Focal Passage: John 18:28-19:16
One of our favorite verses is “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The truth of the matter is that He bore our sins and took the condemnation for us. Our King was condemned that we might be released from the penalty and power of sin. Indeed, “The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The familiar “Roman Road” teaches that all have sinned, and that the wage of sin is death. Jesus is the only one to whom this does not apply, yet, He, the Perfect one, becomes the Lamb of God to take away our sin. It is a mind-numbing thought that Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was condemned for us.
We sing so flippantly about “King Jesus” but it was no slight detail to Pilate that He was called a king. “Are you the king of the Jews” (v. 33)? He was looking for some reason to judge Jesus as an insurrectionist. Pilate was thinking Rome. Jesus was talking about more than any earthly kingdom. “My kingdom is not of this world” (v. 36). “I was born for this” (v. 37). This “what?” Why was He born? He was born to die and His death enabled Him to be our Savior. He came to testify to the truth. Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life represents a whole new kind of kingdom, a spiritual kingdom where He reigns in the hearts of those who believe Him to be the Son of God, sent by the Father to reveal God’s love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And He was condemned!!!
So, who condemned Jesus? Pilate, the Jews, the Romans — or could it be you and I? Pilate seems not to want to have any part in the process, but the angry crowd spurs him on. They accuse him of being soft on Jesus and pledge their allegiance to Caesar alone. A popular saying among the Romans was “kurios Caesar” in direct affront to “kurios Christos” Whose king was Jesus anyway? Pilate was confused at the Jews wanting to kill Jesus. As a matter of fact he offered to release Him and said he had no valid reason to hold Him, let alone “crucify Him.” He tried to release Jesus instead of Barabbas, a revolutionary also being tried. The mob cried out, “Give us Barabbas!” And Pilate folded to the desire of the Jewish leaders. Religious leaders refused to admit that Jesus was their king, let alone Messiah.
The crowd had Pilate waffling and Jesus well on His way to death. He tried to release Him again after flogging Him (a very cruel punishment) and giving Him to the soldiers to taunt Him with a crown of thorns and a purple robe. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords became the object of derision. Meanwhile, Pilate makes a final attempt to release Jesus, “Here is the man” (19:5). And the mob, mustered by the priests, screamed, “Crucify Him” to which Pilate replied, “You take Him and crucify Him. I find no basis for a charge against Him” (v. 6). The Jews then show the real reason they wanted to kill Him: “He claims to be the Son of God” (v. 7). This strikes fear in Pilate’s mind and He cross-examines Jesus. “Where do you come from?” No answer! Pilate brags about his power to crucify Jesus. Jesus affirms that Pilate’s power is nothing compared to the One who is really in charge.
Still trying to release Jesus, Pilate is accosted, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (v. 12). So, the crowd won. “Here is your king” is met with screams, “Take Him away. Crucify Him.” And finally, Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified. What a cruel example of a political authority bowing to public opinion to save his own skin. God gave Him over to become the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. Could Pilate have saved Jesus? Was he to blame? Was it the Jewish religious authorities’ zeal? Or was it the surrender of “King Jesus” to the Father’s plan?
He knew from the start that He was born to die. “He could have called 10,000 angels, but He died alone for you and me.” God used religious zealots, an angry mob, and a weak political functionary to complete His plan of salvation. We must not forget Whose Son Jesus was, and for whose sin He died. Philip P. Bliss said it well: “Man of sorrows!” What a name, for the Son of God who came ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah, what a Savior. Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood. Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah, what a Savior.”
— Dean lives in Orlinda. He is the retired executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.