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Jesus is sentenced to be crucified

My column for this week is from John 19, “Jesus sentenced to be crucified.”

Verse 1 – Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.

Pilate hoped a flogging would satisfy the Jews and enable him to release Jesus. The Romans used a whip made of several strips of leather, for their floggings, into which were embedded (near the ends) pieces of bone and lead. The Jews limited the number of stripes to a maximum of 40 (in practice to 39 in case of a miscount), but no such limitation was recognized by the Romans, and victims of Roman floggings often did not survive.

Verses 2, 3, 4, 5 – 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 struck Him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “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!”

Thorns are a general term relating to any thorny plant and the color purple is a color generally used by royalty.

Verse 6 – 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.”

You crucify Him, the petulant utterance of an exasperated man, for the Jews could not carry out this form of execution. For the third time Pilate proclaimed Jesus’ innocence (see John 18:38; 19:4), Luke also records this threefold proclamation (see Luke 23:4,14,22).

Verse 7 – The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God.”

The Jews continued to insist that Jesus must die. They were apparently referring to the penalty for blasphemy (see Leviticus 24:16).

Verses 8, 9 – 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.

Pilate was evidently superstitious, and this charge frightened him and made him even more afraid. Jesus did not respond to Pilate when he asked, “Where do You come from?” The reason Jesus did not answer Pilate is not clear, but Jesus had answered other questions readily. Perhaps Pilate would not have understood the answer or would not have believed it.

Verse 10 – “Do You refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t You realize I have power either to free You or to crucify You?”

Pilate said to Jesus, “I have power.” Pilate was incredulous and very conscious of his authority. His second question indicates his personal responsibility for crucifying Jesus.

Verse 11 – 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.”

These were Jesus’ last words to Pilate, “from above” where all earthly authority comes ultimately from God. A greater sin, that of Caiaphas (not Judas, who was only a means). But “greater” implies that there was a lesser sin, so Pilate’s sin was also real.

Verse 12 – From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting,” If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.”

Some people had official status as “Friends of Caesar.” But the term seems to be used here in the general sense. There was an implied threat that if he released Jesus, Pilate would be accused before Caesar. His record was such that he could not face such a prospect without concern.

Verse 13 – 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).

The Stone Pavement, not a translation of Gabbatha, which seems to mean “the hill of the house.” But a different name for the same place.

Verse 14 – It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your King,” Pilate said to the Jews.

The day of Preparation, normally Friday was the day people prepared for the Sabbath. Here the meaning is Friday of Passover week. About the sixth hour, about noon Mark 15:25 says that Jesus was crucified at “the third hour.” It is possible that Mark’s Gospel contains a copyist’s error, for the Greek numerals for three and six could be confused. Or it may be that John was using Roman time, in which case the appearance before Pilate would have been at 6:00 A.M. and the crucifixion at 9:00 A.M. (the third hour according to Jewish reckoning; see Mark 15:33). For other time references see Matthew 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23:44. “Here is your King” Pilate said. John does not let us forget the sovereignty of Jesus. Pilate did not mean the expression seriously, but John did.

Verses 15, 16 – 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.

We have no king but Caesar answered the chief priests. More irony. They rejected any suggestion that they were rebels against Rome, but expressed the truth of their spiritual condition.

My prayer: May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May He remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. Thank You Lord. Amen. Scripture and commentary from “The NIV Study Bible” John 19:1-16.

Next week my column will be from John 19, “The Crucifixion.”

You can reach Dick at hhester@twc.com.

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