A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE
S: Trial of Jesus
Pr: BECAUSE WE ARE FOUNDED ON TRUTH, WE ARE TO ACT JUSTLY.
TS: We will find in our study of John 19.1-16 the process of how Pilate allowed justice to be set aside.
I. PERSECUTION (1-5)
II. APPREHENSION (6-12)
III. VACILLATION (13-16)
PA: How is the change to be observed?
• Treat people fairly
• Fear God
• Stand on the truth
RMBC 25 March 07 AM
ILL Justice (H)
Many of us know that airplanes don’t always depart at their scheduled times. There can be multiple reasons for this happening, including weather and mechanical failures.
One time, there was a long check-in line at the airport, and an air¬line agent was cheerfully directing peo¬ple to other counters for quicker service. When she asked one busi¬nessman his destination, he shouted, "I’m going to Orange County and I’m late! What are you going to do for me?"
The employee took a moment to refer to her chart, so to direct him to the right place. "Oh, great!" the impatient passenger remarked. "I need help, and I get stuck with a blonde."
She kept her eyes on the flight sheet, then looked up at him with a smile. "Oh, my," she sighed. "Ditz that I am, I just can’t think of a single thing to do for you." And she walked away.
The man missed his flight.
1. Sometimes, you get what you deserve.
Sometimes, you don’t want to get what you deserve.
You know that.
On the other hand, when someone is getting what they deserve – whether it is bad or good – there is a sense of satisfaction within us.
Justice has been served.
We cheer when that happens.
We cheer when the DNA evidence gets the right person.
We cheer when the DNA evidence exonerates someone falsely accused.
Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly, but we cheer when it is gotten right.
But let us understand this today…
Jesus did not get what He deserved.
2. Jesus understood the wheels of injustice.
While the wheels of justice grind slow, it seems just the opposite when it comes to injustice.
The wheels of injustice go fast!
Just ask Jesus.
He is betrayed, arrested, put on trial, sentenced, and executed in less than twenty-four hours.
Talk about injustice!
It is a travesty of justice.
The story of Jesus is full of events that should not have happened.
Jesus did not deserve to be on the receiving end of what happened.
3. Jesus did not deserve the betrayal of Judas.
He did not deserve to have one of His own to betray His location to the chief priests.
Judas had been with Jesus through thick and thin, the good and the bad, and yet, Judas traded Him in for thirty pieces of silver.
4. Jesus did not deserve the denials of Peter.
Peter had boldly said that he would never deny Jesus.
He said that he would always be there for Jesus, no matter what.
He would even defend Him to the death.
Yet, when push came to shove, Peter denied Jesus, not once, but three times, just as Jesus said he would.
5. Jesus did not deserve the hatred of the Jewish leaders.
No doubt, the religious leaders knew they were in a power struggle.
Jesus’ popularity kept growing and growing.
They felt that they needed to put an end to the Jesus movement.
Not only that, they hated Him, because He had pointed out their own inconsistency when it came to spiritual matters.
This is why we should never underestimate the power of hate, for it always blinds you from seeing the truth about yourself and others.
6. Jesus did not deserve the rejection of the people.
As we noted last week, this was an absurd decision.
When Pilate offers the annual release of a prisoner of their choice, the crowd prefers Barabbas.
They choose the notorious murderer over the sinless Jesus.
7. Jesus did not deserve the indecision of Pilate.
We studied a little bit about Pilate last week, but let me share just a little more of his background.
Pilate was a native of Seville, which is now in Spain.
He had joined the legions of Germanicus, and apparently fought well in the wars on the Rhine.
After that, he went to Rome, where he met and married Claudia Proculla, youngest daughter of Julia, daughter of Emporer Augustus.
He was a man that liked the position of governor.
He liked the prestige and power.
But this case of Jesus is giving him fits.
He thought he had figured out a way to release Jesus and be rid of this Jewish matter.
But he was faked out, and so the matter is still in his hands.
He will not be able to escape the responsibility.
8. We will find in our study of John 19.1-16 the process of how Pilate allowed justice to be set aside.
Before we go into today’s narrative, and see how this travesty of justice takes place, I want us to remember that Jesus is not caught up in the events.
He is not swept up unwillingly.
He is in control.
He kept His course.
He was going to the cross, on purpose.
Always keep this in mind.
He was going there for you and me…
Now for the text…
After the crowd calls for Barabbas, Pilate curiously enters into a stage of…
I. PERSECUTION (1-5)
(1) Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. (2) And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. (3) They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. (4) Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” (5) So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”
We see here that…
9. Pilate decides to punish Jesus.
This was more than a slap on the wrist.
Scourging was a terrible ordeal.
Many died during it.
Some went mad.
It made pulp of a man’s back to the point that often bones and organs were exposed.
It is interesting to note that the gospels, in unison, spare us the description.
But they do tell us that…
10. The Roman soldiers were extremely cruel.
Now that they had Jesus in their hands, it was an opportunity to show their contempt for the Jews.
Jesus becomes a victim of their hatred for the nation at large.
They mock Him, by sarcastically addressing Him, “Hail King of the Jews.”
Then they continued their fun by giving Jesus a crown of thorns, which certainly caused more hurt and bleeding.
After dressing Him with a robe that had probably faded from red to purple, we know from the other gospels that they knelt before Him and spat on Him.
It was a gruesome carnival.
Now Jesus is paraded before the mob, because…
11. Pilate hopes for sympathy.
Pilate announces “Behold the man!”
It probably means something more like, “Here is the accused.”
But for John, the author, it is much more.
Jesus is THE man.
He is the Son of Man.
But, obviously, this is not Pilate’s thought.
It is his hope that when they see Jesus beat up to the point of disfigurement, that there will be some pity and a movement to set Him free.
It is as if Pilate is saying, “See, I made him learn his lesson; now he should be free to go” (which by the way, he always has the power to do – regardless of the crowd’s reaction).
But, Pilate is guilty of a serious miscalculation.
The leaders are going to settle for nothing less than the blood of Jesus.
Now, we find Pilate filled with…
II. APPREHENSION (6-12)
(6) When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” (7) The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” (8) When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. (9) He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. (10) So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” (11) Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (12) From then on Pilate sought to release him…
In a sense, the leaders lie.
Falsely claiming to be the Messiah was not a capital offense.
There were lots of so-called messiahs around that they did nothing about.
On top of that, Jesus did not advocate worshipping other gods.
But, what they did have right is that He claimed a unique relationship with the Father.
Regardless of what the theological understanding was, to the leaders, Jesus was a threat that had to go.
In a way, though, this line of accusation spooks Pilate.
We get insight into his psyche, for…
12. Pilate demonstrates that he is superstitious.
He decides that he is going to speak further to Jesus and try to figure out what is going on.
This religious claim to be the Son of God has got his attention.
It makes him afraid because in Pilate’s worldview, he does not want to be on the wrong side of the gods.
He has plainly been impressed by Jesus as he talked to Him.
He knows that He is innocent.
So, to Pilate, it is all the more mysterious when Jesus offers no reply to his next set of questions.
Jesus is silent.
He makes no answer.
He refuses to plead His cause.
And Pilate can’t figure out why.
The reason is, is that…
13. Pilate has false notions about power, authority, and responsibility.
He is very conscious of his dignity and position of power.
And he believes he has the power to release Jesus or to crucify Him.
And in so stating, he ultimately demonstrates that he cannot avoid the responsibility.
But this thought pattern causes Jesus to respond.
Pilate’s authority is not intrinsic.
It has come from outside of him.
Jesus replies that it has been given to him from God.
And even then, Jesus offers him the mercy that he is not the most responsible.
It is Caiaphas, whose heart has been hardened to the things of God.
So, Pilate, even now, has the opportunity to do the right thing.
But he still vacillates…
III. VACILLATION (12-16)
(12) From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (13) So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. (14) Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” (15) 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) So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
We discover here that…
14. The Jewish leaders knew Pilate’s weak spot.
The religious leaders continue to maintain this silly idea that there is an overt antagonism between Jesus and Caesar.
They accuse Jesus of high treason, saying that Jesus has made Himself a king.
And to make oneself a king is to oppose Caesar.
The religious leaders certainly knew that the present Caesar, Tiberius, was a paranoid recluse.
When there was any hint of unfaithfulness, Tiberius always responded savagely.
On top of this, they make it sound like they are loyal to Caesar.
It is a ludicrous proposition.
This is nothing less than crass political blackmail.
But it is effective.
So, as a result…
15. Pilate gives up on doing the right thing (Matthew 27.24-26).
The gospel of Matthew records the event like this…
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Three times Pilate has judged Jesus as not guilty.
Jesus is innocent.
He knows this.
And yet, because he is weak-willed, He punishes Jesus.
Because he is more interested in his power and position, he vacillates on what to do with Jesus.
Because he fears Caesar more than God, Jesus is delivered to be crucified.
Ironically, if anyone was caught up in the tide of history, it was Pilate, not Jesus.
His governorship was characterized by hostility and violence between him and his subjects.
The contemporary historian, Philo, describes Pilate according to “his venality, his violence, his thefts, his assaults, his abusive behavior, his frequent executions of untried prisoners, and his endless savage ferocity.”
It would catch up with him.
By the year 37, Pilate was suspended and sent to Rome.
Two years later, he would commit suicide
Let us plainly state today, that our Savior was treated unjustly.
This should be adequate incentive for us to not repeat that characteristic.
Our salvation is founded on truth, as Jesus is the truth.
16. BECAUSE WE ARE FOUNDED ON TRUTH, WE ARE TO ACT JUSTLY.
Pilate failed miserably in this area.
He failed to stand on the truth, even though he knew what it was.
He failed to value truth, for if he did, he would have refused to compromise.
Ultimately, he failed to practice the truth.
We are not to be like him.
17. We are to treat people fairly.
We are to be people of justice.
We have been reminded of this lately in the film, Amazing Grace, which is a film describing the ultimately successful efforts of William Wilberforce to end the slave trade in England.
Though the movie begins at a time when Wilberforce is ready to give up the fight, part of the story that is not seen in the movie goes like this…
ILL Justice (S)
Young William Wilberforce was discouraged one night in the early 1790s after another defeat in his ten-year battle against the slave trade. Tired and frustrated, he opened his Bible and began to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter written by John Wesley shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again:
"Unless the divine power has raised you up... I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that (abominable practice of slavery), which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might."
William Wilberforce eventually did regain his strength and fought the good fight.
He did so, because he rightly feared God.
And in the same way, so should we.
18. We are to rightly fear God.
Pilate feared the wrong things.
And because of that, he was willing to compromise.
Let’s not allow that to be our story.
We should fear God, and thus reflect His character.
We should have a healthy respect and awe for His standards of right and wrong.
Those who live by the values of this world sneer at the necessity of truth.
“What is truth?” they ask with Pilate.
Their character is untouched by truth.
Their methods do not take truth into account.
They do not listen to the truth.
As believers, we must choose to live a life of truth like that of Jesus, rather than a life of expediency as illustrated by Pilate.
When tough times come, many melt into the crowd.
In church, business, at school, at work, among friends…choose to be like Jesus.
Listen to truth, speak the truth, and stand up for truth.
Compromisers and appeasers surround us and fill places of importance like Pilate.
May we be a people, who regardless of the personal cost, be known for truth.
May we have a passion to do what is right.
For Further Study: Psalm 22.17; Isaiah 52.14, 53.7; Matthew 27.19; Acts 2.23; I Timothy 6.13; I Peter 2.18-25
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Axelrod, Marc Where Real Power Comes From and What to Do With It
Goettsche, Bruce Final Words
Moyes, Gordon Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor
Tow, Richard Pilate’s Moral Struggle
Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries. 22 vols, ed. The Calvin Translation Society. Edinburgh, Scotland, 1843.
Hughes, R. Kent. John: That You May Believe. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999.
Keener, Craig S. The Ivp Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. F. F. Bruce. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament. Colorado Springs: ChariotVictor Publishing, 1989.