There are many thoughts about Christ regarding who He was and why He existed on the earth. Every religion and every person has something to say about Jesus Christ. What you say and believe about Him will determine not only how you act on the earth but also where you will spend all of eternity.
We continue with our unjust and illegal trial of Jesus and now they begin to question Him.
Read Matthew 27:11-23
Are you the King of the Jews?
The religious leaders were trying to make it look as though Jesus was trying to go against Rome because that is the only way that Pilate could crucify Him. If Jesus declared Himself a King then they could claim Jesus was trying to overthrow Rome.
Accusing Jesus of Blasphemy meant they could have stoned Him but that is not how they wanted Jesus to die. (Leviticus 20:27; 24:14) They wanted Jesus to die by crucifixion because anyone who died on a tree was cursed and cut off from the covenant. (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13; Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:12,21; Hebrews 13:12)
They did not seek Roman approval when they stoned Stephen and Paul (Acts 6:12-15; 7:54-60; 23:12-15) but if they wanted Jesus to die by crucifixion they had to get Rome involved.
See also John 18:28-19:16
Pilate sees nothing in Jesus to suggest that He is a threat to Rome and Pilate knows all the accusations against Jesus are false. Jesus did not have to defend Himself, the testimony of His life was evident to all. Pilate would have known who Jesus was and all the things He did to help people. Pilate would have also known that Jesus was going against the religious leaders and that is the only reason they hated Him.
Now it was a custom at a festival to release one prisoner who the crowd wanted.
The Priest had the crowd in a frenzy and so Pilate was trying to gain back control without having to make the decision himself. Pilates plan was to offer Jesus, who did nothing wrong, and Barabbas who was a well known murderer, and then let the people choose. (See also Mark 15:7)
Pilate knew the only reason that Jesus was in front of him was because the religious leaders hated him and he also knew that Barabbas was someone everyone hated.
His wife sent him a note saying, “Have nothing to do with the innocent man”
Pilates wife had a disturbing dream and was so concerned about it that she did the unthinkable and had a message sent to Pilate while he was on the judgment seat. In our culture this may not seem like a big deal but at that time this would have been something that was never done.
There is some debate whether this dream was given to her by God or if it was her intuition but is bothered her enough that she said something to her husband. It is amazing how many times God warns people even though He already knows what they are going to do. Pilate would stand before God one day for his actions and God is lovingly using his wife to try and show him the errors of his ways.
But which of the two men do you want me to release to you
Pilates plan was to get out of this dilemma by offering them someone who was a murderer and the plan back fired. Barabbas was the last person you wanted on the street to kill again but the crowd shouted for his release.
What shall I do with Jesus?
This is the question every person must answer before they die. Pilate made the people co judges with him trying to get out of his responsibility as a ruler. Pilate is shocked his plan is back firing and he ask them what Evil thing had Jesus done. The crowd was now in a frenzy and almost uncontrollable and began shouting “Crucify Him”
When Pilate saw he was getting nowhere, He washed his hands in front of the crowd saying, he was innocent of this man’s blood.
The rabbinical law required that if anyone found the accused not guilty that everything should stop immediately and the council should reconvene. Pilate found no fault in Jesus and even said so, but the illegal trial continued.
Pilate washing his hands was not something a Roman would normally do but he did know it was a sign the Jewish people used indicating their innocence in a situation. Pilate was letting them know in a non verbal gesture that Jesus was innocent and that he was innocent of killing Jesus. Of course he was not innocent because just saying you are innocent does not make you innocent. You do not get a pass on sin just because you believe what you are doing is not sin.
The disdain between Pilate and the Jewish leaders was at a boiling point but also we know from History that Pilate was in the hot seat as a leader and he did not want to lose his political seat. Because Pilate wanted to stay in charge with his superiors, he gave into the religious leaders hoping it would appease them and keep him out of trouble.
And the People responded, May his blood be upon us and upon our children
So they are admitting that He is innocent, yet they are saying they will take the wrath of God for it. They are also saying that they will allow their children to suffer for their decisions as well. Many believe that the curse of their statement would be fulfilled in 70 A.D. when Rome destroyed the temple.
Many of these same people were five days earlier prasing Jesus and laying palm branches and coats down at His feet. They have allowed themselves to be swayed by the lies of the religious leaders without any thought to what they are saying. Following blindly will cost them and their families.
Then he released Barabbas and had Jesus scourged and turned Him over to be crucified.
Before any prisoner was crucified he was scourged. This was with the cat of nine tails which would have metal or bone in it to cause the ripping and lose of blood. Soldiers would take turns so that one soldier did not get tired so that the scourging was worse.
Some say they did this so the crucifixion would not last as long because the loss of blood would cause them to die quicker. With the soldiers having to guard the bodies while they were on the cross the quicker the accused died the better for them personally.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus and gathered the whole cohort around Him.
A cohort was 600 soldiers and they began mocking Jesus. They put a robe on Him, a crown of thorns and even a stick in His hands to make Him out to be a King. Crown of thorns had thorns that were 12 inches long and they jammed it upon Jesus head causing even more pain.
Thorns were part of the curse when Adam and Even sinned (Genesis 3:18) and now Jesus wore that curse.
These guys were brutal and hard hearted probably because most of the criminals they dealt with were brutal. It is estimated that Rome had crucified 30, 000 men in Israel alone for an insurrection that took place and so these men had seen a lot of men die and had become calloused with another one who was to die.
Stripping the cloak off of Jesus meant more pain because the blood would have dried and then reopened again. Whatever they could do to inflict as much pain as possible was the goal and a message to anyone who thought about breaking the law or going against Rome in anyway.
As they were going out they found Simon from Cyrene and forced him to carry the cross
The cross weighed around 200 pounds and they made those who were being crucified carry it. This was also to intimidate others from breaking the law as they had to walk to the place of the crucifixion through the streets.
Simon was just a man who was passing through and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many believe that he did not help Jesus carry the cross but that he carried it by himself.
And they gave him wine to drink mixed with Gall and He tasted it and did not want it.
This was a narcotic they would give those being crucified not because they did not want them to feel the pain but mainly so that the soldiers would not have to wrestle with them when they placed them on the cross.
Jesus refused it and chose to face His death fully conscience of all the pain and all His surroundings.
So they sat and watched Him there
We know the soldeirs divided up the garments of Jesus but now they have to make sure that the prisoner died and that no one tried to rescue them. Some say the way it is written it was as if they were expecting something to happen and they kept watch for any trouble.
And they placed the criminal charge in writing above His head, This is Jesus King of the Jews
The crimes would be posted on the criminals above them or sometimes worn around their neck as another way of embarrassing the criminal and intimidating others.
Pilate may have written this description to get back at the religious leaders as a mockery to them. According to the gospel of John this was written in three languages and so although a mockery by Pilate it was actually a testimony about who Jesus was. John 19:21-22 tells us the religious leaders wanted the sign changed but Pilate would not change it.
Then they crucified Him with two arm bandits, one on His right and one on His left.
These men were probably with Barabbas and the cross was made for Barabbas. These men were probably wondering how Barabbas was freed but they were not. You can imagine how someone who was accused of the same thing you were and was sentenced to the same fate was now released without any explanation. Their anger must have been multiplied because of the unfairness of Barabbas being released. They took that anger out on Jesus who was in Barabbas place for no other reason than the lies of the religious leaders.
If you are the son of God, come down from that cross
Being crucified along the roadways served two purposes. It was a warning to others, but it also it allowed passerby’s to say insulting things to those hanging on the cross while they died.
This was the last great temptation of Jesus because He could have come down off the cross if He wanted to. He had the power and ability to save Himself but He chose to stay there.
If Jesus would have come down from the cross then all of humanity would have been lost. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 9:26-28) The chief priest were also taunting Him to come off the cross but what they did not understand is if He would have saved Himself, then He could not have saved us.
The soldiers, those passing by, the chief priest, and even those who were being crucified with Him would taunt Him.
He could save others but He cannot save himself
The fact that Jesus did miracles was evident to all and news of the miracles traveled throughout the land. They were all screaming for Him to do one more miracle which proves that no matter how many miracles are done, some will still not believe.
Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[d] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Whether it was Jesus responses to the situation, or just conviction of knowing Jesus was innocent, the one criminal saw that Jesus was truly who He said He was. It could have been that He heard Jesus forgive those who were crucifying Him that caused the man to see the difference in Jesus. (Luke 23:34)
Jesus forgiveness extends to this man during his last day on earth and this man could do nothing for the kingdom of God. The criminal showed all the signs of true repentance because he recognized his own sin, he knew he deserved death, he cried out for Jesus to show him grace.
Even some of the priest would later recognize their wrong.
Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
“Nothing is more central to the Bible than Jesus’ death and resurrection. The entire Bible pivots on one weekend in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago.” D.A. Carson”
Jesus took our place because we deserve to die for the sins we have committed. The story of Christianity is the story of Jesus Christ paying for the sins we have committed. This is why it is such a slap in Jesus face to not call sin what Jesus called sin.
Jesus did not come to be a great teacher although He was.
Jesus did not come to just heal people, although He did.
Jesus did not come to just be a great example, although He was.
Jesus came to provide a way for us to be in a right relationship with God.(Matthew 1:21; 20:28; 26:28)
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
See John 3:36; Romans 5:9; Hebrews 9:22
We are Barabbas. We are filthy no good human beings whose only hope is for Jesus to be crucified in our place. When we do not see ourselves as being that bad then we see no need for Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.
The story of Christianity is the story of Christ taking our place. We deserve death and separation from God with no way to earn it. Just like the criminal on the cross who cried out for mercy we to can cry out and receive the grace of God because of Jesus Christ.