Help me, gracious Father, to have an open mind and contrite heart, to feel my way into the meaning mystery of this night.
Read JOHN 19:1–16a
Jesus Sentenced to Be Crucified
19 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”
7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Using the websites of organizations like Barnabas Fund and Open Doors, choose a country where Christians face injustice and pray for God to sustain them throughout the Easter period.
After having Jesus flogged and allowing his soldiers some fun (vs 1–3), Pilate presents to the people a wounded Jesus, arrayed as a king. Perhaps he hoped that seeing Jesus’ humiliation would prove the charge ridiculous and allow the matter to be dropped. The religious leaders, however, discern Jesus’ threat to them much more clearly than does Pilate.1 The mob shouts for crucifixion. They twist the knife by adding the detail that Jesus had claimed to be divine, a difficult claim to hear when you’re working for an imperial family that claimed divinity itself. Yet whatever the Jewish law dictated, Roman law was sovereign and only Pilate had the right to authorize an execution.
Pilate has a choice to make and hopes that Jesus can help him out, but Jesus will neither plead for mercy nor offer false witness, respecting the power given to Pilate only because it has been given him from above. Given his claims of a kingdom not of this world, Pilate fearfully starts to wonder just where Jesus is from, but this goes unanswered.
Pilate comes down to the public seat of justice to give his ruling (v 13), now desperate to release Jesus and avoid responsibility for this mess. Stunningly, in seeking to defend their place and their nation, the religious leaders now commit themselves utterly to Rome: Jesus’ claimed kingship puts him at odds with Caesar, but they recognize no king at all other than the emperor (vs 12,15). Will Pilate, like them, choose to be Caesar’s friend (a reference to a title that conferred real status in Rome)? The threat is clear: if he chooses not to be Caesar’s friend, Caesar will hear about it. Outmaneuvered, Pilate reluctantly condemns Jesus to death.
Ask God to show you people around you who are being treated unfairly (perhaps even by you). How would God want you to serve them?
Heavenly Father, with your guidance and direction, lead me through the thick of life to minister to people at the point of their hurt. Fill me with a servant heart.
1 Cf John 11:48–50
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