The Gospel Of John, Chapter 19, Part 1
If you are a Christian, this can be a difficult chapter to read. Jesus is physically tortured and mocked. His claims of royalty are thrown in his face by use of the crown of thorns and the purple robe he is given by the soldiers. Pilate again affirms to the crowd that he doesn't find Jesus guilty of anything here, and still Jesus is put to death.
Pilate is in a difficult situation. He doesn't see a legitimate reason to kill Jesus, but if he doesn't keep the peace, the Jews seem to be threatening that they will report him to Caeser for not stopping a political uprising.
We're not sure why Pilate became afraid when he learned that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God(v.8), but it may be that he was a superstitious man. Maybe even more so considering his wife had just had an unsettling dream because of Jesus. (Matthew 27:19)
Although Jesus had been open to answering Pilate's questions until now, he remains silent when asked about his place of origin. We don't know why Jesus chose silence here. Maybe because he knew Pilate wouldn't believe him. In any case, Jesus remained in control of his fate during this entire ordeal. Given Pilate's level of uncertainty, a man of Jesus' obvious wisdom and intelligence could have said the right words to be freed, or at least possibly exiled. Yet Jesus knew that it was necessary for his life to be sacrificed in order to make a restored relationship between God and humans possible.
Jesus further clarifies the true nature of power by pointing out that Pilate only has power given to him from those in authority above him. Pilate is responsible for his sin in this situation. Jesus doesn't deny that. But he does say that those responsible for handing Jesus over to him have committed a greater sin. The jewish religious leaders pre-meditated this entire plot to have Jesus killed. While Pilate is guilty of making a self-serving decision under pressure, the religious leaders conspired together to orchestrate the death of Jesus.
It's interesting to notice that these events took place just before Passover. This Jewish "holiday" was in remembrance of the historic escape from slavery in Egypt. (Exodus chapter 12) On the first passover, each family was instructed to kill a lamb that had no defects of any kind and to place its blood on their doorpost. God moved through Egypt that night and killed the firstborn in every house that did not have the blood of a lamb on its doorpost. Those with the blood were "passed over" without a life being taken from them.
In this chapter of John, Jesus, a perfect human without sin of any kind, was killed. And his sacrifice is what to this day saves every eternal soul that chooses to be associated with it.
This is why, horrific as it was, the torture and death of Jesus is so central to Christianity. Jesus, being God himself, is worth infinitely more than a lamb, and so his death was sacrifice enough to pay the penalty for every evil done in all of human history.
This "spiritual transaction" is not spelled out as clearly here as it is in some of the New Testament letters of the Apostles, but it's worth making note of on our way through.
The irony here is heart-wrenching. The Jewish Leaders, in an effort to have Jesus crucified, yelled out, "We have no king but Caeser". This couldn't have been more true, as the prophesied ruler they had been waiting for was right in front of them, but they refused to submit to or even acknowledge him as King.
In verses 19-22 we see that Pilate had a sign placed over Jesus' head labeling him as the King of the Jews. When pressed by the Jewish leaders, he refused to change what it said. We don't know for sure why. His own sense of irony? A small expression of respect? Pilate's internal struggle and view of Jesus remains something of a mystery.
Next week, we'll finish our look at this chapter by examining the extraordinary prophecies fulfilled by Jesus in his dying moments! Compelling stuff that you DON'T want to miss!
Coffee House Question: If you saw "The Passion", what kinds of thoughts went through your mind while watching the film for the first time?