John 19:1-3, NIV          
1Then 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 struck him in the face.


March 10, 2012
A lot has happened in a few  brief hours.  In John 18:6, the soldiers
drew back and "fell to the ground" when Jesus spoke to the detachment
who had come to arrest him.  That was when they had no idea what to
expect.  But by now they have come to realize Jesus was not going to
call down fire from heaven to protect himself.  Underneath all the hype,
Jesus was just like any other man--vulnerable.  And so the soldiers
became boldly abusive.

Or maybe there was a changing of the guard, and the fresh troops were
more rowdy than their previous counterparts.  Once they got started,
everything escalated.  A Roman flogging was enough to kill someone,
or at least render them helpless.  The perpetrators came up with the
crown of thorns idea.  Someone wearing a crown needs a royal robe
so they supplied that, too.  Then they mocked Jesus and struck him
repeatedly around the head and face. 

Jesus would have been very bloody by now.  First from the flogging, then
from the briars  burrowing into his brow.  He was pained in body, in soul
and in spirit.  No one came to his aid.

I struggle with the crucifixion story.  I don't want to believe that anyone
can be so cruel.  I don't want to believe that people can become so
energized by the violence and continue to beat someone who is already
down and unable to get back up.  I don't ever want to see the face of
someone so charged up that they will not stop.

I do not understand the people who stand by and watch such behavior,
especially those who have the influence and power to stop it but do
nothing.  I do not want to believe that I, too, could be cruel to another
person, that I could become so callous and feel justified in that I am
just doing my job and following the orders given to me.

Pilate didn't agree with the Jewish officials that Jesus deserved to be
put to death.  So he ordered Jesus to be flogged, hoping that would
satisfy them.


                                               John 19:4-6, NIV        
4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am
bringing him [Jesus] 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!"

March 11, 2012
Pilate's plan did not work.  The word, bloodthirsty, comes to my mind. 
On Pilate's mind is the image of Jesus, so helpless and broken that
he could not be a threat to anyone.  Surely these religious leaders
could see that.  But no, they want more, much more.  They want the
final blow.  They want Jesus to be dead.  And not with a swift blow
from a sharp sword, but by the most heinous means, crucifixion.

Who is the more vile and vicious!  To which characters in this
crucifixion story does the word, bloodthirsty, really belong?  John
identifies them.  It is the ones demanding that Jesus die.  No one else
understands their vehemence.  I don't know if they understand it
themselves.  But it's building to such a crescendo they are about to
explode.  They will get what they want.  They will persevere.  They will
wear Pilate down with their demands.  They will get Jesus crucified. 

                                                John 19:6-7, NIV
But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me,
I find no basis for a charge against him."  7 The Jews insisted,
"We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because
he claimed to be the Son of God."

March 12, 2012
Pilate told them, "You want Jesus crucified, you go and do it yourselves." 
They could have stoned Jesus to death, but a crucifixion was not
allowed according to their Law.  Such barbarism was Roman, it was
not a part of Jewish culture.  It's telling that these judges of Jesus
wanted the gentile Romans to carry out their dirty work for them.  These
people who thought of themselves as special in God's sight, needed
the "inferior" gentiles to carry out the judgment they prescribed.  It was
a form of justice which made no sense to anyone but themselves.

Regarding the accusation that Jesus claimed go be the Son of God--
had Pilate never been told this before?  Pilate was much more
comfortable with Jesus as the King of Israel.  Their king, not mine.
Son of God was too much.  Romans did not displease their gods. 
Gods were more powerful than man.  Therefore they were respected,
and feared.  Pilate had no intention to order the death of any son of
any god.  Not yours, not mine.

How did Pilate really feel about these Jewish leaders?  How did the
Jewish leaders really feel about Pilate?  It was probably a mutual disdain.

                                                John 19:8-11, NIV
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."

March 18, 2012
Here is the final conversation between Pilate and Jesus.  Pilate is no
longer certain he knows who he is talking to.  The Jewish leaders had
suggested that Jesus might be from the gods, and Pilate tried to get to
the bottom of this claim.  Evidently they didn't believe it.  But it created
doubts in Pilate's mind, and caution as to how he should proceed. 
Had Jesus wanted to live, here was his out.  It's very likely Pilate would
have let him go if Jesus had cooperated.  But Jesus stood silent.

"Where do you come from?", Pilate wanted to know.  Jesus refused to
tell him.  "How dare you treat me this way; don't you know I have the
power to free you from all charges!"  

As always in the Gospel accounts, Jesus got in the last word.  He 
informed the Roman governor that he didn't really have any power over
him!  Because all power comes from heaven above.  And then Jesus
confided something to Pilate.  He told him "those who handed me over
to you" are more guilty of my death than you are!   We do not know if
Pilate took any comfort from these words or not.  Is it comforting to be
told that you are not as evil as someone else?  Your sin is not as bad. 
You don't need to feel as guilty as those wicked fellows! 

Remember, this is the same Jesus who said that if you call your
brother a lying rascal, you are guilty of murder; just as if you lust after
a person not your spouse, you are guilty of adultery.  Degree of sin did
not seem to matter to Jesus when he taught the people on that hillside
in Galilee, yet here in this situation he told Pilate he was not as great
a sinner as the fellows outside who were demanding his crucifixion.

                                                John 19:12, NIV
12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept
shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.
Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar."

March 19, 2012
Ironically, Jesus best "friend" in this whole ordeal was not one of his
brethren, but the topmost symbol of the foreign invader.  Pilate had
gone to great lengths to release Jesus.  He did not want to pass the
death sentence on a man who was innocent in his eyes.  The Gospel
writer adds detail after detail in order to show the reader that Pilate
was more righteous than the governing religious authorities.

Their argument was quite persuasive.  If Caesar heard that Pilate did
not act decisively when he heard someone claimed to be a "king of the
Jews", there could be severe consequences.  Both to Pilate and the
Jewish authorities.  And surely Caesar has ears everywhere.

                                               John 19:13-14, NIV
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 Passover Week, about the sixth hour.  "Here is your king,"
Pilate said to the Jews.

March 20, 2012
In the end, it was Pilate's job to pass judgment.  So he stepped out from
his palace and sat down on the judgment seat.  We can assume Jesus
stood by his side.  Was it fear of repercussions on Pilate's part?  Did he
just want to be done with this whole mess?  He had been robbed of sleep. 
What was the use of prolonging the inevitable?  These religious leaders
were not giving up until they got what they demanded.

For the Jewish people, a day begins at sunset.  Everyone had eaten the
annual Passover meal with their extended family last night. The events
in this text took place on the first morning of the week-long observance. 
The city was packed with pilgrims who had come home to Jerusalem
according to the traditions of their faith.  This evening there would be
more celebration, more sacred time.  Now, with sufficient daylight hours, 
it was time to get on with the crucifixion.

John called it the sixth hour.  Translators interpret the time differently. 
But it is generally agreed that it was noon or earlier.  The Gospel writer,
Mark, records that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, which we
now call 9 A.M.  Footnotes say there were differing ways of telling time,
hence the confusion. 

                                               John 19:15, NIV
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.

March 21, 2012
How low can you go?  These authorities from the land of Judea sank
all the way to the bottom.  In order to persuade Pilate to rule in their
favor, they graveled in the dirt before him and cried out,  "We have no
king but Caesar."  The Jews at the time hated the Romans who
occupied their country.  To mouth these words and bow before the
Roman Caesar, was as low as any person could go. 

They were breaking the standards and overriding spirit of that which
set them apart from all other people--the Law and the Prophets.  Of
course they would rationalize and argue otherwise, but deep inside
they knew they had sold their heart and soul in order to get rid of
Jesus.  Or maybe they couldn't see, because they had conveniently
forgotten their great Law.  Utterly secularized, they rejected Jesus
and embraced Caesar!

After starting down this treacherous road, they found it impossible to
retreat.  They were like a herd of wild animals racing straight toward
an abyss, and nothing was going to stop them.

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