Condemned to Crucifixion

August 25, 2019 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: John

Topic: English Passage: John 19:1-16

There’s a political cartoon I’ve seen which has two men staring each other down. And the first guy says, “Every single thing Trump does is great and glorious and perfect!" And the second guy hit back with, “No, every single thing Trump does is terrible and evil and literally Hitler.”

And then a third man walk into the room and they point right at him and say, “Hey you! Whose side are you on?” And the man stutters, “I, uh, I guess I just try to, uh, stay objective and … intellectually honest, you know? When Trump does something good, I say hey, that was good… When Trump does something bad, I say, you know, that was bad.”

And for a second, the two original men are just staring at him with their mouths closed. And then their faces change dramatically, and they are shouting back, “Rino! Racist! Fascist! Deep State! Nazi!” and finally, “Traitor!”

That was a cartoon that highlighted the polarizing positions we’ve come to see in this country. In the culture at large, people have found it much easier or more natural or more provocative to fly to one side or another on an issue, rather than allow for some kind of nuance in thinking.

We are a people who love to either go at it, or watch others go at it. And that happens in sports rivalries, or the justice system, or the president, or even over a chicken sandwich. We live in a polarized culture. And social media doesn’t help, because if you don’t pick a side, then you can get attacked by everyone.

But as polarizing as food or sports or politics might seem to be, there is nothing more polarizing in the world than Jesus Christ. You can disagree with people about a sports team. And it might not make that big a difference. You can disagree with someone over a proper course of political action. But one day, all those disagreements will fade away. And the only distinguishing characteristic of our life will be how we respond to Jesus Christ.

With Jesus, there is no nuance. There is no middle ground. You are called to surrender to Him as Lord, as the eternal, uncreated Son of God, crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sin, and He is coming again for a final judgment.

You either take that position, or you don’t. Anything short of that position is damning. He is the Light. Everything outside of that is, and will be, darkness forever.

This is the message of Jesus, and it’s the message we have read over and over again in John’s gospel. And sadly, the Jews—the ones through whom the Law of God and the Son of God came into this world—rejected Him. They rejected Him.

John 1:10 says: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”

John the Baptist told us: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Nathanael said, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” But as a nation, the Jews rejected Jesus.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You”—speaking in the plural—“you do not receive our testimony.” And the end of John 3 reminds us that everyone who believes in the Son has eternal life. Everyone who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

And in John 5, we’re told: “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”

Again, there is no person more polarizing than Jesus Christ. You will either spent eternity with Him in loving worship, or you will hate Him forever in judgment.

And as we’re approaching the crucifixion, this is what we see more and more clearly. There are only two sides. One side walks by faith. The other by sight.

And at this point in the story, the only image we have of righteousness is Jesus Himself. Everybody else is against Him.

The disciples have been scattered. Peter has denied Him. And Jesus has been handed over to the Jews first, and then to the Romans, to the governor Pontius Pilate.

Pilate interrogated Him as best he could. He even tried to have Jesus released. But instead, the Jewish crowd chooses a man named Barabbas, a revolutionary.

And this brings us now, to John chapter 19, as we continue the story. John chapter 19, and we’ll be looking at verses 1-16. Let’s read it together. John 19:1-16.

We’ve got some very simple headings as we make our way through this story. The headings aren’t what’s important. It’s the contrast we’re seeing now between who Jesus actually is, and how everybody else sees Him.

Just to sort of guide our time through the story, we’ll use four simple headings: Jesus is Mocked. Jesus is Presented. Jesus is Questioned. And Jesus is Sentenced.

We’ll start first with Jesus is Mocked. Jesus is Mocked.

Pilate wants to release Jesus. Part of that is because he can’t find Him guilty of anything worthy of death, and another part is because he despises the Jews and doesn’t want to give in to their demands. He doesn’t want to be their puppet.

So he uses the tradition of releasing a prisoner during Passover, hoping that will free Jesus. But it doesn’t work.

And so, with that, verse 1 says, Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged, or scourged.

If you look at the accounts from the other gospels, you realize that Jesus was flogged twice—once, right now before His official sentencing, and then a second time after He’s officially condemned to crucifixion.

In the Roman world, there were three levels of flogging. The lightest form was still a serious beating, just not as severe as the other two. This was usually for troublemakers. The second level was for more serious crimes, and the worst was what was called the verberatio, and that was connected with criminals who were sentenced to die.

Since Pilate has not officially sentenced Jesus to death yet, it seems that the beating, or the whipping here would have been the first type, the lighter beating. And then later, once Jesus is officially condemned, He receives the most severe beating, which many of you might have heard about. For that one, the Romans used a whip with leather straps that had pieces of bone and metal at the end to help tear into the flesh.

Roman soldiers had no problem administering these kinds of punishments. They excelled in humiliating and punishing prisoners. They took pride in it.

The reason Pilate has Jesus beaten right now is, for one, to teach Him a lesson. But also, he’s hoping it’ll satisfy the Jews. Maybe after beating and humiliating Jesus severely, they’ll drop the whole case and move on.

So, at Pilate’s command, the soldiers begin their beating. And the goal here isn’t just to hurt Jesus physically; it’s to mock Him. Jesus is the King of the Jews, so they’re going to give Him the royal treatment.

First, he gets a crown—a crown of thorns. This would probably come from the thorns on a date palm, which could grow up to a foot long. So the soldiers cut off the thorns and weave them together to make a crown, similar to the olive branch crown that would be given to a king or a champion. This crown of thorns gets shoved onto Jesus’ head, piercing into his skin. And it would have been agonizing.

I read a gardening article this week. And it was talking about the puncture wounds that can come from a palm tree. And it specifically mentioned the date palm. According to that article, there was another article in the British Medical Journal back in 2002 stating that date palms are “‘particularly dangerous’ because the sharp, narrow tips of their spines dry quickly and break off easily when they puncture skin.”

And if a piece of the thorn breaks off and lodges itself in your skin, an infection can start to form. There was a case of a 14-year-old boy whom that happened to, and he developed septic arthritis, which is an infection that brings additional swelling and pain. And he needed surgery to get all the thorn fragments out. Those are the kinds of thorns they chose for his crown.

And secondly, in addition to the crown, King Jesus also gets a purple robe. This was probably one of the military cloaks just draped over him. A purple robe was a symbol of royalty.

And so, one-by-one, the soldiers come up to Jesus and say, “Hail, King of the Jews.” But instead of bowing before Him, they punch Him and slap Him in the face. And there’s no indication how long this went on, but it had to be long enough to humiliate Him enough in front of everyone, and to make his suffering clearly visible.

So, there’s Jesus. Standing in His mock coronation, in what appears to be absolute weakness and helplessness. He’s bloody. He’s bruised. He’s swollen. And Pilate brings Him out again to the crowd.

This is our second heading. After Jesus is mocked, Jesus is Presented. Jesus is presented.

Look at verse 4—Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

Pilate repeats what he said back in verse 38 of chapter 18, “I find no guilt in this man.” And what he’s hoping is that Jesus will look so pitiful to them, so humiliated and ridiculous and harmless, that they’ll agree to let him go now.

“Look at him!” Pilate says. “Behold, the man. Is this who you’re all afraid of? Is this the one you feel threatened by?”

And the irony of this entire situation is that the soldiers and Pilate and the Jews have no idea what’s going on, right? They do not see this with spiritual eyes.

First of all, Jesus truly is the King of the Jews. He’s the King of all creation. He’s the King of Kings. One day, the rulers of the world will bow before Him, and crowns will be cast before His throne.

Secondly, Jesus is not just legally innocent of a crime, like Pilate said. Jesus is perfectly innocent. He is without sin whatsoever. He is the Son of God, perfect in every way, always doing the will of the Father.

And thirdly, what Pilate calls the Jews to do is exactly what the Holy Spirit call all of us to do—look at Jesus Christ. Look at Him. Behold the man! The incarnate Word of God has been handed over to the Jews and the Romans. And even though He looks absolutely helpless, He is glorious. This is the glory of His humility, His love, and His salvation. This is our glorious King.

Now, Pilate is hoping He’ll get released, but that not an option for the Jews. They have no pity for Jesus. They are blinded in their hatred. And they don’t like being mocked by the Romans. So, when they see Jesus, the Jewish authorities all cry out, “Crucify him!” Crucify him! Get him out of our sight!”

It doesn’t matter that Pilate says he’s innocent. It doesn’t matter how humiliated and bruised and bloody He is. They will not be content with anything short of Jesus’ death.

And Pilate says to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for [again] I find no guilt in him.” Pilate is fed up with them. “You don’t like my sentence. Then do it your way! Do it yourselves!”

And they respond by saying, “We have a law, and according to that law he is supposed to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

Again, they don’t know the truth behind that statement. This is the Son of God. This is the eternal, uncreated Son of God, who has come into this world.

And look at what verse 8 says—When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.

One commentary pointed out that the word “even more” could simply mean that he was “very much afraid.” The Christian Standard Bible says “he was more afraid than ever.”

Pilate went from irritated to terrified. Why? Because like many other Romans, he was a superstitious man. The Romans believed in many gods. And their beliefs allowed for someone to be in this world who was a god in human form, or a son of a god. And they would have power. And I think Pilate would have heard about Jesus’ miracles.

So, in Pilate’s mind, if Jesus is some kind of divine figure, where does that put Pilate, who just had Him beaten? The gods of the Romans were not known for mercy and grace.

So, Pilate’s scared. He doesn’t know what to think. And he hurries back into the Praetorium, and he goes right to Jesus. And this brings us to the third heading. Jesus is Mocked. Jesus is Presented. And now, Jesus is Questioned. Jesus is questioned again.

Plate asks him, “Where are you from? Where are you from?” And he’s not asking about Bethlehem or Nazareth. He’s asking about heaven.

And Jesus doesn’t say a word. No answer. And now, Pilate is scared and frustrated. So, in desperation, look at verse 10—Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”

Jesus’ silence offends Pilate. “Stop playing games with me, Jesus! Start talking, or you’re not getting out of here alive.” He’s using his position of authority to threaten Jesus.

And look at how Jesus answers in verse 11—You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.

“Pilate, you’re not the one in charge here.” That’s what Jesus tells him. And Jesus is not talking about Pilate’s Roman superiors. He’s talking about the sovereign authority of God. Romans 13 tells us the same thing. All human governments have been ordained by God. No earthly government has supreme authority.

And since that’s the case, Pilate does not bear the ultimate responsibility for Jesus’ death. God does. And for the satisfaction of His righteousness, and for the salvation of His people, Jesus is going to die. That’s the righteousness of God.

But the sovereignty of God never removes the guilt of the wicked. You need to understand that. The death of Jesus was part of God’s eternal plan, but that doesn’t mean that nobody else is guilty for what’s happening.

If you’re going to be faithful to what the Bible teaches, you can never elevate a person’s autonomy and freedom to a level that removes God’s absolute power and control over everything. God does whatever He wants wherever and with whomever He wants.

And secondly, you can never use the sovereignty of God in a way that makes Him the author of sin, or in a way that removes the guilt and responsibility of somebody else. Sin will be punished. We are all responsible for our decisions.

Pilate refused to believe in Jesus, so he will be judged. And so will Judas, for his betrayal. But from a human perspective there’s someone even more responsible for Jesus’ death. And that is, Jesus says, the person who handed Him over to Pilate. Who was that? The High Priest. The High Priest Caiaphas.

He’s the one who’s behind everything. He’s the one who agreed to pay Judas for His betrayal. He’s the one who refused to believe the signs that Jesus performed. He’s the one who instigated the crowd against Jesus.

Jesus is condemning the highest position in the Jewish institution. That’s how corrupt the system had become. It was corrupted at the highest possible level. And though everyone who fails to surrender to Jesus will face eternal judgment, the most severe punishment will be for those who clearly understood who Jesus was, and who had God’s special revelation accessible to them, but rejected it. That’s the greatest guilt.

And so, Jesus is saying to Pilate, “You don’t have the highest authority, and you don’t even bear the greatest guilt here” (although he does bear some guilt).

Well, no matter how Pilate feels about Jesus, he has found no reason to put Him to death. And so he walks back outside to talk to the crowd, trying to figure some way to appease them without putting Jesus to death.

Verse 12 tells us how the Jews responded. They said, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

This is political maneuvering. It’s a manipulation tactic. It’s a threat. The Jews are basically threatening to tattle on Pilate. They’re blackmailing him.

Remember, in the Roman system, the governor’s job is to make sure Rome maintains its power and control. And that means squashing any kind of revolutionaries.

And even though Jesus isn’t actually a revolutionary against the Romans, if Pilate lets him go, the Jews would send a message to the Emperor.

Word had gotten to the Emperor before about Pilate. I told you last week about the time he brought in soldiers with banners and the bust of Caesar. That angered the Jews. And it led to civil unrest. It also led to Caesar sending a corrective message to Pilate, “Put it away, Pilate. You’re going to start a war. That’s not the way to rule these people.” And that wasn’t the only incident that led to Caesar issuing a correction to Pilate.

So Pilate is stuck with a tough choice. One the one side, he’s got an innocent Man he doesn’t want to kill, and very worried wife who warned him not to put Jesus to death. But on the other side, he’s got a Jewish leadership threatening to send a message to the Emperor, which could lead to him losing his job, or maybe even his life, because he’s allowed another king to be set free.

For all the authority he says he’s got, Pilate doesn’t feel very in control at the moment. And the threat made by the Jews is too much for him. Pilate is going to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion. And what we get in the last few verses for today is Jesus’ official sentence.

And this’ll be our final section. Jesus is sentenced. These is John’s description of Jesus getting the official verdict.

Verse 13—So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.

The judgment seat is an elevated seat, similar to how a judge sits today. And as far as I understand, this place is still there in Jerusalem.

But before the final sentencing, John gives us the chronology. Verse 14—Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour.

That means it’s the Friday of Passover, the day before the Sabbath. And if John is using Roman time, then it’s sometime around 6 in the morning. But just remember that time was nowhere as precise back then as it is now. So it’s some time after sunrise probably. It’s still very early.

And Pilate directs the people’s attention to Jesus one more time and shouts, “Behold your King!” Again, it’s a way of mocking the Jews. “Look at this guy. Here’s your king!”

And the people cried out again, “Away with him! Away with him! Get him out of our sight! Crucify him!”

SoPilate, I think trying to egg the crowd on and make them give the sentence, asks them again, “Shall I crucify your king?” And the chief priests give their final response: “We have no king but Caesar.”

Under no other situation would they have made a statement like that. They hated the Romans. But they’ll make it today, if it means putting Jesus to death. They reject God’s truth. They reject all logic. And they reject the Son of God.

And verse 16, very directly tells us: Pilate delivered him over to them to be crucified. Jesus is turned over to the soldiers who will put Him to death.

So did sin win the judgment? Absolutely not! This is God’s plan. And in His wisdom and power, He uses even the greatest expression of hatred and wickedness to move His plan of redemption forward.

And those who trust in Him will recognize that, even when no one else does.

Through all this, First Peter says that Jesus continued entrusting Himself to him who judges justly. God will be shown to be Just and the Justifier of all who have faith in Jesus Christ.

Again, there are only two sides. And no matter who you are or what you’ve done, or who your friends are, if you do not submit to Christ for yourself, you will end up like Pilate, and Judas, and the High Priest. You will enter into eternal judgment.

But if you call out to Christ for forgiveness, God will forgive you. And the judgment you deserve will be what Christ took upon Himself. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

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