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.

A Less Lurid Account of the Crucifixion

January 21, 2020 at 5:09 pm | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

John 19:16-17

Golgotha was also known as “Calvary,” which is from the Latin word for “skull.” It is possible that the place was named that because its shape bore a resemblance to a human skull.

Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

John 19:18

The Biblical narrative of the events which commenced after Jesus’s arrest, and some of the historical records and information concerning the Roman penal system give us insight into some of the terrible beatings, humiliation, mockery, and abuse that Jesus suffered as a prelude to His Crucifixion. These things are difficult to talk about, especially knowing that He endured such suffering for you and me, unworthy as we were to receive the blessings of that kind of love and sacrifice. John 19:18 says, “Where they crucified him…” without going into detail about exactly what it meant to be crucified under the Roman penal system. If you’ve attended church long enough, especially around Easter or Good Friday, you’ve probaby heard a Bible teacher or preacher go to great lengths to describe just how horrible death by crucifixion was. Specific information about the nerve centers where the spikes were driven, the pain of asphyxiation, the agony of dehydration and muscle cramping, etc., is used to paint a very vivid picture which is largely absent from the Biblical account. This raises a question: “Why didn’t the Gospel writers go into more detail about the mechanics and nuances of Jesus’s Crucifixion?” I believe there may be several reasons, but the two that seem apparent to me are:

1. The Gospel writers knew that their original readers would have been very familiar with crucifixion since they were under Roman rule and subjugation, so there was no need to go into more detail.

2. While the physical torture of Jesus certainly plays a significant role in our redemption, and must never be minimized, it was not His physical suffering alone (or even primarily) that paid for our sins. Remember, the full weight of God’s wrath against the sins of every person who has been, or will be, saved was poured out upon Jesus in the eternal realm (Isaiah 53:10-12), and this was a type of punishment which no finite human could comprehend, and which no human eyes were allowed to see (Luke 23:44-46). It was a transaction between the Heavenly Father and His Divine Son (Romans 3:25; I John 2:2, 4:10), and it goes beyond the ability of mere mortals to put into words that could truly do it justice.

John mentions the two criminals crucified on either side of Jesus, but does not tell us that one of them trusted Christ before he died and was saved.

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was Jesus Of Nazareth The King Of The Jews. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

John 19:19-20

The title, “King of the Jews,” was intended as mockery, but it was a true statement about Jesus, and was written in three languages, proclaiming it religiously, culturally, and legally.

Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.

John 19:21 (emphasis added)

Suddenly the chief priests who had vehemently opposed Jesus as the true “I AM” were now more than willing to have those words appended to His name.

Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

John 19:22

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

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

John 19:23

The soldiers divided four of Jesus’s separate articles of clothing among themselves: His head covering, His belt/girdle, His outer garment, and His sandals. His seamless undergarment remained, and would have been ruined if torn, so they gambled for it.

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:24-25

Four women remained near the Cross as Jesus was crucified: His mother, Mary; His mother’s sister (unnamed here, but traditionally known as Salome); another Mary, the wife of Cleophas, who was James’s and John’s mother; and Mary Magdalene.

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

John 19:26

Jesus again used the term “woman” as a public name of respect from an adult son.

Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

John 19:27

Joseph, Mary’s husband, was now deceased, and Jesus’s earthly brothers were not yet believers, so He appointed John to take care of Mary.

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

John 19:28-29

Having earlier refused the soporific wine, Jesus now drank the sour wine.

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

John 19:30 (emphasis added)

The Greek term for “it is finished” (tetelestai) means that Jesus’s work of redemption for His people on the Cross was acommplished. The sin debt had been paid in full. He then laid down His own life.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

John 19:31

Catechism Question 17

February 9, 2015 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism, John | 6 Comments
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Question 17: How did Jesus die?
Answer: He was crucified.
Prove it.

Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

John 19:18

Despite the horror, humiliation, and hurtfulness of death on a cross, there can be no denying that it was precisely the type of death ordained by God the Father to be experienced by God the Son. Why did He choose this type of death?

I do not know if we can answer that question with 100% certainty. Traditionally, I have heard it explained that this was the cruelest, most painful death possible, and that the physical suffering of Christ had to be immense beyond measure in order to pay the outrageous sin debt that was owed by His people. I do not want to minimize or denigrate the physical suffering of Christ on the Cross. There can be no doubt it was horrific. However, I have read of the deaths of many of the martyrs, and – physically speaking – there may be more torturous, drawn-out, and even intensely painful ways to die.

I think, first of all, as we explain the suffering of Christ to our children, we would do better to explain it in terms of the transaction of bearing the weight of sin and its guilt by the perfect sinless Savior, and experiencing the indescribable wrath of God poured out against sin. There is a sense in which this transaction took place in the eternal realm between God the Father and Christ the Son, and was a unique type of painfully propitiatory sacrifice which our finite brains can not come close to fathoming.

Second, I also think we need to teach our kids the significance of death by hanging on a tree-like Cross as a picture of the curse of sin being dealt with, and as a fulfillment of prophecy by which God made known the commingling of His forgiveness and His justice. The Cross of Christ had been illustrated in the Old Testament, and was now being orchestrated to prove God’s love and truth.

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I Peter 2:24

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

John 3:14

From What Were You Saved? (C)

August 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Posted in Salvation | 15 Comments
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In the first part of this lesson we looked at salvation through:

Christ’s A.gony
and
Christ’s B.ruising

Now we will see:

Christ’s C.onquest

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:6

We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that we deserve sympathy from God – as though Christ had to die for us because we were weak, uneducated, and ignorant, and that if we had just been a tad more obedient, God could have blessed us apart from the Atonement. No, friends, the “ungodly” in that verse are you and me, and it is a reference to our rebellion and the extreme nature of our iniquity.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

These “sinners” in Romans 5:8 are enemies of God – God-hating and God-mocking people. The term “sinners” should conjure up the image of a desperate, wicked gang of vile criminals trying to drag the Prince of Peace down from His throne and put Him to death. That is the category to which we belonged when God through Christ did what He did in Romans 5:9: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”

What we are saved from is not, strictly speaking, a “what” at all. It is a Who. We are saved from God and His wrath. When we hear Jesus on the Cross say, “It is finished,” He is saying that God is not unjust. He did not waffle regarding sin. He did not ignore the dilemma of a just God seeming to declare the wicked to be righteous, nor the just to be condemned (Proverbs 17:15). God Himself poured out the stored-up wrath for all believers’ sins for all time on His Own Son – on Himself – because only He could withstand it and only He would be acceptable to satisfy God’s justice and truth – God’s holiness and God’s love – God’s wrath and God’s forgiveness.

Why did God look away from Jesus on the Cross?

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

The Father didn’t look away from His Son out of weakness. There is no weakness in Him. He looked away from His Son because the Son had been made sin, and sin is detestable to the truly holy God.

And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

Ephesians 2:16

Enmity is hatred that includes the cause of hatred. Jesus slew the hatred between God and man that existed because of man’s sin.

The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.

Psalm 11:5-6

In the Garden of Gethsemane, before His Crucifixion, Christ prayed about letting the cup pass from Him. That was the cup of God’s wrath, and it was filled with His wrath because of my sins. If you are truly a Christian, God’s wrath may never be poured out on you, because Jesus drank every drop! There is none left for God’s children.

Now I hope you know from what you need to be saved. What a tragic thought that God crushed His Son for you, but you haven’t received Him. What we deserve is the wrath of God, and that wrath would send us to the Lake of Fire to burn in torment for all eternity. My prayer today is that you would see what your sin has cost Him, and that you would cry out to Him to save you. Otherwise, you are rejecting Him, expressing hatred for Him, and making yourself His enemy. It’s one or the other. He made you and He alone has the right to judge you. Will you trust Him right now? This could very well be your last chance. Will you be saved before it’s too late?

From What Were You Saved? (A and B)

July 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Posted in Isaiah, Salvation | 16 Comments
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Lord, thank You for Your great plan of salvation – offered freely to us even though it cost You so much. When we look in Your Word we see that we are so unclean, and we have no excuse – we are undone. All our reasoning, all our speculation, all our schemes and imaginings apart from Your Word must be crucified. Lord, help us to recognize that You are now, have always been, and will always be worthy of all praise, honor, and glory, and to recognize that You alone can save and sanctify. In the holy name of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Have you been “saved?” If your answer is “yes,” and if you understand the term “saved” to be synonymous with “born again” or “regenerated,” then let me ask you this: From what were you saved?

But 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 (emphasis added)

The “He” in that verse is Jesus. The “our” is you and me.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:6 (emphasis added)

“The LORD” is God the Father. The “Him” is Jesus. The “us all” is you and me.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:7-10 (emphasis added)

“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him” means that it pleased God to bruise Jesus. Does that surprise you? Have you heard it before? Is your understanding of salvation limited to a Gospel tract containing the “ABC”s of salvation: “A.dmit (that you are sinner); B.elieve (that Christ died for you); C.onfess (with your mouth the Lord Jesus)?” To help us have a deeper understanding of what it means to be saved – and from what we need to be saved – I want to present to you a different set of “ABC”s.

Christ’s A.gony

Most people have either seen a film called The Passion of the Christ, or have been in a church service where someone has preached about some of the graphic and violent details of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. You have probably heard about the crown of thorns, and the beatings, and the Roman whips, and the spear piercing His side, and the blood pouring down (not the discreet trickle of blood that is depicted in popular Roman Catholic art, but a veritable blood bath). If so, you may have the idea that this type of physical suffering is what Christ endured in our place, and I certainly do not believe we should try to minimize the importance of the physical suffering of Christ on the Cross. But there was much more to it than that.

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Luke 22:42-44

Before His arrest and subsequent crucifixion, Christ was in agony as He prayed in the Garden of Gesthemane, and it was more than the agony of knowing that He was going to endure a painful physical death. As He sweated out great drops of blood He was thinking about more than Roman whips and punches – about worse than thorns and spears and nails and thirsting and physical torture. As Christ looked forward from the garden to the Cross, He saw the moment when He must say, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me..?” We are talking about the perfect Son of God Who had never for a fraction of a moment been out of the loving graces of His Heavenly Father. He was a Son who had never grieved His Father – had done nothing but bless Him for all eternity. When Jesus accepted the Father’s will, and agreed to drink the cup instead of letting it pass from His lips, He suffered agony that went beyond the physical. If you have been “saved,” it is true that the physical “stripes” on the back of the Lord Jesus were endured in your place, but what you have been “saved” from is so much worse than sickness and physical pains and infirmities and ailments.

Christ’s B.ruising

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him…

Isaiah 53:10

We use the word “bruising” to mean a little discoloration of the skin due to a relatively minor injury. But the word being translated as “bruise” in Isaiah 53:10 means “to crush.” It contains the idea of the way grain was placed into a millstone to be ground into bits – crushed and utterly shattered. How could it please the Lord – God the Father – to bruise – to crush – His Son?

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.

Proverbs 17:15

If you are truly “saved,” then God has justified you, meaning that He has declared you to be righteous, even though, as a sinner, you are truly wicked. How is it that God can declare you righteous without being an abomination unto Himself? And how is it that He allowed Christ Jesus – the only truly “just” human being to ever walk the earth – to be unjustly condemned? The answer lies in understanding exactly what transpired on the Cross of Jesus Christ, which we will look at next time.


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