Monday, August 10, 2020

John 19 - One Liners


Read John 19

Everyone knows what a one-liner is right.  It’s supposed to be a joke with the story and punchline contained in a single line, sometimes it takes two or three lines, but you get the idea.

Working in a mirror factory is something I can totally see myself doing.

I came up with a new word yesterday:  plagiarism.

My grandfather has the heart of a lion and a lifetime ban at the zoo.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationary.

I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

There are two types of people in this world:  those who crave closure.


Some of you are going to go to my Facebook page and do the angry face on all of my posts for that last one.

We are going to go over some one-liners in this 19th chapter.  Instead of the contiguous text of the chapter being put into a message, I am cherry-picking a few verses this morning, not to concoct a doctrine not intended by the author, but to unpack so much that’s packed into a few one-liners.

Let’s start with verse 11. 

Pilate wanted to release Jesus but Jesus wasn’t helping at all.  He was on a mission and that mission led to the cross.  Pilate pleaded with Jesus to give him some sort of answer.  The Roman governor noted that he could release him or have him killed.

Jesus answered, You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.

Why is this important?  Look at the illogical events that led us up to this point.  A kangaroo court, Jews turning Jesus over to the hated Romans, and of course the words, “We wouldn’t bring him to you if he were not guilty.

Jesus could have put a stop to the nonsense at any point, but this was necessary to living out his Father’s will.  The power that Pilate held over Jesus in this moment was within the sovereignty of God. 

This verse couples two one-liners.  The second part is:  Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.

So, is Jesus presenting a taxonomy of sin?  You could read Leviticus and made a case that such a thing does exist.  But here, this is the more likely explanation.

Pilate, you and your method of execution were essential to the plan of God that would have Jesus lifted in in his act of atonement for the sins of humankind.  You didn’t know any better, but you were necessary.

Those knuckleheads that turned me over to you were necessary as well, but they should have known better.  They knew Messiah was coming.  They should have known him when they saw him.  They didn’t.


The next one-liner is crazy but completely in the context of what was required to get Jesus to the cross. 

We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.


The Jews hated the Romans.  The Jews despised Caesar.  Most had never met him but they saw his image on the Roman coins and paid taxes to him and had nothing good to say about him.

This one-liner came in response to the follow question proffered by Pilate.

Shall I crucify your king?

We have no king but Caesar!

Realize that Caesar had declared himself to be god.  This was a thorn in the side for the Jews, especially the scribes and Pharisees and other high religious leaders.  To say we have no king but Caesar was to say, we have no God but Caesar.

Who is doing the blaspheming now?

Let’s read a couple verses beginning with 19. 

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. 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.  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.”

Here’s my first one-liner out of this batch.  The sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 

Do you know what the most frequent complaint on the Pilate hotline was from the Roman soldiers?

Why do I have to push 2 for Latin?

Now if the sign had only been in Latin, only the Romans could read it, and maybe not even some of them.  Greek was still the language of the Empire, but Aramaic belonged to the Jews alone.  Why did this have to be there.  It upset the chief priests among the Jews.

They wanted this man killed because he claimed to be the King of the Jews, actually the Son of God, but the religious leaders and Pilate concocted this title in the process of this circus.  The religious leaders wanted the sign changed to read, he said he was King of the Jews.

Here is your next one-liner.  Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written.

Pilate finally grew a backbone.  Pilate had early asked Jesus, what is truth?  Now Pilate has displayed the truth and won’t be talked out of it.  The truth would not be silenced by the kangaroo courts required to get Jesus to the cross.

The next example comes while Jesus is on the cross.  His mother was in attendance.  No mother should be preceded in death by her child, but this death was essential to the salvation of humankind.

In verses 26 and 27 Jesus makes provision for his mother.  To Mary he said:  Woman here is your son and to the unnamed disciple (presumed to be John), Jesus said:  Here is your mother.

Jesus provided provision for his mother after his death.  Perhaps Joseph was out of the picture.  His own brothers would not believe in him until he rose from the dead.  He would not leave his mother without support.

The man who moment-to-moment in these last hours had to choose the cross again, and again so that he might save humankind from its sin also had compassion for his mother.

Let’s jump to verse 30.  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus knew that the work of atonement was completed.  His fulfillment of the law and the prophets was done.  Mission accomplished.

Crucifixions often lasted into the night or the next day, but there was no purposeful reason to continue.  His work was done.  It is finished was mission accomplished for Jesus.

Sin lost its sting.  The atonement for humankind was completed.  There was more to come, but the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world had taken away the sin of the world.

Here’s where we finish up for today, with verses 38 and 39. 

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.

Consider this line:  Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders.

Some had become disciples other than the few men who followed him for 3 years.  Many had followed for a while, but many abandoned him because his teachings were difficult.  Joseph was counted as a disciple.  Joseph was a named person in the Bible and a person of means.

Joseph was a disciple of Jesus but not brave enough to declare it publicly.

Here’s the last one-liner out of that same set of scriptures:  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.

We remember Nic at Night from chapter 3.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee, also a person of note, but showed respect for Jesus considering him to be a rabbi.  He had difficulty with being born of the Spirit and Jesus being the Son of God.

What is in this one-liner is what is not in it.  It does not say that Nicodemus was a disciple.  Was this just not important?  Was it an oversight.  Was John over his world limit and couldn’t include that part.

Nicodemus showed Jesus the respect due a rabbi and helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare him for burial and place him in the tomb.  He could not hang on the cross after sunset. 

Why single out these two one-liners?

Consider our world today.  How many have professed faith in Jesus but are afraid to publicly follow him?  How many Josephs are there in the church?

Consider our world today.  How many seem like good people and seem to want to do good things but have not received Jesus as Lord?  How many like Nicodemus are all around us.

Our job is not to take a census but make sure that not only the most obvious sinners hear the good news of life in Jesus Christ, but also those who seem to want to do the right thing.

Jesus is Lord.  Our mission is to lead people to his Lordship.

When we stand before our Lord, would we like to say, Mission Accomplished.  Wouldn’t we like to have our own one-liner?


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