Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 23, 2017
Open your Bibles to John 19:1-17. If you were with us last week, you will recall that we examined John’s description of Jesus’ “trial” before Pilate. And as we saw, it was not much of a trial, for Pilate did not consider any evidence in determining if Jesus was who he claimed to be. So, last week, we did what Pilate should have done. We examined the overwhelming evidence that proves that Jesus is in fact the long awaited for King of Kings.
After this pathetic excuse for a trial by Pilate he presented Jesus to the Jews and provided them with an opportunity to change their mind. Each Passover year, the Romans had a custom where they would release one Jewish prisoner from custody. Pilate presented Jesus and Barabbas as as options for release. In the Gospel of John we are told that Barabbas was a robber. In the Gospel of Matthew Barabbas is referred to as a notorious prisoner. In the Gospels of Mark and Luke we are told that he was a rebel who had committed murder during an insurrection, or violent uprising, in Jerusalem.
So the two choices that were presented to the Jews were 1) a notorious, murderous, robber or 2) the sinless Son of God. The choice is obvious; that is, it is obvious if you understand the depravity of man and the Sovereignty of God. Pilate could have put any wretched criminal before the people at that moment, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, Hilter, it wouldn’t have mattered, they would have released every single one of them and demanded the blood of Jesus.
The choice to release Barabbas and kill Jesus is a sad reality of the sinfulness of man, but like so many things in the Bible, it once again proves that the ordained plan of redemption through the blood of Christ is true. As odd as it sounds, when I think of the crucifixion, I regularly think of Cher, the singer. The reason I do is because allegedly after Cher watched Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ she came out and asked the question, “Why did they do that to that man?” Even Cher sees the inconsistencies of the brutal death of Jesus. But what Cher doesn’t see is the destiny of the brutal death of Jesus. So with that said, let us turn to John 19:1-17.
The Hand of God and that Hand of Pilate
As we begin, let us take a second to remind ourselves, that God, is all knowing and all powerful. Therefore, everything he does is without flaw. The Universe that exists is the best possible universe to achieve the definite plan and purpose of God.
Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,
10declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” God in the Creation of all things will accomplish his purpose. What is his purpose? To display his glory. Creation is for his glory. Psalm 19:1, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Humanity is for his glory. Isaiah 43:7, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Jesus, taking on flesh and becoming a man is for his glory. John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Everything that is, both good and bad is for the God glory of God, including the brutal torture and death of His Son. Let us not forget the words of Jesus in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,” We are about to dwell upon this hour of glory, and it is a bloody. What appears to be gratuitous violence, or uncalled for violence, is not. For we are told in Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;” The bloody death of Christ has a purpose. This is why Jesus says so pointedly to Pilate in verse 11, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Yes, it was at the hand of Pilate, but it was the will of the Lord, and it is for his glory.
Therefore, we must not put our heads in the sand and ignore the gore of Jesus torture and death of Jesus, we must face it head on. For it is all according to God's plan, for God's glory, and for our good.
Pilate Took Jesus and Flooged Him
So with this in mind, let us turn our attention to the means by which the Father crushed his Son. In verse one we are told that “Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.”
The decision to flog Jesus may seem to us odd, seeing how in the previous chapter, we read in verse 38 Pilate say, “I find no guilt in him.” If Pilate finds no guilt in him, why flog him? What is going on? The reason is that Pilate is a political populist, and he is stuck in between the Roman Authority of Tiberius Caesar and the Jews. He was trying to play both sides of the fence. The Jews wanted Jesus dead, but there was no evidence supporting this verdict. So the middle ground was a flogging. The flogging was a strategy by Pilate to avoid the crucifixion fo Christ. He hoped that the flogging would be enough to appease the Jews.
What does it mean to flog someone? The New American standard version says, scourged him. John Gill’s commentary states that when a person was scourged they were stripped naked, fastened to a pillar and then severely whipped. It was not uncommon for these whips to have pieces of metal or bones fastened to them. The purpose of this was to rip the flesh off of the victim. The leather whips would hit the flesh of the victim, the metal would sink in, and then when they pulled the whip back, chucks of flesh would be pulled off the person's body.
This scourging would begin upon the back and upon the loins, and it was not uncommon for the individual then to then be flipped over then struck in the face and in the stomach area. According to DA Carson, this whipping would commonly be done by several Roman soldiers, and would continue until the the soldiers were exhausted, or until their commanding officer told them to stop. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says “so hideous was the punishment that the victim usually fainted and not rarely died under it.”
So is this the type of scourging that occurred to Jesus? Most likely, for several reasons. First, we are told in the other three gospels that after the sourcing, Simon of Cyrene had to be recruited to help Jesus carry his cross. Why? Because Jesus was most likely scourged to a few inches of his life, and was too weak to carry it. Second, we are also told in Mark 15:44 that Pilate was surprised how quickly Jesus died upon the cross. Why did Jesus dies so quickly? There are several reason, but it is possible that it is partly because he was nearly scourged to death.
What is interesting about this, is the the quickness of Jesus death, that was potentially caused by the substantial scourging, was one of the means by which there was fulfillment of prophecy. For as we will see in John 19:31-37, due to the Jewish festival of the Day of Preparation, the Jews asked Pilate to break the legs of those who were being crucified. However, when they got to Jesus, he was already dead. Therefore he legs were not broken, which is a fulfillment of Psalm 34:20 which states that “He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken.”
However, the strongest piece of evidence that Jesus was flogged near to the point of death can actually be found in three old testament passages. First in Isaiah 50:3, which is another imagery of the suffering servant in the book of Isaiah says, “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” Likewise, Psalm 129:3 states, “The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.” However, perhaps the strongest of all Old Testament prophecies of the flogging of Jesus is found in Psalm 22:16, “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet--17I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; 18they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” If you have never read Psalm 22, I would encourage you to do so this afternoon. It is rich with prophecy of Jesus' death, and it was written 1000 years before Jesus was born. And we are told in Psalm 22 that when Jesus hung upon the cross, and looked down upon his flesh, what did he see? He saw his bones. His flesh had been ripped off of his body by the battalion of Roman guards, both front and back. They mutilated him, perhaps to a point of being unrecognizable.
I want you to see the significance of this. John 1:14 tells us that Jesus, the Son of God, put on flesh and dwelt amongst man. Emmanuel, God with us. And what does man do in response? We attempt to tear the flesh right off of him. Humanity is wretched, humanity is depraved. Humanity deserves the wrath of God.
Crown of Thorns
If the scourging of Jesus was not enough, they also mocked him. Placing upon his head a crown of thorns, a purple robe, and saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” Again, the irony is to great to ignore. Even though they mocked Christ, their words were true. For he was what they claimed him to be, the King.
I do want to spend just second talking about the crown of thorns. Partly, because it is our logo, here at Cornerstone Church. If you look at our bulletin, you will see it. It is a white crown of thorns that takes a shape of a C, in the center of a black block. Simple, yet powerful if we dwell upon the reality that it represents.
What is interesting, is this is the only crown that Jesus ever whore in his entire life. That may not be surprising, but it should be. Jesus is the Anointed, he is God's chosen, the one who we are told in Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”
This child who would rule upon the throne of David for all eternity, is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, and the only crown that he ever had placed upon his head while he was on this earth, was a crown of thorns. Perhaps, however, this should not surprise us, Jesus has already told us that his Kingdom is not of this World, so we should not be surprised that his crown is not one of gold but one of thorns. But I think there is something more than just eccentric-ness that explains this.
If we go back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, after the fall, Jesus says this to Adam after Adam's rebellion against God; verse 17, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” The only reason that thorns exist on this planet is because of sin. Thorns are a symbol of God's judgment. Thorns are a symbol of the curse due to humanity's sin. And as Jesus, the second Adam is about to become a curse, and bear the weight of God's judgment upon himself, what else would we expect him to wear but a crown of thorns? It is the perfect crown of Christ who came to set his people free.
Behold the Man/Behold Your King
And after all of this took place, the flogging, the mocking, the crown of thorns, Pilate paraded Jesus before the crowd one more time, in the hope that his flogging would satisfy the blood thirst of Israel. And as he did, Pilate cries out, “Behold the man!”
And before Israel stood a mangled piece of flesh, with a crown of thorns upon his head and a blood stained robe upon his back. The Son of the Most High God. John 1:11, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Not only did they not receive him, but they cried out crucify him, crucify him. Demanding his death because he claimed to be the Son of God. Pilate's plan did not work.
We are told in verse 8 that upon hearing that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, Pilates was “even more afraid,” This caused Pilate to question Jesus one final time. Pilate now speaks to Jesus, not as a itinerant preacher from Galilee, but as a tortured prisoner of Rome. This conversation concludes with a mauled and beaten Jesus staring Pilate in the eyes and saying, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”
Oh what I would give to have been in that room to watch that moment unfold. If you want to see Glory, there is Glory! Behold the man! He is the man of all men. He is the long awaited for seed of Eve, that does not even flinch when he stares his executioner in the face and dismisses him as irrelevant.
This moment had a profound effect upon Pilate, as it would for anyone with a pulse. He now wanted to try and stop this runaway train of Jesus' crucifixion. And as he brings out Jesus a second time to the Jews, he no longer say, “Behold the man,” but now says “Behold Your King.” And to that I say amen!
For that is the King that I will follow. A king who left the glory he had with the Father to take on flesh. A king who lived amongst his people. A king who was tempted in every way, yet did not sin. A king who loves his disciples to the end. A king who is not afraid to stare death and the face and say you have no power over me. A king who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep, which includes you and me.
When I behold that kind of King, when I behold that kind of man, when I behold that kind of glory, my heart is overwhelmed with joy and I am willing to renounce all other inferior endeavors and follow that King until my death. Behold the man, behold your King.