The cross! – John 19:1-22

The cross! – John 19:1-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 7, 2016

What signifies a horrendous death in our culture today? The wanton and greedy dismemberment of the unborn by abortionists; the thoughtless alcoholic induced daze of a drunken driver smashing into an unsuspecting family; or perhaps the self-aggrandized gang bang to enforce a self-indulgent pseudo machismo? History would point to concentration camps, atomic weapons, firebombing, or torture machines. Yet in the midst of all these horrific deaths there is one that pierces the heart and soul of mankind as nothing else; the innocent torture and crucifixion of the Son of God.

Far too many in our day and age willingly wear crosses on their clothing or around their necks without giving a thought to the horrendous torture and death they represent. Tattoo artists and biker gangs have used the symbol for their own purposes without a thought to the real pain and suffering it symbolizes. And here in John’s gospel we discover anew just what this meant.

READ: John 19:1-22

In this scene that John describes for us we soon discover that…

I. The cross did not care Jesus was innocent! (Vv. 1-6)

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

1. With simplicity John states, “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.” He knew his readers would understand what this meant. A whip, small in length with pieces of iron tied to four to eight lengths of leather strips. Those in charge of Jesus’ flogging had seen many men tried by Roman justice. They had carried out their duty many times. It was a hard task and the mind, emotions, and will become numb to the suffering and pain and in this sinful man looks for sport in a horrible situation to pass the time. So, “The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face.” According to the other gospel narratives Pilate had sent Jesus back to Herod and he could not find anything to accuse Jesus of so Pilate announced, “Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” (Luke 23:16 NIV) It was another attempt at compromise. He hoped the crowd would be satisfied with a little blood. Matthew relates, “For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.” (Matthew 27:18 NIV) And so after the bloody flogging where flesh was ripped from Jesus’ body and his body scarred we find that, “Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.'” Pilate did not suspect nor did the crowd realize Jesus’ fate was the plan of God. Therefore, “When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!'” the crowd did not care. They wanted Rome to do their dirty work and they knew the outcome would be crucifixion. “As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.'” It is ironic that those who had no vested interest at the time in Jesus or his outcome were the ones willing to let an innocent man go free, but the angry crowd would have none of it. The cross did not care Jesus was innocent!

EXAMPLE: Crowds have not changed over the centuries. Even those made up of kindergartners. They will rush to a scene of carnage where one of their own is laying on the playground writhing in pain and ask, “Is he bleeding?” If one gets accidentally pushed by another they will demand “justice” for their perceived harm. In fact, I like to see just where their compassion lies and so sometimes I will ask the one offended, “What do you think I should do?” to the “guilty” party. Sometimes they want their pound of flesh and will demand that the accused lose an entire recess. I had one little girl look up at me with her cute little face and declare, “Spank him!” Of course we cannot do such a thing, but it shows where some folk’s compassion lies even if they are only five year olds. Often they do not care if it was an accident they want the “guilty” punished. The cross did not care Jesus was innocent!

It is startling for us today because we have hindsight, but we soon learn from John that…

II. The cross did not care Jesus was the Messiah! (Vv.7-13)

The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha).

1. Superstition ran deep like a rivulet within the Roman heart and they were not adverse in adopting whatever culture they had conquered religious curiosities. So much so it was not unusual to find in Roman homes statues to all kinds of deities from differing pagan customs. And so it was “While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.'” (Matthew 27:19 NIV) However, the “Jews insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.” Was Jesus someone important, perhaps this Messiah? So Pilate continues to question him, desiring Jesus give him the answer he seeks. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Yet again we are reminded of the plan of God, “Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.'” While Pilate might be guilty of taking innocent blood, those who wantonly desired Jesus’ crucifixion were far guiltier! Pilate had the earthly power of life or death, but Jesus had his life’s mission to complete. Interestingly, “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.'” Ah, there’s the rub. Pilate was in fact a friend and acquaintance of Caesar’s and he knew who buttered his bread. “When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha).” And so we find that the cross did not care Jesus was the Messiah!

EXAMPLE: Folks use the term “Christ” as a swear word more often than they use it as a title for Jesus. It literally means “Anointed One” which hardly means anything in our day and age. It is the Greek translation for Messiah. Yet in this one term, this one moniker, this one designation we find the hope on an entire people; but not just the Jewish nation but the entire human race. For even the Jews had lost the importance of this word Messiah or Christ for the world. It had become a legend, a myth, and means by which they could complain about their national and personal situation and yet not truly believe it would happen. Certainly in the backwoods and countryside those who were the rabble still thought their daughters might become the mother of the one who would rescue them. But this would be a warrior like Samson or a king like David, not a gentle teacher who would willingly die for their sins. And so they crowd, the rabble, the unsuspecting man on the street was quite willing that day to have this one who claimed to be Messiah crucified. The cross did not care Jesus was the Messiah!

The finality of the situation is brought home to us by John’s final words here in this section of his gospel; in reading them we realize that…

III. The cross did not care Jesus was nailed to it! (Vv. 14-22)

It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

1. Life goes on; the Jewish festival would be celebrated by thousands who were unaware of what was dramatically taking place in the city. “It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.” It was time for the midday meal. Venders would be selling a lot of food that day because of the hungry crowds. Yet in the trial of a itinerate rabbi we find the reluctant Roman governor playing his final jab at the Jewish leadership. “‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.” Pilate did not believe Jesus was their King, but to spite the Jews he called Jesus that. The paid off mob aware of Pilate’s ploy and “they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!'” So Pilate goads them on by asking, “Shall I crucify your king?” And the ironic response of the chief priests is “We have no king but Caesar!”  The deed is done, the trial is over, the sentence pronounced and now all that is left is for Rome to do its duty. “Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.” Luke’s narrative reminds us that Jesus was lead out with “two criminals” (Luke 23:32) to be crucified and so “Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).” To this day no one is absolutely sure where this place was. Yes, they built a church over a spot, but fittingly history is silent as to the exact location. And so it was “Here they crucified him, and with him two others [criminals] — one on each side and Jesus in the middle.” Yet Pilate was not done with rubbing the Jewish leadership’s noses in it and so “Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” The crucifixion was outside of the city gates where everyone entering could see for themselves those crucified. It was a reminder of Roman power. Therefore, “Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.” Of course “The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews,” but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.'” Pilate, in one last act of defiance to those pompous Hebrews arrogantly answered, “What I have written, I have written.” And as Jesus suffered, bleed, and died we find that the cross did not care Jesus was nailed to it!

EXAMPLE: You know that much of the world was unconcerned what had occurred on December 7th in 1941. Pearl Harbor was their least concern; for many were dying in concentration camps, on battle fields, and going about their everyday lives even though it was “a day that will live in infamy”. And whether we like it or not, the same was true for September 11th, 2001 when terrorism came home to America or on January 28, 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.” Some people were far too busy with everyday living. Although in a day of instant access these were announced far quicker to entire world than the death of one innocent man on a cruel cross several thousand years ago. The Jewish leadership was unconcerned that Jesus might be the Messiah; they had to protect their income. The Roman governor was momentarily bothered by his superstitious wife and he had a final stick to poke in the eyes of these backwoods yokels; but he would soon go back to his luxury in Caesarea on the coast. The mob would find other amusements. Yet now as the day drug on three men hung nailed by their hands and feet on wooden crosses; exposed to the world around them and dying. However important the one lone man in the middle was, in this final moment we discover that the cross did not care Jesus was nailed to it!

Conclusion:

You may not care about the cross either. The cross did not care Jesus was innocent! The cross did not care Jesus was the Messiah! The cross did not care Jesus was nailed to it! However, it is because of this uncaring cross we are saved from our sins. You should care.

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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