Jesus will at last leave Pilate’s judgment hall and walk to the cross. Here are our passages:
Matthew 27:27-34 Mark 15:16-23 Luke 23:26-34 John 19.17-18
We consider the journey in five sections, beginning with Jesus being mocked and beaten.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
Matthew, Mark, and John tell us about what happened after Pilate’s pronouncement. The soldiers take Jesus away into the governor’s hall and call in the entire garrison. There was enormous racial animus between the Romans and the Jews, and the soldiers rarely let go by an opportunity to treat the Jews harshly. Jesus, perhaps uniquely of all the people in Jerusalem, had never had a harsh word for the Romans, but He is Jewish and now the soldiers will vent their rage against Jesus’ innocent soul.
They strip Jesus of His clothes and put upon Him a robe on Him. Matthew calls it scarlet, Mark purple. Perhaps there were two robes. Or again, perhaps one of the Bible writers suffered from a form of color blindness called tritanopia, which means one cannot tell between purple and red. They are telling us what they saw.
But the robe was only the first thing. Someone twisted a crown of thorns and and placed it on Jesus’ brow. No one had ever worn this crown before; it was unique. The mockery makes light of Jesus’ statement that He is a King. Finally they place a reed in His hand, a fake sceptre for a fake king. They begin to come to Him and bow before Him. They take His “sceptre” and strike him on the head with it. The thorns are driven into His scalp. They spit on Him. They strike Him with their hands. Blood runs down.
Do you ever wonder what the devils whispered in His ear during that scene? You are dying for these animals? You are dying for these vicious scoundrels? You are dying for these prejudiced bullies.? You are dying for these high-minded pagans?
But Jesus was a King. The crown of thorns He bore testified to the impact of sin on creation. When God made earth into a paradise there were no thorns or thistles. Only with the entrance of sin was the creation warped, the story it tells damaged. After sin there was division with some creatures becoming predators, some prey; some things originally smooth and beautiful now became sharp and hazardous. Now you had venomous animals, bombardier beetles, stinging insects, electric eels, even carnivorous plants. The creation, a life-giving environment had been modified, toxified, weaponized, made dangerous.
The earth was made to be our human abode, but through rebellion we wrecked it. People today are very worried about the theories about climate change. But we may fairly say that climate change happened thousands of years ago on this virgin planet when human sin twisted the creation. Who was the Creator King, more specifically? Jesus. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). Now the King did not flinch when the crown of thorns was laid on His brow. When its spines pierced His skin, when His own creatures struck Him, Jesus, all innocent, he bore it without complaint. He takes our personal sins without complaint and redeems us, and he takes the thorns without complaint, that the creation might be healed. The mockery was not not mockery. Jesus was indeed the King but His crown was a crown of thorns. He received our punishment in our place. He gave His life to give us life. He absorbed our sin that we might absorb His life. Our punishment rained down upon Him, while He continued to extend His offer of life to us.
Jesus’ Final Interview with Pilate
At this point we turn to John 19:4-16. This will be Jesus last interview with Pilate. Pilate is walking through his hall and he sees Jesus in His humiliated state. He will bring Jesus out to the crowd one last time to see if they can be persuaded to change their mind.
Jesus is now led to the front, still wearing the purple robe and crown of thorns. Pilate calls out to the crowd, “Behold the man!” But the priests and mob are unmoved. Still their cry is, “crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So Pilate says to them, “You take Him and crucify Him.” They remind him that Jesus claimed to be God. Pilate is unnerved b this. He takes Jesus aside one last time.
Where are you from, he asks Jesus, but Jesus does not answer him. Few times in his life has Pilate been treated this way. He warns Jesus, Do you not know that I have power to crucify you? Now, surprisingly, Jesus responds.
“You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11).
This was power talk. This was authority talk. Pilate, ever the politician, was intrigued. From then he sought to release Him.
God has a place for human governments in the fallen world. Their work is to bring order to the world and to make civilization possible by sustaining laws and rights, but beyond these lines their authority does not extend. In degree Rome’s power was from heaven. To the extent that Rome justly filled God’s design for human government, its authority was legitimate. But God also hates injustice. It seems inconceivable one might read the Bible and think that God would be agreeable to Rome—or any government—condemning an innocent man to death! But some have this twisted view the God grants human governments virtually unlimited authority! Pilate had a limited authority over Jesus, just as he had limited authority over all whom he was appointed to govern. His authority was limited to governing with authentic justice. Beyond that he had no authority. The Bible warns let not many become teachers for they will face a stricter judgment (James 3:1). By the same principle, all who become judges should be somber about such appointment, for judges may face the strictest judgment of all.
Sadly, Pilate’s character failed him, for rather than being determined to judge fairly, he was more determined to prevent negative reports from filtering back to Caesar. He abused his authority and sentenced an innocent to die the cruelist death. Here was Jesus’ object: to remind Pilate of his humanity, the external source of his authority, that is, of his accountability. Pilate crashed. He surrendered Christ to injustice. He was right when he asked them the last time, “Shall I [Pilate] crucify your King?” They were in a demon-influenced frenzy, some actually possessed. Their demand did not change. Pilate acceded to their demands.
Simon Bears Jesus’ Cross
Jesus is sent on His way with the cross toward Golgotha. But after all the treatment He has received, human nature can take no more. He cannot carry His cross any further.
Here is a quandary. None of the Jews would dare carry it for Him; they would be considered defiled then they would miss Passover. Remember, generations of Pharisaical teaching have reduced their vision. Jesus and His disciples have been working but human hearts are hard. May have received Him but many have not.
Of course, none of the Romans will voluntary to carry the cross for a Jew. And Jesus’ humanity has reached the place of inability. The situation is frozen.
But here comes Simon. He is an out-of-towner. When Mark mentions that Simon is the father of Alexander and Rufus (15:21) that suggests that the believers knew who they were. We can assume they were Christians. But the father is described as an outsider. He must have come upon the scene and seen Jesus fainting beneath the cross and been awed by the scene. Roman soldiers seize the moment. Simon is grabbed and compelled to carry Jesus’ cross for Him. Jesus leads the way, and Simon follows.
What a gift of service that would be, to bear Jesus’ cross for Him! Remember too, we are not talking about a lightweight plastic table we can set up for fellowship meal. This is a full-on very heavy slab of wood at the last. I heard about a person who carried a cross across America from coast to coast. It turns out that it was very heavy, so he made his trip in stages and he put a little wheel on the bottom of the cross. There was no wheel on the bottom of Jesus’ cross.
Simon bore Jesus’ cross but Jesus was crucified on a cross for Simon. And, for every other person. For every Jew who was too good to carry His cross for Him, Jesus was crucified. For every Roman who was too good to carry His cross for Him, Jesus was crucified. For every disciple who was too fearful to carry His cross for Him, Jesus was crucified. For every university educated 2020s guy or gal who would have felt it would be impolitic for them to carry His cross for them had they been there, Jesus was crucified. For every church member who might not want to get their suit or their dress dirty on the sabbath, Jesus was crucified. Not that god wants us to keep in superficial spirituality, but that He so strongly desires that we come to Him and repent and be transformed. Jesus was crucified to give you a supernatural opportunity to repent. He paid the price. He earned that opportunity for you.
Is it too much to ask that we do a little cross-bearing for Him? Friend, if you do not die daily I don’t think you will be ready for the times that are coming. This, not tomorrow, this,is our moment of opportunity to come all the way to the cross—today, not tomorrow, because we don’t know what opportunities tomorrow holds or does not hold.
Jesus Warns the Daughters of Jerusalem
So Jesus is led away. He is finishing His long walk to Calvary. We turn to Luke 23:27-31. On His way out of the city, there is an enormous crowd. Word has traveled throughout the town and a mass of bodies follows along together.
Among this group are many whose family members have been healed or who themselves have experienced the healing compassion and touch of Jesus. Many are women, and they wail and lament at the top of their lungs. Many are deeply moved and experiencing actual pity.
This is the one thing on the way to Golgotha that arrests Jesus’ attention. Now a final prophetic word comes from Jesus:
And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, “Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!” Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry? (Luke 23:27-31).
Even under such supreme duress, Jesus now pauses to warn these sisters. So many in the crowd are so strangely unmoved but these show pity. These have living hearts, human empathy and sympathy. They are spiritually alive, and blesses them with warning.
They live in a hinge-moment in time. The angels of Revelation seven have their hands on the four winds. The trends of history are constantly diverging and converging, and certain periods in time all the harmonics line up in discreet ways and prophecy fulfills. They were living in a moment like that. Jesus new the cup of iniquity was filling to overflow with His murder. So He reaches out to them urging them to be aware of the hour and see to their own spiritual readiness.
God had sent His Son in answer to the prophetic clock. Time was finishing for Jewish national probation. The Messiah must be accepted or rejected. He had been rejected. Days of emergency and terror now were loaded.
Few prefer for judgment day to come. They want things to continue always as they were when they first opened their eyes and in the atmosphere they grew up in. They see time as human-mediated rather than divinely-mediated. They want a world run by humans not connected to any moral hazard; life with no final day of judgment.
It does not exist. There are judgment days for nations, for movements, for individuals. Now, when the nation might have accepted Christ, now was the time of the green wood. Jesus had done all that He could at the best time for Israel’s spiritual possibilities. They had failed grossly. Jerusalem would be devastated in 70 AD. Most of those women and their children would live to experience that awful day.
The sad procession continues and Jesus is led to Golgotha, the place of a skull. This was a space which had long been used for executions. After Jesus is Simon, bearing the cross, and after come the two criminals who would be crucified at His side. We’ll meet them in our next installment.
The crosses are laid on the ground. Now those to be executed will be nailed into place. It isn’t completely clear to me whether there were one or two offerings of wine and gall to Jesus, but it may have been that at this point the prisoners were offered the sour wine and gall. Jesus would take no steps to dull His mind to pain. His sacrifice was not yet complete. The situation was one of total peril to Himself and to us.
The prisoners are held down to the crosses for attachment. Who would not struggle in such a moment? But Jesus submits. In that excruciating moment, when the devils doubtless pressed Him to the uttermost, then it must have been that Jesus spoke as recorded at Luke 23:34:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
Jesus was being executed, the Lord of life himself was being put to the torture and murder and the ultimate death. The most innocent was being treated s the most guilty. The most just was being treated as the most unjust. The most kind as the most unkind, the most gentle as the most ungentle, the most loving as the most hating. It was the ultimate inversion of justice, the ultimate expression of hate.
It was aimed at Jesus all undeserved. And He embraced it.
He was bearing all the sins of the world. But they were not sins generic. Every sin is a personal sin, every choice to do evil is a choice to rebel against God and His moral order. Jesus took all that guilt from us to Himself and was punished for us in our place. We will have more to say about this. But here we notice Jesus’ prayer for the lost and the guilty. These people had not repented. He prays yes for those who are nailing Him to the cross but for far more. He is praying for every human being.
His mind passed from His own suffering to the sin of His persecutors, and the terrible retribution that would be theirs. No curses were called down upon the soldiers who were handling Him so roughly. No vengeance was invoked upon the priests and rulers, who were gloating over the accomplishment of their purpose. Christ pitied them in their ignorance and guilt. He breathed only a plea for their forgiveness,—“for they know not what they do.”
Had they known that they were putting to torture One who had come to save the sinful race from eternal ruin, they would have been seized with remorse and horror. But their ignorance did not remove their guilt; for it was their privilege to know and accept Jesus as their Saviour. Some of them would yet see their sin, and repent, and be converted. Some by their impenitence would make it an impossibility for the prayer of Christ to be answered for them. Yet, just the same, God’s purpose was reaching its fulfillment. Jesus was earning the right to become the advocate of men in the Father’s presence.
That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered. ‘Whosoever will’ may have peace with God, and inherit eternal life. (The Desire of Ages, pp. 744-745).
He did all He could do to make your salvation possible. He prayed for me and for you. But your will and mine remain. We must choose to accept His forgiveness, to receive and participate in His transformation, to permit our guilt to be taken away and replaced with His generous spirit. Those who do not are not forgiven. “Some of them would yet see their sin, and repent, and be converted. Some by their impenitence would make it an impossibility for the prayer of Christ to be answered for them.”
Each must ask himself “have I received Jesus offer of forgiveness?” Most of us can say we have, that there was indeed a time, a day, when we did that. But time has gone on. Our character has not ceased its developing. Could it be that some of us have lost ground instead f gaining it? Could it be that some of us have harbored strange feelings of discontent, distrust, unfairness toward others? Could it be that some have forgotten the spirit of forgiveness and indulged in the spirit of the age, a spirit of distrust and fear and surmising and disunity? Have we lost the spirit of Christ?
And, if so, are we willing, are we ready today, to hear the prayer of Jesus (“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”) and receive ti again, and determine that in the help of Jesus we will not treat a brother this way, a sister, or any other human person?
The soldiers new what they were doing. They were nailing condemned prisoners to crosses for execution. But they didn’t know what they were doing.
“Had they known that they were putting to torture One who had come to save the sinful race from eternal ruin, they would have been seized with remorse and horror.”
Yet their guilt was not lessened. All are accountable before God.
The journey to the cross is ended. The cross is thrust into place with Jesus nailed to it. To be continued.
2022-01-22 Muskegon MI SDA church
2022-01-15 Fremont MI SDA church