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Third Stage of the Roman Trial. Pilate Reluctantly Sentences Him to Crucifixion.

7-28. THIRD STAGE OF THE ROMAN TRIAL. PILATERELUCTANTLY SENTENCES HIM TO CRUCIFIXION.
(Friday. Toward sunrise.)
a MATT. 27:15-30; b MARK 15:6-19; c LUKE 23:13-25; d JOHN 18:39.

      a 15 Now at the feast [the passover and unleavened bread] the governor was wont {b used to} release unto them a the multitude one prisoner, whom they would. {b whom they asked of him.} [No one knows when or by whom this custom was introduced, but similar customs were not unknown elsewhere, both the Greeks and Romans being wont to bestow special honor upon certain occasions by releasing prisoners.]

  a 16 And they had then

  b 7 And there was a a notable prisoner, b one called Barabbas, lying bound with them that had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed [Josephus tells us that there had been an insurrection against Pilate's government about that time caused by his taking money from the temple treasury for the construction of an aqueduct. This may have been the affair here referred to, for in it many lost their lives.]

  8 And the multitude went up and began to ask him to do as he was wont to do unto them. [It was still early in the morning, and the vast majority of the city of Jerusalem did not know what was transpiring at Pilate's palace. But they came thither in throngs, demanding their annual gift of a prisoner. Pilate welcomed the demand as a possible escape from his difficulties.]

  c 13 And Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people [He did not wish to seem to take advantage of our Lord's accusers by releasing him during their absence. Possibly he knew of the triumphal entry the Sunday previous, and thought that the popularity of Jesus would be such that his release would be overwhelmingly demanded, and so called the rulers that they might see that he had released Jesus in answer to popular clamor. If he had such expectations, they were misplaced],

  b 9 And

  a 17 When therefore they were gathered together, b Pilate answered them, saying,

{c 14 and said} unto them, b Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? c Ye brought unto me this man, as one that perverteth the people: and behold, I having examined him before you, found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:

  15 no, nor yet Herod: for he sent him back unto us; and behold, nothing worthy of death hath been done by him.

  d 39 But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover:

  c 16 I will therefore chastise him, and release him. d Will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? a Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?

  18 For he knew {b perceived} a that for envy they b the chief priests had delivered him up. [Though Jesus had been Pilate did not have the courage to deliberately release him. He sought to please the rulers by scourging him, and the multitude by delivering him to them as a popular favorite, and himself by an adroit escape from an unpleasant situation. But he pleased nobody.]

  c 18 But they cried out all together, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:--

  19 one who for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison. [We see from Matthew's account that though the people had a right to name their prisoner, Pilate took upon himself the liberty of choosing which one of two it should be. By doing so he complicated matters for the Jewish rulers, asking them to choose between Jesus, who was held on an unfounded charge of insurrection, and Barabbas, who was notoriously an insurrectionist and a murderer and a robber as well. But the rulers were not to be caught in so flimsy a net. Without regard to consistency, they raised their voice in full chorus for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus.]

  a 19 And while he was sitting on the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that righteous man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. [This message of Pilate's wife suggests that the name and face of Jesus were not unknown to Pilate's household. Pilate would be much influenced by such a message. The Romans generally were influenced by all presages, and Suetonius tells us that both Julius and Augustus Cæsar attached much importance to dreams.]

  b 11 But

  a 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded {b stirred up} the multitude, {a multitudes} b that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. a that they should ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

  21 But the governor answered and said unto them, Which of the two will ye that I release unto you? And they said, Barabbas.

  d 40 They cried out therefore again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

  c 20 And Pilate spake unto them again, desiring to release

  b 12 And Pilate again answered and said {a saith} unto them, What then shall I do unto Jesus who is called Christ? b him whom ye call the King of the Jews?

  c 21 but

{b 13 and} they cried out {c shouted} b again, c saying, Crucify, crucify him. a They all say, Let him be crucified.

  b 14 And Pilate said unto them, c the third time, Why, what evil hath this man {a he} done? c I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him and release him. a But they cried out exceedingly, saying, b Crucify him. a Let him be be crucified. [Finding the mob cruelly persistent, Pilate boldly declines to do its will and turns back into the Prætorium declaring his intention to release Jesus. But he retires with the demands of the multitude ringing in his ears.]

  d 1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. [Carrying out the program which he proposed, Pilate had Jesus removed from the Prætorium to the place of scourging, and inflicted that punishment upon him. We learn from Josephus and others that the law required that those about to be crucified should first be scourged. But Pilate hoped that scourging would suffice. He believed that the more moderate would take pity upon Jesus when they viewed his scourged body, for scourging was so cruel a punishment that the condemned person often died under its infliction. The scourge was made of thongs loaded at the extremity with pieces of bone or metal. The condemned person was stripped and fastened to a low post, this bending the back so as to stretch the skin. Blood spurted at the first blow.]

  2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple garment;

  3 and they came unto him, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they struck him with their hands. [The soldiers had no special malice against Jesus, but the Roman military system made men hard of heart. The occasion gave to these foreign legionaries a much-enjoyed opportunity to show their contempt for the Jews by mocking Jesus as their King. It is not known which one was used to form the Lord's crown.tfg.cgi?section=T#">Section The robe was designed to give Jesus a mock appearance of royalty, and it was likely some cast-off military coat or state garment of Pilate's. Pilate winked at the conduct of his soldiers since it favored his plan. If Jesus could be made sufficiently pitiable and contemptible, his enemies might relent. But Pilate little understood the venom of those enemies: they mocked and taunted Jesus upon the cross.]

  4 And Pilate went out again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him out to you, that ye may know that I find no crime in him. [Those having our modern sense of justice would have said that Pilate brought Jesus out thus because he had found no crime in him. But scourging was little thought of in that place and day ( Acts 22:24 ). If Pilate had found Jesus guilty, he would have condemned him at once. As it was, he sought to return Jesus to the Sanhedrin as having committed no crime of which the Roman law could take note.]

  5 Jesus therefore came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold, the man! [It was Pilate's original proposition to scourge Jesus and let him go ( Luke 23:16 ). Having already scourged him, he now hoped to effect his release. Presenting our Lord in this state of abject humiliation, he feels that he has removed him from every suspicion of royalty. He speaks of Jesus as no longer a king, but a mere man. Pilate's words, however, have a prophetic color, somewhat like those uttered by Caiaphas. All those of subsequent ages have looked and must continue to look to Jesus as the ideal of manhood. The "Ecce Homo" of Pilate is in some sense an echo of the words of the Father when he said, "This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him." In Jesus we behold the true man, the second Adam.]

  6 When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him! [Thus Pilate's expectation came to naught, for not one of the Jewish rulers ever wavered in their demand for crucifixion.] Pilate saith unto them, Take him yourselves, and crucify him: for I crime in him. [In this sentence, "ye" and "I" are both emphatic; for Pilate wishes to draw a contrast between himself and the Jewish rulers. His words are not a permission to crucify, but a bit of taunting irony, as if he said: "I the judge have found him innocent, but ye seem to lack the wit to see that the case is ended. If ye are so much superior to the judge that ye can ignore his decision, proceed without him; crucify him yourselves."]

  7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. [Perceiving that Pilate was taunting them, and practically accusing them of attempting to put an innocent man to death, they defended themselves by revealing the fact that in addition to the charges that they had preferred against Jesus, they had found him clearly guilty and worthy of death on another charge; viz.: that of blasphemy ( Leviticus 24:16 ). They had made no mention of this fact because Pilate was under no obligation to enforce their law; but they mentioned it now to justify their course. They probably felt sure that Jesus himself would convince Pilate of the truth of this latter accusation if Pilate questioned him.]

  8 When Pilate therefore heard this saying, he was the more afraid [The words of Jesus at John xviii. 37 (see Section 129) and the message from his wife had already filled Pilate with fear, and this saying added to it because the Roman and Grecian mythologies told of many incarnations; and, influenced by the calm presence of Jesus, Pilate readily considered the possibility of such a thing];

  9 and he entered into the Praetorium again [taking Jesus with him for private examination], and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. [Pilate sought to know whether Jesus were of heaven or of earth; but Jesus did not answer, for the motive of the question was not right. Pilate did not wish an answer that he might give or withhold worship; but that he might know how strenuously he should defend Jesus. But innocent life is to be defended at all hazards, and it matters not whether it be human or divine. discharge his duties.]

  10 Pilate therefore saith unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to release thee, and have power to crucify thee? [Pilate intimates that Jesus should treat his questions with more courtesy since his good will and favor are not to be despised. But the words lay bare the corrupt heart of Pilate, and form a prophecy of the sin which he committed. Judges must hear and give sentence according to truth, uninfluenced by good will or favor. But Pilate, to please the Jews, crucified Jesus, reversing the sentence which he here suggests that he might render to please Jesus.]

  11 Jesus answered him, Thou wouldest have no power against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he [Caiaphas] that delivered me unto thee hath greater sin. [Judas is spoken of as having delivered Jesus-- John 18:2 John 18:5 (the same word being translated both "betrayed" and "delivered"), but Judas did not deliver to Pilate, so Caiaphas as the representative of the Sanhedrin is here meant; and Pilate's sin is contrasted with that of the rulers. Both of them sinned in abusing their office (the power derived from above-- Psalms 75:6 Psalms 75:7 ; Isaiah 44:28 ; Romans 13:1 ); but Pilate's sin stopped here. He had no acquaintance with Jesus to give him the possibility of other powers--those of love or hatred, worship or rejection. The members of the Sanhedrin had these powers which arose from a personal knowledge of Jesus, and they abused them by hating and rejecting him, thereby adding to their guilt. Pilate condemned the innocent when brought before him, but the Sanhedrin searched out and arrested the innocent that they might enjoy condemning him.]

  12 Upon this Pilate sought to release him [As we have seen, Pilate had before this tried to win the consent of the rulers that Jesus be released, but that which John here indicates was probably an actual attempt to set Jesus free. He may have begun by unloosing the hands of Jesus, or some such demonstration]: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend: every one that maketh himself a king speaketh [Whatever Pilate's demonstration was it was immediately met by a counter one on the part of the rulers. They raise a cry which the politic Pilate can not ignore. Taking up the political accusation (which they had never abandoned), they give it a new turn by prompting Pilate to view it from Cæsar's standpoint. Knowing the unreasoning jealousy, suspicion and cruelty of the emperor, Pilate saw at once that these unscrupulous Jews could make out of the present occasion a charge against him which would cost him his position, if not his life.]

  13 When Pilate therefore heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment-seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. [Pilate had already again and again declared Jesus innocent. He now mounts the judgment-seat that he may formally reverse himself and condemn him. The apostle as an eye-witness fixes by its two names the exact spot where this awful decision was rendered.]

  14 Now it was the Preparation of the passover [see Section 118]: it was about the sixth hour. [It is likely that John uses the Roman method of counting time, and means six A. M.tfg.cgi?section=T#">Section John notes also the exact hour day and hour.] And he saith unto the Jews, Behold, your King! [As he had tried to waken their compassion by saying, "Behold, the man!" so he now made a final attempt to shame them by saying, "Behold, your King!"]

  15 They therefore cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him! Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. [Carried away by the strong emotions of the moment, the official organs of the Jewish theocracy proclaimed Cæsar to be their only king, thus yielding with Jesus their claims to independence and their hopes in a Messiah. This is a most significant fact. When their ancestors rejected Jehovah as their king ( 1 Samuel 12:12 ), their faithful prophet, Samuel, warned them what the king of their choice would do, and what they should suffer under him. Thus Jesus also foretold what this Cæsar of their choice would do to them ( Luke 19:41-44 ; 23:27-31 ). tender mercies of Rome, and one generation later Rome trod them in the wine-press of her wrath.]

  c 23 But they were urgent with loud voices, asking that he might be crucified. And their voices prevailed. [They overcame Pilate's weak resistance by their clamor.]

  a 24 So when Pilate saw that he prevailed nothing, but rather that a tumult was arising, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man; see ye to it.

  25 And all the people answered and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. [Pilate's act was symbolic, intended to show that he regarded the crucifixion of Jesus as a murder, and therefore meant to wash his hands of the guilt thereof. The Jewish law made the act perfectly familiar to the Jews ( Deuteronomy 21:1-9 ). Had the Jewish rulers not been frenzied by hatred, the sight of Pilate washing his hands would have checked them; but in their rage they take upon themselves and their children all the responsibility. At the siege of Jerusalem they answer in part for the blood of Christ, but God alone determines the extent of their responsibility, and he alone can say when their punishment shall end. But we know that it ends for all when they repentantly seek his forgiveness. The punishments of God are not vindictive, they are the awards of Justice meted out by a merciful hand.]

  b 15 And Pilate, wishing to content the multitude, c gave sentence that what they asked for should be done.

  a 26 Then released he unto them Barabbas; c him that for insurrection and murder had been cast into prison, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

  d 16 Then therefore b Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified [Mark mentions the scourging to show that it preceded the crucifixion, but we see from John's account that the scourging took place somewhat earlier in the proceeding], b he delivered him unto them to be crucified. [Pilate delivered Jesus to their punishment, but not into their hands; he was led forth and crucified by Pilate's soldiers, who first mocked him, as the next paragraph shows.]

  a 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus, b led him away within {a into} the court, which is the Praetorium; and they called together a and gathered unto him the whole band.

  28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.   b 17 And they clothe him with purple,

  a 29 And they platted {b platting} a crown of thorns, [and] they put it on him; a upon his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they kneeled down before him, and mocked him,

  b 18 and they began to salute him, a saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

  30 And they spat upon him, and took the reed

  b 19 And they smote his head {a and smote him on the head.} b with a reed, and spat upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. [After the sentence of death the soldiers take Jesus back into the Prætorium, and renew the mockeries and indignities which had been interrupted that Pilate might exhibit Jesus to the people, as John shows us. Moreover, the whole band, or cohort, are now gathered, where at first but a few took part. It is likely that the mock robe and crown were removed when Jesus was brought before Pilate to be sentenced, for it is highly improbable that a Roman judge would pronounce the death sentence while the prisoner was clothed in such a manner.]