Summary: Before Jesus reached the cross, He faced unspeakable torture at the hands of the Roman soldiers. There are accounts of soldiers flogging prisoners to death. The point of flogging was to bring them close to death so the crucifixion time would be shortened.
Easter is three weeks from today. We’re counting down the last 94 hours before the disciples discovered the empty tomb. I’m calling this “94 Hours that Changed the World.” We’ve already walked with Jesus from the last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed and was arrested. In this message we’ll start the countdown at hour 86:00 and talk about His trial and torture. The next message is “CSI Golgotha: Who Killed Jesus?”
Mark 15:1-20: “Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and 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 still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. 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 and 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, then, 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, and handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.”
In this message, we’re going to isolate three episodes and discuss the meaning then and the meaning for our lives today. First, there was an episode of silence in which Jesus was tried. Then there was an episode of substitution in which Barabbas was released. Finally, we’ll examine the episode of suffering in which Jesus was tortured before the cross. Then, the message will conclude with a retrial of Jesus of Nazareth.
1. SILENCE: An innocent man falsely accused
The right to a trial is a cherished American freedom. A cowboy who lived during the Wild West days was arrested for stealing horses. The judge said, “You are accused as a horse thief, how do you plead?” The old cowboy said, “Not guilty!” The judge said, “You have a choice. You can be tried by a panel of three judges or by a jury of twelve of your peers.” The cowboy said, “I don’t understand that word ‘peers’ who would they be?” The judge explained, “A jury of your peers means that they are people just like you.” The cowboy thought for a second and said, “I’ll take the judges. I don’t want twelve horse-thieves judging me!”
Jesus wasn’t afforded a fair trial. His trial had both a Jewish phase and a Roman phase. In the final verses of Mark 14 we read Jesus was arrested in the garden. The only Jews who were allowed to legally have weapons were the Temple police, so these were the men who bound Jesus and led him up the same steps he had earlier descended after the Last Supper. They carried him to the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest. This was the like a police station, because there were barracks and prison cells there. By this time it was after midnight and Jesus was probably placed in a holding cell. We’ve found the archeological ruins of this facility, and there is an ancient cistern where prisoners were placed. It was dark and lonely there.
Word was sent out throughout Jerusalem and the 23 members of the Jewish Sanhedrin were summoned from their beds to conduct a hasty trial for the rabble-rouser from Nazareth. It was a kangaroo court. Trials at night were illegal. False witnesses had been found who claimed they heard Jesus say He would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Jesus said very little in His defense, but Caiaphas accused Him of blasphemy and they declared Him guilty and deserving death. The Jewish court could not issue a death sentence, only the Romans could.