I worked in a court system for fourteen years and saw justice done sometimes, but some who were guilty went free with a warning because the evidence was insufficient, and occasionally it was later found that an innocent person had been condemned. In Verse 1 we see the most Innocent Person in the history of mankind being bound, led away and delivered to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Our God, the King of all humanity was on trial for His life.
Governor Pilate was personally involved because this trial involved the “Pax Romana,” the Roman peace that Pilate had vowed to protect on taking his management position within the Province of Judea. Pilate, who had heard the charges brought by the Jewish leaders, no doubt accusing Jesus of political offenses against the Roman government, asked Jesus directly in Verse 2, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus calmly replied, “It is as you say.”
In Verse 3 the chief priests continued to accuse Jesus, but “He answered nothing.” In Verses 4-5, we find Governor Pilate, who had observed many defendants in a multitude of capital trials, asking Jesus in a shocked manner, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You! But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.” At this point the typical defendant Pilate had seen over the years would have been weeping, denying his guilt, or if he was a sociopath, lying effectively, but Jesus did none of it. He was dignified, calm and quiet.
Pilate was thinking fast. His wife sent word about an upsetting “dream,” warning him to “Have nothing to do with that just Man” (Matthew 27:19), and he was worried. In Verse 6 he was recalling hopefully the custom of releasing a prisoner to the Jews, “whomever they requested.”
In Verses 7-8, we are shown another prisoner “named Barabbas,” who had committed murder in a recent rebellion and was on trial for his own life. The multitude of Jews who were watching and listening carefully, “began to ask (Pilate) to release a prisoner according to the custom.”
Pilate answered in Verses 9-11, hoping that Jesus could be released - “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” he shouted those words, knowing that “the chief priests had handed (Jesus) over because of envy.” But the chief priests had been going through the crowd, persuading them to shout for the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus. And by the time Pilate called out to them again in Verse 12, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” they replied with one loud voice in Verse 13: “Crucify Him!”
Pilate had become convinced that Jesus was innocent, which He was, and Pilate shouted in Verse 14, “What evil has He done?” But they yelled all the more, “Crucify Him!” Pilate was what we call a “pragmatist,” and he still had hopes that one day he might become Caesar of the Empire. He wanted the crowd to be pacified and for that reason, in Verse 15, he “released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.” It’s important to note here that this was not some kind of out-of-control event, but it all was carefully orchestrated from eternity – The sins of all mankind were being “laid on Him” (Isaiah 53:6).
The “Praetorium” where Jesus was taken in Verse 16, was the official residence of the Roman governor “and they called together the whole garrison," numbering hundreds of soldiers. In Verses 17-19 the soldiers mocked Jesus by placing a purple cloak, a symbol of royalty, around His shoulders. And they also jammed “thorns” onto His head, a reminder of God’s curse on humanity in Genesis 3:18. He was surrounded by laughter that accompanied the derisive shout, “Hail, King of the Jews!” This was all prophesied by David in the context of Psalm 22:7, when he said, “All those who see Me laugh Me to scorn." They hit Him on the head, spat on our Lord, and bowed before Him in false, mocking “worship.” Many have said, “if only I could see God…” but here were our representatives, mocking and spitting on the King of Glory.
Jesus did not scream, cry, curse or otherwise entertain these cruel men; He merely submitted and endured. The soldiers were not amused and so in Verse 20 they “took the purple (robe) off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and (immediately) led Him out to crucify Him.” Jesus fell under the weight of the cross and the soldiers in Verse 21 “compelled… Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross." The human author Mark knew their names, suggesting that the three men named in this verse would later become followers of Jesus after His resurrection. "Cyrene," by the way, was a city in North Africa.
In Verse 22, Jesus was taken out of Jerusalem to a place called “Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.” In Verse 23 He was given “wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.” Verses 24-26 describe His crucifixion, which was at nine in the morning. He had only His clothing and the soldiers “divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take.” Hundreds of years before, David prophesied about this incident in Psalm 22:18 - “They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” It was customary to inscribe the person’s crime on the top of the cross. His said, “The King of the Jews,” which He was and is.
Verses 27-28 reveal that “robbers” were crucified with Him, “one on His right and the other on His left,” fulfilling Isaiah 53:12's words - “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” We know from Luke 23:39-43, that one of those robbers, after observing Jesus, believed in Him.
Can you imagine being in intense pain, both from the agony of crucifixion and the greater agony of dying for our sins, and at the same time being laughed at and mocked by chief priests, scribes and others, as seen in Verses 29-32? “Come down” they sneered. “He saved others, Himself He cannot save,” they smirked. If He had actually descended from the cross as they demanded that He do in Verse 32, they still would not have believed because their hearts were hardened toward God.
It was the “sixth hour” in Verse 33, but suddenly that noontime was like the intense darkness of night which settled over the whole vicinity around Jerusalem for three intense hours, 'til 3 PM (“the ninth hour”). At that time, Jesus cried out loudly in Verse 34, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?... “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” which were the exact words of Psalm 22:1. Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought Jesus was “calling for Elijah!” the man that the prophet Malachi had said would appear before the “dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5).
Somebody in Verse 36 “ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, ‘Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.” But at that moment in Verse 37, Jesus “cried out with a loud voice, ”Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46) and He “breathed His last.” He was not unconscious, He was truly dead.
Then in Verse 38, the large “veil of the temple (which was several inches thick) was torn in two from top to bottom." In Verse 39, “the centurion, who stood opposite (Jesus), saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last. He said, ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God!’ ” Indeed He was (and is). Certain women were watching, as seen in Verses 40-41, including Mary Magdalene and another Mary. There was haste in what was now done “because it was the… the day before the Sabbath," and in Verses 43-46, we find “Joseph of Arimathea,” a member of the Sanhedrin, bravely going “to Pilate… for the body of Jesus." Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died so quickly and asked the centurion about it, learning that Jesus “had been dead for some time.” He gave the body to Joseph, who “bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him... And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.” In Verse 47 we learn that the two Mary’s “observed where He was laid.”
Father, it is terrible to read about this murder of the Son of God, but on another level we rejoice, for we understand that He died to set us free. Thank You, Jesus, that You died for our sins, my sins. We believe in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.
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