In our last post, the people cried for the release of Barabbas, who was in custody for a murder he committed in an insurrection against Rome. (Mark 15:7) Maybe that was what the chief priests used to move the people against Jesus (Mark 15:11), as Jesus was not willing to help them fight the Romans like Barabbas was. After Barabbas was released, Jesus literally died in his place. Jesus was not the Messiah the world wanted, but He is the Messiah we needed. He died in my place too — and yours if you will receive Him.
Pilate was still in a bind. He knew that Jesus was innocent and the chief priests had delivered Him for envy. (Mark 15:10) Even his wife warned him not to convict Jesus because of a dream she had. (Matt 27:19) Yet Pilate also knew he had to find a way to pacify the angry mob. He had already been reprimanded by Caesar Tiberius for public disturbances. (1) Now the crowd that was singing Hosanna a few days ago was crying Crucify Him. Pilate tried to pass the buck to Herod only to have Herod send Jesus back again. He was running out of options. He was in danger of losing his position. In a last-ditch effort to appease the Jews, Pilate tried corporal punishment.
Father, thank You for your precious Son. We are not worthy to receive Him. Thank You that He has paid our debts in full and we are saved by grace through faith. Thank You that our salvation is not of ourselves. Thank You that it is a gift from You, not of works lest any man should boast. Give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
Unlike Jewish law, Roman law had no limit on the number of stripes administered. The prisoner was stripped naked and his back was exposed, either by being bent over a low pillar and shackled or being suspended by his wrists. The Romans used whips that had small pieces of bone or metal at the tips. After soft welts swelled up, subsequent blows tore off the skin and sliced into the muscles. The torn flesh exposed the nerves, while the loss of blood led to tachycardia and shock. Before his arrest, Jesus had already lost great drops of blood falling down to the ground through his sweat. (Luke 22:44) His body was dehydrated. The physical, mental, and spiritual strain He suffered is beyond comprehension. It was not uncommon for prisoners to die from the scourging before they were even crucified, but Jesus is not ready to call it quits yet. He is still in control.
2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
Thorns were part of the curse that sin brought into the world. (Gen 3:18) It fits, then, typologically that Jesus would be crowned with thorns. He redeemed the world from the curse (Col 1:20) as well as redeeming us from the curse of the law and paying for our sin. (Gal 3:13) Matthew tells us they placed a reed (or rod, cf Rev 11:1) in his right hand for a scepter to go with his crown and his robe. They bowed the knee to mock Him (Matt 27:29), then used the reed to beat Him as they spit on Him. (Mark 15:19) They then pulled out his beard, ripping the skin from off his face. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands
Luke tells us Jesus was blindfolded before they hit Him, making the blows even worse since He did not see them coming. His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men. They then taunted Him by asking Him to prophesy and tell them who hit Him. (Luke 22:64) I find it typical (typological) that Jesus was crowned and worshiped by Gentiles to mock Him as He was suffering for our sin. Christ is Lord of all. He is not only King of the Jews and the Gentile nations (Jer 10:7), He is the King of sorrow and pain as well.
4 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.
5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
A free translation might be, Look at the man, don’t you think that’s enough?
6 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.
7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
8 ¶ When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
I should think he was afraid, afraid to kill the Son of God. Pilate had examined many men and he had never seen one who did not try to defend himself or beg for his life. Now he is starting to understand what made Jesus so different.
9 And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
Jesus did not answer because He was not there for his own crimes. He was there for ours, and we have not defence.
10 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?
11 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.
Jesus could have condemned Pilate but instead He chose to minister to him. Again, let me offer a free translation: Your power was given to you by my Father. Yes Pilate, you are sinning, but no, it’s not unforgivable.
12 And from thenceforth 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.
13 ¶ 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.
14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour : and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
15 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.
16 Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
Matthew tells us that before Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified, he washed his hands before the people and said I am innocent of the blood of this just person, to which the people replied His blood be on us, and on our children. Although Pilate was a Roman holding a Roman trial, he would have done well to consider Jewish law. Exodus 23:2 says Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment: Pilate was not known to vacillate when pressured, nor was he known for showing mercy. Ask the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. (Luke 13:1) Curious that such a man would try to get Jesus acquitted, but he clearly did. Curious still that he would fold under pressure. I believe Pilate knew deep down in his soul he was committing a horrible crime unlike anything he had ever done before. According to Eusebius, the church historian, there were two different accounts of what later happened to Pilate: He either committed suicide or was sent back to Rome and executed (or rather, forced to take his own life) because of a slaughter he perpetrated against the Jews. Regardless, when we look at how Pilate failed we see a sharp contrast to how Jesus prevailed — how despite the pressure He was under, despite the betrayal, torture, and shame, He never wavered. Jesus, always faithful, set his face like a flint and bore the sin of the world. My sin. Your sin if you will receive Him. Jesus never fails.
In closing, in our day and age, a brutal dictatorship is on the rise, much like the one that ruled in Jesus’ day. Our zealots are not as violent as Barabbas, but they still don’t have the solution to our problems. (3) Jesus is still not the Messiah the world wants, but He is still, now an always, the Messiah we need. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; The blood that Jesus shed when He suffered for us is sufficient to pay for all our sins, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness; if we will only believe and repent, which just means to change your mind. The time is coming soon when Jesus will crush the tyrants, but for now we need to trust Him and be patient. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
Finally, there are some obscure church traditions that Pilate became a Christian. It’s a nice thought. Jesus died for us all whoever we are, no matter what we have done. The invitation is open to everyone. Father, thank You for the precious blood your Son shed for us that washes away all our sin. We pray that You will transform and renew our minds, that we may be conformed to his will and formed into his image, that the world may see Him living in us, that You may be glorified, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 Yonge, Charles Duke (1855). The Works of Philo Judaeus, The contemporary of Josephus, translated from the Greek. Vol. 4. London: H. G. Bohn. pp. 165–166.
2 John is using Roman time here, which started counting at midnight. Therefore it was 6 AM.
3 So far, 600 people have been convicted in connection with the events of January 6, 2021. Last week, four members of the Proud Boys (who were unarmed on Jan 6) were convicted of seditions conspiracy. A fifth member was not found guilty of sedition but all of them were convicted of multiple felonies. They now potentially face decades in prison. On Friday, DOJ prosecutors asked a federal judge to sentence Oath Keeper’s founder, Steward Rhodes to 25 years in federal prison. Please pray for them. IMO the only thing they are guilty of is loving our country and our Constitution.