The Whipping Scene
This chapter begins with another miscarriage of justice. “Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him” (v. 1). Pilate had said to the crowd: “I have found no cause of death in Him” (v. 1). Pilate had said to the crowd: “I have found no cause of death in Him; I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go” (Luke 23:12). This is an amazing statement of contradiction. Imagine a judge proclaiming: “He is not guilty, therefore I will have Him beaten.” Pilate did not realize that it was prophesied concerning the Lord Jesus that He would give His back to the smiters (Isaiah 53:5). I read of a man who was meditating on this portion of the Bible before he retired for the night. He dreamed that he was present in Pilate’s judgment hall when the Lord Jesus was scourged. He could see Jesus, stripped to the waist, tied to a post, with His back bared to the soldier who was striking Him. The whip lashed out again and again stinging into the body of Jesus, and biting out pieces of flesh. The man could stand it no longer. Rushing up behind the soldier, he grasped him by the shoulders. The soldier turned, and the man looked into his own face. Yes, I scourged Him; you scourged Him. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with his
stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
The Sinister Mockery
“And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe, and said: Hail, King of the Jews!” (vs. 2,3).
Schilder writes that in the drama of our Lord’s passion, this is the soldier’s comedy scene. (Remember, this scene occurs after Jesus was scourged.) It was no joke for our Lord, but, things were pretty dull in Pilate’s barracks for the soldiers, and the word is passed around that they have a prisoner who thinks He is a king. He is a Jew, condemned to be crucified. He stands there among them, lacerated and dripping blood. But, this evokes no sympathy. Instead, they seem to say, “He is going to die anyway, so we may as well have some fun with Him. If He is a king, He needs a crown, a robe, and some subjects.” They crowned Him with thorns, put on Him a purple robe, and mocked Him, saying: “Hail, King of the Jews!”
In their fool mockery (“fools make a mock at sin.” Prov. 14:9) they unknowingly portray some of the eternal truths of the Gospel:
“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
He was clothed with a purple robe, for He is to be made sin for us.
“Cursed be the ground for your sake … Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to thee” (Genesis 3:17,18).
He was crowned with thorns, the emblem of the curse, for “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one who hangs upon a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
He was clothed with a robe of contempt that we might receive a robe of righteousness. He was crowned with thorns that we might be crowned with blessing and glory. He was rejected as king of a spiritual kingdom that we might be kings and priests to God.
“and they smote Him with their hands” (v.3).
The sport became tame, and mockery passed into violence. Why? How can you explain this? He had not harmed them, nor anyone. In all the writings and philosophies of man you can find no explanation for their behavior. It is only in the Word of God that we learn why they acted so. The only explanation is that the carnal mind is enmity against God (Rom. 8:7), and the Lord Jesus is Immanuel, God with us; God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16).
“Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, Behold the Man!” (v. 5)
This is the inspiration for the masterpiece, “Ecce Homo.” No doubt, Pilate hoped to elicit sympathy. Looking at Him, battered and bleeding, they would surely say: “It is enough. Let Him go.” It was a weak attempt to compromise between right and wrong, but compromise always leads to greater sin. It only increased the hatred it was meant to appease. Also, we cannot do evil that good may come. The end does not justify the means.
“When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out saying, Crucify! Crucify!” (v. 6)
“the chief priests” — Again, we see the worthlessness of religion which does not change the heart. As a ravening and roaring lion (Psalm 22:13), they had tasted blood. Their clamor had succeeded in making Pilate scourge an innocent Man. They hoped that by shouting louder they could make him crucify Jesus.
The Son of God
‘Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him” ‘ (v. 6).
Pilate mocked them; he hated them; he feared them; he condemned himself. They answered him: “We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” (v. 7). This was the only excuse the Jews could find for having our Lord crucified. One of the greatest proofs of the Deity of Christ is Mary, His mother, standing silent by the cross. She knew that this charge of the Jews had nailed Him there. If he were not the Son of God, all she had to do to have Him taken down from the cross was to say that it was not true, that He was not the Son of God, but had an earthly father. But, Mary stood silent at the foot of the cross, for she knew that the Holy Spirit had come upon her and the holy baby born of her was truly the Son of God (Luke 2:35). Would a mother .silently permit her son to be executed for a charge which she with a word could prove was wrong, and thus save his life? Mary standing silent by the cross is an irrefutable witness to the Deity of Christ.
“When Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid; and went again into the judgment hall, and said to Jesus, Where are you from?” (v. 8,9)
Pilate did not ask Jesus who He was, but rather where He was from. He already knew where Jesus was from. He had learned that Jesus was a Galilean who belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction (Luke 23:6, 7). When the Jews charged that Jesus had made Himself the Son of God, Pilate became even more afraid, and was perhaps asking Himself: “Does this explain the conduct of this Man? Is He a deity from some other world?” At this point, the Lord Jesus gave him no answer (v. 9). Pilate no longer deserved an answer. Our Lord had patiently endured so much to give Pilate every opportunity to do what was right, but he would not.
“Jesus gave him no answer” (v. 9).
Jesus was there for us. What excuse could He give for our sins. Therefore, “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He also fulfilled this prophetic type at two other times in His trial:
Before Caiaphas — “The high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Do you answer nothing? What it is which these witness against you? But He held His peace, and answered nothing” (Mark 14:60, 61).
Before Herod — “Then he questioned with Him in many words, but He answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9).
Pilate, the slave to public opinion, pitifully protested his power to crucify Jesus, or to release Him (v. 10). Jesus reminded Pilate that he could have no power against Him except it were given him from above. “There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1). Pilate did not realize that the One to whom he boasted about power could have paralyzed his tongue.
Now, note some of the saddest words ever written: “From henceforth Pilate sought to release Him” (v. 12). Feel the agony of it! Why didn’t Pilate release our Lord? He couldn’t. His past sins would not let him perform a righteous act. The binding, paralyzing power of sin! “Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing” (Matt. 27:24). Poor Pilate! Sin makes us helpless. You must forsake sin, or it will master you, especially the sin of compromise.
The enemies of our Lord executed their final strategem: “The Jews cried out saying, If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend” (v. 12). Amicus Caesaris! They know their man. Self-love and self-interest, not justice, motivated him. Pilate had to decide between Christ and world position. Did he make a good choice? If the pit of hell could open up to let us hear the voice of Pilate, what a sermon he could preach! And, I am quite sure that I know his text: “What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36, 37). What would you take that your soul should be eternally damned? Would you take a million dollars, or sinful pleasure, or the world’s applause, or power? Are any of these, or anything else keeping you from receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior? Pilate made a bad bargain.
“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the Judgment Seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew,
Gabbatha.” (v. 13)
It was at this point that Pilate “took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person; see you to it” (Matt. 27:24). Can water wash away sin? What can? We “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We have to be cleansed from our sins to go to heaven, for no sin can enter there. What would we do if we did not have the blood of Jesus:
“In Whom we have redemption through
His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14).
“You were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, … but with the precious
blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18,19).
“Being now justified by
His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9).
When we get to heaven and look around, the only ones that we will see there will be those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. It is the very One who was standing before Pilate who said: “This is My blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Pilate took water to cleanse his sin, but rejected the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Pilate washed his hands when he should have exerted them. Merely to protest against wrong when you have the power to prevent it, is sin. “He who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). “I am innocent, … see you to it.” You cannot get rid of sin by asking those for whom you did the wrong to be your sin bearers.
“He then delivered Him to them to be crucified” (v. 16).
Who delivered Him? “He was delivered for our offences” (Rom. 4:25). We delivered Him. The awfulness of our sins! “He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). God delivered Him. The magnitude of His grace!
“And they took Jesus and led Him away” (v. 16).
The same word for “take” is also found in:
John 1:11 — “He came to his own, but His own did not
John 14:6 — “I will come and
take you unto Myself.”
This is only because He let them
take Him and lead Him away to Golgotha.