Lesson 119: Pilate's Final Sentence / On the Way to the Cross
Luke 23:17-32, John 18:38-39, 19:1-22
A Blending of The.Four Gospel Records. Welcome! Welcome! This is lesson #119. Our last .lesson ended with the release of Barabbas, somewhere in the middle of the so-called trial of Jesus, with Jesus before Pilate. As a way of reviewing our last lesson, let's read a few more verses in the book of Luke. The reference is Luke ch. 23. We read before Luke 23:13-16. So, we'll begin reading now with Luke 23:17 and read down to v.25. Are you ready? Beginning in Luke 23:17, it starts with a parenthesis. "(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) And they cried out all atonce, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: (Who for a certain sedition made in. the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified: and the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will." Jesus was tried, if one might call it that, without the benefit of a lawyer or a jury. Roman citizens were permitted to appeal their case to Caesar, i.e. the Roman Emperor if they felt their condemnation was unjust; but, Jesus was not a Roman citizen. When Jesus was arrested in the garden he was not told by what authority he was arrested, which I understand the law required. Mr. Wingo called it a "capture" instead of an arrest. Jesus was not informed of the charges for which he was tried, as a matter of fact the Jewish leaders couldn't even agree on a charge. The Roman judge found Jesus innocent of the false charges that were made. Pilate announced his decision and his finding as innocent. Notice in the section we read, v.22, Luke said, "he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him..." Some think that Pilate thought he might persuade the leaders to compromise at that point and release Jesus when Pilate said: "I will chastise him, and let him go." But, notice v.23, "they were INSTANT with LOUD voices, REQUIRING that he might be crucified..." Pilate had expressed his judgment three times; yet, he gave in and allowed his soldiers to crucify Jesus. The very soldiers that had been placed in his charge to see that justice was done and justice was carried out, these very soldiers were used as political pawns to "CONTENT" the people.
Let's read some more from the book of John, ch. 18. We stopped reading in the middle of John 18:38 before. Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" We talked about that. Let's begin with the second sentence in v.38 and read down through John 19:16. Are you ready? Beginning in John 18:38. "And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, 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. 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. 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 thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever 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." Did you notice that in addition to being a leader of a seditious mob and murder; v.40 said that Barabbas was a robber? Each of the writers give a little different aspect of the so-called trial. So, try to pull it all tog-ether now. It would appear that Pilate was possibly walking around and conversing with the Jewish leaders during part of these comments, maybe in and out. You will recall that Pilate WENT OUT TO THEM, John 18:28-29, so they would not be polluted for the passover. Pilate accommodated them by condoning their hypocrisy. But, in the end, I get the impression there was some Roman formality that the king went through. Thus, after Pilate had wrangled with the Jewish leaders in a sort of informal way; he ultimately went to his throne or bench to carry out his formal act of sentencing, or making it legal, so-to-speak. Here John identifies the place very precisely, by giving us the word for the place in two languages. That's probably the idea in v.13, "Pilate...sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement..." Notice the little twist that is recorded in v.7-11. The Jewish leaders had given Pilate this stuff about Jesus making himself a king and trying to give Pilate competition was the implication. They said, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ the king." (That's Luke 23:2). But, here in John 19:7, they sort of let the cat out of the bag. They said, "We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God." In other words, Pilate caught on real quick, what they were really wanting, was for Pilate to enforce the Jewish law, i.e. as they were perverting it. V.8 said that when Pilate heard that, "he was the more afraid" and he went back in to talk to Jesus about that; but, Jesus wouldn't answer Pilate, which amazed Pilate the more. Then in v.12, "from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him..." Pilate had earlier proceeded with his recommendation of scourging Jesus and letting him go, that's the first part of ch. 19. It might be said in Pilate's defense that he made every effort to release Jesus short of defying the Jewish leaders; but that he wouldn't do. His allegiance to politics and CONTENTING the Jewish leaders was too great. The Jewish leaders knew Pilate's political weakness and his vulnerable point. They said in v.12, "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend." In other words they were warning Pilate that if they didn't get their way on this one, they would complain to Caesar. I get the impression that carried a lot of weight with Pilate. That was the whip that brought him in line with the desire of the Jews. So, when he went to his bench and made the formal announcement, "Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified." (v.16). Pilate wanted to be right; but, he didn't want to be right more than he wanted to be governor. So, Pilate was Jesus' only EARTHLY hope of acquittal and Pilate sold out to the Jewish leaders. Pilate wanted to reserve for himself a place in history, and he did. Did you notice in v.14 that after the apostle John identified the place, John identified the day and the time of day. Friday was referred to as the day of preparation, i.e. getting prepared for the sabbath day, or Saturday. The "preparation of the passover" would be like saying a Friday on the passover. It is my understanding that in AD 33, the passover fell on a Friday. The passover could fall on any day of the week, because you will remember, it was tabulated by the position of the moon and not by days of the week. When John said the sixth hour, he must have been counting time as the Romans counted time, i.e. 6 AM. According to the Jewish count, the sixth hour would have been noon. But, noon does not accord with the other writers as we shall see.
It amazes us in the days of red tape and bureaucracy when prisoners sometimes stay on death row for decades; that such a startling thing could have been done so quickly. From the time Jesus was captured in the garden until he was put on the cross was about nine hours. It would appear Jesus was on the cross in a matter of minutes after Pilate sold out. Let's continue our reading in John for a few more verses. We'll begin in John 19:17 and read down through v.22. "And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him, and two others with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews; for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priest of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written." In other words, Pilate refused to change what was written to accommodate their point of view. It was apparently a common practice for the Romans to put a sign on all crosses indicating the reason for crucifixion. The sign was made by the soldiers, no doubt, with Pilate dictating the message. This was done immediately after Pilate gave the sentence, before the soldiers left for Golgotha. No one is sure where that place is today. John said it was close to the city in v.20. I'm sure I don't have to prompt your imagination for you to visualize Jesus starting for Golgotha carrying his own cross as is indicated in v.17. Besides Jesus there were two others. John simply says, "two others." But, we learn later the two others were thieves, possibly part of Barabbas1 crew, since Barabbas was the leader and he is referred to as a robber (v.40).
Let's back up and take a few verses from Luke. We'll start reading in Luke 23:26. We'll read down to v.32. If you've got that we'll read beginning in Luke 23:26. "And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? And there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death." It would appear that as they got to the city gate, i.e. departing the city, the procession led by the soldiers, met a man named Simon. It is very probable that Jesus may have fell or was faltering with the cross, that's not said, really. This indicates, first, the cross must have been very heavy. Second, we are reminded of the fact that Jesus had been up over 24 hours and had eat nothing since the night before. Thirdly, Jesus had undergone terrible insulting treatment and much physical abuse during the so-called scourging, slapping, hit with a reed, the crown of thorns, etc. He must have been bleeding and his body was probably simply weakened to the point he couldn't carry the cross any farther.
Notice, Simon was coming out of the country, i.e. INTO the city. Having the name Simon, he was most likely a Jew; but Luke points out he was a Cyrenian, i.e. he was from the city of Cyrene. That's not on your map. The city was located in Cyrenica which is the same-as or very near what we would call Lybia today, in North Africa, west of Egypt. The city bordered on the Mediterranean sea and a large colony of Jews lived there at the time of Christ. They even maintained a synagogue in Jerusalem. I learn this in Acts 6:9. Simon was most likely a Jew that came to Jerusalem for the passover. Some think he was a black man, being from Africa, and THAT caused the soldiers to select him to carry Jesus' cross. But, I doubt that theory. The Roman law permitted soldiers to require ordinary citizens to do certain tasks in certain emergency cases and it apparently didn't have to be much of an emergency for the soldiers to take advantage of that law. Jesus apparently made reference to that law in the sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:41) when Jesus said: "whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." Whether Simon carried the cross or just carried one end of it we are not told. But, at any rate, Simon carried the cross against his will. Then try to get a good fix on Luke 23:27, "there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him." A large crowd and the women were weeping loudly. Jesus turned and spoke to the women. Now, what was it that Jesus told these women in v. 28-31? Jesus told them not to weep for him but to weep for themselves and their children. He referred to some great calamity in the future that these woman would experience — and their children (v.28). Jesus probably had reference to the time when the Romans would destroy the city of Jerusalem; that we talked about in Matt. ch. 24, Mark ch. 13, and Luke ch. 21, i.e. the war of AD 70. Jesus said in Matt. 24:21, "then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." And you will recall that Jesus pointed out on that occasion it would be especially difficult for women with little children. Jesus said here in v.30 that some would wish the mountains would fall on them, the tribulation would be so great. V.31 is a figurative statement about the green tree and the dry tree; but, I'm a little leery of trying to tell you what it means. Iwould assume that Jesus was saying that if they treated him so vile at a time when the Jewish nation was supposedly thriving; what would they do to those women and their children in the next generation after the nation had completely dried up, many years after God had removed his name from the temple, that desolate house of the Jews as Jesus called it in Matt. 23:38. Time's up! Until our next lesson, have a good day.