Turn in your Bibles to John chapter 18 for our lesson this morning. We're going to come to a passage this morning that you're going to find extremely intriguing, a little bit different than the passages as we approach most of them. Because it really turns out to be a character analysis of a man name Pilate. Perhaps as infamous a man as the world has ever known, infamous because of his cowardice. He has become the prototype of all cowards.
And as we approach our study this morning, we are continuing in a series that we've been in John's gospel for several years now. And we have come to chapter 18, closing in on the last days of the life of Christ. In fact, this is the last day, to be followed only by the days that He lived on earth after His resurrection. And as we come to this last day and the events of the last day, we are face to face with the fact that Jesus is to die. He has been tried in front of the religious court of the Jews, found guilty of nothing; nevertheless they desire to kill Him for envy's sake because they don't like Him. He disturbs their hypocritical power over the people; that is He disturbs the hypocritical power of the rulers, the Jewish religious rulers. And so, they want to be rid of Him.
But since they have no right to execute Him, technically the Romans alone have that right for the Jews are a subject people to Rome; they thus bring Him to Pilate in order that Pilate might be His executioner. They don't want Pilate to try Him; they only want Pilate to kill Him. But in order to get Pilate to do it they have to use every possible tactic that they can imagine, and you're going to see them floundering and flip‑flopping around through this entire passage, coming up with different accusations to try to get the thing finally accomplished, and they finally succeed. They are wily, they are clever, they are unscrupulous, they are bloodthirsty. And they hound Jesus and they hound Pilate until finally they get them both.
And yet, in this kind of a thing which could again, as we have seen so many times, be very debasing to Jesus, we see Him exalted. And the one who is debased in this situation is Pilate and equally debasing ... equally debased are the Jewish leaders and even the people. And in this passage we see the hysterical hate of the Jews, the panicky fear of Pilate set against the serene majesty and calm of Jesus Christ. And it seems like it's backwards for the victim to be calm and the accuser and the executioner to be frenzied, but indeed that's exactly the picture.
You see, as we have seen in the past, Jesus must die. He must die for the sins of the world. He must bear in His own body our sins on the tree. And as prophecy indicates He must be lifted up by His own word. He must die the death of crucifixion as described in the Old Testament by the psalmist. And so He must die at Gentile hands in Gentile fashion. He must also die in Gentile hands in order that the whole world may become culpable or guilty of His death.
And so, He is brought to the point of His death. And even though it's in the design of God that Jesus is to die, that relieves at no point the guilt of men who killed Him. God merely planned their guilt and their hatred and their cowardice into His redemption.
Now, in all of the humiliation and all of the mockery of this mad, unbelievable, weird scene that we're going to see this morning where Jesus is abused, then mocked, then clubbed, then spit on, scourged, smashed in the face and finally nailed to a cross, we would think we would see a debased Jesus, but we don't. We see Him in as much beauty as you will ever see Him. And though as Isaiah said: "There is no beauty that we should desire Him," there is no form or comeliness physically, His visage is marred yet He is majestic in His person. And above all things He is faultless. And rather than being the condemnation of Jesus, the trial before Pilate is the damnation of Pilate. The indictment against Jesus is lie upon lie upon lie upon lie. But the indictments against the Jewish leaders and against Pilate is truth. And they are the ones condemned.
It's an interesting kind of a situation because you see, the Jews are afraid of Jesus. Pilate is afraid of the Jews. And Jesus is afraid of nobody.
Now, let me remind you that the religious trial is over; that the Jews according to their own law have determined that Jesus must die. Now when I say their own law, I mean not by the law of God, or by any kind of a judicial process, they want to get rid of Jesus because they hate Him for envy, they hate Him. And so they plot His trial only as a step to His death. It isn't a legitimate trial, there was nothing just about it from beginning to end, the religious trial. There were two trials: the religious and then the civil. The religious trial, you'll remember, had three phases. The first one before Annas when they tried to get an indictment against Jesus and there wasn't any. The second phase in the middle of the night they got Caiaphas who was the high priest, and the Sanhedrin together and condemned Him to death. And then they met again in the morning to try to legalize the whole deal. Those three phases of trial one proved Jesus was innocent, not guilty but it was a plot to kill Him so His innocence had no part in it. It didn't matter whether He was innocent or guilty at all, they were going to kill Him anyway.
But because they had not the right of execution, they now bring Him to Pilate. And this is trial two and it's a civil trial before the Roman governor and it takes three phases also. The first phase we saw last week. Last week we saw, beginning in verse 28, that Jesus was brought to Pilate and that Pilate examined Him to see whether this indictment was true. And first of all he said ‑What's He ... what do you accuse Him of? And they said ‑ Well, He's a bad man. Which is a little bit vague, right? They said ‑ Do you think we would bring somebody to you who wasn't a bad, horrible person? In other words, you're impugning our character, Pilate. And finally they decided they needed an accusation, so they accused Him of being a political reactionary who was trying to overthrow Rome. And Pilate looked over at Jesus, simple, clothed in peasant garb, silent, standing there and said: "That is a political insurrectionist? That is a king? A threat to Caesar? Who you kidding?" And Pilate concluded at the end of verse 38, phase one of trial two, "I find in Him ... what? ... no fault at all." You're kidding, this is no political reactionary. Jesus had said to him, ‑ If I was a king and I wanted to knock off Rome, My servants would fight, My servants didn't fight, they ran. One of them tried to fight and I told him to put away his sword.
And so, Pilate says No, no, no ... this is no political insurrectionist. You know, this is one of the lies that's current today. A girl came to me after the morning service this morning and she said, "You know," she said, "it's interesting that you should preach on this because somebody has been coming to me and there's a new thing that's out." And evidently she had gotten hold of it at Valley State College and it's a particular treatise dealing with the fact that Jesus was a political revolutionary and He was executed by Rome because Rome found Him guilty of that. That's a lie. Pilate says ‑ I find no fault in Him ‑ six times. They found no fault in Him. There was no insurrection. There was no reason to execute Him. And Pilate says ‑ What are you going to kill Him for? What did He do? And they said ‑ Well, He's an insurrectionist against Rome. And Pilate questioned Him and found out He wasn't. The Romans bore no accusation against Jesus.
Well, Pilate's in a pickle, to put it mildly. Because of this...now stay with me and I'll give you the background, are you ready for this? ... Pilate had messed up with the Jews...oh, badly. Remember how I told you that when he got into there as the governor, he had fouled up so many times and Rome had to send down word ‑ either shape up or they were going to yank him out of there? He had irritated the Jews. Now Roman...the Roman law what was called Pax Romana, the Roman Peace, moved in on an area and subjected the people but it allowed them home rule and it allowed them a kind of a peace. And the Romans were not really oppressive unless the people were revolutionary. The Romans wanted to keep it peaceful and they were very good at that.
Well, Pilate had a tough time doing that with the Jewish people. They kept having these revolts and Pilate was really in bad shape. And to make things worse, not only did Rome know that he was having a hard time handling these people from revolting, but to make it worse he had capitulated to the Jews on three occasions and they knew that they had him right under their thumbs. They knew he was nothing but a puppet and they could move him around anywhere they wanted to move him. Because, they could always hold over his head the threat ‑ If you don't do what we want, we'll revolt and guess who will hear about it? And you'll get the axe.
And so, Pilate was being blackmailed into doing this to Christ. They were putting the pressure on Pilate in a blackmail sense. They were saying, in effect, ‑ Pilate, if you don't do what we want with Jesus, you're going to find a lot of trouble. Finally, we'll see the ... the final ... the coup de grace that really finally trips the hammer in Pilate's brain and gives him the final decision to go ahead and let Jesus be crucified, was just that issue. And they knew how to get to Pilate. Little by little they just stuck the knife in and they just kept twisting it and twisting it until finally it was over.
So, Pilate's really got two options on his hands. Now he's a man of some justice. He's not any kind of a, you know, average commoner, this guy's a pretty sharp guy or he wouldn't be placed in such a position by Rome. And to his benefit we should say that he's got some sense of justice. They bring to him an innocent man and he's faced with two options. All right, the man is innocent, I could let Him go. That would be right cause He's innocent. But I let Him go, I've got a Jewish revolution, word goes to Caesar and I get either removed or my head removed because Tiberius didn't tolerate messing around. Tiberius Caesar was quick. And when he saw something he didn't like, it was over and he happened to be the emperor at that time. And so, Pilate had the option of doing what was right and losing his job and maybe his head because the Jews would undoubtedly revolt, or he had the option of doing what was wrong, executing an innocent man, and therefore cross‑graining all the Roman justice and judgment that he had ever learned and crucifying his own soul because in some sense he had a morality. So he had two choices ... either save your soul or save your neck.
Now, there's something kind of vague about your soul. There's nothing vague about your neck. Right? So when it gets down to the nitty‑gritty, chances are you'll go for your neck. You know, that's what's going on in our world today? And Jesus said: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose ... what? ... lose his soul?" Fools, people live for money, pleasure, sex ... whatever. And they crucify their souls.
Well, that was Pilate's option. And his neck was so tangible, you know. And so they had him where they wanted him. And with that in his mind, he has just tried to get this thing over with by saying to the Jews ‑ I find no fault in Him. But then he's faced with another problem. He doesn't know what to do with Jesus. He can't give Him back or he's going to have this whole problem on his hands, so he now begins a process of figuring out schemes to get rid of Jesus, see, out‑the‑back‑door deals. First thing he thinks of ‑ Oh, let's see, Herod... this is Luke 23 and this is the second phase of the trial which John skips, I'm talking in the white space here, but Luke picks it up. He says ‑ I got it ... here, Jesus is originally from Galilee, right? Nazareth of Galilee. Herod is the chief cheese in Galilee. Herod also happened to be in Jerusalem at this time. Pilate says ‑ I'll pass the buck to Herod. So Luke 23 verses 4 to 12 says he gathers up Jesus ... whist ... over to Herod.Herod looks at Jesus a while, soldiers mock Him, beat Him a little bit, then Herod says ‑ Take Him back to Pilate. And Pilate is stuck again.
And then we come to verse 39 and John picks it up from there. And this is the story of Pilate's inability to get rid of Jesus. May I make a spiritual point at this time, and I'm going to remind you of it at the end? You have here exactly what every man has to face, listen to it, an ultimate decision about what to do with Jesus Christ. Pilate tried every single thing he could to get rid of Jesus and he couldn't get rid of Him, God forced him to make the decision himself. And so he will every man.
All right, as we move into the trial in verse 39, I'm going to show you three things: Pilate's failing proposals, Pilate's fatal panic, Pilate's final pronouncement. And here we see the absolute dissipation and destruction of a human being. And by that I don't mean Jesus ... I mean Pilate. By the time this deal is over you're going to see a raving maniac, a man who has momentary insanity ... Pilate. He completely loses it.
First of all, Pilate's failing proposals. Now Pilate thinks up a couple of proposals in order to get rid of Jesus. Now I've already told you about a couple of them. You remember back, for example, in chapter 18 verse 31, he didn't know what to do with Jesus there so he said ‑ You take Him and you judge Him. He tried to get rid of Jesus there. He tried to get rid of Jesus again by sending Him to Herod and that didn't work, and he's still stuck with Him. So he comes up with a couple of other brainstorms that he thinks might really work, and I call them Pilate's failing proposals. Now he's under stress, to say the least. Remember now, he's got an option between his soul and his neck and it's a fearful thing. In his heart and his mind he knows that Jesus is innocent. And he knows that the whole thing is a plot by the Jewish leaders to have Jesus murdered out of pure envy, he knows that. He knows that Jesus has committed no political crime, that Rome has no accusation to make against Jesus, that he has legally no right to execute Jesus, he's enough of a man of justice to at least be conscious of that. He knows Jesus is no criminal, he knows Jesus is no threat to Roman political security. But is Jesus ever a threat to his security. He is on the proverbial horns of the dilemma. He cannot afford another revolt or Rome will eliminate him and he knows the character of Tiberius and he knows that he is quick. And even though he's got a sense of justice he's got that lingering thing in the depths of the human heart that says ‑ I want to stay alive at all costs. And so, it's very complicated. And this is Pilate.
But, the decision is his. And so, he tries, first of all, to worm out of it. Notice verse 39: "But ye have custom that I should release unto you one at the Passover."
Now, there was a custom evidently that Pilate had with the people. It may have begun before Pilate was the governor; that every year at Passover they would release from the jails of the Romans one Roman prisoner, a Jewish criminal who had been taken by Rome in prison. Now it is very obvious that this was a concession on the part of Rome to the people because the other gospel writers tells us that the people had the right to choose who it was that they desired to be released. And so Pilate in his little brain begins to think ‑ Aha, it's Passover time and they get to choose whomever they will to be released. And he thinks here's my out. I'll offer them Jesus.
Now, this isn't a bad thought. You've got to give Pilate some credit. Keep in mind, not too many days before that, Jesus had come riding into Jerusalem on the colt, the foal of an ass, and everybody was sayingwhat? "Hosanna to the King ... hosanna to the King." Pilate figures ‑ The people ... hmm, a plus for Jesus, the rulers... hmm, negative.
Now, by this time the praetorium area there has been filled up with people, in the morning they begin to gather. And there's already a mob there, much more than the leaders ... the people have already arrived. So Pilate figures this ‑ It's the leaders that want Him dead, the people, they like Him, so I will offer Him to the people as the prisoner to be released. That's not bad thinking. Surely, the people will overwhelm the situation and they'll demand His release because they like Him. Surely ... I'm sure Pilate expected the crowd to say ‑ Yeah, release Jesus. So He takes Jesus and he even tries to put that thought in their mind. He takes Jesus out there with another man by the name of Barabbas and in verse 39 it says he says, in the middle of the verse, "...Will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?" And it's very cynical...See, here's your king. "...Will you that I release unto you at this point..." You know, he's ... he's pretty rational and I'm sure he's thinking in the back of his mind ‑ Boy, that settles it, they'll just ... they'll want Him, you know. They don't want Barabbas. Barabbas was the scum of the earth. I mean, nobody wanted Barabbas. I mean, this guy was no ... this wasn't any little petty guy, this guy was a real notorious criminal. The Bible says he was a notable person. And besides that, the other gospels tells us that he was an insurrectionist, he had been involved in an insurrection. The other writers also indicate to us that he had murdered and here it says in verse 40, at the end: "...Barabbas was a robber." And the Greek word is bandit. This guy was a highwayman.
Likely, the highwaymen always frequented the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. And you go down that road, it's just a steep road going down into the...to the desert where Jericho is, and the highwaymen always hid along ‑the way. And this guy was a bandit, murderer, insurrectionist, the whole routine. And so Pilate puts him up there with Jesus.
Verse 40: "Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas." We want Barabbas released. And you can imagine, if you've ever seen a double take, you would have seen one then on Pilate's part. What is ... what happened? You say, What in the world are these people ... they say, Hosanna ... this is the ... this is the great characteristic of the fickle crowd, see. This is the mood of the mob. Whatever way the deal goes, we go. See, if it's Hosanna Day, Hosanna. If it's Crucify Day, crucify, see. I mean, that's typical. If it's Christmas ‑ Oh, the Lord Jesus. If it's not Christmas ‑ Use His name in vain, right? If it's Easter ‑ go to church and sit there, and hmm, God, three cheers and all that. If it's not Easter ‑ curse God.
You see, this is the fickle mood of the mob and this is exactly what you have right here in Mark chapter 15, it tells us what happened. I'll read it to you. Mark 15:11 says: "But the chief priests stirred up the people that he should rather release Barabbas unto them." Guess who stirred the people up? Religious leaders ... Barabbas, Barabbas, Barabbas ... you know. That's people for you ... sheep, witless, following their leaders. What does the Old Testament say? "Like people, like priest," Hosea, that's what he said. So the chief priests, suppose to be the leaders, we want Barabbas. And all the people chime in and they want Barabbas and Pilate can't believe it. So typical of men.
Well, now Pilate really lost his cool. He has stopped functioning now as a judge and he began to panic. And he now comes across like a weakling who is cornered like an animal and he's cringing. And now he's really stuck. What's he going to do with Jesus now? He's been cynical in saying ‑ Do you want to release the King of the Jews? This is your King. And he could... he thought he could play with this cynicism because it was a sure thing. But it didn't turn out to be a sure thing. And now he's stuck with Jesus again.
You say ‑ "Well, why did they choose Barabbas?" Well, Barabbas was insurrectionist, the Bible tells us that. And it is very possible that they wanted Barabbas released to start an insurrection. Maybe they figured this was their leader, possible. Kind of interesting that they brought Jesus to be condemned because of His insurrectionist and then wanted an insurrectionist back so they could have an insurrection. That shows you...that shows you the honesty of their charges. They didn't care what accusation, they only wanted Him dead and they keep jumping around from accusation to accusation. If it doesn't work that He's a Roman revolutionary, we'll get Him on some other deal. They just kept working at everything they could find, and we'll see it as we go.
But anyway, Barabbas was an interesting character. His name bar, the first part of his name indicates "son of," that's Hebrew for "son of." And abbas could be from several things, possibly abb ... rabbonwhich would be "rabbi" ... could be the son of a rabbi, which would give him a little more quality‑type character, if that's possible, a man who was a bandit and a murderer. And it may be that they just wanted him because they didn't want Jesus. That's obviously the case. Maybe they thought that it was a good thing to get Barabbas along in the deal, too.
But anyway, Barabbas is a very, very important individual because, you see, he exemplifies to us the depravity of man. Here is the best in the universe, God incarnate, and the worse in humanity and whom to men choose? The worst. So typical. Well, needless to say, Pilate is dumbfounded at this point and in Matthew 27, fitting in the slot right here, Matthew says "Pilate looked at the people and said, What then shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?" And you want to know something? That's a profound question. And you know something? That wasn't just a question on Pilate's lips, that was a question that came out of his aching torn heart. What do I do with Jesus? He had to release Barabbas and he's still stuck with Jesus...failing proposal. And when he said ‑ What do I do with Jesus? ‑ The Bible says they screamed in frenzy ‑ Crucify...crucify... crucify.
Pilate is sinking at this point. His dilemma is unresolved. So he comes up in his little brain that...he's still hanging on to a sense of rationality, and he comes up with another proposal, verse 1: "Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged Him." Now this is an effort at compromise. Luke 23:16 tells us that Pilate had said before this ‑ I will chastise Him and release Him. That's good intentions. So now he says ‑ I'll scourge Him. This is a great example of a coward, isn't it? What are you going to scourge Him for, what did He do? Why you going to beat Him, what did He do? What's His crime?
No crime, I'm just going to do this to pacify the people so I can get rid of Him. You see, he figured if he beat Jesus up and mutilated Him that the people would say ‑ That's enough, that's enough. And if he beat Him up and mutilated Him and made Him look like anything but a king, maybe they wouldn't hold on to that accusation that He was a king. And so, the Bible says he scourged Him.
Now, it's hard for us to understand what scourging is. But this is a hideous torture. And let me throw in a theological footnote at this point. We often think that Jesus bore our sins only when He died, but He bore our sins in pain and suffering, you know that don't you? He was bearing sin even when He was still alive on the cross. But I also believe that at this point when He was scourged, He was bearing sin. I believe He was bearing punishment right here. For I read in Isaiah 53:5 He was wounded for ourtransgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. Even when they hit Him in the face with their fists, He was suffering for sin for the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His ... what? ... stripes we are ... what?...we are healed. You see, His suffering didn't just begin on the cross, it began with all the punches, and all the spit and all of these things that went on prior to the cross, He was bearing the punishment of sin even then.
It's hard for us toimagine scourging and I'm not even sure I imagine it. But let me give you a vivid picture as I can. A Roman scourge was a stick, thick and it was wrapped in leather. At the end of it were leather thongs of some length and in the end of those leather thongs were held bits of brass and lead and bone filed to sharp points. The victim was then either stretched flat on the ground with his back up, or tied to a post, hanging, or strapped suspended from the ground. And then the man who was accustomed to doing it and knew how well to do it would lash the back 40 times with the scourge. And from what we understand, the back was torn and lacerated to such an extent that even the deep seeded veins and arteries and sometimes even the entrails and the inner organs were exposed. It was a total shredding of the back.
This was such a horrible torture that no Roman citizen, no matter how great his crime, could ever undergo scourging. It was forbidden. And it gives us some indication of why Jesus died so soon upon the cross, because He was beaten so raw before He ever got there and the loss of the blood before He ever made it to the top of that hill with His cross would have made His death much more rapid than it would have otherwise. And so, Pilate thinks if he does this it will pacify the people, but he doesn't understand beast of prey, does he? He doesn't understand that when you wave a little blood in front of them, that doesn't pacify them that only makes them more hungry.
To add to this thing, in verse 2 it says he let the soldiers play a little game with Jesus, it says: "And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns," that is they wove it together, those long, stiff thorns, "and put it on His head," they crushed it into His brow. "And they put on Him a purple robe and said, Hail, King of the Jews." And then the Greek translation would be like this: "And they kept ... they kept saying, Hail, King of the Jews, and they kept giving Him blows with their hands," punching Him in the face with their fists.
Now you see, if you...if you can even imagine this kind of thing. In Fort Antonius where Jesus would have been, and I stood on the very pavement that they believe is the base of the fort, and it's so well preserved, on that floor are etched little Roman figures in the stone. And they're there, the Scottish sisters told us, because the Romans use to play a game. When they had all these prisoners waiting down there to be crucified, they teased them. You see, the Romans had always played games about kings. They had a game, Flaccus tells us, that they played with idiots and imbeciles. They would catch them and they would dress them up like kings and they would sit them up on places and they would mock‑worship them and they got great entertainment out of making fools out of idiots. And the Roman soldiers liked to play this game, too, where they'd take one of their prisoners and they'd make a king out of him and his great crowning event would be when they nailed him to the cross and dropped it in its hole. And so they're playing the game with Jesus and it fits because He claims to be a king and Pilate's going to use it and so he lets them play it. And they get Jesus down there and they cram the thorns into His head, it's a mock crown and they throw and old faded robe on Him and they tell Him He's a king and they stick a phony scepter in His hand and they sit Him up. And then Matthew tells us they walked by and first of all they spit all over Him. And then when they've done that they beat Him in the face with their fists. And they made a caricature of Jesus as a king. The irony of it is that they just didn't know, did they? That indeed He was a King. King of kings and Lord of lords.
You say, "You know, this is so horrible. I mean, why? Why did Jesus have to suffer all of that?" I think there are many reasons. Number one, I think the fact that He claimed to be God was one great reason why they couldn't let up on and they went to such extremes and punishment because, you see, Romans 8:7 says: "The carnal mind is enmity against God." You see, an unsaved man despises the fact of God. And men are opposed to God. And so, you have here this violent reaction against Jesus' claim to be God.
Another reason why I think He suffered so greatly is because men are such vile sinners. Boy, you read Romans chapter 3 if you want a good identification of humanity. They're throat is an open sepulcher with their tongues they have used deceit, their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their ways. How do you like that for a definition? Jesus suffered because men are cruel and vile.
Thirdly, I think Jesus suffered so greatly because this is Satan's hour. Don't you remember that why back in Genesis, the Bible tells us the serpent was going to bruise His heel? And don't you remember that Jesus said in Luke 22 verse 53, He said: "This is your hour and the power of darkness?" Who's the power of darkness? Satan. This is Satan's hour and he was giving all his shots.
Fourthly, I think Jesus suffered so greatly because He was bearing punishment for our sin and He ... and our sin deserves every possible punishment conceivable, and He bore it all.
And so, Pilate just lets Him be abused and beaten and mocked and spit on and... Then he says, verse 4: "Pilate therefore went forth again and saith unto them." Now he comes back out and ... face the people: "Behold, I bring Him forth to you that ye may know that I find no fault in Him." Pilate, you wretched coward! If you find no fault in Him what are you doing in there with that kind of nonsense? What are you doing ripping His flesh off His back? What are you doing mocking Him in there? What is this? I find no fault in Him.
You see, you're beginning to see the derangement in Pilate's mind. They're supposed to believe he finds no fault in Him and then he does this? Don't you think they knew how Pilate was beginning to lose control of his senses? But this is his plot. If they see how horrible He looks, maybe they'll think it's enough. And then in verse 5: "Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe." A cruel mockery of a true King, is it not? "And Pilate saith unto them, Behold, the man!" This is no king. Look at Him. He doesn't say ‑ Behold your king ‑ he says ‑ Behold the man, look at this, this is a man, He's no threat to you or to me or to anybody. There He stands, covered with gashing wounds, blood streaking down His face in streams from the crown of thorns on His head, changing His appearance into a cruel disfigurement. And blood rushing down His neck, gathered with the blood that seeps from His back and down His legs and onto the ground and He's a ghastly figure. And Pilate says ‑ Look at Him, there He is, that's...that's the man, nothing more just helpless, powerless, feeble, there He stands. This is Pilate's effort to get off the hook. He figures ‑ Surely seeing Him in this condition will be enough. I mean, these people aren't blood‑thirsty people.
Pilate is saying, in effect, Does He look like a king? Does He look dangerous? Look at Him. Isn't it enough for an innocent man to be beaten like that? That should satisfy. And so, he thinks by showing Jesus as a pathetic, beaten, bloody piece of flesh they will ask no more. But stupid fool Pilate doesn't understandthat they were egged on by such hatred and by Satanic forces that they would stop nothing short of the death of Jesus and the total crushing of Pilate as a human being. They had Pilate where they wanted him. And they weren't going to let up on Jesus or Pilate until Pilate was pushed completely under their thumbs and they had total control. Can't you see how they begin to see the political ramifications? Hey, guys, not only do we get rid of Jesus but when this deal's over we've got Pilate, he's a puppet. And nothing would stop them.
But, Pilate thoughtit might, verse 6: "When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him." See, it didn't stop them. Hardly had Pilate's dramatic appeal ended when the most hardened individuals of all, seeing the bleeding object of their hate, started crying ‑ Crucify Him. And over and over they screamed the words and the whole mob surging in a great cry of monotonous venom, screaming for His death. You see, Pilate had failed again. His proposal didn't make it. And they were thirsting for blood. It's like Romans 1, you know, they were passed feeling, senseless. They're a maddened frenzied mob, out of control. And Pilate is scared and Pilate is smashed and Pilate is ripped. It's all over for Pilate and he knows it.
Then verse 6, in desperation Pilate says unto them: "Take ye Him and crucify Him," listen to this, "for I find ... what? ... no fault in Him."
Pilate says ‑ You kill Him. Pilate gives them the right of execution in a Roman fashion now. Desperately wants to get rid of Jesus. But you see, they don't want him to get rid of Jesus cause that lets him off the hook and they've got Pilate right where they want him and they're not about to let him get away. And so, Pilate's effort doesn't make it. "Take ye Him and crucify Him," and for the fifth time he says, "I find no fault in Him."
Verse 7, they really stick the knife in on this one. "The Jews answered him, We have a law and by our law He ought to die because He made Himself the Son of God."
Now, Pilate well knew that law. What was that law? Pilate knew, now listen to this, Pilate knew that the Jews didn't tolerate any false gods, right? Two times Pilate had brought in the image of false gods to Israel, hadn't he? On his standards when he arrived there, on the shields that he hung up in Herod's palace, both times it had caused a revolt among the Jews, hadn't it? It had caused such a reaction among the Jews that he got word from Caesar himself to remove those things or he'd be removed. And Caesar was watching Pilate because Pilate had a problem with this same issue every time. That is, dragging, or letting false gods exist in Israel. Now the Romans weren't stupid. They knew in order to subject the people; you give them enough freedom to make them content. You don't violate their religion. And so the Romans let them worship as they wanted and they did not offend them with outside gods. And so, the Jews are saying ‑ Hey, Pilate, you remember that law about false gods? Remember that one? See. The one that almost cost you last time? Yeah, well here it comes again, Pilate, He's claiming to be the Son of God, we don't believe in false gods.
Cuch... see, that just cuts because this is right exactly where Pilate's blown it twice before. Now they are sharp. They've got this thing figured down to a plot, to a science, to a nitty, little tiny gnat's eye, I mean, they know what they're doing. And so, what they're doing is putting the pressure on Pilate to get rid of another false god. And the last two times he didn't do it, the first time it cost him his whole rule there, really, because he had to give in to them. The second time it almost cost him his life. Now they're saying to him, in effect, ‑ You going to let this one get by again? You're not going to execute what we believe to be a false god? You're going to let a false god run around among us again? You going to do this again? Guess who we'll report you to? Hmm? You know, so we'll tell Caesar.
And so, the threat is too much. And they know where to hit him. Now, you see how they've twisted their accusations? They started out by saying ‑ He's ... They, first of all, accused Him because He threatened to destroy the temple. Then they tried a new one, they said He's an evil doer. Then they tried another one, perverting the nation. Then they tried another one, forbidding tribute to Caesar. Then they tried another one, they said ‑ Oh, He's stirring up the people. Then they tried another one, He's a political revolutionary. They tried everything they could think of and finally they struck and they thought they hit it‑‑they clanged the bell, that was it. He makes Himself the Son of God. That means He's a false god and we don't like those and you know what happens when you don't get rid of those false gods for us.
On top of that, hang on to this thought, as if that's not bad enough to put Pilate in the spot that he can't get out of, when they said to Pilate ‑ He is making Himself to be the Son of God ‑that would automatically turn on something that Pilate well knew. The Romans were very superstitious. And the Romans believed that the gods, and demigods, often came into the world and moved among men, see. And the Jews when they said to him ‑ He makes Himself the Son of God ‑ he wouldn't have thought of that in the Jewish context, he would have thought of that in a Roman context. And he would have thought of it in a pagan context. And he would have understood it that this is ... this is a man who is claiming to be a son of a god. And then he would have thought to himself ‑ If He is, I'm in real trouble, right? I've just flogged the son of a god. Whoa ... see.
Now, you know the Romans are superstitious. For example, in Acts chapter 14 when Paul and Barnabas came into town and they said: Hey, these guys are terrific, we think they're gods come to earth. And they started calling them Jupiter and Mercury, remember that? That was a common superstition. Acts 28 has it again. They believed that the gods came into the world. Now Pilate's got this thing in the back of his head to add to all the rest of the stuff that's scrambling his brain. Maybe I've been beating up the son of a god.
Whew ... but little did he know. That it was God Himself, the only true God.
That leads us to Pilate's fatal panic in verse 8. Now, he's completely lost it here. We'll go through this quickly cause it's very simple. "When Pilate therefore heard that saying he was...what? ... the more afraid." Now if you're more afraid what were you before you were more afraid? Afraid. I mean, he's already panicky and now the panic turns to frenzy. To add to all of the rest of the stuff, and he's heard a lot of stuff, I mean, even the character of Jesus, the threat of his life, the threat of his losing his own soul and the sacrifice of his own moral judgment, the warning of his wife who came to him and whispered: "Do nothing ... have nothing to do with this man, I had a dream about Him." All of those things added together and made Pilate want to get rid of Jesus and He couldn't get rid of Him. And now this added threat that the Jews were going to have another revolt on the same premise of a false god that he'd messed up twice before spelled certain doom. To add to that, the possibility that he'd beaten up the son of a god and the man is almost on the border of being a raving maniac. And so he runs in verse 9 and he went again into the judgment hall and he says to Jesus: "From where art Thou?"
You say, "What's he saying? Does he want to know His address in Nazareth?" No. He does...he knows where He's from. He is asking Him if He's the son of a god, that's what he's asking Him. Where did You come from? Are You earthly or are You from up there where the gods are?
That thing was sticking in his head. Read it again, he says unto Jesus, "From where art Thou?" And you can catch the frenzy and notice what the verse says: "But Jesus gave him no answer." Can you imagine the impact of silence? He didn't say a word.
It's a shocking thing when you study in the Bible the silence of God. You say, "Why was Jesus silent?" Well, He was silent, I think, in response to prophecy. Isaiah 53:7 says: "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He open not His mouth." In a sense He knew He was fulfilling prophecy in silence. But, let me give you something even greater than that. Jesus knew Pilate's heart. And Jesus knew it was over with Pilate...it was over. Nothing that Jesus said anymore would have mattered to Pilate. So, He didn't say anything. You know, it's a shocking thing to realize that a man can come to the place in his own experience with God that God stops talking to him. But it can happen.
Before the flood God said: "My Spirit will not always strive with man." The Bible tells us Pharaoh hardened his heart, Pharaoh hardened his heart and then it stops and it says: "And God hardened Pharaoh's heart."
There comes a time in the life of an individual who willfully rejects Jesus Christ that all of a sudden it becomes impossible. And God in Christ knew Pilate. He knew it was over. He knew Pilate had gone past the point of possibility. You see, back in chapter 18 verse 36, Jesus had even said to him... 37, 1 mean, at the end of the verse: "...Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice." He had given him an invitation. He declared who He was. He told him He was a King from another...another realm, not the world and Pilate wouldn't buy it and Pilate kept going further and further and further and further and Jesus just knew it was over.
Some people have thought that Pilate later on was saved. I have no reason to believe that at all. History never tells us anything about him from here on out. I have no reason to believe he was ever redeemed. I don't think Jesus would ever stop, would ever be silent in front of a man whose heart was open. Pilate was a closed book. He was a frenzied maniac and Jesus says nothing. Sad, sad silence. And whenever you see silence in the Word of God notice it carefully for frequently it's connected with judgment. Prior to the unfolding of the horrible judgments in Revelation the Bible says: "And there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." And so, silence is connected very frequently with judgment. Perhaps it was at that time that Pilate's soul passed for all eternity beyond the call of God.
Well, Pilate responds to the silence of Jesus by pulling rank. Verse 10, this is really ridiculous. "Then says Pilate unto Him, Speakest Thou not unto me?" Don't You know who Iam? I'm Pilate, see. "Speakest Thou not unto me," Jesus could have said, "Don't you know who I am? I'm God." I'm Pilate, speakest Thou not unto me. Listen to this, "Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee and have power to release Thee," and haven't got the guts to do either. See, that was the whole problem, he had the authority to do it, but he didn't have what it took to do either one. What a hypocrite. Don't You know that I have the power to release You, power to crucify You, and he wouldn't do either one. All talk and no action.
And I love Jesus' reply: "Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me except it were given thee from above." Isn't that good? Everything is under control. You got that? The death of Jesus Christ isn't out of control. Jesus Christ did not die as a misguided ra...reactionary who got himself tied down too tight and lost his life over it. Step by step God is moving this thing along.
Then Jesus makes a very startling statement when He says in verse 11: "Therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin." You see, Pilate had been given authority by God, according to Romans chapter 13, all the governments are under God's control and He ordains the powers that be. So, Pilate was a governorby the decree of God. So in a sense, he was responsible to act for God in that fashion. So what he did, he really had been given the authority of God to do. God had designed that this would happen and God knew that it would happen and so Pilate was really acting in the design of God though he was guilty himself. But in terms of the one who delivered Him, and who would that be? Not Judas, but Caiaphas and the Jewish leaders, they had the greater sin; for they had no authority to lay hands on Jesus at all ... none at all. Pilate by being the virtue of being the Roman governor and God had ordained all governments, had the right to make a decision, the Jews had no right ... Caiaphas and the leaders. So their's was the greater sin. If you can imagine a greater sin than Pilate's then you'll understand the culpability and the guilt of those who were screaming for Jesus' blood.
You say, "Boy, could anybody ever be that guilty?" Yes, anybody who knows the truth and rejects it, according to Hebrews 6 is guilty of crucifying the Son of God afresh, putting Him to an open shame. And men today are just as guilty as the people who screamed for His blood then when they reject Him, willfully knowing the truth.
And so, it's hard for me to conceive of anymore guilt than Pilate but there's more guilt. Pilate what he did in ignorance. Much more than those who should have known the truth. Theirs was the greater sin. And that shows you there's degrees of sin. It only takes one sin of the smallest degree to condemn a man to hell, but the hottest hell and the severest punishment is reserved for those whose sin is a travesty on what they know to be true. Like Hebrews says of how much greater punishment shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the blood of the covenant, the Son of God. The greater sin is that.
So, we see then that Pilate says ‑ I can do what I want. And Jesus says ‑ You couldn't do anything except God gave you the power. So, Jesus acknowledges that he has the power to make a decision. And the greater sin goes against those who had no authority to do so.
Then in verse 12, Pilate is panicked. Having just heard the words of Jesus, he knows He's innocent; he's scared to death because he may think now that Jesus is in fact a god. Because Jesus had said ‑ You get your power from above and I know all about that. And Pilate is frenzied. And verse 12 begins by saying: "And from then on Pilate sought to release Him." He wanted to get rid of Him, he tried everything he knew but it says the Jews cried out saying, and here comes the coup de grace, friends, this is the final shot and this did it, listen to this: "If thou let this man go thou art not Caesar's friend. Whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar."
Now, if you think it was bad before, it's bad now. Cause now they're saying ‑ We're going to report you for letting this political threat to Rome go unpunished. Now you know they were clever enough to twist it around and Pilate knew it would be the end of his life. Pilate knew to tolerate a traitor was the end. Tiberius would never permit to tolerate a traitor. And this did it. He chose in favor of his neck not his soul.
And so, we find final pronouncement in verses 13 to 16. In verse 13 he sets it up to make the final sentence. "When Pilate therefore heard that saying he brought Jesus forth and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha."
So, Pilate sits down, it's time for sentencing. This is the official act of sentencing. Kind of a shocking thing to realize that Pilate will some day stand before the great white throne where Jesus will be seating...seated, to sentence him. But Pilate sits down. It's time, they're up on the Pavement, the Gabbatha in the Aramaic, going to sentence Jesus. But he's not going to do it himself. He can't do it. He's still going to try to escape. S he wants the Jews to do the sentencing in their own mouths.
Verse 14, "It was the preparation for the Passover," it was the day before Passover, getting ready, "of the sixth hour," six o'clock in the morning, "and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your king. "
I don't know what he meant by that. I don't know whether it was cynical, whether it was desperate. I don't know what it was. By this time the man has lost his senses. By this time he is in a corner,he is cringing, he is panicky, his heart is beating, he is sweating, he just wants out. He's remembering that Jesus may be the son of a god. He's remembering the warning his wife had in a dream which connects up that whole divine possibility. He's remembering that Jesus is innocent. He knows the hatred of the Jews. He worries about the pressure of Rome. He's trapped. He's pounded down. He's ripped. He's got nowhere to go. And he says Behold your king. In other words, the emphasis may be on the "your," you decide. "And they cried out, Away with Him, crucify Him. Pilate said unto them, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar."
You want to know something? They said it in hypocrisy because they hated Caesar. But they said it in truth for they didn't have a king but Caesar. God wasn't their king. They weren't His subjects. And you want to know something? Israel still doesn't have a king and they won't have till the King of kings comes back in the great day of the dawning of His Kingdom. And today the Jews are without a king. Only when one comes to Jesus Christ does he know his King.
And so, they said it in hypocrisy but they said it in truth, we have no king but Caesar. And they said this to Pilate, they said: "Let His blood be on us and on our children." They wanted to be guilty of the death of Jesus. They wanted to be.
And then Pilate made the final pronouncement in verse 16: "Then delivered he Him therefore unto them," that is to the soldiers, "to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led Him away."
What about it? What is this saying to us? Listen to this. It's saying this. I don't care who you are, I don't care when you live, you've got to make a decision about Jesus. And the whole point that I want to emphasize to you this morning is first of all this: Pilate attempted repeatedly to get rid of Jesus. You know what? Couldn't do it. He couldn't do it. You know why? No man can do it. If you think youcan wiggle out of a commitment to Christ and a final decision, you are wrong. No decision is a decision with Pilate.
What are you going to do? You going to go for your soul or your neck? Your soul or your body? You want eternal salvation or do you want to go for the things of the world now and live it up? At least you think you live it up. You don't really live it up till you meet Christ and find out what livings all about. That's your choice. And God wants nothing more than to put you in a corner and force you to make that decision. But my ... I say to you with all the love in my heart, make it before it's too late and you find that Jesus is silent and there aren't any answers anymore. And don't do what Pilate did. Don't pass the buck. Don't compromise. Don't run away. Pilate said that and you have to say it too. What shall I do with Jesus? And the only wise thing to do is accept Him as Savior and Lord.
Father, we thank You this morning again for teaching us from Your Word.