John 18:28-40; 19:1-16
“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out to them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die. Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then they cried all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.”
“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid: and went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from henceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. 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. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.”
Who’s on trial, really?
Four groups of people represented in Jesus’ trial
“Let’s open our Bibles to John chapter 18. Last week we left off with verse 27, so we’ll pick up with verse 28. I’d like to begin with this story from Australia. Down under in the southern continent of Australia, court was in session. The judge was on the bench in all his dignity, a learned array of lawyers was there. The courtroom was crowded because it was a sensational case. A man was suing his uncle for alienation of affections. He claimed that his uncle stole his wife’s love. That kind of lawsuit attracts a lot of attention anywhere in the world, and it was one of the local sensations in Australia. The testimony was about to begin when the defendant, the loved pirate uncle, arose and pointed out at the jury, “Look!” he shouted, “Look!”. That is when the judge’s eyes grew wide. He gasped, and his dignified British judicial wig nearly fell off his head. Consternation reigned in the courtroom because there was the plaintive. He was sitting on the jury that was to give the decision in his own lawsuit. There had been a slight mix-up when the jury had been selected. The name of the plaintive had accidentally been included among those of the jurors called to serve. And the chap didn’t seem to mind it at all. He went right through the proceedings, ready to render a decision presumably in favor of himself. The slip wasn’t noticed until the jury filed in and the loved pirate uncle saw his nephew big and bold among the 12 men good and true. Whereupon nephew did the Australian crawl out of the jury box, and British courtroom was resumed.’ You know, Australian crawl, whatever that might be, I can only imagine watching some of those lizard shows and animal shows there on Discovery Channel what that might be. But evidently this man had an issue with another man, had a charge against him, brought it to the courtroom, and in this story was actually sitting on the jury, for a moment anyway, that was going to render the decision. And I’m sure if the courtroom proceedings where allowed to continue, it would probably just have been a formality with this man, because the decision was already rendered in his heart, of course. I would also imagine that this particular story of this individual, this isn’t the only story where a man has brought a charge against an individual, and then sought to render the verdict himself. In fact, as we study John chapter 18 I think of this story. That’s why I start with this story, because this is somewhat similar to where we are here in John 18. Last week if you remember, Jesus was arrested and he was brought before the high priest’s father-in-law, Annas, and then he was brought before Caiaphas himself. And as you remember, as we studied earlier in the chapter, that these trials with Jesus, of course, Jesus didn’t stand a chance. They were merely mock trials, basically going through the proceedings, because the verdict and the decision was already determined in certain hearts, rendered long before Jesus was even arrested. And if we look at the other Gospels, that’s brought even more to light. In Matthew chapter 26, as they bring Jesus in before the high priest, before the religious leaders, before their trial, we’re told that they actually sought false testimony against Jesus to put him to death. And then Mark tells us that none of these false witnesses, their testimonies, none of them agree, and so the high priest as we saw last week, actually then sought to compel Jesus to bear witness against himself, which was clearly illegal, it was just a mock trial. And regardless of anything Jesus would have said or done, they would have worked and manipulated and deceived to render the penalty of death upon Jesus. Well that brings us here again to verse 28 of chapter 18. There’s been the religious proceedings, there’s been essentially three of them, and now we start the governmental proceedings, the secular trial you could say, where the Son of God now really stands before the world. And of course this is a famous trial, probably the most famous trial ever. And I would say it’s probably the most unusual trial, and hard to really consider it even a trial, as this Jewish carpenter turned teacher and prophet from Galilee is standing before the judge and the jury. I mean, this really is a farce as you see, as it continues. But you know really, the questions have been asked before, and I would pose the same question as we look through this, and that is, who is really on trial? Is it Jesus who’s on trial, is he really the defendant? Or are there others on trial? And really this defendant is the one in the judgment seat himself, in the sense, if he’s really the one bringing the judgment, he’s really the one who’s standing as the jury and rendering the decision.
1. First group, the self-righteous
And let’s begin with verses 28-32, “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning, but they themselves did not go into the Praetorium unless they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered and said to him, ‘If he were not an evildoer we would not have delivered him up to you.’ 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’, that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which he spoke signifying by what death he would die.” Well, here the religious leaders, they have come from Caiaphas, they now bring Jesus, as we’re told there, to Pilate. And it’s there at this place, the New King James says ‘the Praetorium’. Now there’s been three meetings if you remember. Jesus was brought first to Annas, then he was brought before Caiaphas, but what we don’t have here in John is evidently, we see it in Mark chapter 15, there is an early morning meeting that takes place, very early in the morning between the religious leaders, their counsel, their Sanhedrin. They come together, and they make certain decisions, and now they bring that meeting to Pilate. Now what we don’t also have in the Gospels, and it’s believed by many, there are probably other meetings that aren’t recorded here, there are meetings potentially between the religious leaders and Pilate himself. At least it seems that’s a possibility because, in an incredible way these religious leaders take an innocent man, and in just a few hours have him judged and condemned and actually executed. So it would seem that this process is going so quickly, that there’s been some preparation, and maybe even there’s been some meetings with Pilate. There’s some great books you can study where some folks bring in some theories. But anyway, here they come before Pilate, and at some time between 3am and 6am, and they’ve gone to his quarters, now the Praetorium, maybe you have the King James, called in the King James ‘the hall of judgment’, in the NIV it’s called ‘the palace of the Roman governor’. It could be, Herod the Great had the palace that he made, and at times when the governor, when he was in the city of Jerusalem would stay in this palace, maybe it’s the palace that they refer to. It was located on the hill of Zion in the western part of the upper city. Or probably more likely, this Praetorium is the Castle of Antonio which sat just north of the Temple area. But anyway they come to his quarters. And we’re told in verse 28 that they do not enter his quarters, and that is because they want to make sure that they don’t become ceremonially defiled, and that they’re able to partake in the Passover. Now in their minds, they’re reasoning probably is if they go into the Praetorium they’re going to be on Gentile soil, so they would be defiled potentially, and if they’re defiled they can’t partake in this feast of Passover. Or it’s the issue of leaven, leaven was supposed to be removed completely from their homes and their lives, they weren’t to have any contact with leaven, so maybe they’re thinking, if we go into a Gentile area which doesn’t have the same restriction, maybe we’ll come in contact with leaven and become defiled. So there’s this sense of a religious caution. They want to make sure they’re ceremonially undefiled, ceremonially able to partake in Passover. But this is really an incredible picture. It’s incredible because they’re taking the Son of God at this point [the very member of the Godhead who in the Old Testament was Yahweh, I AM], and they’re seeking to have him put to death. And he’s an innocent man. Yet, they’re concerned that maybe they’ll come in contact with leaven. Maybe they will touch Gentile soil, and they certainly don’t want to do that. But yet they’re trying to have an innocent man put to death. Really incredible picture, because there in the midst of performing incredible darkness, a hideous crime, there’s this religious piety, where they want to make sure that they are religiously good. But they’re in the midst of a really horrible act. I think here of Jesus’ words as he said about these folks, that they were whitewashed tombs, so there’s that sense of being clean on the outside ceremonially, but very dark on the inside, clean as far as the outward appearance, but inside full of evilness and wickedness. They’re so careful with the little religious things, that as Jesus said, these are blind guides who strain at a knat and swallow a camel. So you see that here. The straining of a knat, not wanting to become ceremonially defiled, but yet they’re swallowing the camel as they’re trying to put an innocent man to death. And as I read that, I am once again reminded of how religion can blind the hearts of men. Men can be faithful adhering to a religious practice, but as Jesus has said, even recently in our Bible reading, they may not even know God. Mark chapter 7, verse 6, “Well did Isaiah prophecy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” So, this religious piety in the midst of taking an innocent man, even the Son of God, and seeking to have him put to death. Now, they have no sense, they want to make sure, at least religiously, they can partake in Passover. But they’ve forgotten what Passover is all about. Passover is about a God that’s very merciful, a God that’s very gracious, a God that’s very powerful and able to deliver his people. And to them it’s become a religious ceremony, kind of like a rite to religious order. [As a matter of fact the Jews called the Passover meal observing the “Seder”, Hebrew word for “Order.”] And you got to make sure that you adhere to certain practices so you can partake of the rite and be a member in good standing. But they’ve missed the whole point of what Passover is all about. Spurgeon even said of them here in this text, he says, “The Jewish counselors little knew that they were already far too defiled to have any real fellowship with God’s Passover, and were unconsciously slaughtering the true Lamb, whose flesh they were not privileged to eat [in a symbolic sense].” But a picture, a picture of the self-righteous. So the question, they’re seeking to have Jesus put on trial, but who really is on trial here? And it would appear to me, and we’ll see this more as we go, that they’re really the ones on trial, at least in this sense is what I mean. They here and other places, want to appear one way, but when the evidence really comes out now, as this trial proceeds, the evidence comes out and really convicts them. The evidence shows that they really are not what they say they are, or what they try to appear to be. That in reality, they are whitewashed tombs, maybe clean on the outside, but man they’re evil and vile men. In fact, in the proceedings just before this, we’re told that these supposedly righteous men would lie, they actually lied, would deceive to get what they want. In the next chapter as we go on, we’ll see them manipulate and coerce other people, trying to get their means, trying to get what they desire. And then we’ll see as we just proceed with them, and they have no problem judging and condemning man, even when the law, as we’ll see, when the law says that he’s innocent. So this trial goes on, but who’s really on trial? I believe these religious leaders are on trial, standing before a perfectly righteous and Holy God. And when the evidence comes out, man, they don’t fare very well. And with that, to me, they also represent many men. They represent those today even maybe here this morning, maybe listening in, maybe in the community, who are self-righteous, men and women who have a knowledge, but yet are spiritually blind, people who maybe are very religious, but yet are very hard hearted, people who then often are threatened by the simplicity of the Gospel message, and are threatened by the life of Christ. Sometimes you meet people like that, people that will tell you, you know, don’t call them a sinner, don’t say they’re sinful. I mean, they’re good people, why would you say they’re a sinner? They do good deeds, they smile and they’re nice to people on the streets, maybe even they attend a church, maybe they even got a religious speech, maybe they even give money to good causes and other things like that. Sometimes they’ll even tell you they’re people of prayer. But evidently, like these religious leaders here, they’ve forgotten the meaning of Isaiah chapter 59, verses 1-8, “Behold the Lord’s hand is not short that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity. Your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words, and speak lies. They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity. They hatch viper’s eggs and weave the spider’s web. He who eats of their eggs dies. And from that which is crushed a viper breaks out. Their webs will not become garments nor will they cover themselves with their works, their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity. Wasting and destruction are their paths, the way of peace they have not known. And there is no justice in their ways. They have made themselves crooked paths, whoever takes that way shall not know peace.” So he speaks of people in prayer, and God rebukes them and says ‘Man, I can not hear your voice, I can not hear your prayer, your hands are defiled, your hearts are ugly, you’re separated from God because of your sin. [Now self-righteousness is a sin like any other sin. You can be born-again, yet have this sin, not having had the Lord reveal this to you yet, just one of the many sins we must learn we have and grow out of it through the cleansing of God’s Word and Holy Spirit.] Well these religious leaders, they’re certainly pious and seeking to adhere to a religious code. But they’ve missed the whole meaning and the spirit of the law, they’ve missed the whole heart of what it is to know and walk with God. So really, they are on trial at this point, and the evidence shows that they’re guilty. And we’ll see that even with the three other groups, as we continue. Well maybe that’s your life, you’ve been part of a church, you’ve been part of a religious upbringing, and maybe too you’ve thought, ‘You know, I’ve lived a pretty good life.’ Maybe you get offended when somebody says you’re a sinner, that you’re sinful, that you’ve done wrong, that you’re deserving of judgment by God. Well if that is you, then consider these religious leaders. These guys were so zealous to adhere to a moral code, that they would yet strain out the knat, and miss the whole purpose and swallow a camel. So, they come to Pilate, and in verse 29, Pilate then goes out to them and he says “What accusation do you bring against this man?” And they answered and said to him, “If he weren’t evil we wouldn’t have delivered him up to you.” So they don’t give him any accusations at that particular time. But then when you look in the other Gospels you actually find that at this particular time, they’re saying all sorts of things also. There’s people shouting out accusations against Jesus. In Luke chapter 23, verse 2, they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar’, which is an interesting accusation, ‘saying that he himself is Christ, a king’, and they went on all the more and said ‘He stirs up the people teaching throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.’ So they bring accusations against Jesus that aren’t even true. I mean, very clearly, he wasn’t seeking to pervert a nation, very clearly he didn’t forbid paying taxes, in fact he said, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.’ Also he didn’t want to be their physical king, I mean, when they sought to make him a king, he would withdraw. He was the King of another sort of kingdom, a spiritual kingdom. And he wasn’t trying to stir up the people as far as bringing divisiveness. So these religious leaders, self-righteous, yet in their state, able to be deceitful and even falsely accuse another. ‘Well what accusation do they bring?’ They came back with several accusations in the other Gospels. Then in verse 31 “Pilate said to them, ‘You take him and judge him according to your own law.’ Therefore the Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.’” Pilate doesn’t want anything to do this at this particular time, I mean, at least it appears that way. And he says ‘You judge him.’ But they respond, it says there in verse 31, it’s really their intent, ‘we can’t put anybody to death. We’re not able to do that.’ In fact, in AD 30, we learn historically that two years or so before this event the Romans actually did take away the Jewish right of capital punishment. So that’s why they say it’s not lawful for us to put anyone to death. And when that happened, evidently historically there in the streets, the rabbis when that happened, ripped their clothes and put on sackcloth, and threw dirt on their heads and mourned, and they said “God has failed us” as they marched around the streets of Jerusalem. And that is because of the prophecy of Genesis 49, verse 10 when Jacob prophecied that from Judah there would be this scepter and the scepter would remain until the Shiloh, the Messiah came. So they were looking, the Pharisees were looking for the Messiah, but then they lost their ability to have that scepter, that ability to judge themselves judicially. And they believed then that the Messiah hadn’t come, they didn’t see him, so they were upset. ‘So it’s not lawful for us to put anyone to death.’ That is according to AD 30, although we see in the book of Acts, they had some ability, at least in the sense that maybe the Romans would turn the other way, you remember the stoning of Stephen, the Romans seemed to turn the other way and allowed that to take place. But anyway, we have then in verses 33-34 that Pilate enters the Praetorium again and he calls Jesus, and he said to him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ That’s that first question. And it says, Jesus responds ‘Are you speaking on your own, or are you speaking because others are trying to, you know, pressure you?’, which clearly is the case. And Pilate says to him, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation, the chief priests, have delivered you to me. What have you done?’ And then we see in verses 36-38, Jesus responds, “‘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.’ 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.’ 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.’” Well Jesus responds in verse 36 and 37, his kingdom is not a physical kingdom of the world. For if it was, he’d have servants that are under his kingdom that would come and deliver him and protect him. But clearly that hasn’t happened, so his kingdom is not a physical kingdom, but it is a spiritual kingdom. [On Jesus’, the Messiah’s 1st coming he represented a spiritual kingdom.] And with that Pilate then said, ‘Well then, are you a king? You’re saying you’re a king.’ He says ‘Yes I am a king’, verse 37, ‘and for that very reason I was born’, and then his says, interestingly, ‘for this cause I came into the world’, of course referring to his Deity. He came into the world, ‘that I should bear witness to the truth, and everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.’ With that, Pilate then says, ‘What is truth?’ ‘What do you mean, truth?’ [Jesus came to bring spiritual truth to the world on his 1st coming, and create a body of believers, called the body of Christ.] Of course, in that time the Roman and the Greek philosophers had discussed and debated for even centuries, you know, ‘What is truth?’, and tried to answer that very question. And of course they hadn’t successfully come to any conclusions. So in this type of philosophical world, he says “What is truth?”. Although in an amazing way, I mean, he’s very blind spiritually, but he stands in front the One who is Truth. He’s staring Truth really right in the face. As Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth.” But he says “I find no fault in him at all.” Here Pilate makes it clear that he’s innocent. He says ‘there’s nothing wrong with him.’ [Comment: As a part of the genuine Passover service, which actually started on the 10th Nissan when a lamb was chosen by each family, it had to be inspected and found without blemish. Pilate was fitting right into this part of the real Passover ceremony, where he was actually examining the real Passover Lamb, Jesus, Yeshua. Since the Romans had actually taken over the total civil government, the scepter of Judah, he was in place of the high priest in authority, and so the examination of the Lamb of God properly fell to him. Most don’t realize this, but Pilate was all part of the plan of God for the sacrifice of the real Passover Lamb for the whole world.] ‘You bring him to me e He, but I find no fault in him at all, I can’t find any reason why he should be condemned.’ Now interesting, if you look at others involved in the Gospel narrative, you find that many said the same thing, Judas said the same thing. Matthew chapter 27, verse 3, when Judas had betrayed Jesus, after he came back seeing that he (Jesus) was condemned, maybe about at this time, very remorseful, brings back the money, the silver that he had gotten for betraying Jesus, brings it to the chief priests, and he says, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” That’s one of Jesus’ close disciples. And then Herod, we don’t have it here, and we’ll note it in a moment, Jesus is also sent before Herod who happened to be in Jerusalem. Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate, and renders ‘He’s innocent. I don’t see anything wrong with him.’ Then, we don’t have here, is somewhere along these verses, maybe in the following verses, Pilate is there with Jesus, Pilates wife, we’re told has a terrible dream. Matthew chapter 27, verse 19, while he’s sitting on the judgment seat, we’ll see this a little bit later, she writes a little note and sends it to him, “Have nothing to do with that Just Man, for I have suffered many things in a dream because of him.” She says he’s a Just Man. The thief on the cross, a little bit later, Luke chapter 23, verse 41, rebukes the other thief on the cross, and says, “We indeed suffer justly, for we received the due rewards of our deeds. But this man has done nothing wrong.” He says he’s innocent. And then even later, it’s not recorded here, but at the very end of the proceedings with Pilate, Pilate will say to the entire crowd, he’ll wash his hands, and say that he’s being relieved of this just person, and he’s cleansing his hands, calling him a Just Man. So Pilate knows that Jesus is innocent, very clearly, and he knows that these religious leaders, in Matthew chapter 27, verse 18, have handed Jesus over because of religious envy. But also it’s interesting, he knows he’s innocent, but he also I’m sure understands the motto of the Roman Empire, and the motto was “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.” I mean, it was important in the Roman culture and the Roman world to bring justice.
2. Pilate represents people that are weak, have no faith (and actually are not believers at all)
Pilate was a politically weak man in a compromised position
Here is a man who has the power to bring justice, and he says “I find no fault in him”, but as all I’m sure are familiar with the story, we’ll see this in just a moment, he renders a very different decision. And he renders a different decision because Pilate is a man whose very weak. We have a picture of the self-righteous here, but we also have now the picture of someone whose very weak. He’s on politically thin ice with Caesar, that’s part of the problem, he’s gotten in trouble a number of times, you can study that in the writings of Josephus. But on a number of times he had done things, he had the soldiers go into the Temple area, and they had these little silver eagles on top of their shields, and the Jews at the time saw that as idolatry, you know, idols in the Temple, and they rioted, and the whole event escalated, and eventually he was going to slaughter a bunch of the Jews, and the Jews actually put down their heads on the ground and said “Chop off our heads, but 10,000 more are going to come and take our place, you get these shields out of the Temple.” So, Pilate backed off. But word got to Caesar because of the riot. Two years later he was building a very expensive aqueduct, and in order to get money for it he took money from the Temple treasury, and another rebellion took place and there was bloodshed. And a few months before this he ordered new shields for his soldiers, and the shields had the face of the Emperor Tiberius on the shields, and again the Jews saw that as idolatry, and they rebelled. So Caesar Tiberius sent word to Pilate saying ‘One more rebellion, and you’re through.’ So he’s on politically thin ice. Ultimately, a little time after this, he would lose his position as governor as he ordered his cavalry to attack the Samaritans who would later assemble at mount Gerizim on a religious quest, and he would actually send his cavalry to attack them, and so he would be through, just a short time after this. Then we have this note from the fourth century historian Eusebius, he records, if it is true, he records that Pilate would leave and go to Germany, that is Gaul, and there he would commit suicide. But anyway, here is a man who is weak, a man who is politically in a very difficult position. But a man, as we just note in verse 38, who knows that this man is innocent, that this Jesus [Yeshua] has done nothing wrong deserving of death, knows the right thing to do, but he’s too afraid to do it. And so, as many commentators have noted, really, he’s the one on trial, not Jesus. He’s the one standing trial. He represents many people that are the same way, people that you could say are weak. They are too afraid to do what’s right, too afraid to stand for Christ. They fear man rather than fearing God, having a sense of the truth, but not having the faith to back it up. And if they have any faith, or the appearance of any faith, tribulation and difficulty just clearly show that it isn’t faith at all. So here’s a man who’s weak. He knows what is right to do, but eventually as we’ll see, he’ll actually go against his conscience and render another decision. So in this trial we have these people that are self-righteous, but then we have this man representing those who are weak. And maybe that’s you here this morning. You know what’s the right thing to do. You know what the truth is. But you’re afraid to do it, too afraid to accept it, to afraid maybe the change it will necessitate in your life, or maybe because of the persecution that it will bring into your life, you’re too afraid to do it. You would be called weak in that sense. You know what is right, and you’re not going to do it, you’re more apt to go against your conscience than do the right thing. And Pilate is an example of that. And so really in this trial as we go, I see a representation of all of mankind [mankind that is non-believer, unconverted], and I believe mankind is on trial at this point, on trial before a perfect and righteous and Holy God. Verse 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?’ Then they all cried against him saying, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas.’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” You know, verse 39, just the weakness of Pilate, I mean it’s a ludicrous thing that he would say this. He refers to the custom at this particular time during the feast before it got started, there was the custom of releasing a Jewish prisoner, the Romans would do that to appease them. Pilate would maybe do that to appease them. But it’s ludicrous for him to say ‘Do you want me to release this King of the Jews, this Jesus?’ I mean, they just brought him to him, they just brought Jesus to him, they just brought Jesus to him with the purpose of condemning him. So it’s ludicrous for him to say that. But they all cry out, and with the other Gospels show us how the religious leaders get in the crowd, they work up the crowd, they get people going, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas.’ [Most ignore this detail, but this particular crowd was a “paid audience”, all or most being in the employ of the Temple, probably priests and temple guards, which could have been a good number, available for this job on Passover. This crowd was not composed of ordinary Jewish citizens of Judea. Don’t even think of blaming the average Jewish citizen of the times for what this crowd does.] Now here it says that Barabbas was a robber. We know also from the other Gospels, in Mark chapter 15, he was chained with other rebels, there had been some kind of insurrection that he was a part of. But he also had committed murder, at least been part of it, their group had committed murder. So he was a robber, and potentially a murderer. So the crowd cries out, ‘We don’t want Jesus, not him, not this King of the Jews, but we want Barabbas.’ You know, I read that this week and I thought of Leviticus chapter 16, there during the Day of Atonement, there was the scapegoat and the sin-offering goat. You had the two goats, one would be released, and the other would be sacrificed. And I see that here with this picture of Barabbas, one being released, sent off, and the other then dying, and taking on the sin of the world, and dying for the purpose of atonement. Of course, Jesus will do that shortly.
Verse 1 of chapter 19, “Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him.” He knows he’s innocent, but yet he scourges him. What we don’t have here again is probably at this point, just before this, Jesus confesses in the other Gospels, at least he learns, Pilate learns that Jesus is Galilean. And because of that, he then sends Jesus up to Herod…[tape switchover, some text lost—about the scourging after he returns from Herod]…Pilate thinks he’s going to confess, he’s going to break. We know that Jesus doesn’t confess, so he gets the full force, which often would kill an average man. He gets the full deal during this scourging. [See Mel Gibson’s movie about the crucifixion, he almost approaches what it would be like getting scourged, you at least get to see what the whip-like instrument they use does to an oak desk the Roman master at arms is sitting at.] It’s amazing that Pilate would scourge Jesus. Why would he do it? Maybe it’s possible that he knows he’s going to send, so he’s using this as a form of punishment, and maybe he can stand, which he seems to do, stand Jesus before the people, and maybe through pity, get them to back off of having him condemned. He had him scourged, pretty brutal as it was. But he knew he was innocent, but he had it done, and that does though fulfill, and we see that God is ultimately in charge of these proceedings, because, though he’s innocent, he has this done. But that is consistent with the prophecy of Isaiah, Isaiah chapter 50, verse 6, “I gave my back to those who struck me,” this is the Messiah, “and my cheeks to those that pluck out the beard. I did not hide my face from shame and spitting.” ‘So I gave my back to those who struck me’, right here, fulfilling the Scriptures, the prophecies. And then in Isaiah chapter 53, verse 7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before its shearers is silent so he opened not his mouth.” So he was oppressed, he was led as a lamb to the slaughter. Verse 5 of Isaiah 53, “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.” So this is all ultimately to fulfill God’s plan, and so God is really the one ultimately presiding here and making this trial take place in the order that it does. But he was scourged to fulfill the Scripture, and he didn’t confess, Isaiah 57, verse 3, he was led as a sheep before its shearers, but he was silent. He didn’t confess, consistent with the prophecy and proving his innocence, too, because man, if you had done something wrong, no doubt you would confess. [Comment: Why would he confess to trumped up charges, anyway. He in three separate, maybe four places he could have derailed these puppet trial proceedings, before Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate. For that matter, he could have wiped out every soldier in the Roman Empire with his 12 legions of angels he had on call.]
3. Third group of worldly people represented, the strong and proud
Verses 2-4, “And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe. Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’, and they struck him with their hands. Pilate then went out again said to them, ‘Behold, I’m bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in him.’” So the second time he declares him to be innocent. But amazing, these soldiers, here we’re told they mock him, they say ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’, they strike him with their hands. We learn in the other Scriptures that they also put a reed in his hand, and they beat him, we see that in the other Gospels. They also salute him in a mocking way the way soldiers would, ‘King of the Jews’, they kind of salute him as it says in Mark chapter 15, verse 18. We’re told they twist a crown of thorns, interesting, a crown of thorns, they put upon his head. It’s interesting, when you consider where thorns come from. Genesis chapter 3, they come from the curse. Adam was cursed in Genesis chapter 3, verse 17. God said “Cursed is the ground for your sake. In your toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.” So the thorns were the result of the curse. And we know according to the Scriptures that Jesus came to suffer for sin and to take on the curse of sin. So the thorns representing the curse. Interesting picture. But they just mock him, and they belittle him. He’s the King of kings, he’s the Creator of the heavens and the earth. But these soldiers, man, belittle him, they put this robe on him, and they just scoff him and mock him. And here in these soldiers, you can imagine soldiers, they’re all strong and they’ve got the vein’s, they’ve got the muscles, there’s an arrogance, there’s a pride, especially in this little group there would be as far as the role they played. They would be the type that always would be strong. Maybe you’d picture the profanity in their speech, and just that edge to them. I mean, they would despise anything that would seem weak. I mean, to them, humility, well humility was feebleness to them. But to them, strength and pride is something that would be upheld. So in them I see a picture of another group of people, and that is those that we would say are the strong, the scoffers and the mockers, those who laugh at the idea of the suffering Savior, the idea of ‘Who needs one of those anyway?’ To them the cross is just foolishness, it’s a joke. The cross, how foolish, how foolish. But then as you see here, these that would be like that, those that are strong, you see really the ugliness of their hearts, that even in their hearts there’s this violence and this hatred and this anger. So, in that, I see that they’re on trial, really. And in them being on trial, you see the real state of their hearts. And maybe that’s you today, maybe you’ve been somebody that’s, well, you’re strong. You know, that man, weakness and humility, that’s just not something you’ve looked to as a good thing. But to be strong, ‘Who needs a Savior, I mean, a weak, feeble suffering Savior?’ Maybe that’s also been your attitude towards the Gospel. Well, consider even these soldiers here, and look what’s in their hearts. And really they’re on trial.
Pilate seeks to release Jesus
Verses 5-16, “Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, and Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’ Therefore when the chief priests and the 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.’ 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.’ Therefore when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to him, ‘Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have the power to crucify you, and the power to release you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against me, unless it had been given to you from above. Therefore the one who delivered me to you has the greater sin.’ 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.’ 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, Gabatha. Now it was the preparation day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour, and he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ 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.’ Then he delivered him to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led him away.” Well Pilate brings him out and says ‘I find no fault in him.’ Then in verse 5, Jesus comes out, he’s wearing this crown of thorns and the purple robe, and Pilate says in the Greek, idechehomo, which is “Behold, the man!” [Actually, Strongs lists it as ide anthropos:…Behold, [the] man!] And in that, it’s very possible, as he presents him, I mean, Jesus would look bruised and beaten and blooded. [Isaiah said beyond recognition as a man, human being. The scourging whip would do that to a man, ripping pieces of flesh right off the body. Let’s tell it like it is, guys.] He would look very pitiful in this condition. So it’s very possible, that’s what he doing is seeking to bring pity from the people, and saying ‘Look, he’s suffered enough, take pity on him, and release him.’ Maybe that’s the purpose here. And it certainly is a possibility. [But since nearly everyone in this “crowd” was in the direct employ of the high priest, it this wasn’t about to happen.] Well the chief priests and the officers though don’t listen to that, and they cry out “Crucify him! Crucify him!” But Pilate says to them, “You take him and crucify him,” third time, “for I no fault in him.” Third time in this narrative he says that. The Jews answered and said “We have a law, and according to our law, this man is guilty of death. That is because he has made himself out to be the Son of God.” And then we’re told that when Pilate heard that he was afraid. Possibly that, coupled with the letter, little note he’s received from his wife, that she’s had a terrible dream. So there’s a lot of unrest about what he’s doing. He does not feel good at all about what he’s doing. But here, declared, his accusers, that he made himself out to be the Son of God. Maybe there are those that say Jesus never said he was God or the Scriptures don’t say he was God. But very clearly here, his accusers saying “He needs to die because he’s declared himself to be the Son of God.” And of course that’s also in fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6, This child would be born, the government would be upon his shoulders, and his name would be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” But he would be called Mighty God. Well, he went into the Praetorium, Pilate, and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” And Jesus gave him no answer. ‘Where are you from?’ It’s possible here, you know, why does Jesus not answer the question, in fact in verse 10 Pilate says “Are you not speaking to me? Don’t you know that I have the power”…He even admits ‘I have the power to crucify you and I also have the power to let you go.’ And he said ‘He’s innocent.’ Now he says he has the power to release him. But why wouldn’t Jesus answer him? It’s possible, some have seen that it’s because he’s already answered him, back in chapter 18, verses 36 and 37, where he said that he had come into this world, meaning he had come from heaven, meaning he was the Son of God. And that might be why. Often God, when he reveals a truth, if we’re not going to act upon it, he’s not going to give us any further truth. Well Pilate seeks now to release him, in fact, in the Greek it says ‘he repeatedly seeks to release him’. We don’t now how many times, but he does seek to do it. But the Jews now, these religious leaders [not the ordinary Jewish citizens], man, they might be ceremonially clean according to their tradition, but man, they now go even further and manipulate and seek to move the crowd. They say “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” [Comment: I say this again, “the crowd” here is not necessarily composed of ordinary Jewish citizens of either Jerusalem or Judea, but of those who are in the direct employ of the high priest, as believed by many scholars. The high priest didn’t want any sympathizers of Jesus around this area as these trumped up charges are brought. He had at his disposal thousands. He well knew many, many, if not most of the ordinary Jewish populace liked Jesus. Jesus had healed potentially multiple thousands, and he alone stood against the money-making corrupt Temple “sacrificial animal/money-changing business” Annas had set up right on Temple grounds.] Now Pilate’s in hot water with Caesar. And they really go for his very point of weakness. And they say, ‘You know, if you let him go, man, you’re gonna upset Caesar.’ Well, when Pilate heard that, we’re told he goes out to this place called The Pavement, the Judgment Seat, a place called in Hebrew Gabbatha, it was the preparation day of the Passover [Comment: This was actually the Passover Day, the 14th of Nisan when the Passover lambs were supposed to be killed. Considering how many lambs had to be killed in the Temple, the killing actually started the evening before and went all the next day, on the daylight portion of the 14th. Hebrew days begin at sundown of the previous day. So on the 13th/14th Nisan, Jesus had his Passover meal with the disciples, and now it is the daylight portion of the 14th Nisan. At sundown of this day began the 15th Nisan, which was a High Holy Day, when the actual Days of Unleavened Bread started, and ran through the 21st Nisan, the last Holy Day of this feast season.] It’s about the sixth hour, so it’s the day before the Passover [i.e. the day before the first Holy Day, which falls one day later than Passover Day. These Gentile Christians don’t fully understand the timing of God’s Hebrew Holy Days, gotta excuse them. When you’ve never observed them, well, you just don’t understand the timing properly. Sorry George.] Passover is going to start [no end—this is Passover day] at sundown, it’s about the sixth hour, so it’s only about 6 o’clock in the morning according to Roman time. And he said to the Jews “Behold, your King!” But they cry out “Away with him! Crucify him! Away with him!” And he says “Shall I crucify your King?” And they answer “We have no king but Caesar.” Now what you don’t have here is what it says “And they cry out” if you include the other Gospels, you have a whole multitude of people [and don’t forget, these people are in the direct employ of the high priest---these are not ordinary Jewish citizens.], a whole crowd, you have the religious leaders mixed in with many others crying out “Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!” And then the chief priests and just their hypocrisy say “We have no king but Caesar.” Of course that’s just hypocritical. It’s not even true in their hearts. Well, we’re then told he delivered Jesus to be crucified, and they led him away. We’ll pick up next week.
4. Fourth group in this world, the crowd
But noting Matthew, the end of Matthew, right here at this point Matthew includes this little point with verse 24 and 25 of Matthew , this point where Pilate washes his hands, and in an interesting way. “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 multitudes, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just person. You see to it.’ And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us, and on our children.’” [Now don’t forget, this “multitude” was not necessarily composed of the ordinary citizens of Jerusalem or Judea, but of people in the employ of the Temple and high priest.] Here in this text, also with the other Gospels, there’s one other group represented, and it’s the multitude, and I would put it under the category of the foolish, that is those that aren’t able to discern, those that just run with the crowd, like a fish swimming amongst the massive school, man, any little stimuli, any little excitement, the latest buzz, they just quickly follow, even when it involves making foolish choices and saying foolish things, just to flow with the masses. And that’s really what happens, there’s a multitude of people at this point, and they actually cry out these words, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Very foolish thing to say. But they’re just going with the excitement of the crowd. And maybe that’s been your life, just going with the crowd, and whatever the latest buzz and the latest excitement, that’s where you are. You want to be in. And you just flow with the masses. Consider the masses here, and consider the foolishness of their decision. [The author of “The Day Christ Died and many of his historic sources believe this “multitude” was a rigged multitude, fully in the employ of the Temple, and ultimately the real high priest, Annas. The Gentile Christian interpretation just given has been used to perpetuate 1700 years of so-called Christian anti-Semitism, resulting in the innocent slaughter of millions of Jewish people, from 325AD to around 1945 ending with Hitler’s “Final Solution”. Interestingly enough, a lot of these sources that said it was a rigged mob, crowd were Catholic historians, with the current pope at the writing of this man’s work agreeing. Even though the early Catholic church was adapt at hiding or wiping out histories of the past and other Christian groups that didn’t agree with their doctrine, when it came to the actual history surrounding the life of Christ, their historians are fairly astute. I cringe at this perpetuated myth that has caused the general Jewish population to suffer so much that they hate the name of Christ and Christian because of what was done to them, because preachers have preached this same thing which is italicized above. But at the same time there could have also been some (I’d say a few on the outskirts of the high priest’s “hired mob”) who could have been some ordinary citizens, caught up in the mob mentality being fostered by the “paid crowd”---and we find this fourth group also in this carnal world’s citizenship.] Well, we have this trial, certainly the most famous trial there ever was. It’s not really a trial of a man, I think it’s a trial of man’s mankind. Seen in this trial are four groups, and I think they pretty well represent all the groups [found in carnal unconverted mankind], 1) you have the self-righteous, those who think they’re one way, but in reality, as this trial shows, they’re really very different [i.e. the high priest and his crowd in the Temple employ], they might be nice and clean on the outside, but inside there’s all sorts of horribleness. 2) Then you have the weak, those who know what they ought to do [i.e. Pilate], those that understand to a degree the truth, but are too weak in the sense of lacking faith so that they don’t accept the truth. 3) Third group, you’ve got those with their chest out, you know, the arrogant who look at this Jesus as just a foolish thing and the cross as just a foolish thing. 4) And then fourthly, you have the crowd, the foolish people just going with the flow. And I believe in this picture they are the ones really on trial. And in the end, in a most amazing way, the verdict is rendered, and it says, man, you’re guilty. Religious leaders, you’re guilty, Pilate, you’re guilty, soldiers, you’re guilty, crowd, you’re all guilty of sin. But then what is so unusual and so amazing about this trial, the Judge, who appears initially as the defendant, but he really is the Judge, he’s really in control of this whole thing, fulfilling all the prophecies, even really dictating which way this is going, then steps out from the Judge’s bench, and in an amazing way as we’ll see next week, he takes off his [Judge’s] gown, and then he, I guess you could say, puts on the prisoners clothes, and then he goes with the officers out to the place of judgment, and he actually pays for the price of the penalty himself, in a most amazing way, he sheds his own blood. I read in one of the commentaries this little piece of poetry, maybe it’s from a song, but it didn’t say. I’ll read it to you. “What would you do with Jesus? Neutral you cannot be. One day your heart will be asking, what will he do with me?” And we see that very clearly in this whole trial. [tape abruptly ended. This is a transcript of a expository sermon given on John 18:28-40 and John 19:1-16 given somewhere in New England.]