Scripture reading – John 18; John 19

Our devotional readings in the Synoptic Gospels have followed Christ from His last supper (Passover) with the disciples, through Judas’ betrayal and His arrest (Matthew 26:47-49; Mark 14:43-45; Luke 22:47-49). Each human author brought his own perspective, and yet all are in harmony as they recount the trials that followed Jesus’ arrest (Matthew 26:57-27:25; Mark 14:53-15; Luke 22:54-25).

John 18 – Jesus Betrayed, Arrested, and Tried

In his Gospel, the apostle John rendered an eyewitness account of Christ’s betrayal by Judas, and arrest (18:1-11). Jesus had warned Peter, he would deny Him three times before the crowing of a rooster announced the morning sunrise (13:36-38). Tragically, Peter fulfilled that prophecy (18:15-18, 25-27), and when he heard the cock crow, he went out and “wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62).

Altogether, Jesus faced six trails before He was condemned to be crucified. The initial trials occurred while it was yet dark, with Annas, the former high priest presiding over the first (18:12-14). John did not record the second trial before the high priest Caiaphas, nor the trial before the Sanhedrin (though all were agreed Jesus must die). John picked up the narrative of Jesus’ trials with Jesus being led “from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment” (18:28).

Because it was the Passover, the religious leaders refused to enter Pilate’s Hall, lest they be ceremonially defiled (of course, those same hypocrites were plotting to stain their hands with Christ’s blood, 18:28). Pilate committed several legal maneuvers in an attempt to put a distance between himself, and the Jews’ demands that Jesus, an innocent man be put to death. He heard the accusations, nevertheless, judged Jesus had committed no crime that demanded His death (18:29-40).

When Pilate agreed to free a prisoner in honor of the Passover, he asked, “will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” (18:39) Instead of Christ, the people were stirred by the chief priests to say, “Not this man [Christ], but Barabbas” (18:40). John wrote, “Now Barabbas was a robber” (18:40). So, Barabbas, an insurrectionist, murderer and robber, was set free as the Jews demanded.

John 19 – Jesus Scourged, Scorned, and Crucified

Hoping to appease the murderous Jews, Pilate ordered Jesus be scourged by his solders, who then “platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head” (19:1-2). “They put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands” (19:2b-3). Pilate declared to the mob, “I find no fault in him” (19:4), and then brought “Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!” (19:5)

The sight of Jesus beaten, and bloodied did not dissuade the crowd’s thirst for innocent blood. The chief priests and Sanhedrin officers cried out the more, “Crucify him, crucify him” (19:6). Hoping to devoid himself of responsibility for crucifying Jesus, “Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him” (19:6). Hypocritically, the Jews asserted, “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (19:7).

Pilate was troubled when he heard Jesus had “made Himself the Son of God” (19:7). He questioned Jesus, saying, “Whence art thou?” (19:12) Implying, who are you? From where have you come?

When Jesus did not answer, Pilate was offended, and declared, “knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” (19:10) Then, Jesus rebuked Pilate, and asserted the sovereignty of God, and said to him, “Thou couldest have no power [no right; no authority] at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin” (19:11).

Closing thoughts (19:14-42) – Convinced Jesus was innocent, Pilate exhausted every means to release Jesus, until he succumbed to the pressure of the mob. When he declared to the people, “Behold your King!” (19:14), they answered, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him” (19:15).

The scene at the Cross, and its fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 53) will be addressed at another time. For now, I close with a simple observation: Christ died on the cross that was intended to be Barabbas’ place of execution. Pilate, representing civil authority and the power to give or take life, judged Jesus was innocent, and by right should have been set free. Tragically, the Roman procurator made the fateful decision to not only crucify an innocent man, but sealed the fate of his own soul.

By dying on a cross reserved for a murderer, Jesus completed the portrait of a sinless, substitutionary sacrifice. He was innocent, and yet, He died not only in the place of Barabbas, but because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), He died for the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Is He your Savior? (Romans 10:13)

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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