John Lesson 44 - The Verdict of Rome
It's a well-known fact that the Jews were ultimately responsible for Christ's death, isn't? After all, He was their Messiah and they gave Him up to Rome to be crucified. But in this message Stephen reveals that the Jews didn't kill Jesus . . . we all did.
The Verdict of Rome
Part 4 John 18:29-19:15
Religion used to be a simple thing. People did what they were told, they paid their dues, brought their sacrifices and longed for better days. The Roman government was oppressive and pagan. Yet still, the people hoped...they yearned for the coming One and leaned forward on their rough synogague benches as men read of the Conquerer who would end their domination.
Over the course of generations, men stepped forward and announced that they were indeed the Messiah. Several decades earlier, the popular Theudas, a strong winsome leader claimed he was it - and 400 men rallied by his side - he was crushed by the Romans. . .he was not Israel's hope. Then even more recently, Judas of Galilee stepped forward and announced he was God's promised deliverer; the people cheered and prayed . . . there was bloody guerilla warfare, until he also was killed by the Roman army.
In our last discussion, the latest man to step forward had been arrested and tried. Yet, He was different - He wouldn't pick up a sword - instead He would pick up a cross. He wouldn't even try to stay alive, He spoke of wanting to die. He didn't offer Israel relief from persecution, He promised it, He suffered it. And He didn't claim to be from God, He claimed to be God!
Religion used to be a simple thing . . .until Jesus came; He would change religion forever . . . better yet, He would destroy it - and offer for the first time an intimate relationship
His claim had finally brought Him before the Supreme Court of Israel. These 71 men were the "power-brokers" in the land. Becuase of Jesus, they had lost their religous grip on the people - power is addicting, and the addicted will kill to feed their habit. It was time to kil.
So a second series of trials begins - this time, Roman trials. Let's pick the narrative back up with John 18:28. They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorim (Pilate's home and Jerusalem headquarters), and it as early; and they themsleves did not enter into the Praetorium in order taht they might not be defiled , but might eat the Passover.
Stop! Did you catch that! They're about to shed innocent blood - they've already stooped to brutality by descending upon a defensless man, spitting on him and hitting him and mocking him; they have already set aside due process - they have already bribed false witnesses - they have already indicted Jesus without testimony but! "Hey watch it - don't go into Pilate's house - he's a Gentile - you go in their and you will become ceremonially unclean for a day - watch out - don't even step on his porch. . .gotta keep clean; you don't want to miss the Passover meal."
See what they're doing. . .keeping petty observances; committing terrible crimes.
What they're doing is a little like me robbing at midnight bank and then as I make my getaway, I stop at all the red lights as a good driving citizen should. . .or shoplifting at the mall, but holding the door for the ladies leaving the mall behind me - I take pride that I'm a gentleman.
That's like cheating on your income tax and giving some of your return to the land fund...you might as well.
That's the problem with religion - you can keep all the religious ceremonies and yet be a murderer in secret, filled with envy and hatred.
In Dallas, my wife and I heard the story of deception from a young lady who shared with us that she had earlier broken off an adulterous relationship with a married man. She told us how she would meet him at some getaway restaraunt/hotel, yet before they ate their dinner, they would bow their heads and pray.
Oh that God would open all our eyes to the fact that we all are capable of looking good to the public eye and the Christian community yet be sweeping under the rug, hideous sins of the heart and flesh.
"Hey fellow murderers, don't go inside Pilate's house - don't forget the rules . . . remember your ceremonial purity . . . that's important."
They think they can fool God?! They're as funny as the middle school boy I read about that decided to skip school. He called the school office, the principal answered and heard this young, low voice, "I'm sorry but Thomas Bradley won't be in school today" The principal was a bit suspicious of that voice. He asked, "And may I ask who's calling." A long pause, then the voice came back, "This is my father speaking."
God isn't fooled by pious tones and religous words either!
Now verse 29. Pilate therefore went out to them, and said, "What accusation do you bring against this Man?" 30. They answered and said to him, "If ths Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you." In other words, they were irritated that Pilate would even question them. You see, they didn't want a Roman trial, they wanted the Roman procurator to simply nod approval and therefore put into place the process that led to crucifixion. But Pilate hated these Jews as much as they hated him.
And so he dismissed them with contempt . . . notice verse 31. Pilate therefore said to them, "Take Hm yourselves and judge Him acording to your law." Pilate was literally giving them the right to kill Jesus; listen, the O.T. Law laid it down - "And he who blasphemes the name of the Lord, shall be put to death, all the congregation shall stone him (Lev. 24)
Notice the last part of verse 31. "We are not permitted to put anyone to death." They certainly took that law into their own hands with Stephen, and they stoned him for being guilty of blasphemy! But not here; why not take Jesus out and let the mob stone him to death? WHY NOT?
Because they were afriad of the mob? Perhaps, but after a few hours, the mob will be screaming for his death. . .why not?!
John provides the answer. 32. That the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death he was about to die.
You see Jesus had said earlier in John 12, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself." Lifted up - by means of glorification? Yes; lifted up by a Roman cross? Yes! He prophecied that he must be crucified, not stoned, therefore, Jesus had to die a Roman death, not Jewish.
Have you ever wondered, why did redemption have to come by means of a cross. Why not stoning - it was quicker. Why not a sword through his heart - why not cast Him off some cliff?
The list is long - let me suggest four reasons why it would be a cross:
1) the fulfillment of Christ's own words - "if I be lifted up. . ."
2) the fulfillment of O.T. prophecy such as:
Listen to this: "My God my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
I am a reproach of men, and despised by the people. All who see me sneer at me they wag the head saying, "Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver you" I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my strenth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws. They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
This was written centuries before by David - now experienced by the Son of David - the rightful king.
3) the crucifixion would combine the Jews and the Gentile world in a conspiracy of death. The responsibility and guilt for the death of Jesus was placed upon the world. When anyone says, the Jews are the Christkillers - they don't know what they're talking about.
in Acts 4:27 Peter says that the crucifixion of Jesus was the responsibility of Herod, Pilate, the Jews and the Geniles (the nations).
If Christ had been stoned the Jews would have taken full and final blame - but Christ would stand not only in a Jewish court but in a courtroom of the mightest nation on earth - the Roman empire. He would be condemned by the world.
If it ever bothers you how the courts of our pagan world deliver injustice and legislate immorality - let it be learned here that even though the high courts of Christ's world were having their way with him, He was really having His way. . .although their verdicts was read, we are allowed to see behind the scens that in every detail it was really the court of time eternal that was having it's verdict read!
4) the crucifixion fulfilled the typology of an Old Testament event. Turn to John 3:14. While your turning, the children of Israel had rebelled against the provision of God. God sent poisinous snakes to afflict the children of Israel -but also provided a cure. He told Moses to fashion a serpent out of bronze and put it up on a pole. Tell the children of Israel that if they will look at that serpent on a pole they would live. Now that solution may have seemed strange - put on a wooden pole a figure of that which represented the agent of death. It makes sense now in John 3:14. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him ahve eternal life.
Wow - the Son of God became sin - the cause of death (For the wages of sin is death; Romans 6:23) - Jesus now becomes sin - and if anyone looks at Him, who now represents the very cause of their death, they will live.
Now with that in mind, a different O.T. law comes into play. Deuteronomy 21 commanded that if anyone was under a divine curse, he was to be killed by hanging on a tree. he was to be hanged from a tree in judgment for his sin.
And so the words of Paul explode with meaning as he writes in Galatians, "He became a curse for us, for cursed is everyone who hangs upon a tree."
There had to be a Roman trial and a Roman crucifixion becuase Jesus Christ would become a curse, He would become the serpent - sin, the cause of death for every member of the human race - and those who look to Him willl be saved.
Let's go back to John 18. The Jews have a problem - they can't stone Jesus - they have their reasons, I've just shown you God's reasons, so they have to come up with something to rattle Pilate into condemning Jesus. So between verses 32 and 33 of John's narrative, the Gospel of Luke provides the full accusation - Just listen, and notice the way they create an accusation that's tailor made to rile a politician like Pilate Luke 23:2. "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar (here's the clincher), and saying that He Himself is Christ a King."
In other words, "Pilate, He's leading the entire nation and in doing so He's telling them not to pay taxes - which line your pockets and that He's after your job. . .he's the King."
The Jewish leaders can not be criticized for stupidity. They're brilliant!
And it worked! John 18:33. Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews." 34. Jesus answered, (I love this!) "Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?" Ha! "Did you come up with that all by yourself or did you have help? In other words, do you really want to know if I'm the King for yourself, or just for the sake of courtroom procedure.
Pilate is a picture of humanity - curious, superstitious - and more than willing to talk about who Jesus is - just don't get personal!
This Christmas season our western world will sing Christmas carols, have fuzzy religous yearnings, maybe even say grace before a Christmas dinner - but that's close enough.
We can talk about God - but let me do it on my terms - let me define God my way. . .just don't get personal.
And that was Pilates response - v. 35. Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests
delivered You up to me; in other words, "I'm not here to talk about me; I was just curious! And then he changes the subject away from Who Christ was to simply, what Christ had done.
Last part of verse 35. "What have You done?" 36. Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."
What Jesus is doing is refusing to change the subject. Three times in His answer He's repeated the phrase, "My Kingdom, My Kingdom, My Kindgom!" He's going to answer the first question - "Are You the King of the Jews." Why? Becuase what he has done is directly related to Who He is. And you will never be able to understand what He has done until you believe Who He really is.
And he will look Pilate in the eyes and say, "Yes I am the King of the Jews and I have my own kingdom too!"
People say, "I don't believe all the things in the Bible - in creation; parting of the red sea." Why? Becuase they don't know God. People say, "I really don't believe Jesus did all those miracles? Why? Becuase they don't know the person of Christ.
Listen - the issues of life are not answered; not all understood, but they are resolved when we come by faith to believing Who His Is... and when we believe Who He Is - we can believe What He's done.
So Pilate, inquisitively asked again - 37. "So you are a King?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. (Now that you know who I am, I'll tell you what I've done) For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"
Can you imagine . . . Pilate had never been closer to the truth in his entire life. But the problem was, Pilate didn't really want an answer. In fact, the text tells us that as soon as he asked the question, he turned on his heels and walked out.
You need to understand that this was not a question of deep sincerity, but the expression of cynicism. "Phhh, yea right, what is truth!"
Why the cynicism? Becuase that world, like ours was already waterlogged with philisophical disollusionmnet. His cynical cry is the cry of our age and every age - His questions are the questions of mankind today - Jesus, who are you? What is really true in life?"
A few weeks ago Newsweek ran a cover issue called "The Search for the Sacred." I was a rather typical article that talked of people's spiritual longings and journeys without ever taking them to Jesus Christ...I expect that. This past week, I was interested in the letters to the editor section where people responded to the article.
Some of the responses - read articles
So which God is it? Which truth is truth - the truth of the Chinese, the Hindu, the truth of self created theology, the truth of atheism - that there is no truth embodying God.
It's interesting that even those who disagree about Christ disagree with each other.
Yes we live in a world that is searching spiritually - it is the nature of mankind - it's interesting that Plato and other Greek philosopher had grown weary of searching for the truth - Plate once wrote, "It may be that some day there will come forth from God a logos/Word who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain."
John answered that in his opening lines - 1. In the beginning was the logos/word, and the word was with God and the word was God. 9. He was the true light which coming into the world, enlightens every man..
You searching for spiritual truth? Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth..."
Now the Gospel of Luke tells us that at this time Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee. That was outside his jurisdiction, so in order to hand off this troubling prisoner, he sent him to Herod Antipas.
We don't have time for that account - let me at least say that this Herod was the son of Herod the Great. Remember how the wise men came before Herod the Great and asked if he knew where the King of the Jews had been born? You remember that when the Magi were divinely warned not to tell Herod, once they had found the babe, that this Herod ordered every male Jew under the age of two in and around Bethlehem to be killed
He was insanely jealous - no one would take his title away from him, for he loved to be referred to as the King of the Jews.
Now, 35 years later, Jesus is standing before Herod's son. You would think Herod could figure it out. Luke tell us that Herod asked a great deal of questions - Jesus never answered one. Herod begged Jesus to perform some miracle to amuse him, Jesus stood silent. So Herod and his soldiers mocked him, spit on him, beat him and then sent him back to Pilate.
Ha! But poor Pilate really doesn't want this trial. Something was going on that kept this cruel Roman ruler from pronouncing guilt on Jesus: WHAT?!
Well, if I gave you a pop quiz and I asked you which of the following three things were keeping Pilate from condemning Jesus...
Answer #1 Pilate knew Jesus was innocent?
Answer #2 Pilate knew the true motive of the Jewish leaders
Answer #3 Pilate's wife told him to leave Jesus alone.
If your answer is "all three" - you earn an A+ and you get to sit on the front row next Sunday. . .don't look so excited!
Answer #1 Pilate knew Jesus was innocent of a death deserving crime.
This is important - remember that before a lamb could be sacrificed during the Passover, it had to be without blemish. The Supreme Court couldn't indict him on any crime. . .now throughout our study, Pilate repeateldy, publicly declares that Jesus is "not guilty"!
Three times Pilate declares Jesus' innocence:
1) The first time - At the conclusion of the Roman trial
"I find no fault in him" (18:38b.) This was the standard form of a verdict by the Roman judge. In affect, Pilate was throwing the case out of court for lack of evidence.
2) After Jesus returned from Herod
"I find no guilt in him" (19:4)
3) After having Jesus flogged, hoping, I believe, to elicit sympathy from the enraged Jews Pilate declares,
"I find no guilt in him" (19:6)
I believe that Pilate ordered the flogging to reveal that Jesus was an ordinary man, capable of suffering, and bleeding. Would a Son of the Gods allow this to happen to him? Answer? Surely not? Conclusion, he's an innocent ordinary, deluded man.
Why else would Pilate seek to let Jesus go?
Answer #2 Pilate knew the true motive of the Jewish leaders.
There is a little verse that indicts, not Jesus, but the religionists who were trying to coerce Pilate into saying, "Jesus is guilty of death."
I want you to turn to Matthew 27:18.
"For he (Pilate) knew that becuase of envy they had delivered Him up."
Wait, I thought is was blasphemy - I thought it was for the honor of God's name - no! And a pagan Roman saw through the sham of religion and knew, they hated him becuase the people they had enslaved just might turn and follow Him instead. He was the one they were all quoting. He was the one they loved to hear teach - and they envied Him and they hated him becuase it.
And it was a pagan politician who saw through the fascade of empty religion and saw the rotten motive in their cry for crucifixion.
But perhpas there's another reason Pilate wanted to release Jesus:
Answer #3 Pilate's wife had sent him a secret, disturbing message.
Stay where you are in Matthew and look at verse 19. And while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, Have nothing to do with that righteous Man, for last night I suffered greatly in a dream becuase of Him.
"Here Pilate, there is a written message from your wife, Claudia. . .she says it's urgent!" Maybe the note went something like this: "Sweetheart, last night I had a dream that this man you were judging was innocent - even righteous; whatever you do, don't condemn him . . . somehow get out of it . . . I'll tell you the details of my dream later. Love, Claudia."
The Romans were particularly superstitious where dreams were concerned - they never made any major decision without having their dreams interpreted - they believed the gods spoke to them in their dreams.
So Claudia dashes off a quick note . . . "Pilate, leave Jesus alone."
Now what does he do? If he let's Jesus go, he's in trouble with the Jews, if he doesn't let Him go he'll be eating leftovers for weeks. . .
His quick mind remembers a strange custom - at Passover time, the Jews allow a criminal to be set free as a symbolic reminder of their liberation from Egyptian captivity. Surely they'll let this inocent man go instead of the notorious criminal, Barrabas.
We'll deal with this passage in full later as we study the release of Barabbas - but the people desire Barrabas to be released instead of Jesus.
Go back to John, chapter 19:1
John 19:1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and arrayed Him in a purple robe: and they began to come up to Him, and say, "Hail, King of the Jews! and to give Him blows in the face. 4. And Pilate came out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no guilt in Him." 5. Jesus therefore came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, "Behold, the Man." In other words, "look at him - He's bleeding, he's hurting, he's innocent - won't you just let him go?" 6. When therefore 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."
Hey, Pilate here says they can go ahead and crucify Jesus - this will fulfill scripture. Yes, but by now the world would know that the Jewish leaders had killed a man whom Pilate had legally declared innocent.
7. The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and by that law He ought to die becuase He made Himself out to be the Son of God."
In other words, "Listen Pilate, if you can't find anything in your law to condemn Him at least consider our law - he's claimed to be God's son."
8. When Pilate therefore heard this statement, he was the more afraid; 9. and he entered into the Praetoruim again, and said to Jesus, "Where are You from?" But Jesus gave him no answer.
If Jesus had answered Pilate here - with some statement or miracle - he could have been released! But He hadn't come to earth to be released, He had come to redeem by His death on the cross.
10. Pilate therefore 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?" 11. Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin." 12. As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out - (here it comes! Take note - nothing can coerce Pilate to condemen this man except this final threat by the Jews. 12b. "If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar."
We're going to tell Caesar that you aren't his friend!!! Imagine that for a moment you would stand in Pilates place - whose friend would you rather be - The Roman emperor, or the Lamb of God?!
Make no mistake, you stand in his place countless times over - in the shop, in the university classroom, in the corporate enviornment, in thepolitical world . . . whose friend are you - the emperor's or the Lamb's.
Pilate's choice? Verse 13. When Pilate therefore heard these words, he brought
Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called the Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour.
Imagine, the Jewish nation is preparing for the Passover - each family is slaughtering an umblemished lamb - and in a matter of hours, the pure Lamb of God will be slaughtered by the united family of humanity.
You need to see the importance that the inocence of Jesus was firmly established - The Lamb of God was without blemish:
There were not even two witnesses that could agree on his crime but there were at least 7 witnesses that declared His innocence:
1) Pilate - three times - "not guilty"
2) Herod found Him blameless as recorded in Luke, "Nothing worthy of death has been done by Him."
3) Pilate's wife, "Have nothing to do with this righteous man"
Other witnesses, at the sight of the slaying will add their testimony:
4) The dying thief said, "Surly we are indeed dying justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds. But this man hath done nothing wrong"
5) the centurion in charge of the crucifixion siad "Certainly this was a righteous man.
6) After seeing the darkness and feeling the tremors of the earthquake, the crowd who had come to sneer and mock said, "Truly, this was the Son of God.
7) Last, but earlier on, Judas himself took his 30 pieces of blood money and threw them on the floor before the religious leaders and said, "I have betrayed innocent blood."
This Lamb was without blemish! It was the verdict of the Roman court; it was the frustrated decision of the Jewish Supreme court; the only thing He was guilty of was that he had told the truth, Jesus was guilty of being God.
We're late but I want you to hear the final desperate attempt of Pilate. Matthew reported that just before he turned Jesus over to the screaming mob, he dipped his hands in water, dried them and then said, "I am innocent of this man's blood."
Fascinating, that was not a Roman custom - it was a ceremony of Jewish religion. Listen, Pilate adopted the Jewish custom by the elders; Mosaic law had provided that whenever the elders were unable to determine the identity of a murderer, they could publicly wash their hands, say a prayer and not be held liable for being able to render justice.
Pilate becomes a religous man - he makes an external attempt to cover an inward guilt.
And Pilate becomes guilty of what the religous leaders are guilty of - and what people around the world are guilty of - they are externally clean in their own eyes, but inwardly guilty.
The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, no matter how religous you are - no matter how you choose to wash your hands we are all sinners, guilty of sin for which the Lamb died on the cross.
Jesus stands in courtroom of your heart - what will you decide? What is your verdict? I want you to know that His blood is either on your hands (guilty) or His blood covers your heart (guilty, yet forgiven.
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