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John 19:1-16 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 9 mins 27 secs

The Demand for Crucifixion; John 19:1-16


The scene now, we know from Matthew 27, is that Pilate goes outside and he sits on the judgment seat, a specific seat or throne outside the Praetorium where the judge sits to render his verdict. It is there that Pilate makes the second announcement of Jesus' innocence. This is covered in Luke 23:13-16 and makes it clear again that he sees Jesus as not guilty, just as Herod agreed that Jesus was not guilty. Then, as we have seen, even though he asserts Jesus' innocence he says he will still punish [paideuw] Him. This word translated "punish" is a general word but it usually does not describe the harsh flagellation that occurs as a prelude to crucifixion. This is what appears to be a discrepancy between the Gospels. In John 19 we are told that Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. There are two scourgings that take place. John tells us about the first one that occurs before Pilate utters his final verdict and then the other Gospels tell us about the final scourging. So apparently there are two beatings that take place. This first one is going to be a relatively light beating and was not designed to permanently maim or cripple Jesus because Pilate is still trying to get Jesus off.

Following that Pilate attempts to come up with a substitute by offering Barabbas. We need to look at Matthew 27:17, 18 NASB "So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, 'Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?' For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over." So Pilate is fully aware that the motivation here is not justice but is the envy of the religious leaders. Jesus is too popular and so they simply want to get rid of Him.

Then Matthew inserts a fascinating little aside. Matthew 27:19 NASB "While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him {a message,} saying, 'Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him'." Matthew is loaded with interesting little supernatural events that take place that are not mentioned in any of the other Gospels. This is typical of Matthew. Remember, Matthew is writing to Jews to demonstrate the messianic qualifications of Jesus. So they would expect, if Jesus was Messiah, that there was going to be certain accompanying supernatural events. At the beginning of the Gospel we are told of four distinct revelations that are given in the birth narrative. There are revelations to Joseph—three dreams—and then there is a dream warning the Magi about Herod. The Gentile Magi had also received an additional revelation about the birth of the Messiah through the appearance of the star. So this is typical of God's use of extraordinary means to reveal Jesus to the Gentiles. Remember the Gentiles don't have the Scriptures. The Jews have the Scriptures; Gentiles don't. So God uses extra-biblical means of revelation to the Gentiles in Matthew. That all occurs at the beginning of the Gospel. Matthew alone tells us about some fascinating events that occur at the close of Jesus' life. One of these is this dream revelation to Pilate's wife. Others are the dead who rise from the grave at the time of Jesus' death. The other thing that Matthew points out and no one else does is that the temple veil is torn from top to bottom at the time of Jesus' death on the cross. So Matthew is filled with these allusions to supernatural events that take place outside of the ordinary.

So why Pilate's wife? Why did she have this particular dream? One thing to point out is that here is a Gentile woman who recognises Jesus as a believer. It is probable that we can infer that because she says that He is righteous that she recognises Him as a believer. This is almost an identical statement to that of the centurion at the cross who said that "this man was righteous [dikaioj]," indicating that he was probably a believer at that point and that very possibly as well that Pilate's wife became a believer. Matthew uses this to once again bring in the fact that Pilate has no reason for condemning Jesus; He is innocent. At least three time he has announced that Jesus is innocent, Herod has announced that Jesus is innocent, Pilate's wife proclaims that Jesus is righteous, and yet Pilate still refuses to release Him. In contrast to this Gentile woman the male leaders of the Jews continue to insist that Jesus be put to death. Matthew 27:20 NASB "But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death."

At this point the masses haven't made up their mind. It is the chief priests, the elders of the synagogue, the Sanhedrin, that is out there circulating among the crowds and stirring them up to the point of instigating a riot.

Matthew 27:21 NASB "But the governor said to them, 'Which of the two do you want me to release for you?' And they said, 'Barabbas'." Pilate is seeking Jesus' release now for three reasons. He knows that their motive in envy, he has found not fault in Jesus and has asserted that at least three times, and his wife has warned him not to get involved in this Jewish plot. So he is trying to do everything he can to legitimately release Jesus, but the crowd surprises him and they cry out "Barabbas." This probably caught Pilate completely off guard. He could not in his wildest imagination have expected tat the crowd would take on Barabbas because he was such a known criminal.

Matthew 27:22 NASB "Pilate said to them, 'Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said, 'Crucify Him!'" This is the first cry, parallel to Luke 23:21. In Luke it says, "Crucify Him, crucify Him." He repeats it for emphasis. This shows the intense emotion of the masses now, they are stirred up.

We need to go over to Luke 23:22 to pick up the continued action. NASB "And he said to them the third time, 'Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt {demanding} death; therefore I will punish [paideuw] Him and release Him'." This is his third announcement, with Herod the forth statement, of Jesus' innocence. So it is clear through repetition that there is no fault in Jesus. So at this point comes the initial punishment of Jesus. This corresponds to the initial beating of John 19:1.

John 19:1 NASB "Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him." Apparently he takes Jesus back to the Roman soldiers in the Praetorium. This beating does not take place in front of the crowd. The word "scourged" here is the Greek verb mastizo [mastizw], an aorist active indicative, and it means to beat severely with a whip, to flog. But we have to ask the question here: is this the scourging that takes place immediately before a crucifixion or is it something less? We must conclude it is something less. The reason is that Pilate is going to bring Jesus back outside and show this beaten, bloody, bruised man in humiliation with the crown of thorns on His head, a pathetic sight to try to appeal to the masses that this man is not dangerous. Pilate is still trying to release Jesus. John 19:12 NASB "As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, 'If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out {to be} a king opposes Caesar'." The kind of scourging that took place prior to a crucifixion was not one that you could survive. It was designed to all but cripple and in many cases it killed the victim before they could ever get him to the cross. Obviously the beating of 19:1 would not be that severe because Pilate still expects to release Jesus.

John 19:2 NASB "And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him." This was a standard procedure. In the writings of that time it can be seen that the soldiers were very sadistic. They loved to torture the criminals that were to be executed. They would usually do this with any criminal. [3] "and they {began} to come up to Him and say, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and to give Him slaps {in the face.}" So when He is brought out His face is a bruised, bloody pulp. He is virtually unrecognisable at this point. [4] "Pilate came out again and said to them, 'Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him'."

John 19:5 NASB "Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. {Pilate} said to them, 'Behold, the Man!'" He wasn't brought out, He came out. He still has the physical stamina to walk out on his own. He brings Him out in order to display Him as a pitiful impotent person who is no threat. He is attempting to peal to the compassion, the mercy of the crowd to reconsider and to let Jesus go. Form this we see that Pilate is consistently trying to avoid the issue, consistently trying to release Him, but his attempts fail. [6] "So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, 'Crucify, crucify!' Pilate said to them, 'Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him'." This is the fifth statement by Pilate that there is no guilt in Jesus. Pilate is showing his disrespect for the masses in telling them to crucify Jesus because he knows they can't do that. If they did that they would be breaking Roman law and they would be guilty and Pilate could turn the soldiers loose on them and kill all of them, as he had done in a previous riot. They know that when Pilate says that he is not serious and that he is ridiculing them. This drives them to the next level of intensification where they go to the real issue, the spiritual issue.

John 19:7 NASB "The Jews answered him, 'We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out {to} {be} the Son of God'." This is the issue. They are crucifying Him not for some alleged rebellion or political reason but because they reject His claims to be the Son of God, they reject Him as Messiah. This has an effect upon Pilate. [8] "Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was {even} more afraid." He has in some sense recognised throughout this interchange that there is something different about Jesus, something unique about Him. At no time has he ever been faced with a criminal who responded the way this man has. Now he hears that he claims to be God, and that, on top of what his wife has told him, makes him afraid for himself. [9] "and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, 'Where are You from?' But Jesus gave him no answer." Jesus gives him no answer because Pilate is not positive. This is a great illustration here of why we should not answer a fool according to his folly, as it says in Proverbs. There are those who are negative, there are those who are asking the wrong questions, there are those who are simply asking questions to be argumentative, and we should nor answer them. Jesus is not going to throw pearls of wisdom (truth) before swine (someone who is negative).

John 19:10 NASB "So Pilate said to Him, 'You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?'" He tries the intimidation route. This raises the issue of who has ultimate authority in this whole situation. Remember, Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him. He has been telling His disciples what was going to happen to Him. He is not afraid, he didn't lose control somehow and end up getting crucified. This is God's plan and Jesus is completely relaxed. A point of application for us is that Jesus is going through the most extreme adversity that we can imagine, both the physical adversity and the spiritual adversity of facing the fact that before long he is going to have the sins of the world imputed to Him. The amount of suffering that Jesus is going to encounter on the cross is a million time more than anything we can imagine. What we see here is that Jesus is relaxed and calm, he realises that God is in control and this is God's plan, and He is going through this relying upon God the Holy Spirit and maintaining complete stability. He is demonstrating for us the kind of peace and stability we can have in the midst of any crisis no matter how great it is because it is based upon the strength of God the Holy Spirit and knowledge of doctrine.

John 19:11 NASB "Jesus answered, 'You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has {the} greater sin'." Pilate is not in control of this, God the Father is. This does not negate Pilate's volition or the volition of anyone else involved because they have all exercised their volition. But if God did not give them permission or allow it to happen, no matter how desperately they wanted to crucify Him, they couldn't even cut down the tree to put Him on. "…for this reason he who delivered Me to you has {the} greater sin" is a basic principle that there are others who have been involved in bringing Him before Pilate and they have the greater culpability. As a result of this Pilate is even more convinced of Jesus' innocence. [12] "As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, 'If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out {to be} a king opposes Caesar'." So they are back to their original charge that he is a political insurrectionist and the subtle threat is that if Pilate doesn't do this they will go to Caesar and have him lose his job and be taken back to Rome in disgrace. This has placed the final bit of pressure on Pilate. [13] "Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha."

John 19:14 NASB "Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, 'Behold, your King!'" The sixth hour according to Jewish time that would be noon, but we know that it was between noon and three that Jesus is crucified. This cannot be according to Jewish time, there would not be enough time of the day left to carry out the crucifixion, so it must be referring to Roman time. It is somewhere around six o'clock in the morning, give or take fifteen or twenty minutes. [15] "So 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.'"

We have to go over to Matthew 27:23 to fill in the gap. NASB "And he said, 'Why, what evil has He done?' But they kept shouting all the more, saying, 'Crucify Him!' [24] When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this Man's blood; see {to that} yourselves'." This is very symbolic both in Greek history as well as in Jewish history. The washing of the hands indicates that I am absolved of all guilt; it is not my decision, it is your decision. But, of course, that does not work. He finally caves into their pressure and compromises. [25] "And all the people said, 'His blood shall be on us and on our children!'" There has been a misuse of this verse throughout history to justify anti-Semitism. There is no justification for anti-Semitism. This is not a statement that the Jewish people throughout history should be punished because they are all guilty of crucifying Jesus. This is an idiomatic statement—we find similar statements throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament—it is merely saying we accept the responsibility for this decision.

Then Luke 23:23 NASB "But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices {began} to prevail. [24] And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted." It is only at this point that he finally releases Barabbas. What an illustration of substitutionary atonement! Jesus died in Barabbas' place. Before the judgment bar of God we are no better than Barabbas, we are all equally guilty.

Matthew tells us what happens next. Matthew 27:27 NASB "Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole {Roman} cohort around Him." They scourge Him. [28] "They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. [29] "And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' [30] "They spat on Him, and took the reed and {began} to beat Him on the head." Mark 15:19 NASB "They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him." Matthew 27:31 NASB "After they had mocked Him, they took the {scarlet} robe off Him and put His {own} garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him."

This raises a very important theological question. What is the purpose of the physical suffering of Jesus in relation to our salvation? Isaiah 53:5 NASB "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed." First of all we have to realise that there is a distinction between the penalty for sin and the consequences for sin, the penalty for sin and the curse for sin. In Genesis 2:17 God planted a tree in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and he told Adam and the woman: "The day you eat from this tree you will died." The moment they ate they died spiritually but they did not die physically. As a result of their spiritual death they were eventually going to die physically, and also as a result of spiritual death the universe of nature was going to be changed and come under a curse: all physical suffering, all suffering, all misery, all the things that we see on the earth that are not what they should be. The physical sufferings of Jesus are not for salvation, they do not pay the penalty for sin. Why? The penalty for sin is not physical, it is spiritual. But what they do is identify Jesus with the physical consequences of sin. Redemption is both physical and spiritual. The point is that it is only between twelve noon and 3 pm when God puts darkness on the earth that He imputes to Christ the sins of the world. That is when the sin penalty is paid. But all of the physical suffering relates to Christ's identification with the physical curse. The curse came as a consequence of spiritual death affects the physical environment.

Romans 8:18 NASB "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [19] For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God." This is talking about the physical, natural realm. This is talking about the Millennium when there is a reversal of the curse on the earth. So there is a  physical consequence to redemption. But redemption is not physical in its function or basis, it is spiritual. [20] "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope"  Who subjected it? Adam subjected it. When Adam chose to sin it subjected the physical world to futility. [21] "that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." Part of the whole package of what took place at the cross included the physical sufferings of Christ, but they were not redemptive. But they are part of the package because redemption includes not only the redemption of our physical bodies—we will put off corruption and put on incorruption—but the earth and the universe itself will ultimately put off corruption and put on incorruption. Why? Because of what Christ did on the cross. So the physical side has to do with his identification with the physical curse consequences of spiritual death. It is His spiritual death, defined as His spiritual separation from God judicially, that pays the penalty for sin because the penalty for sin is paid kind for kind, spiritual death for spiritual death, then the physical consequences of spiritual death will be paid for and provides the basis for the rolling back of the curse physically. So the physical sufferings of Christ are important. They do not relate to the spiritual death, they do not relate to the key issue in providing salvation, but they are part of the entire package. That is why Christ had to die physically, but that is also why it is not the physical blood of Christ that saves. The blood of Christ is a metaphor, a picture, of what is going on in the spiritual realm. We can't see what is going on in the spiritual realm, so all of the physical suffering is an illustration for us of what takes place in terms of the spiritual suffering of Christ as a substitute for our sins.