LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we learned about how Peter and possible John followed Jesus to His illegal trial by night and how they condemned Him to death using false witnesses. We learned how Peter denied Jesus 3 times and how Judas hung himself. In this lesson we begin looking at how Jesus is brought before Pilate.
John 18:29 Pilate then went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this Man?" 30 They answered and said to him, "If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you." 31 Then Pilate said to them, "You take Him and judge Him according to your law." Therefore the Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death," 32 that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.
Pilate wants to know what the accusation is against Jesus, and the Jews tell him He is an evildoer. When Pilate realized they were accusing Him of things to do with their law, he told them take care of the matter themselves, but they wanted Jesus dead, which only Pilate could grant under Roman law. Since Roman law would not allow the Jews to put Jesus to death, He would have to die by crucifixion, which is exactly how Jesus said He would be put to death as can be seen in the following verses:
Jn. 12:32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
Jn. 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but1 have eternal life.
Luke’s account records more accusations the Jews made such as Jesus perverting the nation, not paying His taxes, and that He was claiming to be a king. In fact, let’s read those verses:
Luke 23:1 Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this fellow perverting the1 nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King." 3 Then Pilate asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" He answered him and said, "It is as you say." 4 So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no fault in this Man." 5 But they were the more fierce, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place."
Luke’s account also records how Pilate sent Jesus to Herod first, but Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Let’s look at the details.
Lk. 23:6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. 7 And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. 8 Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.
Herod was happy to finally meet Jesus who he had heard about earlier. In fact, Luke tells us more about this in:
Lk. 9:7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, 8 and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. 9 Herod said, "John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?" So he sought to see Him.
So, this was the same Herod that had John the Baptist’s head taken off. He was really curious about Jesus.
9 Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him.
Earlier, Jesus warned His disciples about the leaven of Herod (Mk. 8:15) and referred to him as that fox (Lk. 13:31-32). While Herod asked Jesus many questions, Jesus was silent. As the writer Proverbs says:
Proverbs 26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.
Next we read:
11 Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. 12 That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.
Herod nor his men were able to get anything out of Jesus. So, after they did their best to mock Him and dress Him up, they send Him back. We don’t know for sure what problem there was between these two men. However, it may have been related to what we read in:
Luke 13:1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
Whatever the issue was Jesus has brought them back together. Next, we have Jesus before Pilate again, and all this recorded in all 4 accounts. It becomes harder to keep this all this in order. It is possible that what I am about to read happened from the first time Jesus was with Pilate and fact that he asks Him about the being the king of the Jews would certainly lend to that idea, but it possible that simply asked Him the question again during this second encounter. Regardless if this come from the first or second encounter, the information is true.
John 18:33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?" 35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
Since the Jews claimed Jesus was calling Himself a king, Pilate wanted to know if this was true. At first, Jesus wanted to know if this was Pilate’s question or the Jews. Pilate confirmed that it was a question from the Jews, so Jesus affirmed that He is a king. However, His kingdom was not a physical one, it was a spiritual one. He explains that if He was interested in establishing a physical kingdom, His servants would fight and He would have been delivered from the Jews.
Jesus was not scared to proclaim the truth no matter what the consequences may be, and we should learn to follow His example. Just as Jesus said, He came to bear witness to the truth. Those who are willing to believe that truth will take heed to what Jesus said.
John 18:38 Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no fault in Him at all. 39 " But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?" 40 Then they all cried again, saying, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber.
Pilate asked a great question, but our text does not indicate that he wanted to know the answer. It would be great if every person asked this question and then listened to the answer found in the Word of God (Jn. 8:32-33; 14:6; 17:17).
Pilate could not find a valid reason to kill Jesus and even his wife had sent word to him not to have anything to do with this man because she had suffered many things in a dream because of Him (Mt. 27:19). So, Pilate did his best to let Jesus go. For instance, he hoped the Jews might let Jesus go if he gave them a choice of releasing Barabbas, a known criminal, or Jesus. Once again, we see the term Passover used to describe the feast of the unleavened bread. Proof for this comes from the other Gospel accounts, which state that this custom of releasing a prisoner occurs on the feast (Mt. 27:15; Mk: 15:6; Lk. 23:17). To Pilate’s surprise, the Jews choose Barabbas to be released who was a robber and a murderer (Mk. 15:7).
I can imagine how relived Barabbas was that Jesus was going to take his place and had given him another chance at life. The same thing can be said for all of us because Jesus died on the cross and He bore the weight of our sins so we can have a chance at eternal life. We only have one life to live, so we need to make the best of it and live it for God.
Matthew’s account offers us more information that I want to read even though it will repeat a few things we covered already.
Matt. 27:15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. 16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas1. 17 Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" 18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, "Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him." 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" They said, "Barabbas!" 22 Pilate said to them, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!" 23 Then the governor said, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they cried out all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!" 24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it." 25 And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children." 26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. 28 And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 30 Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
What a horrible scene. Jesus came to save all these people and more. Yet, here we have them screaming crucify Him, crucify Him. Now, let’s move back to John’s account where we will take a closer look at the scourging Jesus suffered through.
John 19:1 So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.
Pilate found himself in a difficult political situation. Even though he knew Jesus was innocent, he allowed the Jewish people to influence him, which is why he ordered Jesus to be scourged. Scourging was normally done before a person was crucified, but Pilate was hoping the Jews would be satisfied with the scourging alone (Lk. 23:22). Scourging is one the most brutal punishments that has ever been invented.
Mr. Hester writes:
The scourge was a whip with several thongs, each loaded with acorn-shaped balls of lead, with sharp pieces of bone or spikes. Stripped of His clothes, His hands tied by a lictor, who plied these instruments of torture with severity almost to the point of the death of the prisoner. Each stroke cut into the quivering flesh, until the veins and sometimes the entrails were laid bare. Often the scourge struck the face and knocked out the eyes and teeth. Scourging almost always ended in fainting and sometimes even in death (H. I. Hester, The Heart of the New Testament (Liberty, Missouri: The William Jewell Press, 1962), p. 213.).
Mr. Lipscomb writes:
The scourge was made of rods or throngs with pieces of bone or lead fastened to one end. The condemned person received the blows while fastened to a post so as to have the back bent and the skin stretched. With the blows the back became raw and the blood spurted out. The punishment was so cruel that the condemned person very often succumbed to it immediately. (David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the Gospel by John (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Company, 1966).
It was not uncommon for people to die from being scourged, which explains why Jesus could not carry His own cross. Thinking about Jesus having to endure such a brutal beating makes me cringe and breaks my heart especially knowing He was innocent and endured it for us. Isaiah prophesied about this moment when he wrote, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).
John 19:2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck Him with their hands.
We are given more details about this event in Matthew 27:27-31 and Mark 15:16-20. All of this was done to mock Jesus and to humiliate Him. We do not know for sure what kind of thorns were used because there were many varieties available. It could have been a prickly plant, or one with bigger thorns. The main purpose for all of this was to give Him a crown, a robe, and a reed for His right hand so they could mock Him for being a king. They bowed down and worshipped Him and gave Him praises as a king, and they spat on Him, hit Him with their hands, and beat Him on the head with the reed. All this happened after He endured His scourging.
John 19:4 Pilate then went out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him." 5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilatesaid to them, "Behold the Man!"
Once again, Pilate faces these blood thirty Jews who wanted Jesus dead. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, and he was hoping if he presented Him before them scourged and dressed in this ridiculous attire that it would suffice. Pilate wanted them to see that Jesus has no power and that He had suffered enough.
John 19:6 Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him." 7 The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God."
Pilate’s plan did not work. These Jews had no compassion, and they would not be satisfied until Jesus was dead. They shouted “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Even though Jesus knew He would have to endure all this, it had to be difficult hearing these Jews hatred toward Him. While He was suffering from His scourging, beatings, and the hatred of these Jews, He still loved them and was willing to die for them.
These Jews made several accusations about Jesus and why He should die, but the real reason came out. They wanted Him dead because “He made Himself the Son of God” (Mk. 14:62; Jn. 5:18; 10:30-33). If Jesus’ claim was false, the Law of Moses states that He should be put to death:
Leviticus 24:16 'And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.
Notice, the death was to be done by the Jews with stones, but Jesus was not guilty of this because He is the Son of God, and He had proven it over and over again.
John 19:8 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, 9 and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, "Where are You from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then Pilate said to Him, "Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?" 11 Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."
Pilate was supposed to be in control, but He was starting to feel powerless, and he was afraid. If a riot broke out, he would have some explaining to do to Caesar, and if he went against the Jews, his new friendship with Herod would be in jeopardy. He also had the warning from his wife about Jesus to think about as well (Mt. 27:19).
Once more, he goes into the Praetorium to question Jesus, but this time Jesus is silent as Isaiah prophesied He would be at times (Isa. 53:7). Jesus already told Pilate everything he needed to know, and it would be pointless for Him to say anything else. But Pilate is surprised by Jesus’ silence. Apparently Pilate thought Jesus would do whatever He could to talk him out of putting Him to death. It is possible he was hoping Jesus might give him a valid reason not to succumb to this angry mob.
Pilate pronounces his authority over Jesus’ life or death. Jesus tells Pilate the only reason he has any authority is because God had allowed him to have it. This same principle is taught throughout the Bible (Job 12:23; Dan. 5:17-28; Rom. 13:1).
Who delivered Jesus to Pilate? Was it Judas, Annas, Caiaphas, or the Jewish nation? Judas certainly had his part in handing Jesus over to Pilate, and so did Annas because he sent Jesus to Caiaphas who was the high priest that represented the Sanhedrin council. Caiaphas’ decision made him guilty of this sin as well, but the chief priests and elders were also responsible for handing Him over (Mt. 27:1). So, I believe all of these people involved were guilty of a greater sin especially Caiaphas because he knew the Law of Moses and should have known that Jesus was the Messiah.
While sin in general will separate us from God and should be avoided, Jesus implies there are different levels of sin. We are not given many details about this, but Jesus also implies various degrees of punishment in hell:
The greater the sin, the greater the punishment will be. While we do not know the specifics, one thing we do know is that sin separates us from God whether it is small or big.
John 19:12 From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar." 13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
No one ever found Jesus guilty of deserving death, and Pilate tried to find a way to release Him. Earlier, Pilate proclaimed Jesus’ innocence before them all.
Matthew 27:24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it."
These opposing Jews knew exactly how to back Pilate into a corner because they knew it was against Roman law for anyone to proclaim themselves a king. If someone did this, it was punishable by death. If Caesar found out that Pilate let a self-proclaimed king go, it would be the end of his career. So, Pilate sat in his official judgment seat and pronounced Jesus’ death by crucifixion. Even though Pilate proclaimed His innocence and the Jews said let Jesus’ blood be on us and our children (Mt. 27:25), Pilate was still guilty of allowing this innocent man to be murdered.
John 19:14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" 15 But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!" 16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.
Once again, we have a reference of the Passover being on that Friday and being the Preparation Day. Some might think this refers to preparing for the Passover meal, but as we examined John 18, the Passover can refer to lamb, the meal, or the feast of unleavened bread.
The Passover meal preparation took place the day before on Thursday, and at twilight (between the two evenings) the Pascal lamb would have been killed. That night, which would be the next day according to Jewish time, is when the Passover meal was eaten (Ex. 12). So, Friday was not the preparation for the Passover meal, it was the preparation for the feast of the unleavened bread in which all leaven had to be removed from their homes (Ex. 12).
Guy N. Woods explains:
The `preparation day' was the day preceding the beginning of the seven days' feast of unleavened bread Friday. `Passover' signifies the entire period of the feast, the first day of which was the sabbath (John 19:31,42; Mark 15:42; Matt. 27:62; Luke 23:54). The `sixth hour' was 6 a.m., according to Roman reckoning which John followed, and is in complete harmony with Mark's statement (Mark 15:25), that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, by Jewish computation (which Mark followed), was 9 a.m. Under Roman law, sentence could not be pronounced earlier than 6 a.m.; it is probable than an hour or so elapsed before the court proceedings were completed and Jesus was delivered up to be crucified. The painful trip to Calvary was to occur before the crucifixion would begin (Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the Gospel according to John (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Company, 1981), p. 397-398).
In verses 14 and 15, Pilate seems to be taunting these Jews by saying Jesus is their king and asking them if they are sure they want him to crucify their king. They did not like these comments at all, so they said crucify Him. They even called Caesar their king. It is amazing how people will change their loyalties to bring about their own desires.
I hate to end this lesson here, but we will have to wait until next week to examine how Jesus made His way to the cross and died.