The Gospel of John: Strange Bedfellows.

“From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:12-15.

The particular idiom strange bedfellows may have been invented by William Shakespeare in The Tempest (2:2), where he writes, and “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Today a common extension is the phrase “politics makes strange bedfellows.” This means that politicians form peculiar associations so as to win more votes.

The misery and eventual crucifixion of Jesus Christ by the Jews, through the political authority of the Roman government representative Pontius Pilate, seems to apply this Shakespearean expression. The Jews’ hatred for Jesus was so extensive and deep seated that they were willing to forgo their hatred of Rome to satisfy their blood lust for Jesus’ execution.

Likewise, Pilate found himself in a rather precarious situation. He found no evidence that Jesus had committed a crime against the state. However, he was caught in the political vise. While disagreeing with the Jewish leaders concerning Jesus, at the same time he did not want to so offend them for fear that this would lead to his demotion, or worse, by his Roman superiors.

Pilate wanted to release Jesus. However, the Jews issued the Roman governor an ultimatum: “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

The IVP Background Commentary of the New Testament explains that, “Friends” of powerful patrons were their political dependents, and to be the “friend of the emperor” (NRSV, TEV) or the “friend of Caesar” (KJV, NASB, NIV) was a special honor. “Friend of the king” had been an office in Greek and ancient Near Eastern palaces (including Israel, from David through Herod the Great); “friend of the emperor” was likewise an official title with political implications.”

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “This statement by the Jews was loaded with irony, for the Jews’ hatred of Rome certainly indicated they too were no friends of Caesar. But they knew Pilate feared Tiberius Caesar (the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion) since he had a highly suspicious personality and exacted ruthless punishment. Pilate had already created upheaval in Jerusalem by several foolish acts that had infuriated the Jews, and so was under the scrutiny of Rome to see if his ineptness continued. The Jews were intimidating him by threatening another upheaval that could spell the end of his power in Jerusalem, if he did not execute Jesus.”

This “judgment seat” or “stone pavement” was the place Pilate sat to render his official verdict. The seat was placed on an area paved with stones, which is why it was known as “The Stone Pavement.” The irony of this scene is that Pilate rendered an unjust judgment on the One, True God who would one day render a just judgment of Pilate.

John indicates that this setting took place in the Preparation Day for the Passover Feast. When he notes that Pilate’s judgment took place at this sixth hour. This would be according to Roman time, in which the day began at Midnight. Therefore, Pilate’s judgment took place at 6:00 a.m.

What was also fitting is that the Preparation Day for the Passover Feast is when the lambs were slain. The “day of Preparation” was the day that the Passover lamb would be slaughtered to be eaten that night (see John 18:28). We must remember that unlike the Romans, Jewish people reckoned days from sunset to sunset. Therefore, what we would call Friday night they considered the beginning of the Sabbath, or Saturday.

Pilate said to the people gathered, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

As one commentator states, “The authorities’ cry is typical of the irony of John: Jewish people prayed daily for the royal Messiah, and one Jewish prayer that came to be part of the Passover celebration at least in later times acknowledges no king but God (cf. 8:33).”

Dr. R. C. Sproul concludes that, Pilate did what the Jewish authorities wanted him to do and finally sentenced Jesus to be crucified (v. 16a). However, he did not do so without taunting the Jews one last time. Commentators see in Pilate’s final presentation of Jesus to the Jews and his exclamations “Behold your King!” and “Shall I crucify your King?” (vv. 14–15) as the governor’s hurling one final insult at them. In effect, Pilate was reminding the Jewish leaders of their own impotence. The bloodied, seemingly powerless man standing before them, Christ Jesus, was the only king they would get. In Pilate’s mind, they could do no better regarding their political aspirations than a “ruler” destined to die. And yet, we can see the irony in this. For while Pilate thought little of Jesus and the Jewish leaders rejected Him as their king, we know that the One who stood before them was God incarnate, the true Sovereign over all, who was orchestrating events in order to bring about the salvation of the world (1:1–18; 3:16).”

God exists. Evil exists. God purposes evil to exist for His own purposes and for the honor and glory of His name. There was no greater evil ever committed on this earth’s history than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But with it, God brought about the greatest good: the salvation of our souls.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: I Find No Guilt in Him.

When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:6-11)

The hatred for Jesus by the Jewish religious leaders is unpleasant. They issue a repeated and heart felt command to Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus. Having no legitimate charge of any crime against the Lord, Pilate responds with no small amount of sarcasm when he says, ““Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” Pilate was well aware the Jews had not legal authority to crucify anyone, let alone Jesus Christ. He emphatically taunted them in response to their taunting of not only him but also of Christ. However, in taunting them Pilate also affirmed that he found Jesus innocent of any crime.

Ironically, the religious leaders’ hatred of Jesus, and their subsequent response to Pilate that Jesus broke Jewish Law by claiming to be the Son of God, indeed proved that Jesus uttered such a claim. There are many individuals, historically and currently, who propose that Jesus made no such claim to be God when He was on earth. Yet, the religious leaders refuted such a bogus proposition. They acknowledged to Pilate that Jesus claimed to be God and therefore was guilty of blasphemy.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “This probably refers to Lev. 24:16: “Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death.” The charge of blasphemy (John 5:18; 8:58–59; 10:33, 36) was central in Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas (see Matt. 26:57–68).”

The IVP Background Commentary of the New Testaments explains that, The Old Testament called the Messiah (and all David’s line) the Son of God (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; 89:27); in a more general sense, all Israel was called God’s child (Ex. 4:22; Deut. 8:3 Hos. 11:1). But even falsely claiming to be the Messiah was not a capital offense in standard Jewish teaching, as long as one were not a false prophet advocating other gods. On their own terms, Jesus’ accusers are thus mistaken about the law’s teaching about him (10:34–36); but John may intend more irony: he believed the Old Testament predicted that God’s Son would die (cf. Is 53).”

What was Pilate’s response to this latest charge against Jesus by the Jews? He was afraid. This fear was not a reverence for Jesus resulting in worship but rather a cowardly condition of being alarmed. Pilate was sensing that Jesus was more than what He appeared to be. Pilate evidences the truth of Romans 1:18-22 that even the worst pagan has a sense of realization of the existence of the One, True, and Biblical God.

Turning from the crowd and turning his attention once again towards Jesus, Pilate asked Jesus, ““Where are you from?” In effect, Pilate was asking who Jesus was. Jesus’ lack of response fulfilled Isaiah 53:7 which says, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  

Astonished at Jesus’ lack of response, Pilate exclaimed ““You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Pilate was stating that He had power and authority over Jesus. Jesus responded that “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” See Romans 13:1-7.

In the church’s response to Peter and John’s eventual release by the same Jewish religious leaders who sought to silence them from preaching the gospel, Acts 4:27-28 says, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

Do not misunderstand when I state that God the Father purposed the evil of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion to exist in order to accomplish His predetermined purpose before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-11). That predestined purpose was the redemption of fallen sinners like you and me.

Jesus then said, “Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” To whom was Jesus referring?

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, In this statement was Jesus referring to Judas, Satan, Caiaphas, the priests, or the Jewish people? Perhaps Caiaphas is the best choice since he is the one who handed Jesus over to Pilate. Pilate was guilty (cf. the words in the Apostles’ Creed, “suffered under Pontius Pilate”). But Jesus put more weight on Caiaphas as the responsible one (cf. John 11:49–50; 18:13–14).”

It often is easy to view our circumstances as being beyond the Lord’s control. Sometimes, we assume that we, or another human like ourselves, is really in charge of the circumstances of life. Not true. Only God is ultimately in control.

Remember the words of Daniel 2:20-23:“Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Behold the Man!

Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” (John 19:4-5)

Behold the Man! In the Latin, it is the phase Ecce Homo. This title, and the scene and setting in which Pilate used it, has become widely depicted in Christian art. One of the most familiar artistic depictions of Pontius Pilate’s presentation of a scourged and crowned Jesus Christ before the hostile crowd prior to His crucifixion is Antonio Ciseri’s (1821-1891) painting appropriately entitled Ecco Homo.  Focus on the Family depicted this work by Ciseri in each episode of their DVD series, The Truth Project. 

After the initial flogging, Pilate produced Jesus to the crowd. He made every attempt to show that Jesus was a pathetic and innocent victim of circumstances. He portrayed Jesus to the people as a harmless fool instead of a powerful king. It was his way of seeking Jesus’ eventual release by the affirmation of the crowd. Perhaps Pilate thought that Jesus’s appearance would provoke pity. He thought wrong.

John MacArthur writes, “Pilate dramatically presented Jesus after his torturous treatment by the soldiers. Jesus would have been swollen, bruised, and bleeding. Pilate displayed Jesus as a beaten and pathetic figure, hoping to gain the people’s choice of Jesus for release. Pilate’s phrase is filled with sarcasm since he was attempting to impress upon the Jewish authorities that Jesus was not the dangerous man that they had made him out to be.

Pilate’s initial statement was followed by another famous quote: “I find no guilt in him.” Pilate found no basis for the accusations made against Jesus. As another commentator explains, The governor’s investigation has yielded a verdict: not guilty (18:35–38a). Under normal circumstances, this verdict would stand.” But these were not ordinary circumstances.

In the sinless life of Jesus we see His active obedience to the Word and will of God the Father. In His crucifixion, and the events immediately preceding His execution, we witness Jesus’ passive obedience to the Word and will of God. He submitted to the humiliation He encountered not only on behalf of sinners but also for His love of the Father.

R. C. Sproul concludes by stating, “There are many different conceptions of what it means to be human. Christians, however, know what true humanity looks like, what it means to be fully human as God intended us to be. True humanity looks like Jesus. We look to Him not only as our Savior but also as the chief example of what true humanity is. We are to emulate the kindness, steadfastness in the truth, humility, mercy, holiness, and other virtues of Jesus.”

May each believer strive today to be like the Lord Jesus.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Scourged!

“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.” (John 19:1-3)

Oftentimes, the most significant statements found in the Scriptures can be easily overlooked. Such is the case with John 19:1-3. We have here in today’s text a series of statements regarding Pontius Pilate’s treatment of Jesus prior to His crucifixion. They chronicle the despicable treatment the Lord received on our behalf.

First of all, what is meant by the word “flogged?” It comes from the Greek word μαστιγόω (mastigoo). It means to severely whip or to beat or scourge with a whip. The IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament provides us with some valuable insight into the first century practice of flogging.

Severe scourgings often preceded crucifixions. Beatings were a regular punishment themselves, but flogging and scourging, much more severe, were part of the death sentence. Because Pilate has not yet pronounced sentence, the beating Jesus receives is a lesser one. Pilate may hope that the blood it draws would satisfy Jesus’ accusers (19:5)—but this is an unlikely supposition (18:31). In the provinces, soldiers normally administered this punishment. Free Romans were beaten with rods, soldiers with sticks, but slaves and probably despised non-Romans with whips whose leather thongs enclosed sharp pieces of metal or bone. Jewish law allowed only thirty-nine lashes; Roman law allowed scourging till the soldier grew tired, and texts report that bones or entrails were sometimes bared.

Luke 23:16 says, “I will therefore punish and release him.” Pilate thought that by having Jesus mercilessly beaten it would satisfy the blood lust of the crowd. Not so!

Secondly, the soldiers then made a crown of thorns and placed it on Jesus’ head. They also clothed Him with a purple robe. The IVP Commentary explains that, Greek vassal princes typically wore a purple chlamys—purple dye being the most expensive—and a wreath of gilded leaves. The “purple robe” that the soldiers put on Jesus may have been a faded scarlet lictor’s robe or an old rug. The crown of thorns, perhaps from the branches of the thorny acanthus shrub or from the date palm (the latter would have looked more realistic), may have been meant to turn mainly outward (mimicking the wreaths of Hellenistic kings) rather than painfully inward; nevertheless, some thorns must have scraped inward, drawing blood from Jesus’ scalp. Only the highest king would wear an actual crown instead of a wreath, so they are portraying him as a vassal prince.”

Finally, the soldiers then began to further mock Jesus by sarcastically hailing Him as the King of the Jews. Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The flogging, the mocking crown of thorns and purple robe, the ridiculing in hailing Him King of the Jews, and the physical blows on His face—these were all part of Jesus’ deep humiliation as He was identified with human sin as the Servant of the Lord (cf. Isa. 50:6; 52:14–53:6). (Matthew and Mark added that the soldiers spit on Jesus [Matt. 27:30; Mark 15:19].) The thorns on His head are mindful of the curse of thorns caused by human sin (Gen. 3:18).”

However, the sovereign plan of God was well in place. John Calvin writes, “But all of this is directed by God, in order to reconcile the world to Himself by the death of His Son.”  

Lest we condemn Pilate too severely because of his actions, let us take notice of the mockery and rejection which continues to this day regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. As John Calvin concludes: “We all condemn Pilate; and yet it is shameful to relate that there so many Pilates in the world who scourge Christ not only in His members but also in His doctrine. There are many who, for the purpose of saving the life of those who are persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, constrain them wickedly to deny Christ. Others select and approve of certain parts of the Gospel and yet tear the whole Gospel to pieces.”

Take a moment today to meditate upon the scene we have examined today. All of this was part of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement on the sinner’s behalf. Respond to the Lord with praise, worship and thanksgiving for His unspeakable gift of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: Barabbas.

“But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:39-40)

Who was Barabbas? What irony is there in this account of the Jews wanting Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus? The Tyndale Bible Dictionary provides some valuable insight.

At the very outset, Barabbas was a criminal who was released by Pontius Pilate instead of Jesus. Along with the Gospel of John, all the other Gospel writers took note of that event (Matthew 27:15–26; Mark 15:6–15; Luke 23:18–25) as did the Apostle Peter in his temple sermon (Acts 3:14-15).

“Barabbas was a bandit and/or revolutionary (John 18:40) who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19). (The word translated “robber” in John 18:40 can denote either a bandit or revolutionary.) He was regarded as a notorious prisoner (Matthew 27:16).”

His crimes may have been a violent act of robbery or a struggle among the Jews, but many scholars view it as a political insurrection against the Roman forces in Jerusalem. It is likely that Barabbas was a member of the Zealots, a Jewish political group that sought to throw off the yoke of Rome by force or violence.

After examining Jesus, Pilate, recognized that Jesus was innocent and wanted to free him. Yet Pilate also had an interest in pleasing the Jewish leaders in order to protect his own political position. In the face of his dilemma he offered to release a prisoner to the Jews at their Passover feast (John 18:39).

The IVP Background Commentary of the New Testament states, “Although unattested in extant Palestinian sources (as are many customs), the specific custom mentioned here is the sort of custom the Romans would have allowed. Roman law permitted two kinds of amnesty, the indulgentia (pardoning a condemned person) and—what Pilate probably has in mind here—abolitio (acquitting a person before judgment). Romans and Greeks seem to have granted mass amnesty at some other regular feasts, and Romans occasionally acquitted prisoners in response to the cries of crowds. Roman provincial officials were also permitted to follow previous officials’ precedents or provincial customs.”

Theologian Robert Rothwell writes, “Before finally passing sentence on Jesus, Pilate left his headquarters, where he was interrogating our Savior, to inform the Jewish leaders of his opinion regarding Jesus. He told them that he found “no guilt” in Jesus (v. 38b). Now, one might think that Pilate would have released the innocent Jesus immediately, since He was clearly not a threat to the Roman Empire’s rule over Judea. But that is not what happened. Pilate’s lack of integrity shines through in that he offered the Jewish authorities a choice. He would release either Jesus or Barabbas, according to the custom of the Romans to release one prisoner during the Passover (v. 39).

Given the option of choosing to release Jesus or Barabbas, Pilate thought that the Jewish crowd would choose to have Jesus set free. However, the Roman governor underestimated either the mood of the mob or the influence of the Jewish leaders, or perhaps both. Regardless, the throng shouted for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:21–22). Consequently, Jesus was crucified and Barabbas set free. Upon receiving his freedom, Barabbas disappeared from biblical and secular history.

Dr. R. C. Sproul comments on the unspoken irony contained in this episode. He explains that, “There is irony here, for Barabbas’ real name was likely Jesus Barabbas, meaning “Jesus, son of the father.” Instead of choosing the true Son of the Father—the Son of God—the Jewish leaders chose a criminal.”

Acts 3:14-15 says, But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”

The Apostle Peter also noted the irony of the Jews choosing Barabbas over Jesus when he preached that they released a murderer and instead killed the Author of Life. A taker of life, Barabbas, was set free while the giver of life was to be crucified.

Who would we have chosen to set free: Barabbas or Jesus? Do not be so quick to answer that we would have never preferred Barabbas instead of Jesus. Prior to conversion, we were as spiritually dead as was the Jewish leaders and Pontius Pilate.

Ephesians 2:1-3 says, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

What happened to make the difference in our lives? Ephesians 2:4-5 provides the answer. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—.”

The Author of Life made us, who were dead, alive together with Christ. May we live today in light of the new life we possess in Jesus Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: For this Purpose, Jesus was Born.

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” (John 18:33-38)

Why was Jesus born? Why did Jesus come into this world? Jesus answered this question in His own testimony before Pontius Pilate. He said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

What truth was Jesus referring to? I would submit that the truth Jesus was speaking of is the truth or reality of the gospel which bears His name. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are the essential components contained in the gospel? While we have examined these in the past, today’s text requires us to revisit them in the present.

There are four basic truths contained to what the Bible refers to as the gospel. They are (1) God exists; (2) Sin exists; (3) Salvation from sin exists; and (4) One Savior exists and Jesus Christ is that One and Only Savior. We see these four truths of the gospel not only proclaimed in John 1:1-18, but also throughout the Scriptures. The Apostle Peter preached them in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-39).  The Apostle Paul also addressed all four truths when he spoke to the Athenians at Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34).

Jesus said that those who belong to the truth, that is the truth of the gospel, listen to the Lord’s voice. To listen means to pay attention to and obey.

Charles Spurgeon writes, “Let me dread a godliness as rapid in growth and as lacking in endurance as Jonah’s vine; let me count the cost of being a follower of Jesus. Above all let me feel the energy of His Holy Spirit, and then I shall possess an abiding and enduring seed in my soul. If my mind remains as stubborn as it was by nature, the sun of trial will scorch, and my hard heart will help cast the heat the more terribly upon the ill-covered seed, and my religion will soon die, and my despair will be terrible.”

The truth of the gospel is the essential message of the kingdom of God. It is a rule and reign which is not of the fallen, rebellious and sinful world. It is a spiritual rule over the realm of the intellects, emotions and wills of the King’s disciples or followers. It is this kingdom in which Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “By this phrase, Jesus meant that his kingdom is not connected to earthly political and national entities, nor does it have its origin in the evil world system that is in rebellion against God. If his kingdom was of this world, he would have fought. The governments of this world protect their interests by fighting with force. Messiah’s kingdom does not originate in the efforts of man but with the Son of Man forcefully and decisively conquering sin in the lives of his people and someday conquering the evil world system at his second coming when he establishes the earthly form of his kingdom. His kingdom was no threat to the national identity of Israel or the political and military identity of Rome. It exists in the spiritual dimension until the end of the age (Rev. 11:15).

Pontius Pilate’s response to Jesus remarks was the cynical question, “What is truth?” Pilate was not looking for an answer when he made this statement. He was convinced that there was no answer. He gave self-evidence that he was not part of the kingdom of God for he failed to recognize the four fundamental truths of the gospel of the kingdom. He truly belonged to the kingdom of this world.

Dr. R. C. Sproul states, “However, not everyone will submit to the truth to which Jesus bears witness. Only those who are “of the truth” listen—that is, follow Him (John 18:37). Here we see the necessity of regeneration and that it comes before faith. Before people will follow Jesus, they must be re-created to be “of the truth.” They must be given new hearts to believe the gospel and obey Jesus as Lord (3:3, 21).

Pilate then addressed the Jews and acknowledged that he found Jesus was not guilty of any crime. By making it clear that Jesus was not guilty of any sin or crime, John the Apostle is assuring his readers that the Jews and Rome were guilty of a severe injustice.

Today, there are many who say that it does not matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something and that you are sincere in that belief. Jesus’ comments about truth reveal to us that it is not about belief in anything that is important, but rather belief in the truth of the gospel which is paramount for people to hear and to obey.

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John that “the issue in our day in regard to truth is whether there is an objective reality that is true for everyone, no matter who we are, where we live, or what we do.”

Do you believe in the truth of gospel? May it be so.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: The Fourth Trial Begins.

“Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 18:28-32)

As the scene between the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman Governor of Judea Pontius Pilate unfolds, Pilate accommodates the Jews by coming outside his headquarters to meet with them. This was in order to prevent the Jews from being defiled, according to their tradition, by entering a Gentile building.

Pilate is not dumb. He knows that the only reason the Jews have brought “this man” to him is because they have an accusation against Him. Pilate asks a legitimate question: “What accusation do you bring against this man?” This statement begins the Roman Civil Trial against Jesus, following the Jewish Religious Trial.

The Jews response is telltale. “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” The Jews complain that Pilate does not trust their integrity. Surely they would only bring an individual worthy of execution to the governor. Why quibble about the criminal charge.

Pilate’s response was equally informative. “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” Pilate had no interest in becoming involved in Jewish matters which did not concern him.

Dr. John Walvoord comments that, “The Jews’ reply to Pilate revealed the hostility between them. (Pilate was hated by them for his harshness and the fact that he was a Gentile ruling over them. Pilate despised them and eventually in the year a.d. 36 they were able to get Pilate recalled to Rome.) At this time Pilate refused to be their executioner. He knew what was going on. He had seen the Triumphal Entry a few days earlier. He knew that envy was the cause of their accusation against Jesus (Matt. 27:18). So Pilate decided to play a game with the Jews with Jesus’ life as the prize. He refused to do anything without a sufficient charge. The Jews’ accusation of blasphemy would be difficult to prove and would not impress Pilate as worthy of death under Roman civil law. The Jews seem to have lost the official right to execute but in certain cases people were stoned (cf. Acts 6:8–7:60). Jesus was popular, and the Sanhedrin wanted Him dead and, if possible, killed by the Romans. The Sanhedrin could condemn, but only the Romans could execute legally.”

John acknowledges the legal intricacies which were going on when he writes, “The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” The death the Jews refer to is death by crucifixion. The implication is that the Jewish religious leaders want Jesus to be executed in the most painful way possible.  Crucifixion was a method of capital punishment in which the victim was tied or nailed to a large wooden beam and left to hang for several days until eventual death from exhaustion and asphyxiation.

However, John recognizes the prophetical and theological implications when he also writes, “This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” Jesus had indicated that He would die by crucifixion (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-33). This would be a fulfillment of divine prophecy (Psalm 22) and the accomplishment of substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Jesus had said that he would die by being “lifted up” (3:14; 8:28; 12:32–33). If the Jews had executed him it would have been by throwing him down and stoning him. But God providentially controlled all the political procedures to assure that when sentence was finally passed, he would be crucified by the Romans and not stoned by the Jews, as was Stephen (Acts 7:59). The Jews may have preferred this form of execution based on Deut. 21:23.”

In referring to Deuteronomy 21:23, the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:13 says, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

John Calvin concludes: “The Son of God is placed before the tribunal of mortal men. If we suppose that this is done by the caprice of men, and do not raise our eyes to God, our faith must necessarily be confronted and put to shame. But when we perceive that by the condemnation of Christ, our condemnation before God is blotted out, because it pleased the heavenly Father to take this method of reconciling mankind to Himself, we boldly, and without shame, glory even in Christ’s ignominy. Let us therefore learn, in each part of this narrative, to turn our eyes to God as the Author of our redemption.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: A Profile of Pontius Pilate.

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” (John 18:28-29)

Who exactly was Pontius Pilate? Today we will endeavor to provide a profile of this infamous and historical character. We will be drawing from information provided by the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

The Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar (42 B.C. – 37 A.D.) appointed Pontius Pilate (? – 36 A.D.) as the fifth prefect, or governor, of Judea, Pilate served in that capacity from AD 26–36. He not only prominently appears in the trial narratives of the biblical gospels as the Roman governor who authorized Jesus’ crucifixion, but is also mentioned in a variety of extra-biblical sources as a dispassionate and relentless administrator who pursued Roman authority in Judea.

Tacitus (Annals 15.44) mentions Pilate in connection with the crucifixion of Jesus but adds little to the biblical account. Josephus, on the other hand, provides three narratives.

First, he describes Pilate’s arrival as the new prefect (War 2.9.2; Antiquities 18.3.1; cf. Eusebius’s Histories 2.6). Offending Jewish law, Pilate brought ensigns (pennants) into Jerusalem that bore the image of Caesar. A large gathering of Jews then came to Caesarea in protest, fasting there for five days. Pilate called in troops to dismiss them, but he learned his first lesson about Jewish intransigence. The Jews were ready to die rather than tolerate the ensigns. Soon thereafter Pilate relented.

Josephus records a second incident which occurred when Pilate appropriated temple funds in order to construct a 35-mile (56.3-kilometer) aqueduct for Jerusalem (War 2.9.4; Antiquities 18.3.2). Again, there was a major protest. Pilate ordered his soldiers to dress in tunics and infiltrate the crowds in disguise. At his command, the troops used clubs to beat the offenders. Many Jews were killed. Josephus records the horror with which Jerusalem perceived the affair.

Finally, Josephus records the story of Pilate’s dismissal (Antiquities 18.4.1–2). In ad 36 a Samaritan false prophet (pretending to be the Taheb, or Samaritan messiah) promised to show his followers sacred vessels hidden by Moses on Mt Gerizim. Pilate sent a heavily armed contingent of footmen and cavalry who intercepted the pilgrims and slaughtered most of them. The Samaritans complained to Vitellius, the prefect of Syria, whereupon Pilate was ordered to report to the emperor Tiberius. Another prefect, Marcellus, was then sent by Rome as Pilate’s replacement.

The historian Philo records yet another event (Leg. to Caius 299–305). While extolling the liberal policies of Tiberius toward Judaism, he cites a negative example in Pontius Pilate. The prefect had erected gilded shields in Herod’s former palace in Jerusalem that bore the name of the emperor. Refusing to hear Jewish complaints, the sons of Herod appealed to Tiberius, who ordered Pilate to transfer the shields to the temple of Augustus in Caesarea. The similarities with the parallel story in Josephus have led many scholars to believe that Philo is merely recounting another version of the same event.

The Gospel of Luke mentions a minor incident that contributes to this same portrait of Pilate. In Luke 13:1 some Jews tell Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. While this story is not corroborated by any other witness, it conforms to the impressions of Pilate’s character given by Philo and Josephus. In fact, Luke adds another detail of interest in his trial narrative. In Luke 23:12 he says that prior to the crucifixion of Jesus, Herod Antipas (in Galilee) and Pilate had been at enmity with each other. This may have stemmed not simply from Pilate’s usual antagonism but particularly from the Galilean incident.

Pilate’s role in the death of Jesus is recorded in each Gospel (Matthew 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; John 18:29) and was remembered as a historical fact in the preaching of the apostles (Acts 3:13; 4:27; 13:28; 1 Timothy 6:13). In order to secure the conviction and death of Jesus, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin brought their charges to Pilate. While the accusations took on a political flavor to evoke the governor’s interest, he still could find no grounds for condemnation. In the end, Pilate unexpectedly accommodates the Jewish leaders and has Jesus crucified.

All four gospels, and particularly the Gospel of John, show Pilate’s repeated verdict of Jesus’ innocence. According to Matthew 27:19, Pilate’s wife had an ominous dream about Jesus’ conviction, and she warned her husband. Pilate tried to have Jesus released, but the crowd cried for Barabbas. Matthew even records that Pilate washed his hands (27:24–25), declaring his own innocence in this. And finally, John says that Pilate refused to alter the title over the cross (John 19:19–22). These accounts, therefore, take the full blame for Jesus’ death from Pilate and place it on the Jewish leaders of the Sanhedrin making them ultimately responsible.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary states, “But why would Pilate act in behalf of the Sanhedrin? Two answers are possible. First, there may have been collusion between Caiaphas and Pilate that stemmed from a long-standing relationship and coterminous reign. Ten of Caiaphas’s eighteen years in power were under Pilate, and when the prefect was dismissed in ad 36, Caiaphas was simultaneously removed. Second, if Jesus’ trial occurred in ad 33, Pilate may have been concerned about his impeachment. He had originally been appointed by Sejanus (prefect of the praetorians in Rome who had appointed men to colonial office under Tiberius), but in the autumn of ad 31 Sejanus died. This explains why a Jewish delegation could report directly to Tiberius during the votive shield incident. Hence, the charge recorded in John 19:12 (“If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend”) would have had genuine power over Pilate. Pilate perceived his jeopardy and was anxious to pacify the Jews and please the emperor.”

The history of Pilate after his dismissal in ad 36 is unknown. Eusebius reports that Pilate ultimately committed suicide during the reign of the emperor Caligula, ad 37–41 (History 2.7).

In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter says, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:22-24).

The Bible includes and describes Pontius Pilate as a lawless man. So also were we until the Holy Spirit regenerated our dead souls (John 3:1-8; Ephesians 2:1-10). Take time today to thank God for His saving work.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: Hypocritical Holiness!

“Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.” (John 18:28)

What do I mean by the title hypocritical holiness? Let’s unpack the title before we examine today’s test.

To begin with, the word holiness is a noun. It means to be set apart from sin and to be set apart unto what is pure. The adjective, hypocritical, means to pretend to be something you are not. In other words, to act out a part.

The religious leaders who took Jesus from Caiaphas’ house to the headquarters of the then Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, were displaying hypocritical holiness. While they were pretending to be holy, they were in reality committing a great evil. How?

To begin with, they did not want to enter into the governor’s headquarters. Why? They believed that they would be ceremonially defiled by doing so and therefore unable to eat the Passover meal. But why did the Jewish leaders have to bring Jesus to the governor’s headquarters in the first place?

Dr. R. C. Sproul states that, “The problem for the Jewish leaders at this point was that they did not have the legal authority to execute Jesus. Although the Romans allowed the Jews to follow their traditions in many areas, in the vast majority of cases, only a Roman ruler could execute criminals. (The first-century Jewish historian Josephus notes that the Jewish authorities could put to death a gentile who entered the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple.) This explains why Jesus was brought to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (John 18:28–29).

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “The headquarters of the Roman military commander or governor (i.e., Pilate), who was normally in Caesarea, but made sure to be in Jerusalem during the feasts in order to quell any riots. Jerusalem became his praetorium or headquarters. Jewish oral law indicated that a Jew who went into a Gentile house or dwelling was considered ceremonially unclean. They (the religious leaders) stayed outside in the colonnade to avoid being tainted. “

I trust that the irony of this situation is apparent to you. While on the one hand, the religious leaders did not want to taint themselves by entering into a Gentile house or dwelling, they defiled themselves in a greater way by abusing and seeking to execute the One, True God in the flesh: Jesus Christ.

Dr. MacArthur comments that, “John loads this statement with great irony by noting the chief priests’ scrupulousness in the matter of ceremonial cleansing, when all the time they were incurring incomparably greater moral defilement by their proceedings against Jesus.”

Jesus was always aware of the hypocritical behavior of the Jewish religious leaders. He condemned them as hypocrites in Matthew 23:13-30. Seven times He called them hypocrites. He not only condemned their outward behavior before  their fellow men but also their inner disposition before God as being full of extortion and self-indulgence.

He summarized His condemnation of them in Matthew 23:31-36. “Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

John Calvin writes, “To the defiled and to unbelievers, says Paul, nothing is pure; because their minds are polluted, (Titus 1:15). But these hypocrites, thought they are so full of malice, ambition, fraud, cruelty, and avarice, that they almost infect heaven and earth with their abominable smell, are only afraid of external pollutions. So then it is an intolerable mockery that they expect to please God, provided that they do not contract defilement by touching some unclean thing, though they have disregarded true purity.” 

Many times believers in Christ are more concerned with their outward righteousness before their fellow men then they are with their inner righteousness before God. Let us resolve to be pure in heart as we seek to be pure in deed and behavior.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Peter’s Denials of Christ.

The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” (John 18:17; 25-27)

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” This particular text is an example of synonymous parallelism in which two statements are essentially saying the same thing.

Pride refers to self-exaltation. It is the cause or means for a person’s destruction. Destruction is defined as a literal breaking of a limb. It is a crippling wound.

A haughty spirit means having an attitude of conceit or grandeur. This attitude results in a fall which is a personal stumbling or calamity.

One commentary states, This verse discusses pride, humility, and disaster. Pride leads to one’s downfall (cf. 18:12; 29:23). Pride is so despicable that a person should avoid it even if it means being economically oppressed.” (See Proverbs 16:19).

All of us, I’m sure, have experienced at one time or another a humbling experience which was preceded by our pride or haughtiness. We exalted ourselves and then encountered the resulting humiliation. This is what happened to Peter.

Peter was self-assured in his own strength and ability to follow Jesus. He boldly stated that while the other disciples would forsake Jesus, he would not (Matthew 26:34-35; Mark 14:30-31; Luke 22:33-34). Yet, that is exactly what Peter did. He not only forsook Christ, he denied he even knew Him. Not once, but three times. To acknowledge God is holy to the third degree (Isaiah 6:1-7) is to praise Him to the superlative degree. So also, by denying Jesus three times, Peter took his personal sin of denial to the superlative degree.

Luke 22:31-32 provides us an interesting side note to Jesus’ prediction back in the upper room regarding Peter’s three denials and Peter’s subsequent behavior. The text says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “The repetition of the name (cf. 10:41Acts 9:4) implied an earnest and somber tone of warning. Christ himself had given Simon the name Peter (Luke 6:14), but here he reverted to his old name, perhaps to intensify his rebuke about Peter’s fleshly overconfidence. Though addressed specifically to Peter, this warning embraced the other disciples as well. The imagery (to sift you like wheat) is appropriate. It suggests that such trials, though unsettling and undesirable, have a necessary refining effect. The pronoun “you” is singular. Although it is clear that Jesus prayed for all of them (John 17:6–19), he personally assured Peter of his prayers and of Peter’s ultimate victory, even encouraging Peter to be an encourager to the others.  Peter himself failed miserably, but his faith was never overthrown (cf. John 21:18–19).

Luke 22:60-61 says, But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”

We may fail the Lord miserably. Perhaps we have. Perhaps we are. Perhaps we will. We may believe that God could never forgive us and that we have forsaken all hope of ever serving Him again.

However, the Lord can and does restore such people who fail. Repent of your failure(s) and sin today and receive the Lord’s cleansing and restorative grace.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, Jesus “had no need to die for people who are sinless, for there are no such people. He gave Himself for people who have it in them to betray Him, people like you and me. However, He will never betray those on whom He sets His love, but will love them faithfully for all time.”

I John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!