by Ralph Bouma
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha (John 19:12-13).
The death of Christ may be viewed from several main viewpoints. First of all, of course, from the standpoint of God's justice, He was sent for the appeasing of the Father's wrath upon the sins of those who believe in Christ as we read in Romans 3:25-26: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Rather than leave one sin unpunished, He would punish it in His own Son as a substitute. Justice was not compromised. The law had to be fully satisfied. Whatever Pilate or the Jews did was foreordained by the Father.
From the standpoint of the Saviour, Christ's death must be viewed as an acceptable sacrifice to God for our sin. Ephesians 5:1-2 says: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour." Not only was His wrath appeased, but it was a sweet-smelling sacrifice. It was pleasing to the Father that Christ revealed the person and character of the Father in His lifetime.
Christ's death was also a sin offering whereby we may be not only delivered from the penalty of sin, but purged from the pollution and service of sin as we see in Hebrews 9:13-14: "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" We were not only delivered from the penalty of sin, our consciences are purged from dead works to serve the living God.
The death of Christ must be seen also as the noblest act of humble obedience, whereby He fulfilled the law on behalf of His bride and thereby the ultimate glorifying His Father. In His circumcision He made Himself a debtor to do the whole law, and God the Father commanded Him to lay down His life and take it again. This is the noblest act of obedience that has ever been performed. We read in Philippians 2:8: "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
From the standpoint of all believers, the death of Christ was their Substitute -the Just suffering for the unjust as we see in 1 Peter 3:17-18: "For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." This is such a beautiful description of the substitutionary death of Christ.
From Satan's standpoint it seemed as though he had gained a victory, but he had only bruised our Saviour's heel as was prophesied in Genesis 3:14-15: "And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Satan strove to defeat the plan of salvation. He tempted Jesus to switch His allegiance to Satan by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world without having to go to the cross. When Jesus went to the cross, Satan used Jesus? disciples to deny Him. However, he only bruised Christ's heel. He did not gain the victory.
From the standpoint of the church, the death of Christ was His victory over Satan whereby He bruised Satan's head. We see this in Hebrews 2:14-15: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." All of Satan's attempts were foiled. Jesus gave Himself to destroy him who had the power of death. That is why He gave Himself to die.
However, from the standpoint of the enemies of Christ His death was the most brutal form of murder. Even though all of this was accomplished by the death of Christ, this did not take away the responsibility of those who committed the sin. You and I live through this life to prepare for eternity, and we may say, "Well, that is the way God would have it" and try to justify our sin. "Well, but it brought about God's purpose," we may say. The soldiers brought about God's purpose, but this did not remove their responsibility for having done so. This is where you and I stand before God. We are responsible for the death of Christ. Until we receive a pardon, we stand before the bar of His justice guilty of the death of Christ.
We read in Acts 3:13-15: "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses." The apostles charged their consciences with the guilt of what they had done in the way of crucifying their Lord. All the sins we commit are as spears and arrows in His side. They were guilty even though it was foreordained of God and prophesied to occur.
We are responsible for what we do. It is with this aspect of Christ's death that our text finds its context. Pilate was moved by the mob's accusation that he would not be Caesar's friend if he did not punish Jesus. We read in John 19:14-15: "And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar."
We can see so clearly how justice cannot be measured by public opinion. John 19:16 says: "Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away." Pilate delivered an innocent man to be crucified because of public opinion, especially his concern for Caesar's approval.
Pilate had boasted to Jesus in verse 10: "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" Yet because His sentence was rendered at the tribunal of the Father, Pilate had no such power to release Jesus as we see in verse 11: "Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin."
In Acts 2:22-24 we read: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it." Pilate had no power to crucify nor release Jesus.
It is apparent from his restless trips back and forth to the judgment hall that the more Pilate came to know Jesus the more he was convinced of His innocence. How is it then from the viewpoint of logic that the Roman governor was finally prevailed upon to act against his own conscience?
First, because the charges brought against Jesus were serious crimes in the eyes of Roman law. We read this in Luke 23:2-5: "And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it -this statement is almost a self-indictment-. Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place." In John's Gospel, Jesus had said that His kingdom was not of this world. Pilate realized Jesus was not a threat to Caesar.
What did they say that finally convinced Pilate? It is something that is going on in our government today, too. ***Pilate had a couple of skeletons in his own closet that he did not want the Jews to reveal to Caesar if they should appeal unto him.***I don't see where the biblical text supports this statement***
Our representatives had skeletons in their own closets, and they were unable to indict President Clinton of the crimes he committed. We read in Luke 13:1: "There were present at that season some that told him -Jesus- of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices." For this, Caesar could have called him to account.
The real dilemma Pilate faced was that though his conscience told him Jesus was innocent, the Jews used extortion to compel him. If he should face the displeasure of the Sanhedrin before Caesar, his own position as governor or even his life were in jeopardy ***for falsifying justice in the case of the Galileans. ***The biblical text does not support this statement.***
Here Pilate was forced to choose between Christ and the world, but he fell in his attempt to bring harmony between equity and injustice. To conceal his own crimes, he committed another crime. He was compelled by the voice of wicked men to quench the voice of God in his conscience.
We read in John 19:7-8: "The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid." See how the voice of God was speaking in his conscience.
On the one hand, we see the anxiety of Abraham and his seed in their waiting for the appearance of the long- awaited Messiah. We read in Luke 1:39-44: "And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy."
On the other hand, we hear the Jews shouting: "Crucify Him. Crucify Him."
Unless we should be able to accept the sovereign good pleasure and determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, it would be impossible to understand how the very descendants of Abraham could demonstrate such a contemptible exhibition of man's fallen nature.
Pilate had asked Jesus: "What is truth? -while justice was clearly understood- And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all."
It is interesting to note that the trial of our Lord and Saviour was conducted in seven stages before Pilate delivered Him unto the will of the Jews as is evident from his passing in and out of the judgment hall. Seven is a symbol meaning as many times as necessary.
Notice the first stage referred to in John 18:28-29: "Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?" These hypocrites who did not want to defile themselves stood on the outside of the judgment hall, so Pilate went back and forth talking to Jesus and the mob.
The second stage was inside. John 18:33 says: "Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?"
The third was again on the outside. We read in verse 38: "Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all." Every time he came out to the Jews he testified of Jesus? innocence.
The fourth was back again on the inside. We read in John 19:1-3: "Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands." He scourged Him after vindicating Him.
The fifth time, Pilate again went outside to invoke the sympathy of the Jews as we see in verses 4 and 5: "Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!"
The sixth stage was back again outside the judgment hall in verses 7 to 9: "The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer."
Why all this jumping back and forth in and out of the judgment hall? Only to accommodate those hypocrites who demanded our Lord's condemnation, who thought they were too holy to enter.
The final stage of our Saviour's trial before Pilate's court was again outside as he turned the Innocent One to the wicked hands who crucified Him.
This term Pavement is used only once in the New Testament, and its equivalent Gabbatha is used only once in the Old Testament. This reference was the place where King Ahaz made his conclusive surrender to degrading apostasy. The case of Pilate coming unto the "Pavement" to enter final judgment teaches that he came down to the level of the apostate Jews in judgment.
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