A question comes up as we study the trial & execution of Jesus.
Bible teachers regularly say that the reason why the priests took Jesus to Pilate was because the Romans had taken the right of capital punishment away from the Jews.
when we read the Book of Acts or some of the history of the
31Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.”
The Romans had withdrawn the right of Jewish civil government to practice capital punishment, for criminal matters & for acts of sedition or rebellion.
But the Romans knew the Jewish religion demanded stoning for certain kinds of heresy.
The Romans were loath to interfere with people religious beliefs.
only time they did so was when those beliefs directly affect the security of
So they had allowed the Jewish authorities the right to judge religious matters – and to execute those who’d been proven guilty of heresy.
Pilate knew the tiff between the priests and Jesus was a religious matter – so he told them to deal with it – they had that authority.
The problem was, the priests
knew that if they stoned Jesus, the masses of Passover pilgrims packed into
They considered Jesus a prophet, & possibly the Messiah.
They’d been trying for the last 3 years to discredit Him and get the public to turn against Him.
Every attempt had only resulted in Him coming out looking better while they looked ever more nasty and jealous of His growing influence.
They didn’t really have any solid grounds to condemn Him as a heretic.
His mere claim to being the Messiah & the Son of God wasn’t enough; they needed to prove somehow that His claim was bogus – and all their attempts had done was affirm that it was valid.
If they just took Jesus out & stoned Him, public opinion would likely rise in an angry reaction against them.
So they took Jesus to Pilate
and accused Him of sedition – of being a threat to
What they mean is – anyone accused of sedition.
They didn’t want Jesus stoned as a heretic; they wanted Him crucified by the Romans as a political rebel.
That way they could be rid of Him & duck the anger of the people.
32that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.
As we saw at the end of Ch. 18, knowing Jesus was an innocent man, Pilate attempted to release Him by suggesting to the crowd that had gathered that they pick Jesus as the One he ought to release for the special Passover pardon.
That’s why a crowd had gathered so early that morning – because each year at Passover the governor would release one of those they held in prison.
This was a way to show the
good will of
But the priests had circulated a warning that they were to ask for the criminal Barabbas. Anyone asking for Jesus would be in serious trouble.
With this failure to get Jesus off the hook, Pilate thought a good beating would be enough to mollify the priests’ hostility. So he had Jesus scourged.
Scourging: Scourging was carried out with a whip composed of multiple thongs, each twined round pieces of bone or sharp metal.
We’re not told how many lashes Jesus was given, but other historians tells us that the usually punishment was between 20 & 40, depending on the strength of the victim.
The goal was to rip the flesh of the back to ribbons.
Not a few of those scourged died of the beating when their ribs & internal organs were exposed.
The scene shown in the movie, The Passion of the Christ is an accurate idea of what scourging was.
Jesus’ was particularly savage, leading to His quick demise on the cross.
He died after only 6 hours; some victims lasted for a couple days.
Emboldened by Jesus’ mute acceptance of the scourging, the soldiers decided to have some sport with Him before turning Him back over to Pilate.
They’d known endless abuse from the Jews & this was their chance to give some of it back – they thought.
So they dressed Jesus in a robe whose color spoke of royalty, & put a mock crown on His head – then they feigned their adulation of Him by slapping and striking Him.
It is right at this place that personally, I see the restraint of Christ most fully revealed.
He knew He was going to the Cross & that it was there He would atone for our sins. That was the climax of His mission.
But all of this was just the lead up - & to have to endure this merciless, undeserved, mocking & torture was just so very wrong!
I’ll bet every one of us, in the same place, would have put up with just so much, then we would have said, “Okay – that’s enough!” And ended it with a little fun of our own.
Think of the absolute insanity of the way Jesus was treated.
It is right here, with the scourging & the mocking by the soldiers that we see the full depravity of the human race.
Here is what man is really like! He takes the perfect holy God who has done nothing throughout His time on Earth but blessed people and shown incredibly love & compassion.
When we get our hands on Him, we rip off His robe, tie Him to a post and flay His backside till it’s left in strips of bleeding flesh.
They we dress Him up so we can mock and further abuse Him.
So much for the vaunted ideal of secular humanism which say that man is noble & good & that he just needs to be freed of the superstitions of religion so that he can achieve his potential.
You want to see what humanity will lower itself to if you take God away – Here it is!
If we did this to God when He became man – what do you think we will do to one another if we finally come to the place of removing God from the picture?
to the gas ovens of Auscwitz, the gulags of Siberia, & the killing fields
And yet Secular Humanism is the prevailing philosophy in our public schools & universities.
4Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” 5Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”
Pilate thought for sure the pitiful spectacle of the beaten Jesus would mollify the crowd & for pity’s sake they would agree to His release.
The priests knew what Pilate was trying to do & saw the crowd’s horror when presented with Jesus, so they quickly picked up the call for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Having already been warned by the priests what would happen if they consented to Jesus’ release, the other gospels tell us the crowd added their voices to the priest call for His death.
Pilate knows he doesn’t have any real grounds for condemning Jesus so in frustration he throws it back at the priests. But of course, they can’t crucify anyone – only the Romans could do that.
7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
As governor, Pilate had certainly heard of Jesus before this.
whole region was abuzz with talk of the miracle-working Rabbi from
But the claim that He was the Son of God was new & troubling to Pilate.
Here’s why – Many Romans were superstitious.
It was a frequent theme in their legends & religion that the gods would occasionally take human form.
Sometimes they would have sexual relations with human women & produce children. The story of Hercules was one of these.
Jesus’ claim to being the Son of God troubled Pilate because of all this.
made it worse is that as
This confirmed Pilate’s suspicions that Jesus was not only innocent, there was something much deeper at work in all this than just the priest’s attempt to get rid of an opponent.
So he returned to another interrogation of the prisoner.
But Jesus refused to speak.
Pilate was not used to being ignored & reminds Jesus of his authority.
He wants to compel Jesus to speak & uses the leverage of his position.
Jesus reminded Pilate of something every ruler knows – he was only in his position because a higher authority had placed him there.
And authority given must be accounted for.
With this answer, Jesus turns the tables on Pilate & lets him know, the governor is not judging Jesus.
Rather, what Pilate decides about Jesus determines Pilate’s fate.
As Pilate felt himself being backed into a corner, Jesus told him that while he would have to answer for what he did with Jesus, the greater reckoning would be that of the high priest Caiaphus.
When Jesus told Pilate He knew the governor was being manipulated into a political trap, Pilate decided Jesus really was innocent & had to be released.
As soon as the priests knew this was the direction things were going, they played their ace in the hole.
knew that because of 2 previous official reprimands from
been warned that if another official delegation of the Jewish leaders came to
The only way out of such disgrace was to commit suicide.
So here the Jews threaten
Pilate with their trump card; if he doesn’t bend to their wishes and crucify
Jesus, they will send a delegation to
Imagine the head of the
Reporters would bring that news back home here and the Pentagon would go ape!
Bush would bring him home to face a court-marshal for gross dereliction of duty.
That’s the threat facing Pilate with v. 12.
This refers to a stone floor, like a tile or mosaic.
The Romans loved
mosaics. We find them in many Romans
the new capital of Galilee Herod was building just north of
There are several rooms there with huge, gorgeous mosaics.
The courtyard of the
governor’s palace in
It was there the governor’s official judge’s seat was set.
Pilate has the guards bring Jesus out – he sits down in the sat to let all know he’s ready to render his final verdict.
14Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
Since Mark tells us in 15:25 that Jesus was put on the cross at the 3rd hour – 9AM. How do we reconcile John’s saying Pilate didn’t even render judgment until the 6th hour?
Simple – Mark reckoned time from a Jewish perspective while John is speaking about a Roman trial so he uses the Romans way of reckoning time.
The Jews numbered their hours with sunrise –about 6 AM, while the Romans began numbering the hours with midnight.
So Pilate issued his verdict sometime between 6 & 7 AM.
15But 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!” 16Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.
Pilate tries one last time to spark the compassion of the crowd toward the now pitiful appearance of Jesus, but the priests rule the day & sway them to demand His death.
In a complete betrayal of
their role as the leaders of
These men were traitors.
17And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.
As we considered last Sunday, there’s quite a bit of material describing the practice of Roman crucifixion that comes to us from history.
were placed alongside busy roads to maximize the warning they provide to anyone
who was thinking about rebelling against
There was a major road that
led out of the northern date of
The masons had dug holes in the face of the cliff that made it look like a skull leering over the road.
For this reason the locals called it Skull Hill and the Romans considered it a perfect spot to crucify people.
Jesus & the 2 thieves who were executed with him would have carried the cross beams for their crosses.
Once they got there, the beam would be secured to a post; they’d position the condemned on top of this & drive spikes through the wrists & arches of the feet.
Then the bottom of the post would be dropped into a hole & secured with rocks, dirt & wedges of wood.
The feet of the condemned were no more than 3 feet off the ground, making the head of the crucified just a little more than a couple feet higher than those standing on the ground.
19Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the
cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF
Attached to the cross of the condemned was a list of charges specifying why they were being put to death.
Jesus’ simply said His name and His title.
The Jewish rulers were offended by this & saw it as Pilate’s way to show his displeasure with having been backed into a political corner by them.
So they went running back to the Praetorium with the demand that he alter the charge from Jesus’ title to His claim. Pilate said – “Buzz off!”
23Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. 24They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.
As compensation for the grizzly task, they were allowed to keep the clothing of the condemned.
There were 4 of them at Jesus’ crucifixion and they split up His belongings 4 ways.
The one problem was His tunic, which had been specially made and was seamless.
Some have wondered if we’re to find some kind of special meaning in the fact Jesus’ tunic was woven in one piece & seamless.
This was not some kind of special technology for the time; it was a well known method of weaving.
But the only other reference we find to such a specific seamless garment was made by Josephus who said the high priest’s tunic was also woven form the top in one piece and seamless.
It may have been this garment Caiaphus tore when he declared Jesus’ blasphemy.
The high priest was not supposed to tear his garments because they were holy.
By tearing them, he was defaming his position.
By going to the cross, Jesus was fulfilling His call as our great high priest in offering Himself as our sacrifice.
The Roman soldiers showed more regard for the humble tunic of Jesus than Caiaphus did for his.
aunt was Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and mother of
John never names himself, his brother, or his mother in His gospel.
26When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
This is entirely keeping with the social customs; a family was to take care of its own members.
Both the Gospels and Acts tell us Jesus had younger brothers; so why didn’t they take care of their mother?
Following the Resurrection, the followers of Christ will bond together in a tight-knit community, and Jesus’ brothers did not at first believe in Him.
It took a little while before they came to faith.
So Jesus asks John to keep an eye on His mother & make sure she’s taken care of. He did.
28After this, Jesus, £knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
We covered these vs. Sunday.
31Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Because of Deut. 21:23, dead bodies were not allowed to remain on a tree overnight, lest they defile the land.
If this was true for any old day, it applied even more to a special holy day, such as the one that was coming – the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened bread which comes right after Passover.
So the priests petitioned Pilate to have the crucifixion detail break the legs of the 3 men so they would suffocate and die.
Since the point was to hasten their death, since Jesus was already dead, they declined to break His legs.
34But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.
One of the other 4 guards thought it was presumptuous to not break Jesus legs; what if He’d just passed out.
So he decided to see if Jesus was really dead or just unconscious; a good poke with his pilium would tell.
The head of the spear penetrated the skin between the ribs & sliced open the pericardium.
When he withdrew the spear, out of the wound came the both water & blood, a sign that Jesus had died of heart-rupture.
Jesus died, literally, of a broken heart.
John says – “I WAS THERE, and saw it with my own eyes.”
He says this because even bake in those days there were skeptics who said Jesus hadn’t really died on the cross, He only swooned, and was revived later by the cold stone bed of the tomb.
The blood and water that flowed from the wound in Jesus’ side is proof He was dead!
38After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.
While the officials disciples went into hiding after the crucifixion, 2 others who’d been secret supporters step up & show their devotion when it was even more dangerous than before.
Interesting – when Jesus was alive, they supported Jesus secretly for fear of what open support would cost them in terms of their social standing.
But now that aligning with Jesus will CERTAINLY cost them they step forward. Why?
“Coming out of the closet” is a phrase used today to refer to homosexuals who finally admit their sexual orientation after trying to hide it for fear of what the admission will cost them.
Today – “coming out” has become the cause-celeb for many.
And it seems that the more homosexuality is accepted and endorsed in our culture, another group is being encouraged to climb INTO the closet, or if they are already there – to stay there: I’m referring to honest to goodness, God-fearing, Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, Holy-living, All-loving Christians.
There are far too many closet-Christians today.
Do the people you work with know you’re a follower of Jesus?
Matthew tells us Joseph was a rich man. [Matt. 27:57]
Nicodemus was one of the Jewish rulers & a highly respected teacher. [John 3]
Joseph went to Pilate and got permission to bury Jesus.
He had a brand new tomb not far from the cross where it would be easy to place the body.
When Joseph told Pilate his plan, Pilate complimented Joseph on his generosity, giving up his expensive family tomb to a virtual stranger.
Nicodemus brought some embalming supplies & they took care of business.
But they weren’t able to do a proper job of it as they were rushed – the sun was setting and they had to be done quickly.
This is why the women returned early Sunday morning;
They’d followed at a distance and seen the inadequate way the two men and tried to prep Jesus’ body for burial.
 Mark 15:40 Matthew 27:56