Through the Bible In One Year

Day 173

John 19:1-16a

So far we have covered 2 and a half of the four scenes that John uses to tell his passion narrative of Jesus.  The first scene takes place in a garden and in that scene we see Jesus arrested.  The second scene takes place at the home of Annas, the brother-in-law of Caiaphas the hight priest for that year, and in that scene we see Jesus being interrogated and his response to this interrogation, but we also see Peter being interrogated by the crowd that had gathered to be near this sham trial and more importantly we see Peter’s reaction to being interrogated by the crowd.  And, finally we have seen part one of the third scene, which takes place in the palace of the Roman Governor in Jerusalem.  It is this scene that we see Jesus being tried before Pilate.  And we left off yesterday with the crowd demanding the release of Barrabas, a condemned insurrectionist.  Today we are going to pick up with Jesus’ trial before Pilate and we will see Jesus being sentenced to be crucified by Pilate.

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

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

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

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”—19:1-7

The Romans normally used flogging as a prelude to crucifixion, but here it was another attempt by Pilate to satisfy the Jewish leadership and avoid crucifying Jesus.  The flogging was a brutal beating usually performed by someone highly skilled in afflicting the utmost pain but leaving the person short of death.  Some people, nevertheless, died during a flogging.  The crown of thrones, purple robe and scornful worship were intended to humiliate Jesus (Isaiah 50:6).  Outside the palace, Pilate declared Jesus innocent for a second time.  He presented Jesus to the world in a humiliated and abject condition—battered, abandoned and completely vulnerable to his enemies.  The Jewish leaders responded with cries for Jesus’ crucifixion and introduced another designation for him: “Son of God.”  They believed Jesus committed blasphemy and should be executed (Leviticus 24:16).

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

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

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”—19:8-12

Pilate became fearful and anxious when he heard that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.  Pilate and Jesus went back inside the palace.  Pilate, the representative of secular authority, brought up the crucial issues of authority and crucifixion.  Jesus told Pilate that no human ruler had authority over his life.  This bold statement shook Pilate and caused him to determine to release Jesus.  Shockingly, the Jewish leadership, not the Romans, introduced the issue of loyalty to Caesar.

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

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

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.—19:13-16a

When Pilate heard the crowd question his loyalty to Caesar, he capitulated to their demand.  The solemnity of the moment is captured by John’s detailed description of Pilate sitting on the judge’s seat (giving both its Greek and Aramaic names).  Jesus was crucified on Friday of Passover week.  The day of Preparation (v. 14) refers to Friday, the day before the Sabbath (Saturday).  The day of Preparation was an especially holy day since it took place during the Festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread.  The drama ended just as Jesus predicted, with his being sentenced to death.  And we will pick up from here tomorrow as we see part 1 of the fourth and final scene in John’s passion narrative of Jesus.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

2 Kings 8:1-9:13, Acts 16:16-40, Psalm 143:1-12 and Proverbs 17:26

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