The Crucifixion of Jesus: Part I
John 18:28 – 19:16
A. Jesus Delivered up to Pilate
Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early;
and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled;
but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out unto them, and said,
What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If
he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then
said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The
Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That
the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he
1. The Hypocrisy of Those Who Would Not Defile Themselves
The hypocrisy of the Jews who brought Jesus to Pilate is almost inconceivable to
the rational mind. They refused to enter the courtroom of the gentile governor "lest they
should be defiled." According to the Mishnah, "The dwelling-places of gentiles are
unclean" (Ohol. 18:7). They wanted to be able to "eat the passover" later that day. They
would not stand in the same house with a Roman procurator but such hatred boiled in
their own heart that they intended to murder the One who was to be the true Passover.
However, the same hypocrisy can be seen today. There are white men who sit at
the Lord's Supper but refuse to eat the Passover bread with black women. There are
holiness believers who wear only outdated clothes but condemn all Baptists to hell. There
are Pentecostals who speak with other tongues but will not dance with a charismatic.
There are church members who shout in every revival service but will not share the
chalice with a Catholic. Such is the hypocrisy of hatred of those "who will not defile
2. The Unreasonableness of Hatred
When Pilate asked the Jews concerning their accusations the emotion of hatred
turned them into an unreasonable mob. Instead of bringing forth a charge as was required
by law they simply retorted, "If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered
him up unto thee." There is no reason to this chiding response. Where is the indictment?
Only their hatred responds!
Such is the universal unreasonableness of hatred. Why do the Muslim hate the
Jews? Why do the Jews hate the Palestinians? Why do the contra hate the Sandinistas?
Why do the Mexicans hate the gringoes? Why do the Americans hate the Iraqis? Why do
northerners hate southerners? Why do Protestants hate Catholics? Why do the Hatfields
hate the McCoys? Why do the rich hate the poor? Why do the learned hate the illiterate?
Why do the sober hate the drunk? Why do the straight hate the gay? No hatred is
3. The Sin of Politics
The political expediency of Pilate is easily seen from the very beginning of these
proceedings. When they would not come into the judgment hall he went out to them.
When they brought no accusations he nevertheless assented that they could judge Him by
their own law. When they insisted that Jesus be tried by Roman law in order that he could
be put to death by crucifixion he returned to the courtroom to make legal inquisition.
There is no doubt that all was done for political motives.
Within itself the word "politics" is amoral. Coming from the Greek word POLIS
(a city), in its pure form according to Webster it means "Prudent and sagacious" and
refers mainly to "the policies and aims of a government of a nation or state." However, in
its extended meaning pertaining to political affairs it came to mean "the plotting or
scheming of those seeking personal power, glory, position, or the like" (p. 737).
If a Christian is able to participate in the running of governmental programs or
agencies in a manner that (s)he can freely act by his/her own conscience, both the
individual and the city/state/country will be blessed. However, when the scheming for
either popular acclaim or ballot votes drives a person to act simply according to the
desires of the majority, rather than according to right or wrong, then we must beware lest
we join the mob who clamors for the Lord's crucifixion.
Neither should we think that this principle is limited to the actions of the world.
The same can be said for the church. We should always be aware that the majority vote
does not mean something is either right or wrong. It is just as gross a sin – if not more so
– to follow a majority of Christians into error as it is to follow a majority of sinners into
Therefore, "politics in the church" should be clearly defined. As long as we have
church polity, of necessity we will have church politics. Within itself this is amoral –
neither good nor bad. However, the moment the Christian begins to base his/her actions
simply on the desires and/or reaction of the majority of people – and does not consider
whether an issue is right or wrong – then politics in the church takes on the same evil
character as the politics of Pilate who accommodated the cries of the accusing Jews.
B. Jesus Examined Before Pilate
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto
him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of
thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own
nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this
world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews:
but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a
king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born,
and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.
Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again
unto the Jew, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a
custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I
release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this
man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
1. Pilate's First Question and the Lord's Answer (vv. 33, 34)
During Pilate's dialogue with the crowd, in addition to saying that He was an
evildoer, some had shouted that Jesus claimed to be a king (see John 19:12). "We found
this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he
himself is Christ a King" (Luke 23:2). Hearing this, Pilate returned to the praetorium to
see if this were true.
Jesus answered with a question of His own, "Are you asking this because you
really think this is true? Or, are you simply saying what you have heard from those in the
chaotic mob?" The intent of the question was to draw Pilate back to the main purpose of
his own inquisition, rather than to be sidetracked by what someone had hollered from the
2. Pilate's Second Question and the Lord's Answer (vv. 35, 36)
The Lord's first answer evidently caught Pilate by complete surprise. Suddenly, he
finds himself not only being interrogated by the accused but he also feels a compulsion to
answer this unique captive standing bound before him. "Am I a Jew? Your own people
and the chief priests have delivered you over to me!" Nevertheless, Pilate does return to
his duty as an adjudicator and specifically inquires, "What have you done?"
Jesus responds by explaining that his kingdom is not one that comes from this
world. If His were an earthly kingdom then his fo llowers would have taken up arms and
fought when the Jews came to arrest Him. "But now," since there had been no fighting,
no rebellion, no bloodshed, it can be seen that "my kingdom is not from here."
3. Pilate's Third Question and the Lord's Answer (v. 37)
Since Jesus had not denied that he was a king – he had said only that his kingdom
was not of this world – then Pilate pressed for an answer. It's difficult to translate the
idiomatic expression OUKOUN in English. Rienecker says it is "an augmentative particle
seeking a definite answer" and quotes Barrett's translation, "very well; so you are a
king?" (page 257).
However, Jesus will not allow Pilate to put words into his own mouth. He insists,
"You are the one that is saying that I am a king." If it could have been proven that Jesus
Himself claimed to be a king in the same way that he was being accused by the mob then
He would have laid Himself open to the criminal charges of sedition. Therefore, He
succinctly asserts, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world,
THAT I SHOULD BEAR WITNESS UNTO THE TRUTH. Every one that is of the truth
heareth my voice."
4. Pilate's Fourth Question and the Lord's Acquittal (vv. 38-40)
Jesus' reply evoked another impulsive question from Pilate, "What is truth?"
However, he did not expect, nor did he give Jesus an opportunity for, an answer. Instead,
he returned to the open courtyard and declared to the Jews, "I find in him no fault at all."
He then reminded them of the custom of releasing a prisoner at the time of Passover and
asked, "Will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?"
This preliminary verdict of innocence – along with referring to the prisoner as
"King of the Jews" – elicited an outrage from the throng. They literally screamed for the
release of Barabbas, a known robber, instead of Jesus.
It is noteworthy that after his careful examination according to the dictates of
official Roman law, Pilate insists on three separate occasions, "I find no fault in him"
(John 18:38; 19:4 and 19:6). Jesus was totally exonerated from any and all charges
brought against Him.
C. Jesus Tortured and Ridiculed by Pilate
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a
crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and
said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore
went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye
may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of
thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When
the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify
him, crucify him.
1. The Scourging
Scourging was itself a very cruel practice that many times caused the death of the
victim. Leon Morris gives a vivid description. "Scourging was a brutal affair. It was
inflicted by a whip of several thongs, each of which was loaded with pieces of bone or
metal. It could make pulp of a man's back" (page 790).
2. The Mockery
Once the humiliation was initiated by Pilate the attending soldiers began to scorn
the very idea that the man before them could even possibly be considered to be a king.
Having fashioned a mock crown out of some thorny branches they set it upon his head,
clothed him with a purple robe, jeeringly feigned to proclaim him as king and smote him
with their hands.
3. "Behold the Man
Pilate came again to the crowd and announced the second time that he could find
no fault with the accused. He then paraded Jesus before them in a mockery of royal attire
and proclaimed, "Behold the man!" We are not told exactly what Pilate's motives were.
Some have suggested that he thought that by such open ridicule the crowd would be
appeased by the lesser punishment and Jesus would be allowed to go free.
However, such "token punishment" would never placate the enraged crowd. With
even more fury they yelled, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!"
The flagrant injustice of Pilate's actions cannot be missed. He has already
declared that he can find no fault in Him. Two more times he will make the same
declaration. Nevertheless, he personally ordered that the innocent prisoner be scourged;
he at least allowed, if he did not actually direct, the soldiers to lampoon the innocent
victim as a king; and he paraded the Lord in a travesty of royal apparel before a
D. Jesus Sentenced by Pilate
Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.
The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because
he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was
the more afraid; and went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus,
Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him,
Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee,
and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at
all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered
me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from henceforth Pilate sought to release
him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's
friend: who soever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. When Pilate
therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment
seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it
was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto
the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him,
crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests
answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto
them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
1. "Take Ye Him" (John 19:6b-8)
Having been convinced of the innocence of Jesus Pilate was now determined not
to have anything to do with his death. Therefore he tells the crowd that if He is to be
crucified, they will have to be the ones who will take Him and crucify Him because He
can find no fault in him.
The Jews replied that according to their law He must die because "he made
himself the Son of God." When Pilate heard of Jesus' claim to be the Son of God he
became even more frightened and returned yet again to the hall of judgment in order to
question the Galilean.
2. "Whence Art Thou? (John 19:9-11)
When Pilate asked Him, "Whence art thou?" the Lord would not answer, probably
because He knew that this had absolutely nothing to do with trial proceedings. It was
incredible to Pilate that the prisoner would not answer the man that had the power to
sentence Him to death or to set Him free.
But now Jesus speaks, reminding Pilate that he really would have no power at all
except it had been given to him from above. Therefore, the one who had the greater sin in
the whole matter was not Pilate, but the one who had delivered the Lord over to Pilate –
that is, Caiaphas the High Priest.
3. "Caesar's Friend" (John 19:12-13)
This reply by the Lord caused Pilate to try even more to release Him. However,
the throng now charged that if he let the prisoner go he was no friend of Caesar's because
anyone who would make himself a king would in effect be speaking aga inst Caesar. This
was enough to persuade the vacillating Pilate to be seated on the raised seat of judgment
in order to pronounce the final verdict.
4. "Behold Your King" (John 19:14-16)
At this point John inserts two notes that at first place seem to be contradictory to
the Synoptics: (1) he said, "it was the preparation of the Passover" and (2) that it was
"about the sixth hour." Since it is said that Jesus had already observed the Passover the
previous evening, it seems that the temple leaders observed a different calendar from the
one observed by the common people. So while the Lord and His disciples had followed
the more popular tradition of the Essenes and observed the Passover the previous
evening, the chief priests and leaders would be observing the feast later on the same day
the Lord was crucified.
Concerning the time, Mark says "it was the third hour, and they crucified him"
(Mark 15:25) while John says here it was "about the sixth hour." It is possible that John
used the Roman and Mark the Hebrew computation of time.
After Pilate said, "Behold your King," the people again cried, "Away! Away!
Crucify him!" When Pilate asks them a final time, "Shall I crucify your king?" they
answered, "We have no king but Caesar. With this Pilate delivered Jesus to them to be
crucified and they took him away.
Pontius Pilate stands forth as a representative picture of every man or woman
"unto whom is delivered Jesus of Nazareth." Regardless of what the crowd of mankind
may say each person has within his/her own soul the power to render a judgment. Who is
this man that the world cannot ignore? Who is this man that early in the week comes
riding into the city and is honored with shouts of Hosanna; and at the end of the week
stands before a jeering mob and meekly listens to the mockery of His kingship? Unto
each of us He is delivered and we must render a verdict.
To each one He is brought for careful examination. "Art thou the King of the
Jews?" we might all ask. To which question He replies, "Do you ask this of yourself, or
did others tell it thee of me?" We cannot escape by pushing the decision off on others.
Others will have their own opinions. But every soul must individually determine, "Is He
the King?" Is He the King of my life? Does He rule and reign within my own heart, or is
this just a rumor I have heard from the roaring crowd of humanity?
After examination, those who do not accept the Lord's Kingship present Him to
the world in a mockery of His Royalty. If He is not King of my life
then He is a pitiful travesty of deity. I face the same choice as Pilate. I either crown Him
and worship Him as the Lord of Heaven and earth, or, I parade Him before the jeering
throng with my false accolades, "I find no fault in this man!" Either He is the true King to
be worshipped, or He is a parody to be ridiculed, scourged and scorned.
Finally, not only is Jesus delivered unto each of us, and each one must personally
examine Him, and we either crown Him or mock Him; but also, like Pilate, each of us
pronounces a sentence of judgment upon Him. It was our sin which sent Him to the cross.
If we accept Him and His death as a sacrifice for our own sins then we are proclaiming
our faith in Him as the Son of God who did not sin.
On the other hand, if we reject Him and His death as a sacrifice for our own sins,
then we join the railing mob in charging that it was for His own transgressions that He
died. Thus it is that to reject His Kingship is to sentence Him to be crucified in vain.
Like Pilate, we may proclaim with our tongues again and again, "I find no fault
with this man!" We may write in three different languages and hang a sign from the cross
which reads, "JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS." But unless we go
before the seat of judgment and bow before His sovereign sceptre of righteousness, we
are simply delivering Him to the masses who scream, "Away with Him! Away with Him!
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