Away With Him, Away With Him!
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
Preached in PCC Worship Service, 5 November 2017
Part 2 of 3

John 18:28-19:16 unfolds in six scenes. They are as follows:

·  Scene 1: Pilate questions the prosecution (18:28-32)

·  Scene 2: Pilate questions Jesus (18:33-38)

·  Scene 3: Pilate questions the crowd (18:39-40)

·  Scene 4: Pilate presents a beaten Jesus to the crowd (19:1-8)

·  Scene 5: Pilate questions Jesus again (19:9-11)

·  Scene 6: Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd again and hands Him over for crucifixion (19:12-16)  

In our previous article, we looked at scenes 1 and 2. In this article, we will consider scenes 3 to 5.

Scene 3: 
Pilate Questions the Crowd 
(Jn 18:39-40)

Now if Pilate had been truly a man of integrity and justice, he would have released Jesus at this point and dismissed the Jewish authorities for both he and Herod had found Jesus faultless. But Pilate was not that kind of man. Instead, he tried to strike a compromise with the Jews – a compromise that would allow him to release Jesus and at the same time avoid a riot by the Jewish crowds.

And so he appealed to the custom of releasing a criminal at that season of the year. He asked the Jews if they would like him to release to them the King of the Jews. He called Jesus by that title “King of the Jews” probably because that would both antagonize the Jewish authorities, whom he didn’t like, as well as satisfy the Jewish crowds, whom he thought still supported Jesus. In Pilate’s mind, the Jewish authorities were trying to kill Jesus because they were jealous of Him and hated Him for drawing the crowds to Himself. Little did he expect that the Jewish crowds would turn against Jesus and support their own leaders! 

Verse 40 records the response of all the Jews, both the leaders and the people. The other gospel writers tell us that at the instigation of the chief priests and elders, the whole crowd said, “Not this man, but Barabbas.” John adds the words, “Now Barabbas was a robber.” Barabbas was a real criminal. He was a robber, an insurrectionist and a murderer, or what we today might call a terrorist.

Now Pilate was in trouble! His plan had back fired. The Jews were asking for the release of one who was really guilty of treason, and calling for the execution of a man who was really innocent of the charge. Surely even Pilate could not have failed to notice the irony of the situation. But Pilate was in no mood to sit down and enjoy the ironic drama that was unfolding before him. He had a real serious situation on hand and such a situation called for drastic action.

This brings us to scene 4, where Pilates presents a beaten Jesus to the crowd.

Scene 4: 
Pilate Presents a Beaten Jesus 
to the Crowd 
(Jn 19:1-8)

Verse 1 says, “Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.” Now this verse would make perfect sense if it were preceded by the words, “And Pilate found Jesus guilty.” But that was not so. Rather, Pilate’s order for Jesus to be whipped is actually preceded by the words, “I find no fault in him at all.” Christ was punished for no fault of His. What a severe breach of justice! What an unfair and cruel treatment of an innocent man. But much more than just a tragic and ironic event in human history, the scriptures teach us that Christ experienced such treatment on behalf of His people. Isaiah 53:5 tells us that he was wounded for our transgressions and with his stripes we are healed.

But more irony follows in verses 2-3. The soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head and they give him a purple robe – purple being the colour of royalty. They even kneeled down before him and said in a mocking way, “Hail, king of the Jews.” They then smote him with their palms. The other gospels tell us that they spat on him. But the truth of the matter was that He was indeed the King of the Jews. In fact, He was the King of the whole universe! And so the actions of the Roman soldiers stood in stark and ironic contrast to fact. 

Verses 4 and 5 tell us what Pilate did after Jesus had been subjected to the cruel punishment and torture of the soldiers. “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!”

So Pilate again goes out to the Jews but this time, he brings with him the badly bruised and battered Jesus all arrayed in mock kingly apparel. He then told the Jewish crowd again that he found no fault with Him, and said, “Behold the man!”

Pilate’s words are dripping with irony. His purpose of course was to show the people how ridiculous their accusation against Jesus was. “Here is the man that you accuse of treason and of being a king. Look at this poor fellow – harmless, helpless, weak, badly beaten, and looking all pathetic! Surely, he cannot be the dangerous person that you say He is! How can He be? Please, enough of all this nonsense! Stop seeking this poor man’s life. I’ve punished Him enough. Let Him go. He is no threat either to you or to me.”

But let’s just pause and think about the words “Behold the man!” a bit more. Here standing before the crowd is the one and only man in history who is perfect and without any sin or fault whatsoever. Jesus alone qualifies to be called “THE man.” Everyone else from fallen Adam down is less than the perfect man because of sin. In a very real sense, all of us are sub-man or sub-human because we all fall short of God’s standard for man. Jesus alone is the perfect and complete man.

But how does He appear? Not in all His glory and splendor, which He deserves, but in the most shameful and disgraceful way possible. How ironic! But even more than just the one and only perfect man in history, John 1:14 tells us that Jesus is no less than God in human flesh. Pilate presents to the crowds the One who is fully God and fully man. But neither he nor the Jews had the spiritual eyes to see that.

Verse 6, “When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.” The chief priests didn’t fall for Pilate’s ploy. They cried out vehemently for His crucifixion, repeating the verb for emphasis. Pilate then said, “You take him and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.” So for the third time in this narrative, Pilate is described as declaring Jesus faultless.

At this point, the Jewish authorities were desperate as they saw their strategy slipping away from them. Pilate still refused to give in to their demands and so they changed their charge against Jesus. They said, “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” So from a political charge, they move to a religious one. They alluded to Leviticus 24:16 which says that he who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death.

When Pilate heard what they said, he became even more afraid because he was now dealing not just with one who claimed to be a king but with one who claimed to be the Son of God! What was going on?! If this man was really the Son of God, then he was in serious trouble because of how he had treated him!

This brings us to scene 5 where Pilate questions Jesus again in his judgment hall.

Scene 5: 
Pilate Questions Jesus Again 
(Jn 19:9-11)

He said to Jesus, “Where do you come from?” Are you from heaven and thus a divine person? Or are you a mere man who is falsely claiming to be God. But Jesus gave him no answer. Why? We are not told. Perhaps the time for answering such a question was over. Or perhaps He knew that any answer would be useless. Pilate was beyond the point of listening and believing.

But the Lord’s silence only irritated and exasperated him. And so he said in verse 10, “Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” Pilate essentially threatened the Lord and reminded Him of the power that he possessed as the governor, both to crucify Him and to release Him.

Well, the Lord did say something in response to Pilate, not because He was afraid or intimidated by him but in order to teach him and us some important truths. Verse 11, “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.” In this verse, the Lord Jesus teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Pilate may have imagined that he had the final authority and control over the life of Jesus but that was not so. He would not even be in the position that he was currently occupying if God did not sovereignly put him there. The entire turn of events including the betrayal and the accusation of the Sanhedrin against Jesus came about as a result of the sovereign hand of God. 

But this does not mean that human beings have no responsibility for the Lord plainly declares that Pilate was guilty for what he had done and for what he was going to do. That is what the phrase “the greater sin” suggests. Pilate had sinned in that he was willing to compromise justice for the sake of political expediency. Nevertheless, there was one who had committed a greater sin than him and thus bore a greater guilt. Who this person with the greater sin is has been debated. Was it Judas Iscariot or Caiaphas the high priest? It is hard to decide between the two but most probably, Jesus was thinking about Caiaphas since he was the one who had directly handed Him over to Pilate.

But regardless of whether it was Judas or Caiaphas, one thing is certain, that the person who had taken the initiative to have the Lord arrested and eventually brought before Pilate is guilty of a greater sin than Pilate. Furthermore, both Judas and Caiaphas had much more light and knowledge of God’s word than Pilate and to whom much is given, much is required.

This brings us to the sixth and final scene: where Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd again and hands Him over for crucifixion…

… to be continued

—Linus Chua