is no accident that it was ‘the chief priests’ who answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Driven by hate, they deliberately disown their Messianic hope, and repudiate their national glory. They who will not have Christ have to bow to a tyrant. Rebellion against Him brings slavery.

John 19:1-3. Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him — The Romans usually scourged the criminals whom they condemned to be crucified, which was the reason why Pilate ordered our Lord to be scourged before he delivered him up to suffer that punishment. See note on Matthew 27:26. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns — Intending thereby to add cruelty to scorn. See on Matthew 27:29. They put on him a purple robe — Or, a purple mantle, as Dr. Campbell renders ιματιο πορφυρουν. It is called, Matthew 27:28, a scarlet cloak, χλαμυδα κοκκινην. “The names denoting the colour of the garment, ought to be understood with all the latitude common in familiar conversation. This cloak, in strictness, may have been neither purple nor scarlet, and yet have had so much of each, as would naturally lead one to give it one of these names, and another the other.” And they smote him with their hands — Matthew says, They took a reed which they had put into his right hand, and smote him on the head. And Mark also says, They smote him on the head with a reed. It seems some smote him with a reed on his head, laying their blows upon the thorns, and driving the prickles thereof into his temples. And others smote him with their hands on his cheeks, or some other part of his body. See note on Matthew 27:29-30; Mark 15:19.

19:1-18 Little did Pilate think with what holy regard these sufferings of Christ would, in after-ages, be thought upon and spoken of by the best and greatest of men. Our Lord Jesus came forth, willing to be exposed to their scorn. It is good for every one with faith, to behold Christ Jesus in his sufferings. Behold him, and love him; be still looking unto Jesus. Did their hatred sharpen their endeavours against him? and shall not our love for him quicken our endeavours for him and his kingdom? Pilate seems to have thought that Jesus might be some person above the common order. Even natural conscience makes men afraid of being found fighting against God. As our Lord suffered for the sins both of Jews and Gentiles, it was a special part of the counsel of Divine Wisdom, that the Jews should first purpose his death, and the Gentiles carry that purpose into effect. Had not Christ been thus rejected of men, we had been for ever rejected of God. Now was the Son of man delivered into the hands of wicked and unreasonable men. He was led forth for us, that we might escape. He was nailed to the cross, as a Sacrifice bound to the altar. The Scripture was fulfilled; he did not die at the altar among the sacrifices, but among criminals sacrificed to public justice. And now let us pause, and with faith look upon Jesus. Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow? See him bleeding, see him dying, see him and love him! love him, and live to him!See the notes at Matthew 27:26-30. CHAPTER 19

Joh 19:1-16. Jesus before Pilate—Scourged—Treated with Other Severities and Insults—Delivered Up, and Led Away to Be Crucified.

1-3. Pilate took Jesus and scourged him—in hope of appeasing them. (See Mr 15:15). "And the soldiers led Him away into the palace, and they call the whole band" (Mr 15:16)—the body of the military cohort stationed there—to take part in the mock coronation now to be enacted.John 19:1-4 Jesus is scourged, crowned with thorns, mocked, and

buffeted by the soldiers.

John 19:5-7 Pilate declareth his innocence: the Jews charge him

with assuming the title of the Son of God.

John 19:8-16 Pilate upon further examination is more desirous to

release him, but, overcome with the clamours of the

Jews, delivereth him to be crucified.

John 19:17,18 He is led to Golgotha, and crucified between two

malefactors.

John 19:19-22 Pilate’s inscription on his cross.

John 19:23,24 The soldiers part his garments.

John 19:25-27 He commendeth his mother to John,

John 19:28-30 receiveth vinegar to drink, and dieth.

John 19:31-37 The legs of the others are broken, and the side of

Jesus pierced.

John 19:38-42 Joseph of Arimathea begs his body, and, assisted

by Nicodemus, buries it.

It was the custom of the Romans, when any one was to be crucified, first to scourge him; but (as it appears) Pilate ordered it, hoping that, though he could not prevail by any other art with them, yet by this he might; and they might possibly be satisfied with this lighter punishment; for it appeareth by John 19:4,12, that Pilate had a mind to release him, if he could have satisfied the Jews; though he had not courage enough to oppose the stream, and to do what himself thought was just, in despite of their opposition.

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus,.... Finding that the Jews would not agree to his release, but that Barabbas was the person they chose, and being very desirous, if possible, to save his life, thought of this method: he ordered Jesus to be taken by the proper officers,

and scourged him; that is, commanded him to be scourged by them; which was done by having him to a certain place, where being stripped naked, and fastened to a pillar, he was severely whipped: and this he did, hoping the Jews would be satisfied therewith, and agree to his release; but though he did this with such a view, yet it was a very unjust action in him to scourge a man that he himself could find no fault in: however, it was what was foretold by Christ himself, and was an emblem of those strokes and scourges of divine justice he endured, as the surety of his people, in his soul, in their stead; and his being scourged, though innocent, shows, that it was not for his own, but the sins of others; and expresses the vile nature of sin, the strictness of justice, and the grace, condescension, and patience of Christ: and this may teach us not to think it strange that any of the saints should endure scourgings, in a literal sense; and to bear patiently the scourgings and chastisements of our heavenly Father, and not to fear the overflowing scourge or wrath of God, since Christ has bore this in our room.

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and {1} scourged him.

(1) The wisdom of the flesh chooses the least of two evils, but God curses that very wisdom.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 19:1-3. Οὖν] After the miscarriage of this attempt at deliverance, Pilate will at least make this further venture to see whether the compassion of the Jews is not to be awakened. Hence he causes the scourging to be carried out on Jesus’ person, to which punishment He in any case, if He were to be crucified, must be subjected; and hopes, in the folly of his moral vacillation, by means of such maltreatment, although inflicted without sentence and legality, to satisfy the Jews, and avert something worse. Comp. on Matthew 27:26. With a like purpose in view, he also gives Him up to the contumelious treatment of the soldiers, who deck Him out as king (John 18:39) with a crown of thorns (see on Matthew 27:29) and a purple mantle (comp. on Matthew 27:28; Mark 15:17).

ἔλαβεν] shows the simple style of the narrative.

κ. ἤρχ. πρ. αὐτ.] See the critical notes. It is a pictorial trait. He stands arrayed before them; they go up to Him and do obeisance to Him!

ῥαπίσματα] As in John 18:22. Codd. of It. add in faciem.

John 19:1. Τότε οὖνἐμαστίγωσε. Keim (vi. 99) thinks that Pilate at this point pronounced his “condemno” and “ibis in crucem,” and that the scourging was preparatory to the crucifixion. This might seem to be warranted by Mark’s very condensed account, John 15:15. φραγελλώσας ἵνα σταυρωθῇ (according to the Roman law by which, according to Jerome, it was decreed “ut qui crucifigeretur, prius flagellis verberaretur”; so Josephus, B. J., John 19:11, and Philo, ii. 528). But according to John the scourging was meant as a compromise by Pilate; as in Luke 23:22 : “what evil hath He done? I found in Him nothing worthy of death; I will therefore scourge Him and let Him go.” Neither, then, as part of the capital punishment, nor in order to elicit the truth (quaestio per tormenta); but in the ill-judged hope that this minor punishment might satisfy the Jews, Pilate ordered the scourging. The victim of this severe punishment was bound in a stooping attitude to a low column (column of the Flagellation, now shown in Church of Holy Sepulchre) and beaten with rods or scourged with whips, the thongs of which were weighted with lead, and studded with sharp-pointed pieces of bone, so that frightful laceration followed each stroke. Death frequently resulted. καὶ οἱ στρατιῶταιῥαπίσματα, “and the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns” in mockery of the claim to royalty (for a similar instance, see Keim, vi. 121). Of the suggestions regarding the particular species of thorn, it may be said with Bynaeus (De Morte Christi, iii. 145) “nemo attulit aliquid certi”. ἱμάτιον πορφυροῦν, “a purple robe,” probably a small scarlet military cloak, or some cast-off sagum, or paludamentum, worn by officers and subject kings.

1. Then Pilate therefore] Because the attempt to release Him in honour of the Feast had failed, Pilate now tries whether the severe and degrading punishment of scourging will not satisfy the Jews. In Pilate’s hands the boasted justice of Roman Law ends in the policy “What evil did He do? I found no cause of death in Him: I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go” (Luke 23:22). Scourging was part of Roman capital punishment, and had we only the first two Gospels we might suppose that the scourging was inflicted immediately before the crucifixion: but this is not stated, and S. John, combined with S. Luke, makes it clear that scourging was inflicted as a separate punishment in the hope that it would suffice. The supposition of a second scourging as part of the execution is unnecessary and improbable. Pilate, sick of the bloody work and angry at being forced to commit a judicial murder, would not have allowed it; and it may be doubted whether any human frame could have survived a Roman scourging twice in one day. One infliction was sometimes fatal; ille flagellis ad mortem caesus, Hor. S. 1. ii. 41. Comp. ‘horribile flagellum’ S. 1. iii. 119.

1–3. Inside the Praetorium; the scourging and mockery by the soldiers.

[1. Τότεἑμαστίγωσε, Then Pilate—scourged) The origin of the opinion concerning the scourging having been repeated, Korte, in his Itinerary, thinks is to be derived from the two columns (pillars), one of which is usually shown at Jerusalem, the other at Rome.—When the Jews were urgent for the crucifixion, which, according to custom, was preceded by scourging, Pilate conceived the plan of scourging Jesus, and, according as circumstances would suggest, either letting Him go (Luke 23:22, “I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go”), or sentencing Him to be crucified. The latter course, by reason of the very violent solicitations of the people, prevailed (was adopted by Pilate), not indeed once for all, or at one and the same time, but by degrees. Owing to this, Luke 23:24, does not say ἔκρινε, but ἐπέκρινε, passed sentence according to (ratified) the judgment of the priests and wishes of the people. Pilate yielded to the Jews, and unwillingly delivered up to their will one whom he himself would rather have let go; however, it was after this delivering up of Jesus that the scourging followed, and not till then, along with the mocking that attended it. Then Pilate afresh, moved with a renewed feeling of pity, tried to let Jesus go; and when, for the last time, he had sat on the tribunal (Matthew 27:19, “When he was set down on the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man,” etc.), again his attempt proving abortive, he at last delivered up Jesus by a full and final sentence.—Harm., p. 554, etc.]

Verses 1-3. - (d) [Within the Praetorium.] The unjust scourging, and the crown of thorns. Verse 1. - Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. The force of the "therefore" may be seen in the foregoing observations (see especially Luke 23:23-25). He obviously fancied that the sight of their Victim's utter humiliation, his reduction to the lowest possible position, would sate their burning rage. Scourging was the ordinary preliminary of crucifixion, and it might be regarded as Pilate's verdict, or the conclusion of the whole matter. Roman and Greek historians confirm the custom (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 5:11.1; 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:14. 9; comp. Matthew 20:19; Luke 18:33) of scourging before crucifixion. It may have had a twofold motive - one to glut the desire of inflicting physical torment and ignominy, and another allied to the offer of anodyne, to hasten the final sufferings of the cross. But the governor clearly thought that he might, by first humoring the populace, in releasing Barabbas from his confinement, and then reducing to a political absurdity the charge of treason against Caesar, save the suffering Prisoner from further wrong. The morbid suggestion of a mind accustomed to gladiatorial shows, and to the sudden changes of feeling which ran through the amphitheatres at the sight of blood, not only reveals the incapacity of Pilate to understand the difference between right and wrong, but proves that he had not sounded the depth of Jewish fanaticism, nor understood the people he had been ordered to coerce. John uses the word ἐμαστίγωσεν, a purely Greek word. Matthew and Mark, who refer to the scourging which preceded Christ's being led to Calvary, use another official and technical word φραγελλώσας (identifiable with the Latin word flagellans). This does not require us to believe in two scourgings. Matthew and Mark simply refer to the scourging, which had been arbitrarily and informally inflicted, as John informs us, before the condemnation was pronounced. The Roman punishment flagellis inflicted hideous torture. "It was executed upon slaves with thin elm rods or straps having leaden balls or sharply pointed bones attached, and was delivered on the bent, bare, and tense back." The victim was fastened to a pillar for the-purpose, the like to which has actually been found by Sir C. Warren in a subterranean cavern, on the site of what Mr. Ferguson regards as the Tower of Antonia (Westcott). The flagellation usually brought blood with the first stroke, and reduced the back to a fearful state of raw and quivering flesh. Strong men often succumbed under it, while the indignity of such a proceeding in this case must have cut far deeper into the awful sanctuary of the Sufferer's soul. John 19:1Scourged (ἐμαστίγωσεν)

Matthew and Mark use the Greek form of the Latin word flagellare, φραγελλόω, which occurs only in those two instances in the New Testament. John uses the more common Greek word, though he has φραγελλίον (flagellum), scourge, at John 2:15. Matthew and Mark, however, both use μαστιγόω elsewhere (Matthew 10:17; Matthew 20:29; Mark 10:34). Its kindred noun, μάστιξ, occurs several times in the metaphorical sense of a plague. See on Mark 3:10, and compare Mark 5:29, Mark 5:34; Luke 7:21. The verb is used metaphorically only once, Hebrews 12:6. Scourging was the legal preliminary to crucifixion, but, in this case, was inflicted illegally before the sentence of crucifixion was pronounced, with a view of averting the extreme punishment, and of satisfying the Jews. (Luke 23:22). The punishment was horrible, the victim being bound to a low pillar or stake, and beaten, either with rods, or, in the case of slaves and provincials, with scourges, called scorpions, leather thongs tipped with leaden balls or sharp spikes. The severity of the infliction in Jesus' case is evident from His inability to bear His cross.

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