Summary: A look at the response of the centurion and Pilate as they see him and examine him.
March 21, 2012 Two Romans
John 18:28-29 Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
Matthew 27:54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
In 1054 the church split partly over the adding of a simple phrase in the Nicene Creed. It used to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and the West decided to add the phrase AND THE SON. It’s true and biblical, but the West added it without consulting with the East, and so the East became angry. With that and several other items of contention, the East and West ultimately broke off from each other in what was known as the Great Schism. This sounds incredulous to most today, because people just don’t get that worked up over doctrine any more. It has gotten to the point where people say, “Christian, Muslim, Jewish, they all go back to Abraham – so what’s the big difference?”
I would rather have people passionately disagree rather than to not care at all. Sometimes I will go through a Bible Information Class and the person will ask no questions; show no emotion; just let me do all the talking. That makes me nervous. It makes me wonder if they even care. I think that either I’m not teaching very well or they’re just not getting it, because the Word of God was never meant to be treated in such a manner. Either get on your knees and call Him Lord or shake your fist at Him and spit at Him; but don’t just sit there indifferently and act like this is a Math class. The book of Revelation quotes Jesus as saying, I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (3:15-16)
Today we are looking at two different responses to who Jesus is by the Romans, one being the Governor Pontius Pilate and the other being the Centurion at the foot of the cross. Neither are indifferent by any means. They are not yawns.
Look at Two Responses of the Romans to the Jesus Question
I. The Roman Governor’s Response
Pilate wanted to ignore Jesus. He told the Jews, “Judge him yourself according to your law.” Usually they would, but the sentence they were seeking wasn’t within their jurisdiction. There were other times in Jesus’ ministry where they didn’t seem to be shy about throwing him off of a cliff or trying to stone Him to death, but the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to do more than that. They wanted to publicly humiliate Him. They wanted everyone to see Him be crucified as a criminal. This kind of death penalty was beyond their power; they needed permission and help. It had to be carried out by the Romans who had specially developed it as a message of shame and intimidation to anyone who wanted to mess with them. So they forced Pilate to look at Jesus.
God allowed this, for this was always meant to be a public trial. Let’s spell it out. Jesus’ death wasn’t ever meant to be just the death of Jesus at the hands of the Jews; as a personal family squabble between the Jews and their King. Neither was it just a battle between the church and her God. It was also meant to be a battle between the government and its true King. Jesus doesn’t just stand on trial before the church or before His family; He also was meant to stand before the government and be its enemy as well. This was meant to be a global death. God wanted everyone to see it and remember it. Think of the videos we’ve seen of 9-11 and the burning of the David Koresh compound. Those were bad and memorable deaths that still bring about anger. But this was meant to be worse; meant to be seared into human consciousness for all times and in all places.
Pilate wanted to ignore Jesus and not make any judgment on Him, but Jesus was too big for that. His death was always meant to be confrontationally seen. Even today, crosses are regularly found all over the world. Like it or not, people see it. When Mel Gibson made the “Passion” a few years back people were confronted with the violence of the cross. Many objected, supposedly because they said it would make people violent toward the Jews. They didn’t understand the Passion. Mel Gibson purposely put his hand on the nail which went into Jesus’ hand. The Greeks were there too. It was meant to confront all of us with the fact that we were all involved in Jesus’ death. Even if we’re not Jews, and even if we’re not involved in the government, we are all a part of the family of humanity. God wants us all to see Him and make a judgment on Him.