Hey I’m Josh Hawkins, welcome to episode 143 of Opening Up the Gospels. Since Episode 134, I’ve been looking at the events of the final hours of Jesus’ life in April of 29AD, beginning with Jesus’ capture in Gethsemane to His appearances before the Jewish ruling council, Pilate, and Herod. In Episode 142, we saw Pilate washing his hands before the people, employing the Jewish ritual of declaring the innocence of Jesus. We also saw the Jews respond with such a tragic and ironic statement - “may His blood be on us and on our children”. The curses of the covenant would surely come upon them for their refusal to repent and turn back to their God. Now as we look at the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus in the next several episodes, I don’t want to offer up much commentary in an academic sense. There has been adequate treatment of the fine details elsewhere, and these scenes are too precious to just peruse academically. I really want to encourage you to meditate on and ponder the details the scriptures give us. With that said, I will certainly expound on some details, but only because I want to aid your meditation. May the Lord give us grace to behold Him here, to see the depth of our sin, and to realize what it took to expiate it.
Well, the proceedings before Pilate had not yet come to an end. Pilate took Jesus and had his soldiers scourge Him. And from what we read in Luke and John’s record, it seems like Pilate was hoping that some scourging would be sufficient to appease the Jews, even though they were demanding His crucifixion. Remember, all of this is taking place in the Praetorium, the residence of Pilate in the western part of the city of Jerusalem. The Jews remained outside on the Pavement as to not make themselves ritually unclean. Jesus was brought back in to the chambers of the Praetorium and was scourged, mocked, reviled, and beaten by the soldiers. Matthew 27 says:
"Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him."
(Matthew 27:27–31 ESV)
The ESV uses the phrase “whole battalion” in verse 27 to describe the soldiers who gathered before Jesus. Other translations use the word “cohort” or “garrison”. If the particular group of soldiers was at full strength and numbers, this would have involved six hundred men. Six hundred. Just imagine what it would have been like to have six hundred strong soldiers around you as you are mocked and beaten. These soldiers were absolutely brutal toward Jesus. They clothed Him in a loose reddish purple robe, they gave him a reed or a rod to resemble a scepter, they bent thorny branches into a circle and placed it like a crown into His already bloody, swollen head. And then the mocking began. “Hail, king of the Jews! Hail, king of the Jews!” Not only that, they begin to directly insult Him and spit in His face. Have you ever been spit on before? Maybe accidentally? It’s gross. And throughout all of this, Jesus remained silent, not uttering a single word for pleas to stop the beating. His flesh was being torn, His blood was spilling out, and the unthinkable was being done to the promised seed of Genesis 3:15, the promised king of Israel from David’s line from 2 Samuel 7, and the very God of Israel who shook Mount Sinai from Exodus 20. Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” vividly depicts these absolutely horrific events in the life of Jesus very well.
Jesus is given His own clothes back and Matthew says that He was led away to be crucified. As we’ll see in a moment, John’s Gospel includes more detail for us before He is led away to be crucified. Now what’s interesting is that historically, it was normal for criminals to be led to their cross naked. Imagine what kind of humiliation that brings upon them. However, some commentators believe that Jesus was given His own robe back as a Roman concession to the Jews, because the Jews attached an extra measure of shame to appearing naked in public. Whatever the case, Jesus was the bearer of so much humiliation and shame here.
Now as I mentioned, John’s Gospel records Jesus appearing before the Jews once again, as Pilate sought to acquit Jesus one final time. John was an eyewitness to these proceedings, and this is what he tells us in John 19:
"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.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So 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 answered him, “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.” From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 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. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 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.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified."
(John 19:4–16 ESV)
So there it is again, Pilate says that he finds no fault in Jesus. And Jesus comes out to the Jews still arrayed in the purple robe and the crown of thorns. Pilate shows Him to the crowds, and still in their vehemence and rage, they call for Him to be crucified. Pilate then basically says “if you want him crucified, you do it yourself!” But the Jews respond with such an interesting statement: “according to our law, he ought to die because he has made himself the son of God”. This statement made Pilate even more afraid. Why? I don’t believe it was because Pilate somehow understood that Jesus was Himself the one true living God, in the sense of how we understand the “trinity” or the idea of “monotheism” today. The ancient world was much more “god-congested” than we realize, as one historian has aptly said. I think Pilate would have questioned this phrase used by the Jews as a charge of Jesus acting as the agent of Israel’s God, or even as a lesser divine being Himself. He would have been familiar with the hierarchy of the Roman gods, and most certainly knew that there were other gods that were honored and worshipped by the nations. Remember back to what I talked about in Episode 121 where we looked at the Pharisees’ question to Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar and specifically the inscription that was on the Roman denarius coin. The motto on the coin proclaimed Tiberius to be the “son of the divine Caesar Augustus”, who preceded him. And so this phrase “son of god”, when used by the Jews before Pilate, would have been familiar to him in how he saw the king or leader of the Roman empire as a divine figure. If Jesus was proclaimed as “the son of god”, Pilate’s question “where are you from?” makes much more sense. Jesus doesn’t answer Pilate’s question, which prompts Pilate to say that he possessed authority over Jesus. In light of the question of Jesus’ identity as either a divine agent or as a divine being himself, this statement also makes so much sense. Pilate saw his authority as coming from Rome, not only from the political power over the region but also from the Roman gods. Remember, Caesar, the leader or king of the empire, was worshipped as a god by the Romans. How does Jesus respond? He essentially says that Pilate’s authority is only given by the God of the heavens, the God of Israel. We see this from Daniel chapter 2 - the God of Israel has complete authority over all human authority and the authority of the gods of the nations. Jesus says the Jews, the ones who should be rightly venerating and honoring their God as supreme among all other authority, are guilty of the greater sin. Why? Because they aren’t doing that at all here. They are actually dishonoring their God and pledging their allegiance to Rome. Pilate sought to release Jesus because of this, but what happens? The Jews bring up Caesar, the leader of the Roman empire who was worshipped as a god, and say “if you release Him, you’re not Caesar’s friend”, and also they say “we have no king but Caesar!” This is ultimately blasphemy against God. Israel was called to have no other gods before Yahweh. They were to be the nation of priests that worship Yahweh alone and honor Him as the king over all, and now the leadership is saying that their loyalty is to Caesar, not only the leader of Rome but also one of the gods of the Romans. How painful and tragic is this statement? They most certainly had consigned themselves to the fierceness of God’s judgment and the curses of the covenant. Check out this quote from James Stalker:
“We have no king but Cæsar.” What a word to come from the representatives of a nation to which pertained “the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the service of God and the promises!” It was the renouncement of their birthright, the abandonment of their destiny.
James Stalker, The trial and death of Jesus Christ: a devotional history of Our Lord’s passion (p. 113).
Well as I conclude today’s episode, I want to review the sequence of events we’ve been looking at from Episode 134 until now. First, it’s Thursday night, and Jesus is escorted from the Garden by the Romans and the Temple guards to the house of Annas where He is held briefly. Only John records this. Then, Jesus is escorted to the house of Caiaphas. Caiaphas didn’t know what Jesus was going to be like, so he sizes Him up to get material to indict Him before the rest of the council. Only John records this as well. And third, Jesus appears before some of the Sanhedrin in the late night or early morning hours of Friday according to our reckoning. Matthew and Mark record this, Luke just mentions it briefly, and John doesn’t say anything about it at all. Fourth, Jesus appears before the full Sanhedrin at daybreak on Friday morning. Matthew and Mark only mention this, and Luke records a more full account for us. Fifth, Jesus is led to Pilate in the Praetorium. And sixth, Jesus is delivered by Pilate to Herod. And lastly, seventh, Jesus is delivered back to Pilate for scourging and then to be crucified.
In the next episode, we’ll look at the road to the cross. We’ll see once again how the Gospels complement one another in the telling of the details. Be sure to spend some time meditating on this scene. If you want to go back and watch any of the past episodes in this series, find them all on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, see you next time.