Thursday, September 27, 2012

John 19:1-16

I’m hoping you will read today’s passage in one sitting, because you don’t want to miss the power of the scene as Pilate allows the opinion of men to overcome his conscience. Although he found no blame in Jesus, he felt the need to placate the crowd. So he ordered Jesus to be flogged, to receive 39 lashes with a flagellum.

A flagellum was a short whip with braided leather straps that had small balls of iron and sharp pieces of sheep bones attached to it. It was standard practice to scourge someone who was being executed. Jesus would have been stripped and tied to a pole with his arms over his head and his backside exposed. The lacerations would have completely shredded his back, and the blood loss and intense pain would most likely have taken him to a pre-shock condition (I googled this). John’s gospel reduces this to one verse, before it describes His humiliation at the hands of the Roman soldiers:

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.  The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe  and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face. 

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.”  When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” 

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 19:1-6)

We know from Isaiah 52:14 that Jesus was beaten beyond recognition. So Pilate brought him out before the crowds, hoping this would be enough for them. Once again, Pilate declared Jesus innocent, but the crowd was vehement in their demand for Jesus’ crucifixion. Then the Jews reveal the real reason they were so violently opposed to Jesus:

The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” (verse 7)

This freaked Pilate out! So he went back inside the palace to interrogate Jesus about His identity. Jesus refused to answer him.

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free... (vs.10-12a)

Pilate tried desperately to wash his hands of this matter, but he refused, in the end to stand up for righteousness, because he cared more about his power and career than he did the Truth. He made one final attempt to get out of responsibility, presenting Jesus to the crowd, but in the end he sealed his fate in infamy:

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. 

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

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. (vs.15b-16)

The chief priests, though making a blatantly false claim to loyalty to Caesar in order to accomplish their ends, nevertheless revealed that they would never have Christ as their King. They, too, sealed their fate. And what we do with Jesus determines our eternal fate. At one point in His ministry, as recorded in Matthew 16:15, Jesus turned to His disciples, and He asked them the one question that we all must answer:

“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”  

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