Truth, Torture, and Trepidation

February 7, 2020 at 11:26 am | Posted in John | 10 Comments
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Pontius Pilate had been give the appointment as governor of Judea by the Emperor Tiberius. It was not a glamorous or easy post. Pilate was known as a vindictive (sometimes petty) and petulant politician and military commander. To say that he had a troubled relationship with the Jewish people and their religious leaders before they brought Jesus to him would be an understatement.

One of his first decisions after becoming Governor was to place Roman standards with Caesar’s image on them into the the Jewish Temple. The Jewish people, already resentful of Roman occupation and taxation in their holy city, staged a sit-down protest for five days outside of Pilate’s house. In repsonse, he threatened to kill them, but they wouldn’t back down, and he was forced to relent and have the standards removed, but, as you can imagine, he remained acrimonious and held a grudge.

On later occasions he would try to get emblems proclaiming Caesar’s divinity into Herod’s palace, and even the Temple again, including the most sacrosanct inner section known as the Holy of Holies. Herod’s sons responded by peitioning Tiberius, who rebuked and reprimanded Pilate, making him take the emblems out.

Pilate also took money from the Temple treasury to pay for an aqueduct, which caused a mob scene or a riot, in which he didn’t let his soliders use their swords, although some Jewish protesters were clubbed to death and others were run over by chariots.

On still another occasion, in Galilee, he had some Jewish worshipers killed in the middle of their religious sacrifices.

This background helps to explain some of the bickering, bargaining, and badgering that went on between Pilate and the Jewish leaders concerning what was to be done with Jesus after His arrest.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

John 18:38

Pilate found no fault in Jesus. No one ever really did. However, even as he tried to be politically expedient he found himself becoming fearful.

But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

John 18:29

Pilate hinted that this was what he wanted the Jewish leaders to do.

Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

John 18:40

Barabbas, named “the son of the father” (bar = the son; abba = the father) was a terrorist and a real insurgent zealot who sought to overthrow Rome’s rule in his homeland.

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.

John 19:1

This would be the first of two beatings Jesus received at the hands of the Romans (in addition to the blows and abuse suffered during the accusations made against Him by the Jewish High Priest and council, and their questioning of Him). There were three types of beatings used as punishment by the Romans, and the word translated as “scourged” in John 19:1 was the first type – fustigatio in Latin, from which we get the little-used English word “fustigation” and which was the least-severe of the three types. It was used for lesser offenses, but it was still plenty bad. The second-worst beating was called flagellatio (“flagellation” in English), and may have been the only type not administered to Jesus. The third type was verberatio (incorporated into the Engish word “reverberation”), so called because the blows administered to the victim were so harsh and loud that they could be heard from a distance. This was the beating that was given to convicted criminals after the sentence of crucifixion had been handed down. It involved a whip with multiple strands which had been enhanced with shards of sharp bone, metal, and possibly glass tied to them. It flayed off the skin and exposed the internal organs. Many recipients did not survive it and thus never made it to their crosses. The verberatio was intended to dehumanize the victim and to deter other would-be criminals, while at the same time taking away any sympathy the crowd of spectators might have felt seeing someone less deformed and grotesque being crucified.

And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,

John 19:2

This crown was probably made from the thorns of the date palm tree – thorns that grew up to 12 inches in length.

And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

John 19:3

This mockery and additional abuse was not part of the official legal sentencing, but was cruelly allowed by Pilate or the Roman officer in charge as sort of a bonus, letting these sadistic soldiers have some of what they considered to be fun.

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.

John 19:4

Pilate thought the Jews would have sympathy toward Jesus now, and would be satisfied that He had suffered enough. The scene was staged to be dramatic as Jesus was presented as thorougly beaten and non-threatening.

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

John 19:5

This was the Son of Man, in Whom no fault was found, as attested by the “world’s” representative, Pilate/Rome, on at least three separate occasions.

When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

John 19:6-8 (emphasis added)

I stated earlier that, as Pilate tried to dismiss Jesus with a claim that “truth” was relative or unknowable, he had begun to be fearful. As a Roman pagan who at least professed a belief in hundreds of deities, the possibility that he might be torturing a real God (or even THE real God) was starting to make him more and more nervous.

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  1. […] and Forgetfulness (Luke 16-17) 89. A Worker, a Worshiper, a Wrongdoer, and a Witness (John 12:2-15) 90. Truth, Torture, and Trepidation (John […]

  2. […] Pilate exacted a bit of petty revenge for what he felt they had forced him into doing. […]

  3. […] John 19:2 and Mark 15:17 say that the robe which the soldiers put on Jesus shortly before His Crucifixion was purple. However, Matthew 27:28 says that the robe was scarlet. Which one is […]

  4. […] in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region […]

  5. […] Pilate found no fault, because he understood that Jesus was claiming to be King of a Kingdom “not of this world.” However, Pilate chose to yield to the people and not to the true King. […]

  6. […] of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand […]

  7. […] – of all creation. This is a King who once appeared Himself before the judgment seat of men. Pontius Pilate sat on a judgment seat with Jesus Christ standing before him, and he bartered over him. He used Him […]

  8. […] came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the […]

  9. […] to slaughter the True Passover. The “hall of judgment” was probably located inside Pilate’s military encampment at the Fortress of […]

  10. […] never sugarcoats His calling. He never uses a bait and switch sales pitch. He never covers up the crown of thorns while promising a rose garden. The call to follow God is a call to die to ourselves, to take up a […]


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