Punishing The Innocent and Powerful John 19:1-16
Today we begin John 19 and watch our Lord Jesus take the punishment for sin. At the end of John 18, Barabbas was granted his freedom in a prisoner exchange in which the Son of God was condemned to die. Look at John 19:1-16:
“So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck Him with their hands. 4 Pilate then went out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him." 5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, "Behold the Man!" 6 Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him."
7 The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God." 8 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, 9 and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, "Where are You from?" But Jesus gave him no answer.
10 Then Pilate said to Him, "Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?" 11 Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (most likely referring to the high priest, Caiaphas)
12 From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar." 13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" 15 But 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!" 16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.”
Pilate’s Role in Jesus’ Atonement
Pilate obviously was a man prone to follow popular opinion: By the law and in his own heart he could find no fault in Jesus, and yet he freed Barabbas and he proceeded to scourge Jesus and subjected the Innocent Son of the Father to the merciless ridicule and relentless torture by the Roman soldiers. We see that Pilate plays an important and ironic role in Jesus’ atonement. God sovereignly used Pilate to accomplish His Divine and Perfect Will in order to bring Jesus to the cross as the sacrifice for our sin.
Pilate’s insistence of Jesus’ guiltlessness is part of the witness of Jesus’ innocence. Remember that the only way that Jesus could atone for the sins of man would be if He were without guilt. Many had accused Jesus of breaking the Law, of claiming that He was God, (which of course He was!), of not honoring the Sabbath (but the Sabbath was His Creation-He was Lord of the Sabbath), and on and on, but Pilate could find no fault in Him. Pilate was at fault for not letting Jesus go, but Pilate actually insisted on Jesus’ innocence.
Pilate had asked the question, “What is truth?” in John 18:38 and then confessed for the first time that he could find no fault in Jesus; in essence, Pilate was not even “true” to himself when he relented to the pressure of the Jews and proceeded to punish the innocent Lord Jesus. We usually think of a ruler abusing or misusing his authority when he reaches outside of the law (as our leaders have done repeatedly without being checked), but Pilate misused his power and authority by NOT USING IT when he should have.
Ironically, Pilate referred to Jesus as “the King of the Jews” to the end. This is unusual, and we can only surmise that he was trying to persuade the Jews to change their mind concerning Jesus’ demise, but according to God’s Divine Plan, they would not change their minds because their hearts were hardened toward God’s promised Messiah, even though the evidence was undeniable that Jesus was the Christ sent from Heaven to redeem them.
Jesus’ punishment for sin
Jesus’ punishment for sin began before the Cross. The scourging that the Innocent One endured at the hands of sinful Roman centurions often resulted in death. Many criminals did not have to concern themselves with the cross because the scourging with whips which had metal or bone fragments attached, tore the flesh off of the bodies of the guilty. Often times bodily organs were also torn or damaged by the merciless beatings. Blood loss was great and coupled with the horrific pain, greatly weakened the individual.
Verse 2 tells us: “The soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck Him with their hands.” Although the purple robe was placed on Jesus to humiliate Him, the crown of thorns and the pummeling by the Roman torturers was to inflict as much pain as possible upon a human being.
Isaiah 53:5 prophesied the things which the suffering servant of God would endure: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” All of that which Jesus endured before the cross as well as the suffering ON the cross was to pay the price for our sin…for our iniquities…NOT so that we would be healed physically. The scourging that Jesus endured, the STRIPES that He endured was to bring us forgiveness and peace with God; the punishment He righteously endured was to pay for our sins!
We must be grateful that Jesus endured all of this torment without retaliation toward His tormentors. The mockery, along with everything else which Jesus endured, did not push Jesus to sin. He patiently, humbly and obediently endured to the end so that He might provide the only remedy for our sins. I find it amazing that Jesus still can converse and reply with coherency and with authority.
God’s sovereign authority in man’s wickedness
Jesus acknowledges God’s sovereign authority in man’s wickedness concerning His suffering at the hands of the Jewish leaders and that of Pilate. In a very real way, Jesus exercised His Kingship by submitting to suffering because it was His Father’s Will to do so. Remember that this is the “hour” Jesus has anticipated throughout His ministry, and probably lifetime. Jesus brings redemption for sinners through His suffering and sacrifice, unlike any other earthly king. Earthly kings would triumph when their subjects gave their lives for the king, but Jesus gives His life so that His followers would have eternal life.
All along, the soldiers and Pilate mocked Jesus’ Kingship, not realizing Jesus’ true identity. Remember that even if the whole world will deny the truth of Jesus, if would not change the truth of who He is and what He has done for those who will believe and trust Him.
God used the evil hearts and deeds of the authority figures to accomplish redemption. He used the evil of Judas, Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate in order to bring condemnation upon the innocent. Jesus lived His life perfectly in every way and suffered the death of the worst criminal, but it was God’s plan from before all eternity that it would go exactly as planned with no “plan B’s” along the way. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were in complete agreement before all time, and that is why Jesus could say to Pilate: "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” This is the power of our Great God…and Jesus continues to testify to God’s greatness all the way to the cross.
At the end of Jesus’ so-called “trial”, Pilate would still announce Jesus as “King of the Jews,” but he did not believe what he was saying, and he definitely did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah King. Isn’t that the way of many today who say that they “believe in Jesus”? They may claim they “know” Jesus, but they certainly do not know Him as Prophet, Priest and King. They do not believe the WORDS of Jesus, they do not accept His sacrifice for sin on their behalf, and they have not relinquished the rule of their hearts and lives to Him; even as the Jews said in verse15: “We have no king but Caesar!” People look to rule of earthly kings but not to the Heavenly King.
Verse 16 reads: “Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.” I cannot imagine what was in the mind of Jesus as He was led away, but I am ever so thankful that He was resolved to complete the purpose for which He left His Heavenly rule.
Praise you, Lord Jesus, for the sacrifice of your life, so that we might be forever forgiven, and for the promise of eternal future grace!
I. Pilate plays an important and ironic role in Jesus’ atonement.
A. Pilate’s insistence of Jesus’ guiltlessness witnesses to Jesus’ innocence.
B. Pilate was not “true” to himself but relented to the pressure of the Jews: He misused his power by not exercising it.
C. Pilate referred to Jesus as “the King of the Jews” to the end.
II. Jesus’ punishment for sin began before the Cross.
A. The Innocent One was scourged for our sin. (Isa 53:5)
B. The mockery Jesus endured did not push Jesus to sin.
III. Jesus acknowledges God’s sovereign authority in man’s wickedness.
A. Jesus exercised His Kingship by submitting to suffering because it was His Father’s Will to do so.
B. The soldiers mocked Jesus’ Kingship not realizing Jesus’ true identity.
C. God used the evil hearts and deeds of the authority figures to accomplish redemption: "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”
D. Pilate would announce Jesus as “King of the Jews” but did not believe.