John 19:17
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
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(17) For the way of the cross, comp. Matthew 27:31-34; Mark 15:20-23; Luke 23:26-33. For the present passage, comp. especially Note on the parallel words in Matthew 27:33.



John 19:17 - John 19:30

In great and small matters John’s account adds much to the narrative of the crucifixion. He alone tells of the attempt to have the title on the Cross altered, of the tender entrusting of the Virgin to his care, and of the two ‘words’ ‘I thirst’ and ‘It is finished.’ He gives details which had been burned into his memory, such as Christ’s position ‘in the midst’ of the two robbers, and the jar of ‘vinegar’ standing by the crosses. He says little about the act of fixing Jesus to the Cross, but enlarges what the other Evangelists tell as to the soldiers ‘casting lots.’ He had heard what they said to one another. He alone distinctly tells that when He went forth, Jesus was bearing the Cross which afterwards Simon of Cyrene had to carry, probably because our Lord’s strength failed.

Who appointed the two robbers to be crucified at the same time? Not the rulers, who had no such power but probably Pilate, as one more shaft of sarcasm which was all the sharper both because it seemed to put Jesus in the same class as they, and because they were of the same class as the man of the Jews’ choice, Barabbas, and possibly were two of his gang. Jesus was ‘in the midst,’ where He always is, completely identified with the transgressors, but central to all things and all men. As He was in the midst on the Cross, with a penitent on one hand and a rejecter on the other, He is still in the midst of humanity, and His judgment-seat will be as central as His Cross was.

All the Evangelists give the title written over the Cross, but John alone tells that it was Pilate’s malicious invention. He thought that he was having a final fling at the priests, and little knew how truly his title, which was meant as a bitter jest, was a fact. He had it put into the three tongues in use-’Hebrew,’ the national tongue; ‘Greek,’ the common medium of intercourse between varying nationalities; and ‘Latin’ the official language. He did not know that he was proclaiming the universal dominion of Jesus, and prophesying that wisdom as represented by Greece, law and imperial power as represented by Rome, and all previous revelation as represented by Israel, would yet bow before the Crucified, and recognise that His Cross was His throne.

The ‘high-priests’ winced, and would fain have had the title altered. Their wish once more denied Jesus, and added to their condemnation, but it did not move Pilate. It would have been well for him if he had been as firm in carrying out his convictions of justice as in abiding by his bitter jest. He was obstinate in the wrong place, partly because he was angry with the rulers, and partly to recover his self-respect, which had been damaged by his vacillation. But his stiff-necked speech had a more tragic meaning than he knew, for ‘what he had written’ on his own life-page on that day could never be erased, and will confront him. We are all writing an imperishable record, and we shall have to read it out hereafter, and acknowledge our handwriting.

John next sets in strong contrast the two groups round the Cross-the stolid soldiers and the sad friends. The four legionaries went through their work as a very ordinary piece of military duty. They were well accustomed to crucify rebel Jews, and saw no difference between these three and former prisoners. They watched the pangs without a touch of pity, and only wished that death might come soon, and let them get back to their barracks. How blind men may be to what they are gazing at! If knowledge measures guilt, how slight the culpability of the soldiers! They were scarcely more guilty than the mallet and nails which they used. The Sufferer’s clothes were their perquisite, and their division was conducted on cool business principles, and with utter disregard of the solemn nearness of death. Could callous indifference go further than to cast lots for the robe at the very foot of the Cross?

But the thing that most concerns us here is that Jesus submitted to that extremity of shame and humiliation, and hung there naked for all these hours, gazed on, while the light lasted, by a mocking crowd. He had set the perfect Pattern of lowly self-abnegation when, amid the disciples in the upper room, He had ‘laid aside His garments,’ but now He humbles Himself yet more, being clothed only ‘with shame.’ Therefore should we clothe Him with hearts’ love. Therefore God has clothed Him with the robes of imperial majesty.

Another point emphasised by John is the fulfilment of prophecy in this act. The seamless robe, probably woven by loving hands, perhaps by some of the weeping women who stood there, was too valuable to divide, and it would be a moment’s pastime to cast lots for it. John saw, in the expedient naturally suggested to four rough men, who all wanted the robe but did not want to quarrel over it, a fulfilment of the cry of the ancient sufferer, who had lamented that his enemies made so sure of his death that they divided his garments and cast lots for his vesture. But he was ‘wiser than he knew,’ and, while his words were to his own apprehension but a vivid metaphor expressing his desperate condition, ‘the Spirit which was in’ him ‘did signify’ by them ‘the sufferings of Christ.’ Theories of prophecy or sacrifice which deny the correctness of John’s interpretation have the New Testament against them, and assume to know more about the workings of inspiration than is either modest or scientific.

What a contrast the other group presents! John’s enumeration of the women may be read so as to mention four or three, according as ‘His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas,’ is taken to mean one woman or two. The latter is the more probable supposition, and it is also probable that the unnamed sister of our Lord’s mother was no other than Salome, John’s own mother. If so, entrusting Mary to John’s care would be the more natural. Tender care, joined with consciousness that henceforth the relation of son and mother was to be supplanted, not merely by Death’s separating fingers, but by faith’s uniting bond, breathed through the word, so loving yet so removing, ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ Dying trust in the humble friend, which would go far to make the friend worthy of it, breathed in the charge, to which no form of address corresponding to ‘Woman’ is prefixed. Jesus had nothing else to give as a parting gift, but He gave these two to each other, and enriched both. He showed His own loving heart, and implied His faithful discharge of all filial duties hitherto. And He taught us the lesson, which many of us have proved to be true, that losses are best made up when we hear Him pointing us by them to new offices of help to others, and that, if we will let Him, He will point us too to what will fill empty places in our hearts and homes.

The second of the words on the Cross which we owe to John is that pathetic expression, ‘I thirst.’ Most significant is the insight into our Lord’s consciousness which John, here as elsewhere, ventures to give. Not till He knew ‘that all things were accomplished’ did He give heed to the pangs of thirst, which made so terrible a part of the torture of crucifixion. The strong will kept back the bodily cravings so long as any unfulfilled duty remained. Now Jesus had nothing to do but to die, and before He died He let flesh have one little alleviation. He had refused the stupefying draught which would have lessened suffering by dulling consciousness, but He asked for the draught which would momentarily slake the agony of parched lips and burning throat.

The words of John 19:28 are not to be taken as meaning that Jesus said ‘I thirst’ with the mere intention of fulfilling the Scripture. His utterance was the plaint of a real need, not a performance to fill a part. But it is John who sees in that wholly natural cry the fulfilment of the psalm {Psalm 69:21}. All Christ’s bodily sufferings may be said to be summed up in this one word, the only one in which they found utterance. The same lips that said, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink,’ said this. Infinitely pathetic in itself, that cry becomes almost awful in its appeal to us when we remember who uttered it, and why He bore these pangs. The very ‘Fountain of living water’ knew the pang of thirst that every one that thirsteth might come to the waters, and might drink, not water only, but ‘wine and milk, without money or price.’

John’s last contribution to our knowledge of our Lord’s words on the Cross is that triumphant ‘It is finished,’ wherein there spoke, not only the common dying consciousness of life being ended, but the certitude, which He alone of all who have died, or will die, had the right to feel and utter, that every task was completed, that all God’s will was accomplished, all Messiah’s work done, all prophecy fulfilled, redemption secured, God and man reconciled. He looked back over all His life and saw no failure, no falling below the demands of the occasion, nothing that could have been bettered, nothing that should not have been there. He looked upwards, and even at that moment He heard in His soul the voice of the Father saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!’

Christ’s work is finished. It needs no supplement. It can never be repeated or imitated while the world lasts, and will not lose its power through the ages. Let us trust to it as complete for all our needs, and not seek to strengthen ‘the sure foundation’ which it has laid by any shifting, uncertain additions of our own. But we may remember, too, that while Christ’s work is, in one aspect, finished, when He bowed His head, and by His own will ‘gave up the ghost,’ in another aspect His work is not finished, nor will be, until the whole benefits of His incarnation and death are diffused through, and appropriated by, the world. He is working to-day, and long ages have yet to pass, in all probability, before the voice of Him that sitteth on the throne shall say ‘It is done!’

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 27:32-37.Joh 19:17-30. Crucifixion and Death of the Lord Jesus.

17. And he bearing his cross—(See on [1908]Lu 23:26).

went forth—Compare Heb 13:11-13, "without the camp"; "without the gate." On arriving at the place, "they gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall [wine mingled with myrrh, Mr 15:23], and when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink" (Mt 27:34). This potion was stupefying, and given to criminals just before execution, to deaden the sense of pain.

Fill high the bowl, and spice it well, and pour

The dews oblivious: for the Cross is sharp,

The Cross is sharp, and He

Is tenderer than a lamb.


But our Lord would die with every faculty clear, and in full sensibility to all His sufferings.

Thou wilt feel all, that Thou may'st pity all;

And rather would'st Thou wrestle with strong pain

Than overcloud Thy soul,

So clear in agony,

Or lose one glimpse of Heaven before the time,

O most entire and perfect Sacrifice,

Renewed in every pulse.


See Poole on "Matthew 27:31", and following verses to Matthew 27:33, where whatsoever needs expounding in this verse may be found, and this text is reconciled to that, which telleth us, that one Simon, a man of Cyrene, bore his cross. Their places of execution (as usually with us) were without their cities.

And he bearing his cross,.... Which was usual for malefactors to do, as Lipsius (i) shows out of Artemidorus, and Plutarch; the former says,

"the cross is like to death, and he that is to be fixed to it, first bears it;''

and the latter says,

"and everyone of the malefactors that are punished in body, "carries out his own cross".''

So Christ, when he first went out to be crucified, carried his cross himself, until the Jews, meeting with Simon the Cyrenian, obliged him to bear it after him; that is, one part of it; for still Christ continued to bear a part himself: of this Isaac was a type, in carrying the wood on his shoulders for the burnt offering; and this showed that Christ was made sin, and a curse for us, and that our sins, and the punishment which belonged to us, were laid on him, and bore by him; and in this he has left us an example to go forth without the camp, bearing his reproach:

went forth in a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha: and signifies a man's skull: it seems, that as they executed malefactors here, so they buried them here; and in process of time, their bones being dug up to make room for others, their skulls, with other bones, lay up and down in this place; from whence it had its name in the Syriac dialect, which the Jews then usually spake: here some say Adam's skull was found, and that it had its name from thence. This was an ancient tradition, as has been observed in the notes on See Gill on Matthew 27:33, and See Gill on Luke 23:33 the Syriac writers have it (k), who say,

"when Noah went out of the ark there was made a distribution of the bones of Adam; to Shem, his head was given, and the place in which he was buried is called "Karkaphta": where likewise Christ was crucified;''

which word signifies a skull, as Golgotha does: and so likewise the Arabic writers (l); who affirm that Shem said these words to Melchizedek,

"Noah commanded that thou shouldst take the body of Adam, and bury it in the middle of the earth; therefore let us go, I and thou, and bury it; wherefore Shem and Melchizedek went to take the body of Adam, and the angel of the Lord appeared to them and went before them, till they came to the place Calvary, where they buried him, as the angel of the Lord commanded them:''

the same also had the ancient fathers of the Christian church; Cyprian (m) says, that it is a tradition of the ancients, that Adam was buried in Calvary under the place where the cross of Christ was fixed; and Jerom makes mention of it more than once; so Paula and Eustochium, in an epistle supposed to be dictated by him, or in which he was assisting, say (n), in this city, meaning Jerusalem, yea in this place, Adam is said to dwell, and to die; from whence the place where our Lord was crucified is called Calvary, because there the skull of the ancient man was buried: and in another place he himself says (o), that he heard one disputing in the church and explaining, Ephesians 5:14 of Adam buried in Calvary, where the Lord was crucified, and therefore was so called. Ambrose (p) also takes notice of it; the place of the cross, says he, is either in the midst of the land, that it might be conspicuous to all, or over the grave of Adam, as the Hebrews dispute: others say that the hill itself was in the form of a man's skull, and therefore was so called; it was situated, as Jerom says (q), on the north of Mount Zion, and is thought by some to be the same with the hill Gareb, in Jeremiah 31:39. It was usual to crucify on high hills, so Polycrates was crucified upon the highest top of Mount Mycale (r).

(i) De Cruce, l. 2. c. 5. p. 76. (k) Bar Bahluli apud Castel. Lexic. Polyglot. col. 3466. (l) Elmacinus, p. 13. Patricides, p. 12. apud Hottinger. Smegma Oriental. l. 1. c. 8. p. 257. (m) De Resurrectione Christi, p. 479. (n) Epist. Marcellae, fol. 42. L. Tom. I.((o) Comment. in Eph. v. 14. (p) Comment. in Luc. xx. 33. (q) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 92. F. (r) Valer. Maxim. l. 6. c. ult.

And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
John 19:17-18. The subject of παρέλαβον, which is correlative to παρέδωκεν, John 19:16, and of ἤγαγον, is necessarily, according to John 19:16, the ἀρχιερεῖς, not the soldiers (De Wette, B. Crusius, Hengstenberg, Baeumlein, and older expositors). The former are the persons[242] who act, which does not exclude the service and co-operation of the soldiers (John 19:23).

ΒΑΣΤ. ἙΑΥΤῷ ΤῸΝ ΣΤΑΥΡ. (see critical notes): Himself bearing the cross.[243] See on Matthew 26:32, and Charit. iv. 2; and on Golgotha, on Matthew 27:33.

ἐντεῦθ. κ. ἐντεῦθ.] Comp. LXX. Daniel 12:5; ἜΝΘΕΝ ΚΑῚ ἜΝΘΕΝ, Herod. iv. 175; Soph. Aj. 725; Xen. Cyr. vi. 3. 3; 1Ma 6:38; 1Ma 9:45; 3Ma 2:22, not Revelation 22:2. On the thing itself, comp. Luke 23:33. John gives peculiar prominence to the circumstance, adding further, μέσον δὲ τ. Ἰησ. Whether, and how far, the Jews thus acted intentionally, is undetermined. That, perhaps, they scornfully assign to their “king” the place of honour! That Pilate desired thereby to deride them, in allusion to 1 Kings 22:19 (B. Crusius, Brückner, Lange), we are not to suppose, since the subject of ἐσταύρ. is the Jews, under whose direction the crucifixion of the principal person takes place, and, at the same time, the two subordinate individuals are put to death along with Him. Pilate first appears, John 19:19. Of special divine conceptions in the intermediate position assigned to the cross of Christ (see Steinmeyer, p. 176), John gives no indication.

[242] By which also the fact is confirmed that John had not in his mind the first feast-day, which certainly possessed the authority of the Sabbath.

[243] The assistance of Simon in this, John, who here gives only a compendious account, has passed over as a subordinate circumstance, not, as Scholten thinks, in conformity with the idea that the Son of God needed no human help.

John 19:17-30. The crucifixion.

17–22. The Crucifixion and the Title on the Cross

17. bearing his cross] The better reading gives, bearing the cross for Himself. S. John omits the help which Simon the Cyrenian was soon compelled to render, as also (what seems to be implied by Mark 15:22) that at last they were obliged to carry Jesus Himself. Comp. the Lesson for Good Friday morning, Genesis 22, especially John 19:6.

went forth] “The place of public execution appears to have been situated north of the city. It was outside the gate (Hebrews 13:12) and yet ‘nigh unto the city’ (John 19:20). In the Mishna it is placed outside the city by a reference to Leviticus 24:14. It is said to have been ‘two men high’ (Sanh. vi. 1). The Jews still point out the site at the cliff, north of the Damascus gate, where is a cave now called ‘Jeremiah’s Grotto.’ This site has therefore some claim to be considered as that of the Crucifixion. It was within 200 yards of the wall of Agrippa, but was certainly outside the ancient city. It was also close to the gardens and the tombs of the old city, which stretch northwards from the cliff; and it was close to the main north road, in a conspicuous position, such as might naturally be selected for a place of public execution.” Conder, Handbook to the Bible, pp. 356, 7.

of a skull] Probably on account of its shape. It would be contrary to Jewish law to leave skulls unburied; and if this were the meaning of the name we should expect ‘of skulls’ rather than ‘of a skull.’

17–42. The Death and Burial

For what is peculiar to S. John’s narrative in this section see the introductory note to chap. 18. Besides this, the title on the cross, the Jews’ criticism of it, and the conduct of the four soldiers, are given with more exactness by S. John than by the Synoptists.

The section falls into four double parts of which the second and fourth contain a marked dramatic contrast, such as S. John loves to point out:—

(1)  The Crucifixion and the title on the cross (17–22).

(2)  The four enemies and the four friends (23–27).

(3)  The two words, ‘I thirst,’ ‘It is finished’ (28–30).

(4)  The hostile and the friendly petitions (31–42).

Verses 17-24. -

(4) THE CRUCIFIXION. Love unto the uttermost. Verses 17, 18. - (a) The circumstances of the death. Verse 17. - Therefore they took (received) Jesus from the hands of the Gentile, leading the way in their accursed procession, gloating over their Victim. Παρέλαβον reminds us (Westcott) of the παρέλαβον, (John 1:11), where it is said, "His own received him not." They did not receive him in the fullness of his grace, but they did receive him to inflict the curse and shame and death for which they had plotted and clamored. This powerful suggestion is brought out by the amended text. At this point, when the sacred Sufferer left the Praetorium and was dragged into the rush of the vociferating crowd, the synoptic narrative becomes far fuller in detail. The terrible tragedy in-eludes the disrobing. The bleeding form is once more clothed with his own garments (Matthew 27:31; Mark 15:20). It is not necessary to suppose a second scourging (see ver. 1). The circumstance mentioned (Luke 23:26 and parallel passages) of Simon of Cyrene made to bear his cross after him, shows how Jesus in his human nature had suffered already. A second scourging (if we judge by all we can gather of such an infliction) would have been followed by immediate death, and would thus have snatched from them the realization of their inhuman purpose. The statement that, bearing his cross for himself, he went forth, shows that they tried to force him thus in his agony to endure this additional humiliation, and, from his physical exhaustion, were compelled to make use of the expedient described by the synoptists. Mark (Mark 15:22) introduces another most suggestive word, φέρουσιν αὐτὸν, literally, "they carry him" from the place where they compelled (ἀγγαρεύουσιον) Simon to take up his cross, and at least he hints, if he does not express, the terrible fact that they had, by their fell cruelty of all kinds, at length exhausted all the human physical strength of the Sufferer. John's language, though at first sight discrepant with Luke's, really explains it. Luke also describes the wailing of the daughters of Jerusalem, and the sublime self-forgetfulness with which Jesus turned their thoughts from his agony to themselves and their children. Matthew and Mark both relate another scene, which seems as if one gleam of pity had crossed some heart - "They offered him wine, mixed with narcotic gall," to stupefy his senses, and lull his physical agony. He did not put it by "with suicidal hand;" but, as Keble sang -

"Thou wilt feel all, that thou mayst pity all;
And rather wouldst thou wrestle with strong pain
Than overcloud thy soul,
So clear in agony,
Or lose no glimpse of heaven before the time."

(Christian Year.') He went forth to a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha. "He went forth" from the Praetorium along the Via Dolorosa, wheresoever it was, beyond the city wall (Hebrews 13:12, etc., "He suffered without the gate"). Moses had forbidden (Leviticus 24:14; Numbers 15:35) capital punishment within the camp (cf. 1 Kings 21:13; Acts 7:58). The traditional site of the place is far within the present walls in the north-western quarter of the city, not far from the gate of Damascus; and endless discussions have prevailed with respect to the line of the second city wall, which at that time must either have included or excluded the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The identification of the site of Golgotha is rendered difficult from the eagerness with which theories have been sustained.

(1) Ferguson's theory is that Constantine's" Church of the Resurrection" is to be found in the 'dome of the rock' in the temple enclosure! He urges that the tradition was moved thence to the "Church of the Holy Sepulcher" in the eleventh century, when Fatimite kaliphs drove the Christians away, and persecuted the pilgrims to such an extent as to produce the reaction of the Crusades.

(2) The ecclesiastical theory is that the tomb and all the awful and blessed associations are to be reckoned for somewhere within the buildings or ruins of the present church. The difficulties are great; for, instead of being "without the gate," or "nigh the city," it is situated in the heart of the present city, and it is very difficult to imagine or trace any line of wall which could have run in such a way as to exclude the supposed site of the tomb from the city.

(3) A modern theory (see 'Survey of Palestine') finds the tomb in the immediate vicinity of Jeremiah's grotto, to the north of the Damascus gate. This site has good claims, from the probability

(a) that it was the place of public execution;

(b) that the second wall of the city did correspond with the present wall;

(c) that there are reasons to think that it was built over and concealed from view until comparatively recent years.

Warren and Conder give a drawing of the tomb and its arrangement, which sustains the probability that it is the tomb once hallowed by the most stupendous event in the history of the world. Robinson said, "The place was probably upon a great road leading from one of the gates, and such a spot would only be found upon the west or north side of the city, on the roads leading to Joppa or Damascus." The word "Gulgotha" or "Gulgaltha" is the Aramaic (cf. Syriac Gagulta) form of Gulgolath, Hebrew for "skull," and may derive its name from the form of the mound or bare place where was the garden in which the rock-hewn tomb of Joseph had been excavated. The Vulgate translates the word Calvaria, a skull, from which our word "Calvary" is derived. The English version in Luke 23:33 thus translates the Greek word κρανίον, and from this passage the word has been naturalized in our language. There is no authority for the appellation "Mount Calvary." The name probably refers to the shape of the site where the event took place. From this verse we learn that Jesus went forth to the spot, and (John 19:20) John further says it was "nigh unto the city," therefore not within it. The same position relative to the city is obvious from Matthew 28:11, where the Roman guard came from the tomb εἰς τὴν πόλιν. The Romans were accustomed to execute their criminals in some conspicuous position, adjoining a traveled road, so that those passing by, as well as those who congregated for the purpose, might know and learn its meaning. They reached the chosen spot - John 19:17Bearing (βαστάζων)

See on John 12:6; see on John 10:31.

His cross (τὸν σταυρὸν αὑτοῦ)

The best texts read αὑτῷ or ἑαυτῷ, "bearing the cross for Himself." John does not mention the impressment of Simon of Cyrene for this service. Compare Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26.


See on Matthew 27:33.

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