The Gospel of John: a commentary & meditation 
Pilate said to the Jews, "Behold your King!"

Scripture: John 19:1-16

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. 2 And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; 3 they came up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again, and said to them, "See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him." 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Behold the man!" 6 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 crime in him." 7 The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God." 8 When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid; 9 he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave no answer.10 Pilate therefore said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" 11 Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin." 12 Upon this Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend; every one who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar." 13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gab'batha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" 15 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." 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

Meditation: Pilate hoped that by having Jesus' scourged the Jews who brought him to trial might be satisfied with this punishment and stop asking for his death. Scourging was the usual kind of punishment given for disturbing the peace and a warning to cease from upsetting authority and civil order. It was also used to weaken a criminal who was about to be executed. The latter was considered a form of mercy since a crucified man could last for days on a cross before expiring. Roman scourging, nonetheless, was brutal, painful, and dehumanizing.When a prisoner was scourged he was stripped, bound and bent so his back was exposed. Long leather whips tied with pieces of sharp iron and bones were used for ripping apart the back. As skin was torn from the body in shreds blood gushed from the numerous wounds. Some died from the whipping alone, some were made unconscious, and some went mad.

Pilate had Jesus scourged in the typical Roman fashion. Jesus was led into the Praetorium, a large hall where the whole company of soldiers could gather and watch.  The Roman soldiers had a strong resentment towards the Jews and they vented their cruelty and hatred towards Jesus by mocking him as King of the Jews. They robed him in purple, the color for kingly garb, and crowned him with thorns. They struck his face, beat the crown of thorns into his skull with a reed, and jeered him for his claim to kingship. Their ridicule, mocking, and slapping was meant to dehumanize Jesus and to cause him mental anguish as well. Isaiah long ago had prophesied what the Suffering Servant would undergo for our sake: "As many were astonished at him -- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men" (Is. 52:14). "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;  yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed." (Is. 53:4-5)  Jesus willingly underwent these torments without complaint, anger, or bitterness.  "Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me" (John 18:11)?  Jesus freely accepted his passion and death for our sake and our salvation.
When Pilate presented Jesus to the crowds robbed in purple and crowned with thorns, he emphatically stated that he found "no crime in him" (John 19:3). What finally coerced Pilate to sentence a just man to death?  Blackmail!  The Jewish leaders told Pilate: "If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend; everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar" (John 19:12). The last thing Pilate wanted was a report back to Rome that he supported a dangerous man who was inciting the people to accept him as their king and to revolt against Roman authority. The last thing Rome would accept was civil disorder. So Pilate relented to avoid having a charge brought against him to Rome.  Pilate was a ruthless leader, but he lacked one important quality, the courage to do the right thing.  He sacrificed justice to save his face and his job. Are you willing to sacrifice reputation and position for truth and justice?

Who was responsible for the trial, condemnation, and death of Jesus?  It is erroneous to attribute collective responsibility to the Jewish people as a whole, or even to all the Jewish authorities. We know that among the Pharisees there were secret disciples of Jesus, namely, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. John also states that "many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue" (John 12:42). When Peter preached the gospel to the Jews he stated, "I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers." We also know that on the day after Pentecost "a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7).  Scripture shows us that all who sin, both in the past, present, and the future are responsible for crucifying our Savior (Hebrews 12:3; 6:6; Acts 9:4-5). Paul the Apostle tells us plainly that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3). Francis of Assisi, the great 12th century reformer and lover of Christ crucified, told his beloved friends: "Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins."

"Lord Jesus, you suffered injustice and abuse for our sake.  By your cross you have redeemed the world and won for us pardon and reconciliation.  Give me courage to always choose what is right and to avoid what is evil."

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(c) 2001 Don Schwager