Wednesday, March 11, 2015
John 19:1-16 continued
We left Pilate in the midst of an awful moral struggle. And we are going to see that Pilate did what we are often tempted to do . . . he tried to avoid making a decision!
When the Jews brought Jesus to him, he tried to hand Him back to them. Check out verse 31 of chapter 18, from last week.
Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own
law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," they objected.
See, that didn't work because they were pushing for the death penalty, and the Jews could not execute anyone unless they had Roman approval. They were forcing Pilate's hand by saying that Jesus had claimed to be a king -- a Roman governor who ignored a claim like that, and then later had to put down a rebellion, would be in hot water with Caesar.
Pilate's second attempt to avoid making a decision happened when he heard that Jesus was from Galilee. Luke 23:7 says:
When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he
sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem a that time.
We know that Herod was gleeful to see Jesus, since he had heard of Him, and he asked to see a miracle. He wanted to be entertained; he wanted Jesus to put on a show for him. Jesus, however, would not answer his questions, so after being abused by Herod's soldiers, Jesus was sent back to Pilate.
What did Pilate do then? He remembered that there was a custom during the Passover in which the Roman governor would allow the people to choose one prisoner to be released. Here was the solution! Surely the prisoner Barabbas was such a low life that they people would choose Jesus instead, and He would go free. But the Jewish leaders were so determined that they led the crowd to call for Barabbas' freedom. Then Pilate was told about his wife's dream.
So he ordered his soldiers to flog Jesus. Ancient documents tell us that the Romans' whips had pieces of bone and shards of metal tied to the ends of each strip of leather. Some people died from the lashings alone. The soldiers mocked and abused Jesus, and dressed Him in a purple robe, forcing the cruel crown of thorns onto His head.
"Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified." What a horrible defeat at the end of this moral struggle.
Pilate did something to try to appease his conscience, which by now was screaming at him. He took a bowl of water and washed his hands, telling the crowd that he was innocent of Jesus' blood. What an answer they gave....sends chills up our spines when we read it, "Let His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:25)
The hand-washing was not a Roman custom, but a Jewish ceremony. In Deuteronomy, the elders were told to do that in the case of an unsolved murder, and publicly declare their innocence. But Pilate was not innocent -- he not only flogged an innocent man, but he also authorized his crucifixion.
Pilate did one thing more to appease his conscience -- he had a sign fastened to the cross which said, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." When the chief priests complained and wanted it changed to simply say that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews, Pilate declined. Wouldn't we love to know what Pilate and Joseph of Armathaea talked about, when Joseph asked for the body of Jesus? Wouldn't we love to have heard the conversations between Pilate and his wife, once the stories of Jesus' resurrection began to fly about the city?
We don't know for sure what happened to Pilate after his moral struggle and defeat. The historian, Josephus, notes that Pilate lost the position of power that he so wanted to hang on to....and his governorship was ended.
In the end, what did Pilate's compromise purchase for him? A couple more years of luxury? I bet they were stress-filled ones, and he didn't rest easily in that luxury. It's been asked what will a man give in exchange for his soul . . . next time we study, we'll try to learn from the mistakes that Pilate made.