Pilate’s Efforts to Free Jesus

John 19:1-5

The eighteenth and nineteenth chapters of John’s Gospel deal with the trials of Jesus of Nazareth beginning with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. They culminate in His crucifixion as recorded in John 19:16-30. The first part of John 19 is not a trial. There has been no record of a trial since Pilate’s initial verdict of acquittal as noted in verse 38 of the preceding chapter. Jesus is still in the hands of Pilate. The trial ended earlier when Pilate said, “I find in him no fault at all.”

(1) Pilate sent Jesus to Herod hoping that he would solve his dilemma.

(2) Pilate attempted to release Jesus instead of Barabbas in honor of the Jewish custom.

(3) Pilate caused Jesus to be beaten, hoping this meant to evoke pity from the leaders and mob.

None of these strategies worked. The reaction to these attempts shows the nature of the human heart and its sin. It also shows God’s plan for the redemption of the world through Jesus’ crucifixion.

 

The Flogging

Pilate had Jesus flogged. Severe scourging often preceded crucifixion of the prisoner. Such actions were regular punishments. This particular punishment was severe, and it was a part of the death sentence. Since Pilate has not presented a sentence, the scourging of Jesus is not as severe. He hopes that the blood drawn from the beating will satisfy Jesus’ accusers John 19:5. This is an unlikely supposing on Pilate’s part. John 18:31 Pilate took this action because he attempted to compromise with the Jews.

Jesus was tied to a post set in the courtyard for the punishment of prisoners. He was stripped naked and stretched against the iron post. Jesus was fully exposed to the brutality of His torturers.

It should be noted that Julius Caesar had decreed that scourging was too severe for the Italian soldiers to administer. Pilate’s entourage included two Syrian conscripts who shared the task. [Gordon Thomas, The Jesus Conspiracy Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 221.

Soldiers normally administered this type of punishment in the provinces. Free Romans were beaten with rods, and soldiers with sticks. Slaves and despised non-Romans were beaten with whips. The leather thongs were enclosed with sharp pieces of metal or bone. Jewish law commanded thirty-nine lashes while Roman law allowed this punishment until the soldier got tired. There are texts that report that bones or entrails were sometimes bared. [Bible Background Commentary, WordSearch Database]

Such flogging often killed an individual. The flogging, the mocking crown of thorns and purple robe, the ridiculing in hailing Him King of the Jews along with the physical blows on His face were all part of Jesus’ deep humiliation as He was identified with human sin as the Servant of the Lord. Note Is. 50:6; 52:14-53:6. In Matthew and Mark’s gospel, we read of the soldiers spitting on Jesus. Matt. 27:30 and Mark 15:19. It should be noted that the thorns are connected with the curse of thorns caused by human sin as seen in Genesis 3:18.

While the malefactors hung on the tree, soldiers played games of knucklebones, coins or dice. It was common for street mimes to mock kings arrayed in mock splendor. The Jewish ruler Agrippa I was ridiculed in this manner in Alexandria. [Ibid.]

Concerning the purple robe, Greek vassal princes wore this type of robe. The “purple robe” may have been a faded scarlet lictor’s robe or an old rug. The crown of thorns may have come from an “acanthus shrub or from the date palm. These “crowns” may have been used to mimic the wreaths of Hellenistic kings. Some thorns may have been turned inward, which caused Jesus’ head to bleed.

“Hail” is sarcasm derived from the customary salutation of the Roman emperor, which is “Ave (Hail), Caesar!”

Pilate told the Jewish crowd twice that he found Jesus not guilty. Their response both times was they wanted Jesus to die. Pilate finally bowed to their demand.

 

The Flogging

Pilate had Jesus flogged. Severe scourging often preceded crucifixion of the prisoner. Such actions were regular punishments. This particular punishment was severe, and it was a part of the death sentence. Since Pilate has not presented a sentence, the scourging of Jesus is not as severe. He hopes that the blood drawn from the beating will satisfy Jesus’ accusers John 19:5. This is an unlikely supposing on Pilate’s part. John 18:31 Pilate took this action because he attempted to compromise with the Jews.

Jesus was tied to a post set in the courtyard for the punishment of prisoners. He was stripped naked and stretched against the iron post. Jesus was fully exposed to the brutality of His torturers.

It should be noted that Julius Caesar had decreed that scourging was too severe for the Italian soldiers to administer. Pilate’s entourage included two Syrian conscripts who shared the task. [Gordon Thomas, The Jesus Conspiracy Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 221.

Soldiers normally administered this type of punishment in the provinces. Free Romans were beaten with rods, and soldiers with sticks. Slaves and despised non-Romans were beaten with whips. The leather thongs were enclosed with sharp pieces of metal or bone. Jewish law commanded thirty-nine lashes while Roman law allowed this punishment until the soldier got tired. There are texts that report that bones or entrails were sometimes bared. [Bible Background Commentary, WordSearch Database]

Such flogging often killed an individual. The flogging, the mocking crown of thorns and purple robe, the ridiculing in hailing Him King of the Jews along with the physical blows on His face were all part of Jesus’ deep humiliation as He was identified with human sin as the Servant of the Lord. Note Is. 50:6; 52:14-53:6. In Matthew and Mark’s gospel, we read of the soldiers spitting on Jesus. Matt. 27:30 and Mark 15:19. It should be noted that the thorns are connected with the curse of thorns caused by human sin as seen in Genesis 3:18.

While the malefactors hung on the tree, soldiers played games of knucklebones, coins or dice. It was common for street mimes to mock kings arrayed in mock splendor. The Jewish ruler Agrippa I was ridiculed in this manner in Alexandria. [Ibid.]

Concerning the purple robe, Greek vassal princes wore this type of robe. The “purple robe” may have been a faded scarlet lictor’s robe or an old rug. The crown of thorns may have come from an “acanthus shrub or from the date palm. These “crowns” may have been used to mimic the wreaths of Hellenistic kings. Some thorns may have been turned inward, which caused Jesus’ head to bleed.

“Hail” is sarcasm derived from the customary salutation of the Roman emperor, which is “Ave (Hail), Caesar!”

Pilate told the Jewish crowd twice that he found Jesus not guilty. Their response both times was they wanted Jesus to die. Pilate finally bowed to their demand.

 

The Custom

In John 18:39, Pilate speaks concerning a “custom” of the Jews during the feast. The custom involves choosing a prisoner for release. The choice here would be historic. They choose a robber and insurrectionist to be released. The man’s name is Barabbas. Jesus, the Son of God, must be crucified.

What is Truth?

At the end of Pilate’s interrogation with Jesus, he asks a question worth our studying. He asks Him “what is truth?” John 18:38. The word “truth” comes from the Greek word aletheias, which means “truth, reality; the unveiled reality lying at the basis of and agreeing with an appearance; the manifested, the veritable essence of matter.” [The Complete Word Study Dictionary, WordSearch Database]

Second, we need to understand the background of this statement. Jesus stands before Pilate in his court.

Jesus not only told Pilate his origin, but He explained His ministry, which involved bearing witness to the truth. His spiritual kingdom was one of truth. People were won to His kingdom through conviction and persuasion. He spoke the truth found in God’s Word. All who were His sheep would hear His voice and respond. Jesus’ weapon was the truth of God, which is the sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17. [Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) New Testament WordSearch Database]

The Bible Background Commentary says the following:

“The idea that Jesus’ kingdom is not based on military or political force is repeated throughout the Gospels, but Jesus’ Jewish hearers never grasp that meaning in his words (after all, why call it a “kingdom” if it was nonpolitical?). Pilate hears the term “truth” and interprets Jesus in another sense: a philosopher or some other teacher. As an educated Roman, Pilate may have known that many philosophers portrayed themselves as ideal rulers; although he probably had little attachment to philosophers himself, he would have viewed them as harmless. No one could be more non revolutionary in practice than a Cynic or Stoic philosopher, no matter how antisocial Cynic teachings might be…”

 

Conversation between Pilate and Jesus The King

It is important for us to go over this conversation because Jesus talks about the kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul speaks to Timothy concerning the testimony of Jesus. I Timothy 6:13 He says that Jesus “made the good confession.” This confession is only mentioned in the Gospel of John. The synoptic gospels contain a five-word response of Jesus. These gospels record the fact that Jesus was asked if He were the king of the Jews. They report Him as answering the question in the following manner: “It is as you say.” Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3. He is recorded as saying nothing else. What is recorded in John teaches us what a good confession is. It is not rude, rough or abrupt. It is not veiled in mystery. It is simple, kind and direct. Jesus treated Pilate with the respect due him because of his office. Christ addresses divine versus human affairs and of God’s sovereignty. This teaches us how we should speak of spiritual things and what we should say.

Further, this statement contains a definition of the nature of Christ’s kingdom in the very words of Jesus. They were spoken at an important moment in history.

Christ, A King

Whatever the appearances may be to the contrary, Jesus confesses that He is a king. Even though He was bound and beaten (Luke 22:63-65), He was entitled to be called a king.

What is true of the king is no less true of his kingdom. Note what Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote concerning this over a hundred years ago:

“To this day, pure Christianity, in its outward appearances, is an equally unattractive object, and wears upon its surface few royal tokens. It is without form or comeliness, and when men see it, there is no beauty that they should desire it. True, there is a nominal Christianity, which is accepted and approved of men, but the pure gospel is still despised and rejected. The real Christ of today, among men, is unknown and unrecognized as much as he was among his own nation eighteen hundred years ago…Christ chanted in cathedrals, Christ personified in lordly prelates, Christ surrounded by such as are in kings’ houses, he is well enough; but Christ honestly obeyed, followed, and worshiped in simplicity, without pomp or form, they will not allow to reign over them…”

“We are satisfied that Christ is the king still where he wont to be king, and that is not among the great ones of the earth, nor among the mighty and the learned, but amongst the base things of the world and the things which are not, which shall bring to nought the things that are, for these hath God from the beginning chosen to be his own.” [Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Jesus, the King of Truth,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 18 (Pasadena, Tex.: Pilgrim Publications, 1971), 699]

 

Definition of Worry

There is one Greek word in the New Testament that is translated as “worry.” That word is merimnao, which means “to be anxious, to be distracted” or “to have a divided mind” (merizo, (merizo, to “divide”–nous, “the mind”). John Edmund Haggai, How to Win Over Worry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 19.

-To worry is to divide your mind between that which is useful and worthwhile and that which is damaging and destructive. [Ibid.]

-To worry is to block the flow of creative energy in your life.

 

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

 

The concept of worrying is conveyed through Scripture by numerous words and phrases.

–to be fretful

–to be anxious

–to be concerned

–to be weighed down with cares

–to be heavy-hearted

–to be without peace

–to be distracted

–to be troubled

–to be distressed

–to be despairing

 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)