Judging the Innocent Man, part 2

Posted: March 2, 2016 in John, Uncategorized

John 19:1-16, “Judging the Innocent Man, part 2”

To call something a spectacle is to call it a sight to be seen.  Sometimes, it’s something we want to see (like a circus) – other times, it’s something we want to avoid (like when your parents told you to stop making a spectacle of yourself).  Either way, it attracts attention.

Such was the case with Jesus on the day Pilate sentenced Him to death.  There had never been a sight to behold such as this.  Pilate even announced “Behold the Man…Behold your King!”  The Jews were supposed to look upon Him, and if they had seen Him rightly, they would not have been able to tear their eyes away.  Beyond the blood, beyond the gore, stood an innocent Man…THE innocent Man.  Jesus is the only Man who was ever truly innocent, and yet was judged as a sinner.  He was known to be without fault, yet endured the punishment of the truly guilty.  Before even the first nail ripped through His flesh, Jesus was cast into physical agony, judged by a cruel coward and rejected by His own people.

The rejection had been taking place for quite some time already.  Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples, abandoned by the rest, and even denied by one of the best.  He was paraded through a kangaroo court of the Jews and delivered over to Roman governor on trumped up charges.  The one bit of truth that had gotten through to Pilate thus far was the fact that Jesus is a King, although Pilate couldn’t understand the nature of Jesus’ kingship or kingdom.  Perplexed by the innocent Man in front of him, yet finding himself in a politically difficult position, Pilate tried taking things into his own hands.  He attempted to bypass the Jewish priests, and present a choice to the Jewish people.  They could have one prisoner freed to them: Jesus the king of the Jews, or Barabbas the terrorist.  To Pilate’s chagrin, the people listened to their priests & chose Barabbas.  They’d rather have a violent criminal back on the streets than Jesus.  They had chosen their sin over the righteousness of God (which is the same choice all of us have made at some point).

So now what was Pilate to do?  He was back at the drawing board without a Plan B.  He knew Jesus was innocent, but he wasn’t sure what to do.  There were many options Pilate could have taken, but he fell back upon what he knew best: cruelty.  But even as he put Jesus through all kinds of physical torture and humiliation that day, he did one thing right (even without knowing it): he put all eyes on Jesus.  The people had to look upon Jesus.  They would know Whom it was they rejected.  They would do what they did with a full knowledge of their actions.  They would see Jesus in His innocence, and in His suffering.  Yet what would they do with what they saw?  How would they respond?  History tells us with the Jews; only personal experience will tell us with ourselves.  We also need to look upon Jesus.  Behold the Man – behold Your King.  How will you respond to Him?

John 19:1–16
1 So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.

  1. To say that Jesus was “scourged/flogged” is to say that He was whipped.  But even that seems to fail to capture what took place.  Many cultures include flogging as a source of punishment even to this day, but the Romans performed a truly hideous version of it.  They didn’t use a rod or crop or even a horse-whip…they used a multi-tailed whip that had bits of stone, glass, or metal embedded in it. [PIC]  Unlike the Jews who limited the number of lashes to 40 or less (Dt 25:3) and who specifically avoided death by flogging, the Romans had no such restriction.  Victims would be tied to a stake/pole and whipped until the whenever the Romans felt like it.  A person’s back would be literally ripped to shreds, and it was not uncommon to have bone exposed by the end of the ordeal, with people often dying while still bound to the stake.  It was so terribly vicious that even the (later) emperor Domitian was said to be horrified by it (TDNT). 
  2. And it was all unnecessary.  It didn’t have to happen…at least, not from the perspective of Pilate.  Although both Matthew and Mark place the scourging and crucifixion together, John’s gospel shows a bit of time separation between the two events.  Scholars have pointed out that scourging and crucifixion often went hand-in-hand, but in the case of Jesus, the decision to flog Jesus was made prior to the decision to crucify Him.  It was completely separate.  It goes to show that Pilate was no innocent bystander in all of this, simply trying to survive a mob.  He had just gotten done proclaiming Jesus to be without fault, but had no problems whatsoever ordering the physical torture of an innocent Man.  Perhaps he thought that a taste of blood would satisfy the crowd outside, but legally, it was totally unnecessary.
    1. Some might see flogging as the lesser of two evils, when compared with crucifixion – though not by much considering flogging could easily have been a death sentence depending on how it was done.  Even so, the lesser of two evils is still evil.  We are not called to make evil choice; we’re called to choose the good.  We’re called to stand for what’s right.  Pilate did not.
  3. What was unnecessary from a legal point of view was still divinely permissible by God.  Why is that?  Because sin requires punishment.  All the events surrounding the death of the Lord Jesus were part of the cup of suffering that He was ordained to drink (Mt 26:39), which included all of the beatings and bloody evil inflicted upon Him by the Romans (as well as the rejection by His own nation of the Jews).  After all, it wasn’t only upon the cross that He suffered; it was all day long.  Ultimately, all of it was the wrath of God.  All sin from all humans throughout history was placed upon the shoulders of Jesus as He served as our substitute, and He was thoroughly punished in our place.  The Biblical term for it is “propitiation.”  Jesus satisfied the righteous anger of God that was justly due for sin.  That is what Jesus came to do, and that is what He accomplished.
    1. So now, receive of His work!  Believe upon Him by faith & know that your sin is completely done away.

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.

  1. The scourging wasn’t the only physical beating that Jesus endured that day.  The Jewish temple guards already had slapped Jesus around, and now it was the Romans’ turn.  If Jesus hadn’t lost enough blood by this point, the soldier ensured that His flesh was further ripped by the “crown of thorns” they made for Him.  What exact plant was used for it, no one knows – but it was further humiliation as the soldiers mocked the true King of kings.  Between the “purple robe” they draped Him with (which was likely one of the reddish capes worn by the legionnaires), the reed/stick they placed in His hand (mentioned by Matthew), and this traumatic crown, the whole point was to humiliate this supposed-King.
  2. What took place was awful, but was did not seems to jump off the page: any mention of divine retribution.  The restraint shown by God the Father and God the Son is nothing short of astounding.  Uzzah dropped dead when simply placing his hand upon the ark of the covenant, trying to steady it as it fell.  These men repeatedly placed their hands upon Jesus, purposefully abusing Him, and they lived to tell the tale.  Jesus could have defended Himself at any time.  Not only could whole legions of angels come to His rescue, He could have obliterated any of these soldiers with a mere thought.  When the Bible shows Jesus returning to earth in the book of Revelation, whole armies fall before Him.  Certainly a few soldiers wouldn’t have stood a chance.
    1. Again, this was the will of God.  From the perspective of those watching, it would have seemed as if chaos ruled the day & Jesus was at the mercy of the Romans.  In reality, God was fully in control, and Jesus willingly submitted Himself to torture and abuse.  All of it was necessary in order to fulfill prophecy, atone for sin, and provide for our forgiveness.  All of it was allowed in order that the Son of God could make you & me into the children of God.  This is His love for us.  There is enough love shown in the fact of His death – after all, greater love has none than this, that a Man would lay down His life for His friends (Jn 15:13).  But there is an overwhelming abundance of love in the act of His death!  With every blow & every whip, He knew that He had to endure a bit more…and more…and more.  Every act of hate He endured was an additional act of His love for you.

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.”

  1. This is the 2nd time Pilate declared Jesus’ innocence, and there is no small irony in it considering he had just supervised the Man’s humiliation and torture just short of death.  Yet he wanted the crowds to see what he had done.  They had requested Barabbas instead of Jesus, so Pilate treated Jesus with all of the cruelty that Barabbas deserved.  What would they think of Jesus now, once He was bloodied and weak from shock?  Would they also see His innocence?
  2. The innocence of Jesus is impossible to ignore…even for Jesus’ enemies.  Not only did Pilate repeatedly speak of Jesus’ innocence, the priests could not even find two witnesses against Jesus to convict Him of a crime.  It wasn’t until Jesus personally testified of His identity that the priest were able to sentence Him to death.  He was completely faultless, and that is exactly as it should have been.  We needed a sacrifice, and sacrifices are required to be without blemish.  The ancient Hebrews were not allowed to bring their sick or weak animals to the tabernacle or temple; they had to bring their best & most valued.  Whatever was sacrificed had to be worthy, because it was standing in the place of the one offering it.  Jesus IS the worthy sacrifice!  He was spotless, blameless, fully without sin (Heb 4:15).
    1. The innocence of Jesus is still impossible to ignore.  Even those who hate Christians have a grudging admiration for Christ.  They might say all kinds of evil for His followers, but of Jesus, they can say nothing.  They may hate Him for who He is & what He represents, but they have no accusation that can be thrown against Him.

5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” 6 Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” …

  1. Just as a sacrificial lamb was brought out for presentation, so was Jesus presented to His nation.  Pilate demanded that they look upon Him – perhaps hoping that the spectacle of Jesus might arouse pity on behalf of the crowd.  If they could see that Jesus was punished enough, then maybe they would call for His release.  Pilate, however, underestimated the influence of the priests over the people, and soon the repeated cry went out: “Crucify!  Crucify!”  Only one thing would satisfy the people – the very thing that the priests had sought out from the beginning of the day: death by crucifixion.
  2. Behold the Man!”  It’s such a simple statement, but such a loaded one as well.  “Look upon the Man you reject.  Behold the One who has been beaten for your pleasure.  This is what you asked for…you got it.”  Yet if only Pilate had realized Whom it was that he presented to the people, he might have said it with different intent.  “Behold the Innocent Man!  Look on the Man suffering in your place!  This Man stands in the place of all men and women.  Behold your sacrifice!”  Or as John the Baptist said years earlier: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (Jn 1:29)  To tell people to look upon Jesus is to tell people to place their faith in Him.  Pilate had no idea what he was doing, but we do.  We also tell people to behold the Man – to look upon Jesus and the work that He has done.
  3. Keep in mind that one day, every eye will look upon Jesus!  Only then, we will not see Him beaten & bloodied – we will see Him in glory.  Philippians 2:9–11, "(9) Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, (11) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  One day, every human in all history will see Jesus, we will know Him to be Lord.  (So see Him as Lord now, while you have the opportunity.)

… 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.”

  1. As the Jews continued to clamor for Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate told them to go do it themselves.  There’s little doubt he was being sarcastic, in that it was illegal for them to do so.  Of course, that may have been Pilate’s point.  It was illegal for him to crucify an innocent man, and that was exactly what they were telling him to do.  This is the 3rd time Pilate declared no fault to be in Jesus; there was no doubt in his mind.
  2. That’s when the priests did something truly unusual: tell the truth.  For the first time since the day began, the priests told Pilate the real reason they wanted Jesus crucified.  He had claimed to be the Son of God, and to the Jews, that demanded a death sentence.  Earlier, the priests had tried to invent charges about Jesus (Lk 23:2), and they had told a bit of truth when they charged Jesus with claiming to be a King (though they knew Pilate would misunderstand), but they hadn’t ever told Pilate about the true charge of blasphemy.  Pilate wouldn’t have wanted to have anything to do with the religious matters of the Jews, and so they kept it from him.  But at this point, they’re desperate for blood & they finally lay all their cards out on the table.  After all (according to their twisted logic), the Roman governor was supposed to uphold the local laws of the people, and the Jews had laws forbidding blasphemy.
  3. The irony here is that this is the only charge that’s true…and yet Jesus is still innocent.  Jesus DID claim to be the Son of God.  Jesus most certainly DID claim to be the Christ.  And for any other person to have made that claim, it would indeed have been blasphemy.  But in the case of Jesus, it was honesty.  That was simply the truth.
    1. That’s the crux of the matter, is it not?  All ideas and religions make all sorts of claims, but the only real issue is whether or not those claims are true.  Jesus would be relatively easy to ignore if He was just another false prophet like many through history.  If Christianity was just another religion like every other religion, then who cares?  But if it’s true?  That changes everything.
    2. How do you know if it’s true?  Because Jesus’ story doesn’t end at the cross…it continues through His resurrection from the dead.

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.

  1. Notice Pilate’s reaction.  It was when he “heard that saying” (the claim of Jesus being the Son of God) that really sobered Pilate up.  This is when he feared & brought Jesus into his home for another round of questioning.  Keep in mind, this isn’t Pilate coming to faith in Jesus.  Pilate wasn’t a Jew, and probably didn’t have too much concept of who the Messiah was supposed to be.  All he thought he was dealing with was some claim to royalty, which Pilate couldn’t figure out considering even Jesus claimed His kingdom was not of this world.  But now Pilate heard that Jesus might be divine.  That changed everything.  Romans believed in a whole pantheon of minor god & goddesses, and their myths were full of children of the gods able to do miracles (Hercules, for example).  To Pilate’s pagan mind, he would have immediately wondered if Jesus might be someone like that.  What kind of trouble would he face by torturing and executing one of the sons of the gods?  On top of it all, Pilate’s wife had sent word saying that she had suffered a dream on account of Jesus (Mt 27:19).  No doubt Pilate’s superstitions were on red-alert by this time.  It’s no wonder that he wanted to learn as much about Jesus as possible.
    1. The sad part here is that for all of Pilate’s superstitions, misunderstandings, and outright cruelty, he seems to have been the only one to take Jesus’ claim seriously.  Even in his paganism, Pilate at least considered the possibility that Jesus might be the Son of God.  Just the claim was enough to give him pause.  Not so the priests.  They had even more proof than Pilate, but they didn’t care.  Aside from Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, there’s no indication that any of the Sanhedrin seriously considered the possibility that Jesus might be the Christ.
    2. When eternity is on the line, the least we can do is examine the possibility!  Have you?
  2. At this point, Jesus stopped answering him.  Part of this was no doubt exhaustion from the shock & trauma of the morning – part of this was fulfillment of prophecy (Isa 53:7).  Jesus had not hesitated to talk with Pilate earlier that day, but by this point, no amount of talking would make a difference.  Jesus was fully submitted to the plan that God had for Him, and He made no attempt to try to defend or explain Himself to Pilate.  Of course, Jesus didn’t need to explain Himself to anyone.  That’s something Pilate picked up on immediately, and it bugged him…

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.”

  1. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.  There Pilate was, asserting all his authority as the Roman governor, all in front of the Son of God.  As if anything Pilate did could be a threat to Jesus!  Bugs do not threaten the boot that is about to step on it, and Pilate was not a threat to God the Son.  Even from Pilate’s pagan perspective, the threat was ludicrous.  After all, he was afraid of the possibility that Jesus might be divine…what power could Pilate possibly hold over Jesus?  Foolish boasting is just that: foolish.
  2. The obvious answer is that he had none.  Pilate had no idea what true power & authority was.  Pilate could order men killed, but he could not order them created.  Pilate could put someone in prison, but he could not send anyone to hell.  Pilate could set someone free, but he could not grant eternal life.  Even Pilate’s own minor authority was an illusion.  It had been granted to him, and it could be taken away.  The Romans proved this when Pilate was recalled from Judea for his cruel incompetence.  But beyond the Roman empire and all empires of the world is the God who has ultimate power.  God has inherent power; power that cannot be taken away no matter what.  And that same God was standing in the room with Pilate…Pilate didn’t have a clue.
  3. Pilate wasn’t powerful; he was a pawn.  He was being used by the Jewish authorities to send Jesus to the cross.  The high priest Caiaphas was exercising more power than the Roman governor at that time, and the proof was in Pilate’s compliance with the demands of the mob.  Caiaphas had delivered Jesus over to Pilate, and Pilate couldn’t free himself of this trouble, no matter how hard he tried (thus Caiaphas had the greater responsibility & the greater sin).
    1. Pilate may have been a pawn, but he was still responsible for his own sin & action (or inaction).  Pilate could have made the right choice; he simply didn’t.  Even when considering God’s sovereign control over the entire day, Pilate still had his own free will in action.  God is never to blame for our sins, though He might use our sins for His purposes.  Such was the case with Pilate.  God would use the sins of Pilate to bring about our salvation, but Pilate’s sins were still sins. (So are ours.)

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.

  1. By this point, Pilate likely felt as if he was running out of options.  He knew Jesus was innocent, even though he had Jesus beaten & flogged.   He wondered if perhaps Jesus might even be a type of god, but he didn’t get the answers from Jesus that he wanted.  So what to do?  The priests had already riled up the mob, and Pilate had a politically dangerous situation on his hands.  On top of it all, when he tried to release Jesus, he himself was threatened with having charges brought against him.  The Jews threatened to accuse Pilate of treason – something which would have been readily believed by Caesar Tiberius.  It was at this point that Pilate prepared to make his final judgment.  He brought Jesus to his “judgment seat” (Bema seat), and officially got ready to pronounce sentence.
    1. Pilate (in all his ignorance) received the opportunity many desire: the chance to pass judgment upon God.  At least, that’s what it appeared to be.  The reality is that whatever Pilate did, Pilate was allowed to do.  But people DO want to pass judgment upon God, and do so all the time.  They even claim that “when I go to heaven and see God, He’s going to have to answer to me for ____.”  Again, the reality is drastically different.  God does not answer to mankind; mankind answers to God.  The key is to be ready for that time by having faith in Christ.
  2. Jesus faced the judgment of Pilate; we will face the judgment of Jesus.  Thankfully, as born-again believers we will not face judgment for our sin…that judgment was already placed on Jesus at the cross.  But we will face judgment – in fact, we will all go before the bema seat of Jesus Himself (2 Cor 5:10).  There will we be judged for reward according to how we used the opportunities God gave us in life after we came to faith in Christ.

14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

  1. Much ado has been made of the time and date listed by John and how it matches up to the timeline in Mark, in that he describes the hour of Jesus’ crucifixion as “the third hour” (Mk 15:25).  The main difference is in the way John and Mark accounted time.  Mark likely used the Jewish system of counting from sunset/sunrise, whereas John (writing at a much later date) used the Roman system starting from 12:00.  The only question is whether or not John referred to 6:00am or 12noon, and scholars differ.  That said, it’s important to note that Mark is the only gospel that specifically states the hour of crucifixion; John does not.  John references the events that took place leading up to the crucifixion.  Back in 18:48, he already wrote that it was “early morning” when the priests took Jesus to Pilate – quite possibly, John is simply giving the hour that everything started, summarizing it now at the end.
  2. As for his reference to the “Preparation Day of the Passover,” the basic idea is Friday.  Jesus and the disciples had already eaten the Passover meal, the actual Passover day would begin at sundown Friday, and the week-long festival would start at that time.  Thus Jesus is not only a sacrifice, but He is the sacrifice – the Passover sacrifice.  Just as the lambs had their blood shed to save Hebrew families from death in Egypt, so did Jesus shed His blood to save us from death in eternity.  Jesus died on precisely the right day, at precisely the right time, and in precisely the right way in order to be our Passover Lamb.
  3. Jesus is the Lamb, but He is also the King.  Just as Pilate had earlier proclaimed, “Behold the Man!” – he now says, “Behold your King!”  Was Pilate again seeking to elicit sympathy from the Jews?  Was he just trying to show how pathetic the whole event had turned out to be?  The Bible doesn’t say.  Yet looking back we can see how Pilate spoke with unintended prophetic authority.  Jesus was their King standing before them, and He was about to perform the very act that would institute His kingdom: the cross.
  4. They looked at Jesus, but couldn’t bear the sight…

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. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.

  1. Surely to the amazement of Pilate, the hatred of Jesus by the Jews did the one thing that conquest failed to accomplish: cause Jewish allegiance to the Roman empire.  The Jewish mob claimed more loyalty to Caesar than did Pilate at that moment.  Pilate was the one trying to free the Jewish King; the Jews were the ones crying out for Caesar.  Like the Israelites of generations past, they rejected God as their King & chose a man instead.
  2. At that point, Pilate gave in.  He officially gave the death warrant, and Jesus was delivered up to the cross.  All of history had led to this moment, and it had finally arrived.

Conclusion:
It would be easy to look at what happened that day and point out the faults of everyone involved.  Pilate was a manipulative coward who himself was easily manipulated.  He repeatedly saw the innocence of Jesus, yet treated without mercy.  The Roman soldiers he supervised were no better, as they mocked Jesus at every opportunity.  The priests had no fear inciting a mob to violence, and were determined to see Jesus brutally killed.  The Jewish crowd not only rejected Jesus, but they cried out for His death, and (at least temporarily) preferred the rule of their conquering Roman Caesar to the independent freedom they had in God.

Yet we cannot look down our noses at them.  They were the ones who were historically present, but we all are the ones theologically at fault.  Remember that Jesus was innocent.  He died not for His sins, but for ours.  The wrath of God that He faced is the punishment we should have received.  Every blow from the whip upon His back should have been ours.  Every beating was one that we deserved. 

Isaiah said it best: Isaiah 53:4–6, "(4) Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) 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. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

Jesus is the sacrifice – the perfect sacrifice – the innocent sacrifice.  He is the One who stood in our place, taking the punishment that we earned.  He did so willingly – He did so abundantly – He did so lovingly.  He wants us to be saved, in order that God would be glorified, thus He endured it all.

So what do we do?  Behold the Man!  Look upon the One who suffered for you, who died for you, and who now lives today.  See Him in faith for who He is & what He has done. 

For some of us, we saw Him as our King long ago, thankful for the sacrifice that He made.  Yet when was the last time you truly considered it?  We may sing “thank You for the cross,” but do we truly mean it?  Consider for a moment what it was that your Lord Jesus did for you – and then consider how you lived for Him this week.  Personally speaking, that can be a pretty crushing thought.  Look upon Him anew & afresh…not out of guilt, but out of gratitude.  Knowing that He died for all our sins, insufficiencies, and failings, He lives today interceding for us & preparing a place for us.  Behold the Man – behold Your King…and thank Him!

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