MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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A. This morning I am going to be reading from the 15th chapter of Mark. This is the chapter that deals with the trials of Jesus before Pilate, & then His crucifixion.
A real danger we face in reading this is that it will be easy for us to throw our minds into neutral, thinking, "I've heard all this before."
I hope that will not be the case this morning. I pray that God's spirit will work through these words to help us see the great love of God that's working behind the scenes as we view once again the story of the cross.
In the 14th chapter of Mark the question that was being asked of Jesus was, "Are you the Prophet? Are you the Messiah we have been looking for?"
They saw the Messiah as one who would come & deliver them from Roman bondage - a great military leader. But Jesus came to deliver them from spiritual bondage. So they were disappointed because they didn't understand this.
B. The question of chapter 15 is slightly different. As Jesus appears before Pilate, the question he asks is, "Are you the King of the Jews?" (Mark 15:2)
As we look at the answer to that question, there are 4 other questions that arise in our minds.
First of all, "Why did Pilate react with amazement to the silence of Jesus?" Secondly, "Why did the crowd choose Barabbas & reject Jesus?" Then, "Why did Pilate scourge Jesus before His crucifixion?" Finally, "Why did the soldiers mock Him with such hatred & cruelty before they crucified Him?"
PROP. As we search for the answers to those 4 questions I believe we will be able to see the love of God at work in the cross.
I. "WHY DID PILATE REACT WITH AMAZEMENT TO THE SILENCE OF JESUS?"
A. #1, "Why did Pilate react with amazement to the silence of Jesus?" Listen to the first 5 verses of the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
"Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law & the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led Him away & handed Him over to Pilate. 'Are you the king of the Jews?' asked Pilate. 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied.
"The chief priests accused Him of many things. So again Pilate asked Him 'Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.' But Jesus made no reply, and Pilate was amazed."
As you remember, Jesus was arrested late at night in the Garden at Gethsemane & taken immediately to face trials before the high priests & the Sanhedrin. But Jewish law said that it was illegal to hold any trials at night.
So as soon as it was light the Sanhedrin met again to confirm the decisions illegally made during the night. They charged Jesus with blasphemy, of claiming to be the Son of God, & for that He must die.
But at that time in Israel only Roman authorities could impose the death penalty. And Pilate, the Roman Governor, wouldn't have paid any attention to that charge, considering it to be just another Jewish religious squabble.
So they had to come up with political charges against Jesus - charges that would concern the Roman authorities. The Gospel of Luke indicates that after much discussion they came up with 3 such charges.
They falsely charged Him with 3 crimes: Telling the people not to pay taxes to Rome; Claiming to be a king - King of the Jews; Stirring up the people all around the country. Tax evasion, treason, & rebellion - each of these would be cause for Roman concern.
B. The chief priests became very aggressive in their accusations. They heap one charge on top of another until finally Pilate stands back & asks Jesus, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of." But Jesus doesn't say a word to them, & Pilate is amazed.
Why was he amazed? I think Pilate was waiting for Jesus to answer these corrupt & hypocritical religious leaders. Always before when they had devised trick questions to use on Jesus, He had easily turned the tables on them & made them go away shaking their heads & looking very foolish in the eyes of the people.
You see, Jesus could have saved Himself! We have often noted that He could have called down legions of angels, & of course He could have. But all that Jesus really had to do at that moment was to speak up in his own defense before Pilate & I think Pilate would have set Him free.
Pilate was not fooled. He knew & despised these corrupt & "holier than thou" Jewish leaders. He knew that Jesus had done nothing worthy of crucifixion, but Jesus didn't reply. Pilate was amazed, "Why doesn't He defend Himself? Why doesn't He plead for His life?" It made no sense at all to Pilate.
But we know the reason - He could not have saved Himself & us, too. "For God so loved the world. . ." (John 3:16) Yes, we know the reason, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) He sacrificed Himself for us!
II. "WHY DID THE CROWD CHOOSE BARABBAS INSTEAD OF JESUS?"
A. Question #2 is "Why did the crowd choose Barabbas instead of Jesus?"
Listen to Mark 15:6 15. "Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising.
"The crowd came up & asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did. 'Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?' asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.
"But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. 'What shall I do with the one you call the king of the Jews?' Pilate asked them. 'Crucify him!' they shouted.
'Why? What crime has he committed?' asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, 'Crucify him!' Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, & handed Him over to be crucified."
B. Again, "Why did the crowd choose Barabbas instead of Jesus?" Barabbas is an interesting character. He is mentioned in all four Gospel accounts. His name means "son of the father" (with a lower-case "f"). History tells us that his given name was "Jesus" - Jesus Barabbas. He is an insurrectionist & a murderer, who uses force & violence to manipulate people.
In contrast to him there is Jesus, who is the Son of the Father, with a capital "F", who uses love & mercy to change people.
The decision that morning was clear, as clear as it could be. Will they choose violence, or will they choose love? Will they choose hatred, or mercy? And the crowd voted overwhelmingly for Jesus Barabbas.
Why did they vote that way? Undoubtedly some were part of the crowd that had earlier waved palm branches & shouted, "Hosanna!" They had wanted to crown Him King then. They had been ready to serve Him & defy Rome.
But now, instead of "Hosanna," they are crying, "Crucify Him." Why? Because they were disappointed. They thought that the Messiah would be a man of power & strength. But Jesus made no argument, offered no defense before Pilate. To them that was a picture not of strength but of weakness.
C. Have you ever been disappointed in God? I have. There have been times when He didn't answer my prayers the way I wanted. There have been times when He didn't solve my problems just the way I thought He would. There have been times when God has disappointed me, & I'm sure you have felt that way, too.
But Scripture teaches that God's ways aren't our ways, & God's thoughts aren't our thoughts. His ways & thoughts are greater than ours. The Bible teaches that our greatest & wisest thoughts are as foolishness when compared to God's.
ILL. A friend of mine stated that he had the truth of that driven home in a very powerful way. When his daughter was 12 years old, it was discovered that she had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.
He took her to 3 doctors & they each said that her case was not severe enough to warrant any treatment other than corrective shoes & certain exercises. He was told that she would simply have to live with that the rest of her life.
My friend says that he prayed to God frequently that she might be healed of her scoliosis. But his prayers were not answered. The curvature of the spine grew worse, not better.
The daughter grew up & got married, but shortly after her marriage she & her husband were in a head on collision & were both seriously injured. X rays revealed that the 6th vertebrae of her neck was cracked & that particles of bone were deeply embedded in the muscles of her spine.
The doctor explained that this was an injury that would eventually heal itself but it would take a long time. Then the doctor said something that my friend hadn't expected. He said that her scoliosis probably saved her life.
If her spine had been straight then probably her neck would have been broken & she would have been left paralyzed or dead. But she was hit in such a way that the curvature of the spine cushioned & absorbed the blow & only a cracked vertebrae was the result.
Do you see what I am saying? If his prayers had been answered the way he wanted, he might not have a daughter today. God's ways are higher than ours.
These people were disappointed because Jesus did not do what they thought He should do. So because of that they shouted for Pilate to release Barabbas.
APPL. How about us? Do we want a God that we can manipulate? Do we want a God who always does what we want Him to do? Or do we want a God whose ways are higher than our ways - who always does what is best for us whether we realize it or not?
III. "WHY DID PILATE SCOURGE JESUS BEFORE THE CRUCIFIXION?"
Thirdly, we ask, "Why did Pilate scourge Jesus before the crucifixion?" After all this had taken place, Jesus is brought before Pilate once again & Pilate sends Him away for scourging. He is stripped to the waist. His hands are tied over His head & the cat o' nine tails embedded with bits of jagged metal is used to cut His back to ribbons.
Why would Pilate do that? Isn't crucifixion enough? A few minutes before Pilate was wanting to release Jesus. Why would he be so cruel as to have Jesus beaten with this cat o' nine tails & then bring Him before the crowd in that terrible condition?
I think the answer is that Pilate was hoping that when Jesus was brought back before them, & the crowd saw this pitiful sight, that they would have mercy on Him. They would say, "That's enough. There is no need for Him to go to the cross. Let Him go."
So here stands Jesus. His clothing is soaked with blood, & His head is bowed before them. Pilate says, "Behold the Man." But the crowd shouts with greater intensity, "Crucify Him."
APPL. Satan has power. Once we allow him to get his hooks into us we sink lower & lower into sin. Here are people who once cried "Hosanna!" But now Satan has a hold, & all his ugliness & sin & filth is demonstrated in this crowd that is crying, "Crucify Him. Crucify Him."
IV. "WHY DID SOLDIERS MOCK JESUS WITH SUCH HATRED & CRUELTY?"
And then the last question, "Why did the soldiers mock Jesus with such obvious hatred & cruelty before they crucified Him?" Mark 15:16 20 tells us,
"The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) & called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on Him, then twisted together a crown of thorns & set it on Him.
"And they began to call out to Him, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' Again & again they struck Him on the head with a staff & spit on Him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to Him.
"And when they had mocked Him, they took off the purple robe & put his own clothes on Him. Then they led Him out to crucify Him."
Did you notice what Mark said? They "called together the whole company of soldiers." Some were off duty, but everybody came, & they began to mock Him. They put a purple robe on His shoulders & a crown of thorns on His head.
They put a reed in His hand & they bowed down & knelt before Him. They spat in His face. They took a staff & beat Him repeatedly.
Why? Why did the Roman soldiers react so violently & so cruelly to Jesus? Most of them probably didn't even know Him. Most of them probably had never seen Him before. Why did they treat Him that way?
Well, listen to what they were saying, "Hail, King of the Jews." I think they were taking out all their hatred of the Jews on Jesus. I think they were angry at a stubborn & stiff necked people who had caused them so many problems. Now their "King" was in their hands, so they took out all their hatred on Him.
CONCL: How about us? As we look at the cross we need to realize that our hatreds, our prejudice, our sins drove the nails into the hands & feet of Jesus just as surely as the Roman hammers.
So as you look at the cross, if you're like me, you have mixed emotions. I don't want to look at the cross because I don't like what I see. But at the same time I realize that the One who suffered there suffered there for me.
And because of His suffering & His pain & His death I can stand before God today, forgiven & cleansed & justified.
So to you this morning we offer the One who went to the cross to take away the burden of your sin. We offer the One who can forgive you. Will you come as we stand & as we sing?