Teacher’s Overview: Lifeway “Explore the Bible” lesson of John 19:17-30, “It Is Finished”

A brief overview for Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s Explore the Bible lesson of John 19:17-30, “It Is Finished,” for Sunday, May 14, 2023.

A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:

INTRO:  There’s 2 or 3 good ways to start off the lesson this week;

— The Leader’s Guide suggestion abouut the “Bucket List” is a good one. Lots of people are making “Bucket Lists” of things to do before they “kick the bucket.” Ask your group what things would be on their “bucket list.” Then after we’d talked about that, I’d point out that Jesus completely FINISHED His “bucket list.”

— OR on p. 122 of the Leader’s Guide there is a list of “famous last words” including:

— “I am bored with it all” Winston Churchill

— “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance” Union General John Sedgewick, just befor being hit by a sniper in 1864.

— “I feel something that is not of this earth” Mozart

— “I have a terrific headache” Franklin D. Roosevelt

 Then talk about how today we are going to look at some of Jesus’ last words …

OR ASK: ??? Can anybody look back on a time when you completed a big project/accomplishment in your life, and you just “breathed a big sigh of relief” and said, “I am SO glad that is FINISHED?”

(Maybe it was a college degree or job training, a Marathon, a pregnancy/labor!, etc.?

I once had someone tell me that their favorite picture of me was the smile on my face while standing at the front of Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church in North Carolina the day they called me back into full-time ministry after two years of being sick and on medical leave. It was a HUGE trial, and I was SO glad that it was now over!

You/your group can share different things like that, that you were glad to have finished, and then say that today we are going to look at how Jesus finished His work, and our salvation with His death on the cross. 


We ended last week’s lesson by finishing John 18, and the “trial” of Jesus, with Pilate releasing the guilty Barabbas instead of the innocent Jesus. 

Chapter 19 opens with Pilate having Jesus scourged, mocked, and beaten. Pilate presents Jesus to the Jews in :5 and says “Behold the Man!” And they cry “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate again says “I find no guilt in Him” (which we saw last week he said in Chapter 18 as well). They continue to cry “crucify Him.” Pilate says to them in :5 “Shall I crucify your King?” And the chief priests answered: “We have no king but Caesar.” WOW what a statement THAT was! The Jews had always chafed under Roman dominion; they hated being slaves of Rome. But they hated Jesus so much, they would say, “We have no King but Caesar.”

What’s the saying: “Enemies make strange bedfellows”? When both of you hate somebody, it can make the unlikeliest allies of people, and here it was the JEWS of all people, uniting with Rome because their hatred for Jesus was so great. So :16 says Pilate gave Jesus to them to be crucified. This brings us to our focus passage, :17-30.








“Bearing His own cross”

The other gospels had been written earlier, and spoke of how Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’ cross, so John evidently wanted to add a clarification: Jesus apparently at least BEGAN by “bearing His OWN cross.” 

Then :18 says: “There they crucified Him.” This is really an extraordinarily simple, straightforward statement: “They crucified Him.”

??? How many have seen the Mel Gibson movie: “The Passion of the Christ”??? If you saw it, what did you think of it?

(To me, it was the bloodiest movie I have ever seen. Of course, I don’t watch very many movies …

But you might ask your group: I’m going to read the account of Jesus’ crucifixion here in John 19, and I want you to tell me all the details about it that it gives us here:

:18 “There they crucified Him …”. THAT’S IT! It DOESN’T give any details, does it?

You might ask your group??? “WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS”???
WHY does it not say: then they drove a nail into His hand, and it started bleeding, and then the other hand, and so on and so on? 

WHY is that?

— Among other reasons, the original audience KNEW what crucifixion was. They saw men crucified all the time.

In 4 B.C., the Roman general Varus crucified 2,000 Jews, and there were many crucifixions during the first century A.D., according to the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus. 

“Josephus (b. 37 C.E.) was a general in command of the Jewish forces of Galilee in the Great Revolt against Rome (66-73 C.E.)

In his Life 76 he writes: “And when I was sent by Titus Caesar with Cerealins, and a thousand horsemen, to a certain village called Thecoa, in order to know whether it were a place fit for a camp, as I came back, I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I was very sorry at this in my mind, and went with tears in my eyes to Titus, and told him of them; so he immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician’s hands, while the third recovered.”

So crucifixion was a common punishment in Palestine; people knew what it involved. They had often seen men crucified, hanging on crosses as they passed by. 

ANOTHER reason I might suggest that all the gory details were not mentioned, is that it was not the mere physical suffering on the cross that was the greatest thing here, although it was very real; but it was the SPIRITUAL suffering that He underwent: bearing the wrath of God as the payment for our sins, on Himself on that cross. I Peter 2:24 says “For He Himself bore our SINS in His body on the cross.” The crown of thorns and the scourging and the nails were NOT the source of the greatest travail for Jesus; it was OUR SINS. (Which should be a sobering thought for US! We should not take them lightly.)

We may differ on the reasons for WHY we think he Bible does not give us a detailed, gory, description of the crucifixion of Jesus. But for whatever reason, it just does not. All it says is, “They crucified Him.”


:19-23 describe the inscription that Pilate put on the cross, and the Jews’ response to it:

:19 says Pilate’s inscription read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.”

:20 says many of the Jews read this inscription, as this place was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek. 

— Hebrew, or Aramaic, was the language of the Jews in Palestine

— Latin was the language of Rome

— Koine Greek was the common language of the Mediterranean world

So almost whatever your language was, you could read this inscription. It was a witness to all people — and Jerusalem was a busy city, with people from many nations there — of what had happened that day, and Who had died.

But NOTICE what :21 says the Jews’ response to Pilate was:

“Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said ‘I am King of the Jews.’”

??? What do you think the difference here is??? Why did they say this?

(“The King of the Jews” is ostensibly a statement of fact. This IS the King of the Jews. “I am King of the Jews” is Him SAYING He was king — but not necessarily that He WAS.)

Maybe a nit-picky point. But again, THESE PEOPLE WERE GOOD AT NIT-PICKING! 

And again, as we talked about last week, this is characteristic of a certain type of “religious person.” They are very legalistic, very “nit picky,” often about very small, insignificant things (we used the example last week from Mt. 23:23 of tithing every mint, dill, and cumin)

And again, the contrast is so striking: here they were killing an innocent Man, who they had raised up false witnesses against, killing the Son of God — but let’s be sure and change the sign that Pilate has put over His head! Just so hypocritical; so legalistic. 

And a good reminder for us NOT to be like that! We should examine ourselves in the light of these men: are we “straining out gnats but swallowing camels” like Jesus said in Matthew 23?

— are we SO “nit-picky” about minor points in our church by-laws, while we go week after week without doing anything about the Great Commission?

— are we meticulous about taking care of the church lawn, while neglecting widows and homebound?

(Add other things like that that you can think of — and you might ask your group if they can think of any.

This also applies to more areas than just church:

FOR EXAMPLE: I was reading David McCullough’s The Pioneers, about the people who originally settled what is now Ohio. A son of one of the original settlers wrote his dad a letter — how many dads would like to hear from their son? — but this dad wrote himm back: “I cannot close this letter without suggesting some little inaccuracies in your letters which I wish you would attend to and which you must necessarily correct. I find in almost every one of your letters, you begin … on the wrong side of the sheet of paper. …” and he went on to criticize all these “little errors” in his letter!  See, he “nit-picked” style and grammar of the letter, while missing the BIG picture that his SON had cared enough to write him a letter!

There are LOTS of areas in life that this might apply. But the point is: DON’T be legalistic and nit-picky on little, inconsequential things, but totally miss the mark on the truly important ones, like the Jews did here.


Verse 23 then says the soliders took Jesus’ clothes and divided them up into “4 parts, a part to every soldier” — so there were evidently 4 soliders in the crew. But His “tunic” or “inner garment” was woven of one piece, so :24 says they cast lots for it. And it says: “This was to fulfill the Scripture, ‘They divided my outer garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

This scripture is from Psalm 22:18 in the Old Testament. 

Someone read Psalm 22:18 …

Then I’d point out: Psalm 22 was written by David, who lived from about 1040-970 B.C. So roughly ONE THOUSAND YEARS before the time of Christ, this scripture was written. 

AND: historians/theologians tell us that NOTHING like what is described in Psalm 22 ever happened to David: 

— there was never a time in his life when they divided his clothes up like this; 

— there was never a time when “they pierced my hands and my feet” like :16 says. And so on.

Yet the things he wrote vividly describe what happened to Jesus on the cross, over 1000 years later! This scripture is one of the amazing prophecies that point to the reality of what Jesus did. It didn’t “just happen.” It was prophesied to happen just like it did, which points to the credibility and truth of the gospel.


So many things about Jesus are amazing, and here is just another one to add to the list: the way He treated His mother from the cross.

:25 says standing by the cross were Jesus’ mother (Mary), His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

(THREE Marys right there!)

:26 says when Jesus saw His mother, and “the disciple whom He loved” (who is John) standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son” and to John, “Behold your mother.”

What did He mean by this? The rest of the verse tells us: “From that moment the disciple took her into His own household.”

So from the cross, Jesus was making arrangements for John to take care of His mother. This is extraordinarily selfless, and caring for others instead of just yourself. 

It reminds me of how one time I was visiting a woman in the hospital, who was dying of cancer. And I had just talked to her for a minute or two when she said, “Bro. Shawn, now how are YOU? I heard you had been sick? How are YOU doing?” I was just totally humbled. Here was this woman who was DYING, and yet even then, it was not “all about her.” She cared enough to ask about ME. 

(You/someone in class may have a similar story you can share, or you can share this one if you’d like.)

But the point here is, that even on the cross, Jesus wasn’t just thinking about Himself. He was always thinking about others. Even in the midst of the greatest pain that was ever borne, He cared for other people. And of course that’s a great example for US to follow as well. Let’s make things about OTHER people, and not just about ourselves.

I would really try to APPLY this in some specific ways. ASK your group??? What does this really MEAN??? What are some ways we can apply this? What are some specific things we can do to make things about others, and not just ourselves?

(You/your group can come up with some; I’d suggest: caring for your FAMILY, like Jesus does here. Specifically our PARENTS. One of the Ten Commandments is to “Honor your father and your mother. The New Testament re-iterates that. I Timothy 5 says if you don’t care for your own family you are worse than an unbeleiver!  We don’t need to put our family ahead of God, but sometimes we DO need to put family ahead of our “religious activities”! And specifically, taking care of one’s parents is a Biblical responsibility.)


AGAIN this expression, “Jesus, knowing.” At least FOUR times we see it in the last part of John:

— John 13:1 at the Lord’s Supper, “Jesus, knowing” that the hour had come …

— John 13:3 “Jesus knowing” He had come from God and was going back to God

— John 18:4 “Jesus, knowing” all the things that were coming upon Him …

— And here, John 19:28, “Jesus, knowing” that all things had already been accomplished ….

This could be a good study just in itself. But the point is, JESUS KNEW. He was not surprised; He was not caught off guard. HE KNEW. 

And He still does. We are studying the 7 letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 in our church, and we have seen that in every one of those 7 letters Jesus says to them, “I KNOW”:  I know your tribulation; I know where you dwell; to FIVE of them said “I know your deeds” — some good and some bad. But whatever they are, HE KNOWS! And importantly: He knows US the same way too!

So Jesus here was very self-aware; “He knew.” And specifically here it says He knew that all things had already been accomplished.
— For one, all the prophecies concerning Him, like the one from Psalm 22 on the division of His clothing

— For two, He knew that the price for our sins had been fully paid by Him on that cross. 

So then He did two things:

— First, He said “I am thirsty”, so :29 says they put up some sour wine on a sponge on a branch and gave Him a drink, which fulfilled Psalm 69:21.

— THEN :30 says, once He finished that drink He said, “It is finished.” The phrase we translate in English “It is finished,” is one Greek word, “teTELestai,” which comes from a word, “telos,” which our word “telescope” comes from. It means, “bring to an end, complete, fulfill.” Historians tell us that this word was used in ancient business transactions, to mean “paid in full.” 

I think a powerful ILLUSTRATION/EXERCISE you could use here would be to bring a CAR NOTE/HOUSE NOTE THAT has “PAID IN FULL” stamped on it and hold it before your class. You might tell some story about what you owed, when you paid it off, etc. 

But then I’d say: “This is what Jesus has done with YOUR SIN! He has PAID IT IN FULL!” And talk about that:

— your sins were paid IN FULL by the death of Jesus on the cross

— Christianity is NOT “be the best you can be” to try to get to heaven. (This is perhaps THE greatest misunderstanding of our faith. Christianity is not US being good; it is that JESUS was good, FOR us!

— it’s NOT that you pay what you can, and He pays the rest

— HE PAID IT ALL!  Like the old hymn says: “Jesus paid it all …”.

??? If something is “paid in full,” how much do you have to pay on it??? 

(NOTHING!! That is what we need to realize about our sin. It has been “paid in full” by Jesus, and all we have to do, is put our trust in what HE did for us, to be saved!

It’s the greatest message; it’s the gospel. It’s a great privilege to get to share it with your group this week, and I’ll be praying with you this week as you do!


— And if you write something in the Comments below, I’ll be sure to pray for your and your group by name this week.

— If you’ll enter your email in the “Follow Blog via Email” box, WordPress will automatically send you next week’s video and you won’t have to search for it.

Per my licensing agreement with Lifeway:

– These weekly lessons are based on content from Explore the Bible Adult Resources. The presentation is my own and has not been reviewed by Lifeway.

– Lifeway resources are available at: goExploretheBible.com  and: goexplorethebible.com/adults-training

– If you have questions about Explore the Bible resources you may send emails to explorethebible@lifeway.com.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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7 Responses to Teacher’s Overview: Lifeway “Explore the Bible” lesson of John 19:17-30, “It Is Finished”

  1. Rodney Williams says:

    Thank you for providing this each week. A great resource.

  2. Julio Garcia Jr says:

    Thank U so much Shawn! I truly enjoyed Ur lesson! I was called today, by my Sunday School teacher, if I could present this lesson tomorrow. I came across Ur lesson as I was looking for the objectives for the lesson. I will surely use a lot of the information that U presented. God Bless U.

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      That’s a tough spot with a day’s notice! I’m glad the overview was helpful to you Julio. Thank you for letting me know. I was praying for you!

      • Julio Garcia says:

        Thank U so much! I’ve been looking at Ur podcast for this coming Sunday. I will use it as well. I was asked to teach for another class.

      • Shawn Thomas says:

        Ah, great that the Lord has given you another opportunity! And I’m thankful that the overview was helpful to you this week as well. I’ll be praying for you this weekend!

  3. Janice Cheek says:

    I love your teaching. Really just found you a couple of weeks ago. Looking forward to future lessons.

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