He Did It for Us
The trial and crucifixion of Jesus is a story of hypocrisy and raging hatred.
It is also the story of the power and majesty of Jesus.
The Jewish religious authorities wanted to get rid of Jesus permanently because He was causing problems for them by teaching the truth about God’s love and forgiveness, while they were teaching about a vengeful God who punished anyone who failure to strictly obey the law.
They saw that he had drawn a huge following, and that made them jealous and afraid.
They saw that Great crowds followed Jesus wherever He went, and that made them afraid that He might start a rebellion that would bring the Roman military down on the Jews.
Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem was the final straw that set the high priest and other authorities on a course to kill Jesus.
The hypocrisy and hatred of these men can be seen all through the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion.
In all of this, keep in mind that it was the duty of the high priest and the Sanhedrin to insure obedience to the law, but in actual fact, it was them who broke the law, not Jesus.
They started breaking the law, when through the treachery of Judas, they managed to capture Jesus at Gethsemane at night and bring Him before Caiaphas, the high priest for trial.
Matthew 26:57 tells us that, those who arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.
Verse 59 tells us that this was a meeting that included the high priest and the whole Sanhedrin.
All of this took place at night, during the Passover celebration, and all of this was in direct violation of Jewish law.
The law said, “All criminal cases must be tried during the daytime and must be completed during the daytime. If there is not enough time in one day, the trial must be adjourned until the following day. Criminal cases could not be tried during the Passover celebration at all.”
This trial took place at night, and it took place during the Passover celebration.
Clearly, the law was broken.
The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews.
It was composed of Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and elders of the people; it numbered seventy-one members; and it was presided over by the High Priest.
For a trial such as this a quorum was twenty-three.
Besides breaking the law by holding a trial at night and during Passover, the Sanhedrin was also violating Jewish law in that they met in the house of Caiaphas.
William Barclay tells us in his commentary that no decision of the Sanhedrin was valid unless it met in its own meeting place, the Hall of Hewn Stone in the Temple precincts.
John 18, verses 28 – 30 says, “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? If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you."
If it was early morning when Jesus was taken to the Roman governor, then it had to have been during the night that the Sanhedrin had finished its trial of Jesus and found Him guilty.
They were now handing him over for punishment.
This is an additional violation of the Jewish law which said, “Only if the verdict was Not Guilty could a case be finished on the day it was begun; otherwise a night must elapse before the pronouncement of the verdict, so that feelings of mercy might have time to arise.”
Are we starting to see what hatred can do?
Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane before any charges were brought against Him.
This was a violation of the law.
They again broke the law when members of the council searched to find two witnesses who could agree in their testimony against Jesus.
This was because a man could only be condemned on the testimony of not less than two witness who were in agreement as to the crime, and the witnesses had to come forward by their own choice; they were not to be coerced.
Late in the questioning by the high priest, Jesus gave an answer that resulted in the charge of blasphemy.
Here again the law was broken, because under the law a man could not be condemned on his own testimony.
Those who tried Jesus were the Sanhedrin whose duty was to teach and uphold the law.
But all of their honoring of the law went out the window because their hatred was so great they were willing to do anything to see Jesus dead.
But there was yet another sign of their hypocrisy.
John tells us that “because they wanted to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace of Pilate; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.”
They were perfectly willing to break every rule in the book to get Jesus convicted, but now they wanted to avoid the ceremonial uncleanness that would result from their entering the home of a gentile.
Having finished their illegal trial, and having found Jesus guilty, they took Him to Pilate.
They wanted Jesus dead, and under Rome’s rule only Romans could administer the death penalty, although on occasion the Jews did take things into there own hands, as they did when they stoned Stephen for preaching the gospel.
In such cases the Romans usually looked the other way.
There was additional reason why the Jews wanted the Romans to be involved with eliminating Jesus.
If the Sanhedrin tried to kill Jesus themselves, there was a great danger that Jesus’ thousands of followers might rise up in rebellion.
If the Romans tried Him and executed Him that danger would disappear.
So Jesus was taken to Pilate.
Pilate wanted nothing to do with the trial of Jesus, because He considered it as a purely Jewish problem, and he told the Jewish authorities to judge Jesus by their own law.
They responded that they had no right to execute anyone.
Luke tells us that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, but Jesus refused to say a word to him.
After a half-hearted attempt by Herod to get Jesus to answer some questions, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate.
Do you get the feeling that neither Pilate nor Herod wanted to be involved in the condemnation of Jesus?
If they wanted the Romans to execute Jesus, there was a legal difficulty the Jews had to find a way around.
You see, the Romans would only execute a criminal who had violated Roman law.
The Jews, in their kangaroo court had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, a crime that was punishable by stoning under the Law of Moses, but not under Roman law.
If they wanted the Romans involved they had to charge Jesus with a crime against Rome.
Pilate examined Jesus and found Him guilty of no such offense so he tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews knew something about Pilate and his relationship with Rome.
They knew that he had been in trouble before and had only a weak hold on his position in Jerusalem.
They said to him, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
In other words they told Pilate that if he refused to execute Jesus they would report him to Rome and that would be the end of his career.
Pilate again questioned Jesus and could find Him guilty of nothing.
He told the Jews that He found no fault in Jesus, but when Jesus was brought out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe that Herod had put on Him, the Jews started shouting, “Crucify! Crucify!
An exchange followed that really unnerved Pilate.
He asked why Jesus should die.
When the Jews responded that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, Pilate was made more afraid.
He had already talked with Jesus who had told Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world.
Now the Jews said that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.
Pilate, like so many of his time, was very superstitious, and he certainly had no desire to be involved with killing the Son of God.
Even of a God he didn’t believe in.
Now, when he takes Jesus back into the palace and starts asking more questions, Jesus remains silent until Pilate says that he has the power of life or death over Jesus.
Then comes another blow.
Jesus tells him, he would have no power if it was not given from above.
After that Pilate looked for ways to free Jesus, but everything he tried failed.
This mighty officer of Rome who had it within his power to defy the Jews and set Jesus free, who in fact had it in his power to kill anybody that displeased him, bowed to the will of the Sanhedrin.
He sent Jesus to be crucified.
Throughout this story of hatred and hypocrisy, the majesty of Jesus shines through.
He, the miracle worker, the Son of God, had the power to stop everything.
He did not need to go to the cross.
He said in the garden that he could call on His Father who would put at His disposal more than twelve legions of angels to fight for Him.
At the least, He could have simply walked away and disappeared.
He did not need to go to the cross.
It was His choosing.
He towered above the Jewish authorities and even treated Herod with contempt by refusing to even talk to him.
He was in full control when He was before Pilate, and left him, Pilate, nervous and afraid.
Jesus went to the cross!
It was His choice in obedience to God the Father.
The Sanhedrin and Herod and Pilate were all just participants in God’s plan for our salvation.
Listen again to what Paul said about Jesus in Philippians 2:6-8
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death-
even death on a cross!
Now I refer you back to John 19, verse 1.
It says that Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.
The King James Bible uses the words, “scourged Him.”
I prefer the word scourged, because I think most of us think of flogging as just simply whipping with a strap.
Those among you who are cooks might remember scourging a roast while getting it ready for the oven.
Do you remember that scourging it means to cut grooves in the top of it?
How many of you have seen the movie, “The Passion of Christ?”
It did an excellent job of portraying the true nature of that scourging, but it didn’t tell everything.
When a prisoner was scourged the lash used was a long leather thong, studded at intervals with pellets of lead and sharpened pieces of bone.
It literally tore a man’s back into strips.
Few remained conscious throughout the ordeal.
Some died; and many went raving mad.
Jesus withstood that, and went on to be crucified.
When a man was crucified, he was usually required to carry his own cross to the place of execution.
Sometimes only the horizontal cross piece rather than the whole cross was carried.
The bible accounts seem to indicate Jesus was made to carry the whole cross.
Pictures often show Jesus struggling up the hill carrying that heavy burden, but it wasn’t just a matter of carrying it.
The bottom end of the cross would be dragging on the ground and hitting every bump along the way.
Each time it hit a bump; there would be a terrible jarring on the shoulder of the condemned man.
The rough edges of the cross would grind into his flesh.
Then, at the place of execution, the prisoner and his cross would be thrown to the ground.
He would be stretched out on the cross and held while large nails were driven into his hands, or wrists, and feet to secure him to the cross.
Then the cross would be pulled to an upright position where the bottom would drop into a hole with another terrible ripping jar to the poor being nailed to it.
Now came more torture.
Hanging by their hands put great pressure on their chest so they could not breath.
They could relieve the pressure by raising up on the feet which were nailed to a block, but as soon as their legs tired they sank back down again.
Eventually, if they did not first die of their injuries, they died of suffocation.
Jesus, who being in very nature God, the son of God, went to that terrible scourging and the cross, because that was the only way to save us humans from the consequence of our sins— which is condemnation to eternal hell.
Whenever a sin is committed, a price must be paid to obtain forgiveness.
Paying that price is called redemption.
Under the old covenant, the price was paid with the blood of an animal that had no blemish.
Jesus, the Lamb of God without blemish, established a new covenant in His own blood to redeem us from our sins.
He took our place on that cross.