Pilate then gives Jesus over to be scourged. This is a brutal and inhumane form of torture given by the Romans to a man who has been condemned. Pilate had hoped by this to appease the rage of the rulers and to inspire the pity of the people. In the painful scourging the soldiers added cruel mocking; they crowned the king with a crown of thorns, they gave Him a robe with purple and showed their homage by hitting Him in the face.
Pilate again went out and said to the people, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” There was no mercy shown by the people and they cried all the more, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate is them enraged, they are asking him to condemn a man who he has found innocent and in exasperation he says, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.”
If Jesus had been found innocent of the one charge then the Jewish leaders accuse Jesus of a religious offence that is truly deserving of death. “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” This was a just claim as Jesus did claim to be the Son of God, a charge that Jesus never denied. Jesus is either the Son of God or a blasphemer there is no middle ground.
An unexpected effect is seen on Pilate with this new charge he is filled with terror. Can anyone lightly dismiss the claims of Christ? Pilate turns to ask, “Where are You from?” However superstitious Pilate’s thoughts maybe, he is intelligent enough to be taken back by the suggestion that this patient, princely, sufferer may be a divine being. Jesus gives him no answer. It was not a time to ask Jesus of His origin but a time to declare His innocence and set Him free. Pilate is irritated by Jesus’ silence so he asserts his dignity: “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”
Jesus then responds in a truer dignity: “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” This is a solemn warning to Pilate. Pilate’s power is a divine trust and he should beware lest he abuse it. Also the warning of this that officers of the law should not permit themselves to become tools to accomplish the works of a murderous will. Pilate is moved and his one desire is to release Jesus but the Jewish Leaders have one last desperate resort.
“If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” Pilate now has a serious problem, how would this sound at Rome if this was reported that he let a man go free that claimed to be a king? At Pilate’s weakest point the enemy has attacked him. At once Pilate surrenders Jesus to His accusers. Self-love and self-interest must be guarded at any cost of injustice and crime, Pilate’s soul is lost. Pilate takes his place on the judgment seat and spoken in bitter irony he ask,” Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priest answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” The Jewish leaders have become the vassals of Rome, they have renounced their Messianic hopes, they have denied their national rights, and then they are apostate from God. The climax has been reached in the record of Jewish unbelief.
John the Baptist declared that Jesus was “The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” this removal of guilt would require the death of the sacrifice. Jesus declared that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so must the Son of Man be lifted up; … that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus further taught that, as “the Good Shepherd,” He was to lay down His life for the sheep in order that they may have life more abundantly. Jesus also said it was the attractive power of the cross which would draw men unto Him. The crucifixion of Jesus was an atoning act of removing the guilt and power of sin, drawing men to Christ and making possible a larger life through Him.
Jesus bearing His own cross was a symbol of infamy and agony that they crucified Him, crucifixion identifies Him more fully with criminals, and they placed Him between two other criminals. Can we fully take in that Jesus, the Son of God, God in the flesh, took in the most shameful form of death; the cruelest that man has ever devised, in order to secure our salvation. Jesus had to endure the utmost of disgrace and torture and death on a Roman cross.
It was the custom to place a sign above the head of one being crucified to describe the crime which the offender had committed. Pilate, to show his hatred of the Jewish rulers, who entrapped and defeated him, wrote as a title, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Pilate did so in a bitter irony, he meant that the only king that the Jews could boast of or need was a helpless sufferer dying the death of a malefactor. But like Caiaphas, Pilate was affirming more than he had intended. What Pilate had stated was the very message that John the writer of this Gospel had wanted to establish, that Jesus was the Christ, that He is the King of the Jews. Jesus is the only Savior to the Jews, He is their only hope for salvation, and they crucified Him on a Roman cross. Only when they accept Jesus as their King can Israel be saved.
There are two memorable groups standing at the cross. The Roman soldiers who when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments and divided them into for parts. There was a part for each soldier and then they cast lots for His seamless coat. The action of the Roman soldiers was another prophecy found in the Old Testament that they cast lots for the garments of Jesus. (Psalms 22:18) This is further proof that Jesus is the Christ.
The other memorable group was the four women who witnessed the crucifixion. They compose a contrast to the four soldiers. They were His mother mary, Mary’s sister Salome the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, Mary, Clopas’s wife, often thought to be the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus forgetting His own great anguish displays His deep love and sympathy by being mindful of those whom He loved. When Jesus saw His mother standing with the disciple described as the one whom He loved He called down to His mother and said, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then Jesus said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” It was then that the disciple started to care for the mother of Jesus and did so for all her days to follow. “From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.”
With the Death of Jesus near Jesus cried out that He was thirsty and the Roman soldier placed sour wine on a sponge and with the branch of a hyssop brought it up to His mouth. This act was but one more prophecy being fulfilled from the scriptures, (Psalms 69:21) After Jesus had received the sour wine He spoke His last words, “It is finished!” The earthly mission of Jesus was now complete; He had finished the work that the Father had sent Him to accomplish. Those who are still burdened with the guilt of sin, nothing remains to be done but to accept Jesus as the Lamb of God. Those who are lost in the power of sin, through Jesus there is eternal life if they look in trust to the uplifted Christ. This is the issue of faith in the divine Son of God. “And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
According to Jewish law it was necessary to remove the body of the dead before sunset of executed criminals. The Jewish leaders were most excited to obey this law because of the sacred character of the day which was to begin. In order to hasten the death of the executed they went to Pilate and got his permission to have the Roman soldiers to break the legs of the criminals in order to restrict their breathing so they would die much quicker. Which the Roman soldiers did, but when they came to Jesus He had already died. Therefore they did not break his legs. The prophecy in the Old Testament was then fulfilled that not a bone should be broken. This prophecy is also in reference to the Passover Lamb. (Psalms 34:20 Exodus 12:46) Being that Jesus was already dead a Roman soldier thrust his spear into the side of Jesus and blood and water rushed out from the wound. (Zechariah 12:10) The evidence then that Jesus was the Christ is that His side was pierced. It is a larger fulfillment of this prophecy remains for the future. Some day Israel in awe and sorrow and repentance will look “on Him whom they have pierced,” as He returns in Heavenly Majesty, then will begin the true glory of the converted and believing nation.
The burial of Jesus presents us a different picture of interest. We see here two men who had lacked courage of their convictions and failed to give support to Jesus while He was living. They are both rulers, men of position and power, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus. Joseph lays the body of Jesus in his own tomb and Nicodemus wraps the body of Jesus in a profusion of rich spices. These may have been deeds of courage and of love but they have come late. Neither are too late to fulfill prophecy nor give real service to the cause of Christ, but they are too late for the satisfaction of their hearts, as they morn. The faith of these two men is like the glow of a sunset at the end of a cruel and dark day of murderous unbelief. Jesus does not ask for secret disciples, He bore the cross for us, and He expects us to walk openly, courageously, willingly, to take up our own cross and follow Him. It is interesting that the disciples who followed Jesus openly during His life fled at His death, and those who had followed Him secretly during His life declared themselves at His death.
Psalms 22:18, Psalms 69:21, Zechariah 12:10, Psalms 34:20, Exodus 12:46