Thursday, March 20, 2008

Behold The Man. Behold Your King! John 19:5, 14

We're continuing our studies in John's Gospel through this Holy Week. Tonight we're going to look at 19:1-16. Last night we looked at the start of Pilate's trial, and we're still there tonight.

First, notice the injustice of the situation. Pilate has already declared that he has found no guilt in Jesus. He has done nothing wrong. Innocent of all charges. Yet he sends Jesus off to be flogged! Is he trying to satisfy the bloodthirsty crowd roughing Jesus up a bit and then release him? The account is sparse - 'Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.' (19:1) Not in the Bible do we find the extreme violence, the drawn out details of the flogging, as we find in Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ.' Rather, we see the highly ironic actions of the soldiers, who, just like Pilate, fail to recognise the king in front of them.

Watch as they twist together the crown - of thorns. The thorns pierce his brow, the blood trickling. Then they produce a purple robe, fit for their 'mock' king, as they bow in false homage.

It is in this state, crowned with the thorns, in a royal robe, that Pilate brings Jesus out to show he has found no guilt in him. Beaten, flogged, crowned. Behold the man!

What love he shows to us, in enduring all this for us. Behold the man!

And yet, the ordeal is not over. The chief priests aren't satisfied with all that has happened. Crucify, is their shout. the flogging wasn't enough, they want Jesus dead. Pilate again tries to prevent it, asking why he should die, when he hasn't done anything wrong. The crowd shouts that he has made himself the Son of God. How wrong could they be! He didn't make himself the Son of God, he was the Son of God!

Notice that this is what puts the wind up Pilate. To hear that Jesus is, or claims to be the Son of God, makes him worried and afraid. What is really going on? Who is this prisoner? Back he goes again to interview Jesus for the final time. Where are you from? But Jesus doesn't answer. Like a lamb before its shearers is silent, so Jesus doesn't speak.

This seems to infuriate Pilate all the more. After all, does he not realise who Pilate is? As representative of Caesar, he has power over Jesus, either for life or death. But Jesus reminds him of the real authority in the world. Caesar rules because all authority has been granted by God. this would not happen without the Father's consent and plan. But there will be consequences - 'therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.' No doubt about it - the Father willed what happened as he gave his only Son to be lifted on the cross. But those responsible will bear the consequences and penalty of the sin.

Pilate is worried. From now on he seeks to release Jesus, but the crowd become more restless, and all the more insistent that Jesus must die. After all, if Jesus claims to be a king, then he sets himself up against Caesar. And if Caesar wouldn't like that, then how can Pilate tolerate it?

Here we come to the moment of decision. Here we come to the crucial (literally - crucial has its etymological roots in the word cross) moment in Pilate's life, and also in the life of the Jews.

Last night we saw that the Jews chose Barabbas over Jesus. Would they remain in their choice?

Pilate declares 'Behold your king.' Recognise your ruler. See your Messiah, the desire of the ages. Choose life. Choose him.

How devastating the answer of the Jews. 'We have no king but Caesar.' Caesar, remember, was the head of the occupying army. Caesar was an unclean Gentile, whose palace they could not enter to remain clean to eat the Passover. Yet here they chose the world over Jesus. They chose the kingdoms of this world against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They finally and completely decide against Jesus.

How sad. How terrible. In our sin, we choose to rebel against the rightful rule of God. Here, the crowd that day continued in their rebellion, choosing against Jesus.

Please do not choose against Jesus! He is the one who bore your sin. He is the one who carried your burden to Calvary. He is the one who loves you so much that he died in your place.

The decision has been made. Pilate sides with it. Jesus is handed over to be crucified.

Behold the man, and behold your king. Will you stand for him?

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