Throughout his Gospel, John revealed the sovereignty of the Son of God. Jesus was in perfect control of all the events of His public ministry, keeping in step with the will of the Father and resolutely maintaining the divine timetable that would culminate in His hour on the cross (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1). John emphasized that Jesus’ trial and death were not isolated events but the fulfillment of what the Old Testament authors predicted concerning Israel’s kings and suffering leaders.
(1) In John 18:37, Jesus told Pilate that He was a king of a kingdom that did not have earthly origins, recasting some Old Testament expectations of Israel’s rulers. Moses predicted that once Israel entered Canaan they would want a king to rule over them just like the nations around them (Deut 17:14-20). Moses commanded that Israel’s king be a descendant of Abraham and a man of truth who would lead the people in the Lord’s instruction. David’s military strength established the expectation that God’s anointed would rule as God’s son and reign with might (Psalms 2, 45, 110). When Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus responded that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:33-36). Jesus told Pilate that He came into the world to testify to the truth and that all who hear the truth listen to His voice (John 18:37). Jesus spoke the truth of God’s instruction to God’s people—in accord with Deut 17:14-20—but did not overthrow Israel’s political enemies as David had. Jesus came to overthrow the ruler of the world, the Devil (John 12:31; 16:11).
(2) In John 19:24, John said that Ps 22:18 was fulfilled when the soldiers cast lots to see who would get Jesus’ outer garment. In Psalm 22, the psalmist cried out because of his suffering and yet committed himself to trust God and praise God among His people. The psalmist felt forsaken by God (Ps 22:1; Matt 27:46//Mark 15:34) and endured mocking from those who saw his sufferings (Ps 22:7; Matt 27:39//Mark 15:29) and taunted him because he relied on God but still suffered (Ps 22:8; Matt 27:43). The psalmist was so destitute that his opponents even cast lots for his clothing (Matt 27:35//Mark 15:24//Luke 23:34//John 19:24). John interpreted the soldiers’ actions as the fulfillment of what the psalmist experienced.
(3) In John 19:36-37, John said that the condition of Jesus’ body when He died fulfilled Scripture. When the soldiers came upon Jesus’ cross, since they noticed that He was already dead, there was no need to break Jesus’ legs and hasten death. Moses commanded that when Israel sacrificed the lamb at Passover, they could not break any of its bones (Exod 12:46; Num 9:12). In Psalm 34, David extolled the Lord for delivering him when David pretended to be insane in the presence of the king of Gath (1 Sam 21:10-15). David remembered that the Lord cared for him and looked upon him at a time when he was needy and threatened. David said, “He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Ps 34:20). John testified that Jesus’ legs were not broken but that His side was pierced—and that also fulfilled Scripture. In Zech 12:10 the prophet wrote that when God extended His grace upon His people and restored them in Jerusalem, they would awaken to their spiritual senses and recognize that they had pierced God by rejecting His instruction. John viewed Zechariah’s prophecy in light of Jesus’ body on the cross. In John 19:36-37, John wrote that the soldiers refrained from breaking Jesus’ legs but one of them pierced Jesus’ side to be sure that He was dead.