The Innocent One Is Crucified
Open Your Bible
John 19:1-42, Psalm 22:1-8, 1 Peter 2:22-25
With unhurried detail, John gives us eyewitness access to Jesus’s physical suffering, from the crown of thorns pushed into His scalp to the nails driven through His feet. The resurrection is just beyond this chapter, but John forces us to linger over the imagery of crucifixion day. The details are cruel, unbearable even, but they present us with this challenge: don’t look away.
Instead, the Gospel narrative invites us to pause, to sit with Jesus in His suffering. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on what that suffering means for us, for the world.
The apostle’s account of Jesus’s crucifixion includes the events leading up to it. A beaten Jesus stands before Pilate, the religious leaders, and the crowd. Although he had previously ordered Jesus’s lashing, the Roman governor finds no reason to proceed with convicting Jesus.
“I find no grounds for charging him.” —John 19:6
Pilate makes this statement twice, in verse 4 and again in verse 6, not realizing the spiritual truth in his words. Jesus’s innocence wasn’t tied to living as the model Jewish citizen or even to Pilate’s not-guilty verdict. No. Here was the sinless Son of God, ready to die for the sins of the ones who had brought Him to trial…ready to die for the sins of the world.
No matter how much authority Pilate thought himself to have, Jesus’s crucifixion could only happen by God’s authority and power (John 19:11). Not Pilate’s, or the crowd’s, or the religious leaders’. They were carrying out God’s will and didn’t even realize it. Jesus’s suffering and death, foreshadowed in the Old Testament, were part of the divine plan of salvation (Psalm 22). With every word and every action, Scripture was being fulfilled.
“I find no grounds for charging him.” Those become haunting words, knowing that Pilate proceeded with Jesus’s crucifixion in spite of His innocence. And if we keep reading, if we don’t look away, we get a clear depiction of the depth of sin. This is seen, not just in the torturous method of death inflicted upon Jesus, but also in the reality that only God Himself could satisfy the penalty of death—our penalty.
It’s a solemn reading, seeing the Savior’s body abused over and over. Death by crucifixion was humiliating and agonizing. Slow. It’s an even weightier reading, knowing the pain-filled hours Jesus spent on the cross were for us, for our sin. But John 19 is not meant to leave us with an overwhelming emotion of guilt. The imagery of the crucifixion points to this: Jesus embraced the ultimate death so that we wouldn’t have to. It’s the imagery of redemption.
We can never repay Jesus for His sacrifice, and He doesn’t ask us to. Instead, He calls us to respond. Our response is one of gratitude and joy, as we reject the sin that He died for and embrace the life He freely offers us (1Peter 2:22–24).